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

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chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream and chocolate sprinkles

Super Moist Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 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*



  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. Frost cooled cupcakes however you’d like. I used chocolate buttercream and 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. Mini Cupcakes: Fill mini liners only halfway and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350°F (177°C). Yields about 3 dozen.
  4. Cake: Here’s a chocolate cake that is just as moist and chocolate-y.
  5. Why Room Temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly.

Keywords: cupcakes, chocolate, chocolate cupcakes, vanilla frosting


  1. Not sure what went wrong. I bake cakes, cookies, and cupcakes quite often with excellent results. Unfortunately, this recipe turned out less than desirable cupcakes. I followed the recipe exactly as written and made sure to fill cupcake liners half full then baked as directed. I had to throw the cupcakes away. Then, to make sure I wasn’t missing something, I went over the recipe again; my eggs and buttermilk were room temp; my baking powder, baking soda and unsweetened natural cocoa powder and all were fresh. Sad to say, but I have had much better results from a boxed mix.

  2. I normally have trouble with cakes or cupcakes not rising and being dry. Sally this recipe is so perfect. I, me, had cupcakes that rose! I will definitely make them again. I love and absolutely need the baking tips you give as they are soooo useful. I did 37 mini cupcakes, some of the pan was greased with coconut oil and some with unsalted butter, cooked for 10 mins exactly on the oven’s middle rack. They are ultra moist and fluffy. For the oil, I chose your suggestion of unrefined, natural virgin coconut. I did not have buttermilk. It was the only item I changed. I was hesitant to make the buttermilk and needed to go with a completely different consistency of thick 2% 1/3 cup greek yogurt, but it worked! Yay!! I used Ghirardelli 100% unsweetened cocoa powder which we discovered is rich and closer to a darker chocolate. The cakes were therefore not overly sweet and balanced really well.
    Just before they went in the oven, my hubs wanted semi-sweet chocolate chips in some, which were perfectly satisfying. Very, very happy with this recipe!! Thanks to you Sally I am having baking success

  3. These cupcakes were so easy to make! Only lost a star because I did the recommended time and the bottom was dry but the top was moist. Next time I will do less time! I also did the Vanilla buttercream recipe and it turned out amazing with these!!

  4. This is an absolutely perfect recipe. I’m a seasoned baker and this is the first chocolate cupcake recipe I’ve made where the cupcake is a perfect texture, perfectly moist and has a perfect flavor. I filled mine fairly full and had to bake them longer but they were amazing. Just checked a few times with toothpick.

  5. Hi Sally,
    I really wanted to make the moist chocolate cake in 3 six inch pans, but you recommended that I use this recipe. Thanks so much for your help:) Also I was wondering how many cups of batter this cupcake recipe makes, thanks:)

  6. Definitely the best chocolate cupcake recipe!

  7. This recipe didn’t work for me. They weren’t as chocolatey as I would have liked, and despite filling them halfway and following all the other instructions, they sank in he middle and got hopelessly stuck to the cupcake liners….

  8. I just tried the recipe this afternoon, super easy to do, and I just ate one and OMG! they are delicious. Great recipe. I was ñooking for a chocolate recipe for a long time and this is absolutely perfect!

  9. This recipe failed. I followed the directions exactly, but the cupcakes still pancaked and sunk on me. I only filled half way! 🙁

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Christie! Is it possible they weren’t quite done baking? That can be the culprit behind sinking. Just a couple minutes longer in the oven should help!

  10. best chocolate cupcake recipe ever! I baked them for 20 mins and filled them about 3/4 of the way full and they were perfect, highly recommended

  11. Hi, I’m looking to make these for my daughter’s birthday for her daycare. There are 21 kids in her group. Has anyone made a double batch of this recipe?

    1. Hi Laura made these cupcakes today I filled them half way through as recipe suggested and I got 18 cupcakes. They were perfect.

  12. I don’t eat sweet but I made these for my children and the ABSOLUTELY LOVED them! Needless to say they will be a staple in my home. Thank you!

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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