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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 vs. natural cocoa powder. And if you really want to learn today, here’s more on the difference between baking soda vs. baking powder and why I use both 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! Swiss meringue buttercream, not-so-sweet whipped frosting, and even regular whipped cream are also favorites for on top. You could even top with chocolate ganache like we do for cream-filled chocolate cupcakes (which you must try next!). I have dozens of other frosting recipes to choose from, too.

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: 1214 cupcakes 1x
  • 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 (94g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 cup (41g) 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

Reader Questions and Reviews

    1. Hi Rachel, this batter would make the perfect amount for 3, 6 inch cake layers. For a larger chocolate cake, we recommend following the recipe for our triple chocolate cake.

      1. The taste was chocolaty. However, my cake sunk in when it baked. What could be the problem.

  1. Hey Sally! If you needed to make a few dozen of these, is it best to make one batch at a time or is it ok to double/triple up the recipe? I know with some recipes (like your amazing peanut butter cupcakes) it’s best to just make a single batch at a time.

    1. Hi Alicia! You’re correct — for best taste and texture, we recommend making separate batches rather than doubling or tripling. Increasing the recipe also increases the chance of under or over mixing the batter. Hope this is helpful!

  2. Hi sally!
    Quick question, can I add something to this to make it even more chocolatey, such as chopped baking chocolate or chocolate chips?


    1. Hi Kyler, absolutely — we’d start with 1/2 cup to 1 cup depending on how much you’d like. Enjoy!

  3. I would love for Sally to take this one back to the test kitchen. Most of her recipes are so good and this one just isn’t there. I have made it 3 times now because I just can’t believe a Sally recipe would fail, but no matter what I do they sink in the middle. I weigh ingredients, bring everything to room temp, have an oven thermometer, do not overfill, etc. The flavor is good but the sunken middles make it a no-go. Now I see everyone saying the same in the comments. I know with a little tweaking, this recipe could be perfect.

  4. Easy-to-follow, straight-forward recipe. Thanks for the tip about filling the liners halfway – I would have filled them more if left on my own – I actually managed 16 cupcakes that turned out perfect. Followed your link to your chocolate buttercream frosting – equally easy and terrific results. My grandchildren declared this a success so I’ll be making these cupcakes regularly.

  5. Hi Sally! Is there a way I can use butter in this recipe? I really love the way butter tastes in recipes over oil. How would I go about doing so? Is it even possible?

    1. Hi Amanda! For best results, we recommend sticking with oil. We prefer to use oil in chocolate cupcake/cake recipes because it keeps the cupcake supremely moist and you often lose the butter flavor in chocolate goods. If desired, you can use the same amount of melted butter, but expect a bit dryer cupcake. Hope this helps!

  6. PERFECT! I have little experience making cupcakes. I had never given too much thought to the difference between natural and Dutch-processed cocoa…. so after the warning and having read the explanations about baking soda vs baking powder, and the two type of cocoa, I dragged myself over to the store to buy natural cocoa.
    With the vanilla buttercream frosting, and despite substituting flax milk with a few drops of lemon for the buttermilk, the cupcakes were EXCELLENT! Thank you!

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