Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

Made from simple everyday ingredients, these chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting will be your new favorite. For best results, use natural cocoa powder and buttermilk. Love chocolate buttercream? You can definitely make the switch! Or you can even swirl chocolate and vanilla frostings together, as you can see below.

chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles

Have you tried my super moist chocolate cupcakes before? This is the same exact chocolate cupcake recipe, a “foundation” recipe where I like to apply all different frosting flavors. Like my basic vanilla cupcakes recipe, these chocolate cupcakes hold a sacred spot in my baking repertoire. There’s no reason to find a better version– this is THE chocolate cupcake recipe I use time and time again.

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting are a birthday party classic, so I want to make sure you have a recipe for just that.

These Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting Are:

  • Super moist and flavorful
  • Soft with a spongey texture (not dense like brownies)
  • Easy to prepare
  • Perfect for celebrations and birthday parties

chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles

Overview: How to Make Them!

  1. Combine the dry ingredients: You need all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cocoa powder takes the place of some flour, so that’s why there is so little flour in this recipe. Make sure you’re using natural unsweetened cocoa powder, not dutched cocoa. Why? Here’s the difference between dutch-process and natural cocoa powder. And if you really want to learn today, here is why I use both baking soda and baking powder in these chocolate cupcakes.
  2. Whisk the wet ingredients: Whisk eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract together.
  3. Combine: Combine the dry and wet ingredients, add buttermilk, then whisk until smooth. The cupcake batter isn’t as thick as you’d expect. We don’t want a super thick batter because that would yield a cupcake similar to brownies. We don’t want dense! We want spongey, cakey, and rich.
  4. Fill muffin pan: Fill your cupcake liners only halfway full.
  5. Bake: The cupcakes take about 20 minutes in the oven.
  6. Frost: After they cool, frost the cupcakes with vanilla buttercream or your choice of frosting! I have dozens of frosting recipes.

Here are a few step-by-step pictures. These are taken from my chocolate cupcakes recipe, but the batter and instructions are exactly the same. Remember, expect a very thin batter.

Chocolate cupcake batter

Chocolate cupcake batter in cupcake liners

This Will Make or Break Your Recipe

Fill the cupcake liners only halfway full. Not 2/3, not 3/4, not all the way to the top. You will question yourself as you pour in the batter. Really? This is ALL that I’m using for each cupcake? The answer is yes! Here’s what happens when you fill the cupcake liners too full:

  • cupcakes will overflow
  • they’ll have crisp mushroom tops
  • sink in the center

Got that? Only halfway full.

Vanilla Frosting OR Swirled Frosting

Vanilla buttercream is my first choice– I love sweet, creamy vanilla with chocolate cupcakes and sprinkles. Kids love these as birthday treats, too. If you want to take it a step further, try swirled frosting instead! You can find instructions for the swirled frosting in my marble cupcakes recipe. Basically, you’ll make two bowls of frosting, spoon them side-by-side in your piping bag, then pipe. It’s very easy!

I used Wilton 1M piping tip in these pictured cupcakes.

vanilla buttercream

Baker’s Tip: Place your piping bag in a tall cup. This makes transferring frosting to the piping bag MUCH easier, neater, and quicker.

filled piping bag to make swirled frosting

chocolate cupcakes with swirled chocolate and vanilla frosting

chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours, 25 minutes
  • Yield: 12-14 cupcakes
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


Made from simple everyday ingredients, these chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting will be your new favorite. For best results, use natural cocoa powder and buttermilk.


  • 3/4 cup (95g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 cup (45g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature*
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) vegetable or canola oil (or melted coconut oil)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) buttermilk, at room temperature*

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 45 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream, half-and-half, or whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste
  • rainbow sprinkles (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2 liners – this recipe makes about 14 cupcakes. Set aside.
  2. Cupcakes: Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla together until combined. Pour half of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Then half of the buttermilk. Gently whisk for a few seconds. Repeat with the remaining wet ingredients and buttermilk. Stir until *just* combined; do not overmix. The batter will be thin.
  3. Pour or spoon the batter into the liners. Fill only halfway (this is imperative! only halfway!) to avoid spilling over the sides or sinking.
  4. Bake for 18-21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting. I usually let them cool in the pan.
  5. Frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, the heavy cream, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to medium-high speed and beat for 2 full minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. (I add 1/8 teaspoon salt.) Use frosting immediately or cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting on medium speed for a few seconds so it’s creamy again. After thawing or refrigerating, beating in a splash of heavy cream or milk will help thin the frosting out again, if needed.
  6. Frost cooled cupcakes however you’d like. I used Wilton 1M piping tip for these pictured cupcakes. Top with sprinkles, if desired. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


  1. Make Ahead Instructions: You can prepare cupcakes 1 day in advance. Keep cupcakes covered tightly at room temperature and frost the day of serving. Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before frosting and serving. Frosting freezing instructions included in step 5.
  2. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is required for this recipe. You can make your own DIY version of buttermilk if needed. Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1/2 cup. (In a pinch, lower fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cupcakes won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in the recipe.
  3. Heavy Cream in Frosting: I love using heavy cream for the creamiest consistency. You can use half-and-half or whole milk instead if needed. The lower the fat, the less creamy your buttercream will be. Whichever you use, make sure it’s at room temperature. Otherwise your frosting could separate or appear grainy.
  4. Mini Cupcakes: Fill mini liners only halfway and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350°F (177°C). Yields about 3 dozen.
  5. Cake: Here’s a chocolate cake that is just as moist and chocolate-y.
  6. Why Room Temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information. If needed, you can use whole milk mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice instead of buttermilk. Fill a measuring cup with the lemon juice/vinegar then the rest with whole milk to reach 1/2 cup.

Keywords: cupcakes, chocolate, chocolate cupcakes, vanilla frosting


Comments are closed.

  1. This recipe is perfect! Great chocolate flavor, moist and not crumbly! Perfect cupcake. Thank you!

  2. This recipe is perfect!! I followed the recipe exactly as written with excellent results. My cupcakes, including the frosting swirl, look identical to your great photos! Many thanks Sally for the lessons and tips on this website. Cheers!!

  3. Just want to say your recipe is wonderful. My cupcakes came out perfect! Thank you for the tips and foot notes, they are so helpful. 
    I will definitely come back to make more of tour recipes. 🙂

  4. Made these tonight and they turned out great, top was a little bit chewy and fudgey like a brownie and the bottom was moist and fantastic! The perfect chocolate cupcake! I baked a peppermint pattie in the middle and topped with peppermint vanilla bean buttercream. Love this recipe, thank you!

  5. I made these cupcakes yesterday for my little girl’s birthday.  I have never felt so impelled to write a review for a recipe until now.   These cupcakes are the BEST!  The cupcake is super fluffy, delicious and moist.  Compliments abound and all were sneeking in a 2nd and 3rd cupcake.  The cupcakes cooked perfectly and did not stick the paper, as some mentioned.  Since my daughter loves chocolate, I frosted the cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting. The only thing I would change for next time is I would make  2x the recipe because these cupcakes went super fast!  Thank you for sharing your cupcake recipe! 

  6. Thank you so much for this recipe!! I started using it a few months ago (I LOVE chocolate!!) when I had very little experience baking. This recipe never fails me! It’s so delicious! 

  7. Ambika Sood says:

    Hi Sally, absolutely love these cupcakes, thank you for an awesome recipe.Am wondering if I could convert these into pinata cupcakes or is it too tender to hold the candies? TIA

    1. You sure can! I’d only cut out a little portion of the cupcakes and fill with just a few candies.

  8. Hey Sally!

    This is a great recipe, I tried it today. I made 12 cupcakes out of it using silicone cupcake pans, and cut them in half to sandwich them with peanut butter and also a chocolate cookie spread (I lacked confectiner’s/icing sugar t make frosting for them, plus I’m not really a big fan of buttercream) . They turned out deliciously chocolatey and moist, and they will be my go to chocolate cupcakes from now on!

    Thanks for posting it! 🙂

  9. Beautiful cupcakes! I am certainly no professional, but was asked last minute to bake for my cousin’s bridal shower next weekend. My go-to chocolate recipe, while delicious, does not make good cupcakes (too light, and the tops are either completely flat or spread out – I know this has just as much to do with technique as the recipe, but I’ve never been able to remedy it).  I did a test batch of these yesterday and I am very happy with them.  For cakes and such I will stick with my go-to, but this recipe made for some very pretty, slightly-domed, light-but-sturdy-enough-for-piles-of-frosting cupcakes. I will be topping them with swirled vanilla bean and strawberry buttercreams and a little chocolate-covered strawberry.  Thanks for another great recipe! : )

  10. OMG!! These were sooo GOOD!! They were soft and chocolaty and oh so delicious! Definitely a new fave!

  11. Hey Sally 
    I am new baker and venturing into professional baking and I recently stumbled upon one of your recipes and since then I have atleast tried three and just yesterday I tried this one ans it turned out amazing…. I also wanna say that I love how you explain everything and every step that I don’t even feel like watching a video rather I look foreard to the whole thing before I try your recipe … it kinda prepares me ☺️ Thank you so much once again and I look forward to trying more recipe of yours

    1. Aisha, happy to hear this is the one that worked best for you! Lots of luck in your new baking venture!

  12. I really love this cupcake recipe of yours! I’m glad I found your blog, I made this last night and it’s so delicious! Thank you! ^^

  13. Lovelyn Alamo says:

    I have used this recipe yesterday for a 7th bday party..too bad i cannot share the picture of the cupcake here…i made a christmas tree chocolate cupcake. thanks for sharing your recipes…youre my go to website for my baking requirements.

  14. This is the best chocolate cupcake I’ve ever tried! It’s so soft and tasty!

  15. Emma Norbut says:

    I made these and they are SOOO good! I’m not crazy about the icing, but the cake is literally like a perfect recipe, especially since whenever I try to make homemade cake, it never rises right. But it did this time and turned out great! Highly recommend!

  16. Jennifer jordan says:

    Hi Sally 
    This is my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe.Do you think it could be easily doubled? 
    Take care! 

    1. I would make two batches instead– doubling increases the risk of over or under-mixing.

  17. I use low fat all the time, so you can definitely use it here.

  18. Can melted butter be substituted for vegetable oil? Or would it change the taste too much?

    1. The oil helps to keep them super moist. If you would prefer to use melted butter I suggest this recipe:

  19. Oh my god
    I just finished making these and I can tell you 100%, my family members have never loved me more XD
    They’re so perfect
    Thank you for this recipe!

  20. Hi it says 3/4 cup flour. How come this little flour make 12-14 cupcakes?

    1. Cocoa powder takes the place of some flour 🙂

  21. Oh my goodness. These cupcakes almost made me sad. Sad that I have wasted so many years making cupcakes from a mix. SO good and SO easy. They came out perfectly. Perfectly moist (which I always struggle with with chocolate cakes) and perfectly delicious. I can’t even imagine how they could be improved. Thanks for another winner!

  22. For anyone else wondering about dairy free modification…I make these all the time with almond milk/vinegar and they turn out perfect!

  23. These are delicious! The recipe is very easy to follow and everyone loved them!

  24. My mom made these cupcakes for our Gender Reveal party – she just dyed the frosting pink & blue. They were ABSOLUTELY delicious. We were lucky to have extras that we put in the freezer, and pulled out for another few days afterwards. They take just a few minutes to defrost – and were just as good as when they were fresh. Stellar cupcake & frosting recipe!

  25. Victoria Brown says:

    At first I was a little nervous making called with buttermilk, I’d never tried before, but these might be the best cupcakes ever!
    They’re so light and fluffy, and taste divine

  26. Hi Sally, I’d love to give this recipe a go but her in Australia we don’t have unsweetened cocoa powder readily available. I’ve only got the Dutch processed cocoa powder. Will it still turn out okay or would I need to adjust either baking powder or baking soda?

    1. Hi Koula, The switch would require additional testing. If you test anything out, please let me know. Natural cocoa really is best here. You could also try these chocolate cupcakes with mint chocolate frosting instead (swap frostings if you’d like. They aren’t quite as moist as these.

  27. Thanks I will!

  28. Hi!
    Can I substitute the buttermilk for sour cream?
    Thanks! 🙂

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kelly, I don’t recommend it. Buttermilk is required for this recipe!

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally