Super Moist Chocolate Cupcakes

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

I apologize if the word “moist” freaks you out. But there’s really no other way to describe a chocolate cupcake like this! Also, who watches How I Met Your Mother?! I feel like that clip is only funny to HIMYM fans. That’s my favorite episode!

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. 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 these babes. The frosting flavor is completely up to you. I have a plethora of options from chocolate buttercream and rainbow chip frosting to strawberry frosting, vanilla buttercream, salted caramel frosting, and cream cheese frosting. Keeping things monotone (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!

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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

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

  • 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*

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. 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

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

vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles

1109 Comments

  1. Hi Sally,

    I’m from Australia and all the supermarkets here only sell Dutch processed cocoa powder. However, I noticed they sell cacao powder in the health food aisle. Is cacao powder the same as natural, unsweetened cocoa powder?

    1. I am unable to find “unsweetened natural” cocoa powder either where I am located. ( Arizona USA). Every brand I have researched online has the word”dutch” or “dutched process” on the label. The Guittard cocoa rouge states “red dutch process” and is dark in color. It states in fine print “alkali process.” However, Trader Joe’s has an unsweetened cocoa powder that doesn’t specify and is light in color. According to this recipe, natural is a must. I do not know what brands Sally uses.

      1. Alison Castellanos says:

        Hi I totally love your recipe I remember making it the first time and it came out PERFECT. Best chocolate cupcake I ever had. But today I made them again and it tasted so bitter I’m not sure if I added too much baking soda or coca powder that made it taste bitter, it made my tongue feel weird. I combined 1/2 tsp and 1/4 to make 3/4 tsp for the baking powder. I’m not sure if that’s where I messed up thank you!!

      2. Hi Nancy,

        Thanks for replying. I actually managed to find the Hershey Natural Unsweetened Cocoa here at Costco. They have Costco stores in Australia now. It worked really well!

        Tania

    2. I have only the regular cacao powder, it came out absolutely delicious!

  2. ptberkshiresma says:

    This recipe came out great! I wonder what size muffin/cupcake tins you used. I was able to get 18 cupcakes from my batch. In fact, I probably would have been able to get at least 20, but went back and filled up the tin a bit more, worried that I under filled them.

  3. Thank you for the recipe! Turned out super spongy!!

  4. Hi Sally…love your recipes , i’ve made these a couple of times already and its been a hit everytime. Just one question do you think it would be ok to use fine oat flour instead of regular flour?

    Thanks

  5. Perfect recipe! I got 12 muffin sized cupcakes. They rose just right.

  6. I used 1/4 cup A/P and 1/2 cup buckwheat flour (everything else was the same). Poured the batter over a 10 inch cake mold, 35 minutes later it finally cooked in the middle. The cake rose nicely! Buckwheat flavor came out only when the cake was fully cooled. My entire family devoured it. My 4 year old said that it tastes so delicious that he urgently needs another slice (best compliment ever) 🙂

  7. These cupcakes are delicious! My only question/concern is that my cupcakes are sticking to their liners. What did I do wrong or what can I do differently next time?? I’ve made other cupcake recipes from your site and this hasn’t happened. Did I over mix it?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Liz! Nothing you did wrong. We find that the higher quality cupcake liners you use, the less chance there is of them sticking. We like Paper Chef liners. If you have this problem repeatedly, you can try spraying the liners with baking spray before filling with batter.

  8. Is the brown packed sugar needed? Or can I leave it out? I don’t have any with me

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Haley, we wouldn’t recommend leaving it out or making any substitutions here. The taste, texture and structure would be quite different without the brown sugar.

  9. Hi! I am wondering if I can use this recipe to make a cake in a 9×13 inch pan? I see your notes refer to another chocolate cake recipe (that looks delish) but seems a bit more complicated for this novice baker. Could I just use the cupcake recipe for a cake? Would the time/temp change?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kelsey, this batter wouldn’t make quite enough for a 9×13 pan. You can use our handy Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions blog post to scale this particular cupcake recipe (which would equal 3, 6-inch pans as written) for a 9×13 cake. Hope this helps!

  10. Easy to make, and moist and delicious.

  11. Can I use dark brown sugar? I don’t have light brown sugar.

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Absolutely!

  12. Thank you so much!

  13. Hi Sally, My cupcake cake was very dry. I followed directions and read the whole post. I did use buttermilk. Any thoughts?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Joanne, it sounds like your cupcakes simply may have been over baked. Did you spoon and level your flour, too? Both are easy fixes for next time! We also have a handy blog post on how to prevent dry & dense cakes that you might find helpful. Thank you so much for giving this recipe a go!

  14. What if I double all the ingredients
    to make 24 cupcakes? Can I?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Zuwaina, for best results, we’d recommend making two separate batches to yield that amount. Or, you can make our Triple Chocolate Cake as cupcakes, which will give you 2-3 dozen. Hope this helps!

  15. Karen Goldburg says:

    Hi Sally, are the cupcake liners the small regular size or the jumbo size? Thanks so much.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Karen, The pictured cupcakes are made with standard size liners.

  16. Katherine Verghese says:

    Wow, these look so yummy. I will try to make them for my husband

  17. I just wanted to thank you for the lemon layer cake with lemon buttercream frosting recipe. I made it for my dad for his birthday, and it was perfect.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      So happy it was a hit, Kylie!

  18. Can you half the batch?

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