Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

A rich, tender homemade chocolate cupcake topped with my favorite vanilla frosting. You’ll find every excuse to make this classic cupcake over and over again!

The most flavorful, moist chocolate cupcakes I've ever made!

I’m taking a break from all things overloaded today. Don’t get me wrong, an Oreo cake with Oreo crumb topping, Oreo cream filling, and milk chocolate buttercream is welcome in my apartment any day. But sometimes I crave a little simplicity. And it doesn’t get much simpler than a classic chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting.

And sprinkles… uh, naturally.

The most flavorful, moist chocolate cupcakes I've ever made!

Speaking of overloaded, a couple weeks ago I made Marshmallow-Filled S’mores Cupcakes. Have you tried them yet? PLEASE DO. (Sorry… shouting.)

Well in that post, I briefly told you about my new favorite chocolate cupcake, which is used as the base underneath all that s’mores stuff. Today’s cupcake recipe starts with the same basic, simple chocolate cupcake batter. Let me explain these homemade chocolate cupcakes a little further because they are in the spotlight today.

Chocolate Cupcake 101

While I have a tried and true homemade chocolate cupcake recipe – which appears with chocolate frosting on my blog and with butterscotch frosting in my cookbook – I wanted to change things up. No rhyme or reason… playing around in the kitchen is simply what I enjoy most. I didn’t change much; just a few things here and there. Instead of using melted butter, I use a little oil. The oil produces an incredibly moist cupcake!

I leave out the 2 ounces of melted chocolate, so the cupcakes get all their chocolate flavor from cocoa powder. These cupcakes are still so fudgy! I find my original version to have more of a deep, dark chocolate flavor while today’s chocolate cupcakes more of a milk chocolate flavor. And my gosh, chocolate is all you’ll taste. Don’t you just hate biting into a homemade chocolate cupcake only to find a subtle taste of chocolate? What a waste.

The most flavorful, moist chocolate cupcakes I've ever made!

I love adding brown sugar to my homemade chocolate cupcakes. I find subbing some white sugar for brown sugar gives the cupcakes a little something extra and provides an even richer taste than most other chocolate cupcakes I’ve tasted.

Chocolate cupcakes paired with vanilla frosting is a match made in heaven. A dessert that everyone loves! And my fluffy, creamy vanilla frosting is the perfect topper for these homemade fudgy cupcakes. If you’re nervous about making homemade frosting, don’t be. It’s one of the easiest things to master, trust me.

I whipped these cupcakes up for my birthday last week and my friend said they tasted as tender and moist as cupcakes from a bakery. The kicker? She had one on day 2! Chocolate cupcakes are notorious for drying out as the days pass (cocoa powder has that effect on baked goods), but these stay perfectly tender and rich. They’re a great cupcake to make ahead of time for a party and frost right before serving.

Homemade Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Vanilla Swirl Frosting

I felt a little fancy in the kitchen the day I made these chocolate cupcakes and ended up baking a second batch and swirling vanilla and milk chocolate frostings on top. For all of you with frosting A.D.D. like myself, you have got to try it.

Here’s a lengthy post I wrote on How to Make Swirled Frosting. I also show you exactly how to fill a piping bag with frosting (the easiest way!), as well as how I pipe frosting using the Wilton 1M swirl piping tip – which the tip I used for today’s cupcakes.

Be sure to read that helpful post!

How to Make Swirled Frosting

Homemade Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Vanilla Swirl Frosting

This is a great go-to chocolate cupcake recipe you will use over and over again. Far superior to anything from a box!

Follow me on Instagram and tag #sallysbakingaddiction so I can see all the SBA recipes you make. 

Print

Classic 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: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

A rich, tender homemade chocolate cupcake topped with my favorite vanilla frosting. You’ll find every excuse to make this classic cupcake over and over again!


Ingredients

Cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup (42g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder*
  • 3/4 cup (95g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 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 (melted coconut oil works too)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) buttermilk, room temperature*

Vanilla Frosting

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

Instructions

  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. Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, 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 completely smooth. Pour half of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Then half of the buttermilk. Gently whisk – about 5 stirs. Repeat with the remaining wet ingredients and buttermilk. Stir until *just* combined; do not overmix. The batter will be a little thin.
  3. Pour/spoon the batter into the liners – fill only halfway to avoid spilling over the sides (no more than halfway full, trust me!!). Bake in batches for 18-21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  4. Make the 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, cream, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 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.
  5. Frost cooled cupcakes however you’d like. I used Wilton 1M piping tip. There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Leftover prepared cupcakes can be stored covered tightly at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: 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.
  2. Cocoa Powder: Do not use dutch processed cocoa. Dutch process is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids and therefore will not react with the alkaline baking soda in the batter. Natural unsweetened, which is an acidic ingredient, is paired with the brown sugar (also acidic) in this specific cupcake recipe to react with baking soda and maintain the proper balance of acid and alkaline as the cupcakes bake.
  3. 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.
  4. Cream: For the frosting, heavy cream or half-and-half will give your frosting the creamiest texture. You can use milk instead, but keep in mind that the frosting won’t be as creamy.
  5. For Swirled Frosting: If you wish to frost your chocolate cupcakes with swirled frosting as pictured above, please see this cupcake recipe to obtain the correct amounts (and recipes) for the vanilla and chocolate frostings. Then, see this post to learn how I swirled them.
  6. As a Cake: Use a 9 inch cake pan. Fill only halfway – there will be extra batter to make some cupcakes. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for around 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Here is a recipe for a chocolate layer cake.
  7. Mini Cupcakes: For around 36 mini cupcakes, line mini cupcake pans with liners or spray with nonstick spray. Prepare cupcakes and frosting as directed. Bake mini cupcakes for 12-13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!

Keywords: chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting, chocolate cupcakes

Try them with milk chocolate frosting next!

The best homemade chocolate cupcakes I've tried! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

456 Comments

  1. Hi Sally, these cupcakes look great! I love the swirled frosting 🙂

    By the way, thanks for getting back to me on that email I sent you! I own a Nikon D80 (which is like seven years old, I think), but I’ve worked with a rented Canon EOS 5D Mark iii for another project once and I absolutely loved it! Unfortunately, I can’t afford it right now, but maybe I can save up for it 🙂

    Oh, and thanks for the tips on post-production! It’s great to know that even you – being the talented photographer that you are – don’t know about some top-secret photography technique and that you just edit in Lightroom. It makes me feel like practice does indeed make perfect 🙂

    So, thanks for the inspiration!

    1. So glad you got the email, Nila. I’m not fancy in the slightest and very affordable lightroom does the trick when I want to lighten up or darken a photo, play with shadows and highlights, sharpen, etc. Definitely look into it! And when you are ready to invest a little more, try upgrading your lens.

  2. Sometimes going back to basics is the best way to proceed! I love the simplicity of these cupcakes. But never leave off the sprinkles. That’s the happiest part! Reminds me of soft-serve.
    And thanks for the tutorial on swirling frosting. Very helpful!

    1. Mir, that’s why I love using the 1M swirl piping tip. Soft serve! Let me know if you try swirling frosting sometime.

  3. That’s it! No more boxed cupcakes for me Sally.

    These are stunning……as usual…what else would I expect from you!!

    I love the vanilla bean one, today’s my dads Birthday, making these for him instead of buying a cake at a big box store (costing over 20 bucks too)

    Thanks Sally!

  4. You can’t go wrong with a chocolate cupcake and vanilla frosting! A simple yet delicious combination! Beautiful pics too!

  5. Hi Sally,
    I visit your website daily. I am so inspired by your talent for baking and all the amazing recipes you share!! Your blog is like a bible to me!! I am only 20 but love to bake. You should open up your own bakery!

    1. Thanks Mel! I would love to open a bakery someday. What a dream! Keep on baking. Wonderful you have that passion.

  6. I can never turn down a chocolate cupcake! EVER! They’re always my favorite. Gorgeous.

  7. Do you think these are your best chocolate cupcakes recipe? I’m trying to find that “ultimate” recipe and you have so many different chocolate cupcakes!

  8. Belive it or not, about 1 hr ago I made your chocolate cupcakes from the smores cupcake recipe and was eating one whilst reading this new blog post…Sally you have created my ultimate most favorite chocolate cupcake ever. I’ve made your recipe twice now, I absoloutely love it!! Thank you.

    1. I am so glad you love the chocolate cupcakes Alicia! Too funny you were eating one while reading this. Try them with vanilla frosting next!

  9. I’m a bit of a cocoa nut – have about 8 different kinds. Here is a nice picture description which will help you actually visualize the difference. Dutched cocoa is lovely in Hot cocoa. Alton Brown also did a show on it several years ago where he made different syrups with cocoa (Art of Darkness II).
    Here is the picture explained one

  10. Those sprinkles make me want to dance!! There’s a reason this is a classic, so good and perfect for any occasion, plus, this is my husband’s favorite! Thanks for sharing Sally, loved seeing your vaca pics on IG.

    1. Happy my Colorado pics weren’t overload. There is just so much beauty out there! Thanks Paula, hope you try these.

  11. These cupcakes are gorgeous — chocolate is always the best! I love that swirled frosting as it reminds me of my favorite soft-serve ice cream swirl cones. 🙂 Hope you had a great birthday!

    1. Yes, but then I would add the chocolate as I discussed in this post… like these: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/07/12/death-by-chocolate-cupcakes/

  12. Super cute cupcakes! The classics are always the best. 🙂 Love all your tips for the best chocolate cupcakes too, you always have great tips! Also I LOVE making swirled frosting. It’s so pretty and fun to look at, haha. Love that frosting and all the sprinkles on these!

  13. I agree, biting into a chocolate cupcake with NO chocolate flavor is the worst. Almost as bad as biting into a cookie to realize those aren’t chocolate chips but RAISINS. Totally bummer. I mean, I love raisins but it’s just the fact of looks being deceiving. I’m glad to hear your chocolate cupcakes are 100% chocolatey!

    1. Hahahaha Lauren, great comparison. Though I do love raisins in my cookies… but only when I expect them! Not when I think it’s a chocolate chip. You’re too funny.

  14. Sally you make gorgeous cupcakes! These are just beautiful and bravo to you for changing up a tried and true recipe. It’s easy to just make the same ole, every time, but it’s also nice to experiment sometimes, too! I mean as food bloggers, that’s what we do, right 🙂 The frosting is just perfect, too! Pinned! And I love oil-based cupcakes and cakes – always so moist!

    1. What!! Never made a cupcake? Christine, these are a must try this very week for you. They’re easy too. Let me know how you like them.

  15. Just made these…. In fact they are cooling right beside me. Which of course made me have to try one! Absolutely delish! Thank you so much Sally I LOVE your website. Great recipes! Yum!

  16. I definitely need to have a go at some swirled frosting action!
    I hope you had a wonderful birthday Sally – you were making me so jealous with your beautiful photos – you definitely deserved some time off before you enter the pre-wedding countdown.

    1. Thanks Amy, I appreciate that! The vacation was much needed and such a great time! You must travel to Colorado sometime.

  17. I read in the comments why you don’t use the Dutch processed cocoa but what would you suggest if you couldn’t use another type of cocoa; just baking powder? I have a child with a nut allergy and the only safe decent tasting brand is a Dutch processed brand. We are both wanting some chocolate and I wanted to try these because they look so delicious.

  18. You can’t beat the classics — that’s why they’re called classics! And although I usually prefer double chocolate, every once in a while, I don’t mind a little vanilla instead. (And strange but true, I actually prefer the vanilla part of the soft serve swirled ice cream! Their chocolate tastes a bit off to me. But I digress…) That’s such a huge compliment that your friend said they tasted as good as a bakery’s! Would you ever open your own? I’d be the first customer in the door — every single day!! 🙂

    1. I would LOVE to open a bakery someday Amy. We should do it together. 🙂 And I’m not a fan of chocolate soft serve either! Vanilla with rainbow sprinkles, please.

      1. Ohmygoodness — YES, let’s do it! 🙂 It’s been my dream to open a bakery, and once we move later this summer, I’m actually thinking about looking into what it’d take to start one from our new residence. With the Cottage Food Act, I think it just might be feasible and much cheaper than looking for a storefront to start out with!

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