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These super moist chocolate cupcakes pack TONS of chocolate flavor in each cupcake wrapper! Made from simple everyday ingredients, this easy cupcake recipe will be your new favorite. For best results, use natural cocoa powder and buttermilk. These chocolate cupcakes taste completely over-the-top with chocolate buttercream!

chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream and chocolate sprinkles

Today we’re diving deep into what I like to call a “foundation recipe.” Basic chocolate cupcakes which are, indefinitely, anything but basic.

This is a solid base recipe that serves as a jumping off point for many others. Like my basic vanilla cupcakes recipe, these chocolate cupcakes hold a sacred spot in my baking repertoire. There will never be a reason to find a better version– this is THE chocolate cupcake recipe I use time and time again.

chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate buttercream and chocolate sprinkles

I shared the recipe 3 years ago, but I want to walk you through the process (1) with step-by-step pictures, (2) with careful explanations, (3) and I want to emphasize one VERY crucial instruction. If you skip this instruction, your entire batch will be ruined. Trust me, the evidence has landed in my trashcan time and time again. It’s not pretty.

Curious about other foundation recipes?

  1. Vanilla cupcakes and vanilla cake
  2. Sugar cookies and chocolate sugar cookies
  3. Chocolate cake (try this!!)
  4. Brownies

Today’s chocolate cupcakes are for true chocolate fans. I’m talking about those of you who don’t qualify an item as dessert unless there’s chocolate involved. Strawberry shortcake is a dessert impostor and forget about apple pie. That’s some sort of health food, right?

overhead image of wet ingredients in a glass bowl and dry ingredients in a glass bowl

Chocolate cupcake batter in a glass bowl

You need 2 bowls, 1 whisk, and 1 spatula. The base of these chocolate cupcakes– and what is responsible for the super-moist texture is oil. Like double chocolate muffins, we’re not creaming butter here, so there is no need to break out the mixer. Though you can absolutely use a hand or stand mixer if it’s easier for you. We’re also achieving an incredibly moist texture with buttermilk. I don’t typically have buttermilk in the fridge, so I sour whole milk instead. Check out my recipe notes for how to do that one.

Another tip? 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.

So there’s 1 bowl for dry ingredients and 1 bowl for wet ingredients. Gently mix the two together. The batter isn’t as thick as you would think. We don’t really want a super thick chocolate batter because that would yield a cupcake similar to brownies. Dense. We don’t want dense! We want spongey, cakey, and rich.

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. Half full. 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, that is all you are using for each cupcake.

  • If you fill the liners too full, the cupcakes will overflow.
  • Too full = crisp mushroom tops
  • Too full = sinking in the center

Got that? Halfway full! Halfway full!

chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream in a cupcake pan

Now that the cupcakes are baked and your self control is fading quickly, it’s time to frost them. The frosting flavor is completely up to you. We have a plethora of options on this site from chocolate buttercream and rainbow chip frosting to strawberry frosting, vanilla buttercream, salted caramel frosting, and cream cheese frosting. Keeping things even (though highly indulgent) with chocolate buttercream and a friendly dose of chocolate sprinkles.

And layer that buttercream on nice and tall. (used wilton 1M!)

chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate buttercream and chocolate sprinkles

I don’t normally reach for chocolate desserts if there’s a fruity one on the menu, but I would gladly unwrap one of these over any other choice.

By the way, this recipe transfers beautifully into cake pans to make a 6 inch cake.

Print
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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

Description

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.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 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*

Topping


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. 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.

Notes

  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

More of a vanilla person? Here are my favorite vanilla cupcakes!

vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Hi Sally,
    natural cocoa powder isn’t easy to find in australia. I’ve noticed most are dutch processed. Can these be made with dutch processed cocoa? or do they turn out bad?

    Thanks! love your recipes!

    1. Hi Jen! It’s really best to use natural cocoa where specified. We wish we could help with substituting, but if using your dutched cocoa, you would need to switch out the baking soda (or some of the baking soda) for baking powder. Increase the amount of baking powder in the substitution since it isn’t quite as strong as baking soda. We share more on the difference between natural and dutched cocoa here if you’re interested.

    1. Hi Robin For the best taste and texture, we highly recommend making the batter in separate batches instead of multiplying all at once. Large batches risk over-mixing or under-mixing the batter. Happy baking!

  2. I filled the cupcake liners halfway as instructed, maybe even a little less as I was nervous they would overflow and collapse. Apparently this fear was warranted. Every single cupcake overflowed and collapsed in the center, even those that didn’t appear to be. In addition, they all burnt. Very displeased, but no hate because it very well could be me at fault.

  3. These taste very good! Ours did sink and overflow, I’m assuming we filled them too full. I agree that they taste like brownies. We are going to try again. The batter was fairly thin.

  4. I love this recipe, but is it possible to make it gluten free?

  5. Hi Sally! Your recipes are always my go-to–10/10 delicious.

    I’m making these for a bridal shower and want them to be uniform–do you have any suggestions on how much batter in measurements (tablespoons etc) that would uniformly fill each liner half way?

    TIA!

    1. Hi Olivia, you’ll need around 2 full Tablespoons of batter per cupcake. Hope they’re a hit!

    1. Hi Loreen, that substitution would require some testing. You’d likely need to switch to all baking powder and increase the amount of liquid in the recipe. For best results, stick with unsweetened natural cocoa powder.

  6. Worked perfectly. I’m not sure if I’ve ever made cupcakes from scratch without a mix before but the recipe and the chocolate buttercream frosting both worked perfectly. And make sure you really only do fill the liners 1/2 way. On a couple I probably overfilled a little and had to gingerly pry the tops off the cupcake pan. My husband has some really pretty cupcakes for his birthday and appreciates the effort I went to make them.

  7. I tried this recipe and I must say my cupcakes came out very moist and delicious. This is now my go to chocolate cupcake.
    I love it.

  8. I made these and didn’t have buttermilk so I used sour cream and milk mixture and they are so dry I honestly can’t believe it and I’m a baker. I guess these truly don’t work unless you have buttermilk. I’m so disappointed because it was such a waste of time.

  9. Has anyone tried this recipe making mini cupcakes? Looking to make mini/one bite cupcakes for a tea party!

    1. Hi Andrea, See the recipe notes for details on making mini cupcakes. Enjoy!

  10. Excellent recipes for cupcakes and chocolate buttercream, no issues except one – advise sifting or using a food processor to remove lumps from chocolate or powdered sugar. I proccessed the cacao in a mini processor for a smooth chocolate buttercream. Thank you, Joanna

  11. I used this recipe and made buttermilk with milk and vinegar. I doubled the ingredients and made 12 individual cup cakes and one standard size cake. It was light and moist. This is now my go to chocolate cake recipe.. my family loved it.

  12. I consider myself a good baker but chocolate cake is one thing I hadn’t been able to master…until this recipe. I love it so much. The cake is moist and chocolatey and the frosting is the perfect complement.

  13. Hi Sally, I love this recipe but wanted to add espresso powder because my flourless cake (also your recipe) was so more rich chocolate flavor. Can I do that to this recipe?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Judy, absolutely. You can add 1 tsp espresso powder without making any other changes to the recipe. Enjoy!

  14. I lived your recipes Sally! ..thank you thank you ..they were delicious ❤️

    1. Hi Kira, you need the acidity from the buttermilk for this recipe. You can make your own DIY version of buttermilk if needed – see recipe notes for details!

  15. Can you make the batter in advance and keep it in the fridge prior to baking?

    1. Hi Gabby, we don’t recommend it. Once the wet and dry ingredients are combined, the raising agents activate, so the cupcakes wouldn’t rise properly when baked.

  16. I’ve made these so many times and they’re always an epic hit!! I left some unfrosted in the fridge like a fool, and now they’re dried out. Sad! Any ideas for what to make with stale cupcakes? I’m thinking some kind of cake trifle or such? Just thought I’d ask. HATE to throw them away!

    1. Hi Elaine, a trifle is a great idea, or you could crumble the cupcakes and serve them on top of ice cream. You could even try homemade cake pops if you’d like. Hope this helps!

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