Devil’s food chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting are a shortcut recipe starting with a box of chocolate cake mix. The wonderful part about this recipe is that even though you’re using cake mix, the cupcakes taste homemade because we are doctoring it up with sour cream and extra eggs. Still, if you prefer, you can use my homemade chocolate cupcakes recipe instead. The frosting is creamy, salted, and sweet, and if you let it sit and thicken up enough, you can pipe it onto your cupcakes.
Tell Me About These Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting
- Flavor: Salted caramel and chocolate are a match made in flavor heaven. Now, many people do not think that boxed cake mixes can produce “homemade tasting” cakes or cupcakes. And my team and I agree—to an extent. If you modify the ingredients called for on the back of the box, you can truly create a “homemade” cake or cupcake while still having the convenience and ease of a boxed mix. These semi-homemade cupcakes are incredibly moist, rich, and chocolatey. I’m a big cheerleader for homemade, so if you have the time and ingredients, try my homemade chocolate cupcakes instead. And don’t forget the salted caramel for on top!
- Texture: This magic combination produces the chocolatiest, most decadent chocolate cake and cupcake we’ve ever tasted. Every bite is rich, fudgy, and moist. Add the dreamy creamy frosting and the crunchy pretzel, and you’re talking texture paradise. Such crowd-pleasing cupcakes!
- Ease: Because we’re relying on a box of cake mix, the cupcakes are pretty simple. The frosting requires a little extra time and attention, so be sure to read through those steps before starting. For even more information, see the separate salted caramel frosting post.
Cake Mix with Homemade Taste
I don’t use cake mix often because I find so much joy in from-scratch baking. However, I know time gets tight, especially when life is busy and you need a dessert STAT. I use this cupcake recipe for those times; it’s easier, quicker, AND has a homemade flavor. I usually use devil’s food chocolate cake mix, but any chocolate cake mix is fine. Forget all of the ingredients that the back of the box calls for and instead add a box of Jell-O Chocolate Fudge instant pudding mix, 4 eggs, some vegetable oil, milk, and sour cream. See printable recipe below for details.
Could I do this with vanilla/white cake mix and vanilla pudding? Yes, absolutely! Just swap the chocolate flavors out and replace with vanilla/white cake mix and vanilla pudding mix. Or if you can’t get enough of that salted caramel goodness, try it on salted caramel cupcakes!
By the way, my cake batter chocolate chip cookies would be nothing without cake mix! Have you tried those before?
More Cupcake RecipesPrint
Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 22 minutes
- Total Time: 3 hours (includes cooling)
- Yield: 20-22 cupcakes
- Category: Cupcakes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
A shortcut chocolate cupcake recipe topped with creamy salted caramel frosting.
- 1 (15.25 ounce) box Devil’s Food or Chocolate Cake Mix (the dry mix)
- 1 (3.9 ounce) box Jell-O Chocolate Fudge instant pudding mix
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup (120ml) milk
- 1 cup (240g) full-fat sour cream
Salted Caramel Frosting
- 1/2 cup (1 stick or 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 equal pieces
- 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar (pictured cupcakes use light brown)
- 5 Tablespoons heavy cream, divided*
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (240g) confectioners’ sugar
- optional: 20 mini pretzel twists and store-bought caramel topping or homemade salted caramel
- Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two 12-cup muffin pans with liners. Set aside.
- Using a stand or handheld electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil, milk and sour cream. Beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Scoop the batter evenly into cupcake liners.
- Bake for 20–25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and cool completely in the pan.
- Start the frosting: (This frosting is popular, so we have a separate salted caramel frosting post if you need more help making it.) Combine the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir constantly as the butter melts. Once butter has melted, switch to a whisk to make sure the two are really combined. (Otherwise, you might see an oily layer around the edges where they’re still a bit separated; you do not want that.) Once melted butter and brown sugar are combined, add 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream and the salt. Whisk to combine, then stop whisking and attach a candy thermometer to your pan, making sure the bulb is not touching the bottom of the pan. Let the caramel boil, giving it a quick whisk every 30 seconds or so, until the temperature reaches 230°F (110°C). On my stove, it takes just under 2 minutes.
- Remove the saucepan from heat, give it another quick whisk, and let cool for a minute. Carefully transfer the salted caramel to a heat-proof mixing bowl set on a cooling rack and cool for just 15–20 minutes before continuing. The caramel sauce thickens during this time.
- Finish the frosting: Sift in confectioners’ sugar and add remaining 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat on medium-low speed until the ingredients are incorporated. Turn mixer up to high speed and beat for 1 minute. Avoid over-mixing or the frosting will begin to “break” and separate. Let it sit for at least 20–30 minutes before filling your piping bag, to give it a chance to thicken up to a pipeable consistency.
- Frost cooled cupcakes and garnish with a pretzel twist and salted caramel, if desired.
- Cover and store leftover cupcakes at room temperature for up to 1 day or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. For make ahead details on the frosting, see separate Salted Caramel Frosting post for specific instructions and FAQs. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and then bring to room temperature if desired before serving.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): USA Pan Cupcake Pan or Wilton Cupcake Pan | Candy Thermometer | Silicone Whisk | Sieve/Sifter | Handheld or Stand Mixer
- Cake Mix: You just need the dry mix in the 15.25 ounce box. Forget all of the ingredients that the back of the box calls for and instead use the ingredients this recipe calls for. (See step 2.)
- Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!
Keywords: chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting
Reader Comments & Reviews
I am super excited to come across this recipe! My great-aunt was everyone’s favorite baker, and every Thanksgiving she made a chocolate layer cake (in addition to about 57 kinds of more seasonally appropriate bar cookies and pies). Our family has been eating this cake every Thanksgiving for over 50 years, although my great-aunt passed away 15 years ago. This year, I decided to make her recipe into cupcakes since we have fewer people coming. I decided to look up a similar cupcake recipe to see about baking time. I’m thrilled to discover that this is almost her exact recipe! Usually she baked everything from scratch, but this recipe she used the pudding and cake mix! Only difference is she used water instead of milk and added 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips to the batter. (She also frosted the cake with whipped cream as opposed to buttercream and decorated it with chocolate turkeys.) Anyhow, it’s just weirdly exciting to see this family favorite on this website!
What a sweet way to remember your great-aunt, Elizabeth. We love how simple these cupcakes are to make. Happy baking!
Frosting was a flop as many described above. Would not make again. Perhaps a more complete explanation for the method would help to avoid this mistake as so many seem to be making it. Or a different recipe.
Used the updated salted caramel frosting recipe to frost the triple layer chocolate cake and the frosting came out gritty. Not sure where I went wrong. The color and texture are fine but you can crunch on the brown sugar bits. Hate to waste it, any ideas for re-purposing? Will stick to the chocolate buttercream for the cake
Hi Krupa, it sounds like the mixture was taken off the stove before the brown sugar had a chance to fully dissolve, leaving a bit of a grainy texture in the final product. An easy fix for next time!
Sally all I have to say is these cupcakes are unbelievable! I have people asking me to make them for them and they will pay me that’s how good they are. All of recipes are incredible I haven’t came across one that isn’t mouth water delicious.
I made this recipe today and it was SO good! The cake and frosting were perfect! Thanks so much for sharing it!
Do you mind giving me updated directions to bake this in to a two layer cake? Thank you!
Oh my, things have changed a lot in the 7 years since this was posted!:) If you still want to try it out you can certainly bake it in 2 9-inch round pans. If you want a recipe for my favorite (and a reader favorite) chocolate layer cake I recommend this one: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/triple-chocolate-layer-cake/
Sally, could I use a Duncan Hines Chocolate Fudge mx instead of the Devil’s Food mix? Thank you.
When you say to let the Caramel sauce cool, do you mean completely?
I’d love to make the salted caramel icing for your 3-layer vanilla cake (for my daughter’s 9-year old birthday cake) . Any recommendations on if I should double or triple the icing recipe? and more importantly, will this recipe work on a cake? TIA!! you’re recipes are ALWAYS my go to!
Hey Laura! So the BEST way to make a larger batch of this frosting is to make it 2-3 separate times. Working with extra volume in 1 pot could prevent the frosting from reaching the proper consistency.
Hi, Sally! Is there anyway to add pudding mix to homemade chocolate cake mix (not box)? If so, how would the recipe change?
Hi Sally. I made this recipe yesterday and the cake is incredible! It is so light and fluffy, very chocolatey and not overly sweet. Absolutely stunning. My frosting was a bit of a flop though and I don’t know what happened. It came out very crystalized, almost like an icing rather than a creamy frosting. The caramel sauce was spot on, so I think I made a mistake at the confectioner’s sugar stage. Any thoughts on what I could have done differently?
Thanks for all of these great recipes! Your website is always my go-to.
Hi Sally, I’m from Vancouver Canada and we don’t get Jello Chocolate Fudge instant pudding mix here, just plain old Jello Chocolate pudding mix (no fudge). Will it still be ok to use this as a substitute?
Also, you said to use a “small” box with no measurements. I checked Amazon.com for reference and the “small” size in Canada is 40g (1.4oz) and “small” on Amaxon is 3.9oz, which is 110g! That’s a pretty huge difference. So in your recipe, how many grams or ounce is the “small” Jello box?
Hi Grace, I’m in Canada too. I see on pg 2 of the comments she says 3.4oz box works best so I’m going to give that a try.
I made this recipe yesterday. The cupcakes seemed to turn out fine. The icing…not so much. I followed the recipe exactly. First, the color was no where near the color in the picture. The dark brown sugar makes a dark brown caramel, and even with the milk and heavy cream, it stayed a brownish color. Secondly, the consistency was thick and dough like (and I didn’t add the 3rd cup of powdered sugar because of that…and the sweetness.) So, I came back and read the comments and added more heavy cream which allowed it to be put in a icing bag and put on cupcakes. I’m taking them to a baby shower today, which is why I didn’t want them to be a brownish color. Ha! Hopefully, they are received well. I’d love help with how you achieved the light creamy color.
I need help with this frosting! The caramel sauce turned out lovely. Though admittedly I used heavy whipping cream instead of heavy cream (perhaps this is leading to my problem?). I didn’t use the 3rd cup of powdered sugar. And it was thicker than I wanted so I added more cream. Admittedly I did pop it in the fridge and it turned into a dense fudge and was useless. My problem is the (pre-fridge disaster) consistancy seems too dense and I am afraid it is too heavy and droopy to look nice on a cupcake. Also, it tastes sickeningly sweet. I think I may be doing something wrong. Any clues as to what I’m fudging up?
When you say beat the frosting, do you mean by hand or with a mixer? Thank you.
Hi Sally! This is my go to recipe for cupcakes and I’ve even changed the flavor quite a few times (lemon & red velvet are my favorites), but I’ve never made this frosting until today.
I’m not sure what I did wrong but, as others have mentioned, it was extremely thick and I couldn’t mix it with a whisk, so I tried it with my hand mixer and it was still like a paste. I added close to 1/4 cup more heavy cream, and it’s still too thick. How long should I mix it? I mixed it for several minutes. I tried putting a bit on a cupcake to see how it was, and it was like eating peanut butter on a cupcake and was sickeningly sweet. Any tips?? I had to start over and go back to my old stand by cream cheese frosting recipe. Thank you!
No matter how many times I’ve made this recipe I cannot get the frosting smooth/light/fluffy. I felt like my arm was going to fall off after beating it for 8 minutes this time and it still came out dense. More doughy than a frosting. It also doesn’t turn out this light color that you have in the pi
What am I doing wrong!?
How about adding a little more heavy cream. This should help lighten it up– both the color and texture.
I made these yesterday and they were a huge hit at work; in fact my coworkers told me to give up on college and become a baker! The frosting is similar to the kind I ice my sour cream banana bars with and I love it just the same on cupcakes. Overall, a fantastic recipe. Next time I make them, I’m going to fill them with a caramel center- I can’t wait!
These look delicious. My daughter loves the caramel chocolate combination, but wants to know if we can add chocolate chips to the cupcake batter? Do you think this would be ok or would it negatively affect the way they bake or anything?
You can certainly add chocolate chips to this cupcake batter. Fold in around 3/4 cup – 1 cup.
Made these cupcakes tonight and they are excellent! I sprinkled maple syrup salt on top instead of using pretzels. I love trying out new cupcake recipes. Thank you! I will definitely be making these many times in the future!
I made these. They are so yummy and fantastic! I didn’t have any pretzels, but I did melt some caramel and spread it out on a cookie sheet, broke it up when it was cooled and put that on top as a pretty in place of the pretzels. Big hit at my house!
I made these and they are to die for! Thank you for sharing!
Do you think that I could use this frosting on your chocolate cake recipe?
Hi Sally, I made these cupcakes before and they were so moist and amazing! I was just wondering if I could use this recipe to make a cake? Are there any changes that would need to be made? Thanks!!
PS Can’t wait to get your book!!
Hey Julie! Yep, you can definitely use this recipe to make a cake in a 9×13 pan. Don’t change anything about the recipe but the baking time, which will be much longer. I’m unsure of the exact baking time myself but maybe around 40 minutes?
Holy moly, these were amazing! I made them for a couple’s shower I was co-hosting and they turned out so well. The cupcakes were so moist and tasted fantastic but the frosting was just stupid. Stupid in the best possible way, of course. I am thinking that I may use the salted caramel, omitting the powdered sugar, as a swirl in for some browned butter brownies that I like to make. Can’t wait to test it out! Another win for Sally’s baking addiction which is another win for me. Thanks again for all the tasty recipes!
Hi Ashton! I’m so glad that you loved these cupcakes. They are truly one of my very favorites. And your idea for the salted caramel brownies sounds amazing.
Do you have to refrigerate the final or will they do fine in an air tight container? They look sooooo good!
An air-tight container is sufficient! Thanks Holly 🙂