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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. Chewy brownies
  5. Peanut butter cookies (foundation for 6+ other cookies on my site!)

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. Just like in these cream filled chocolate cupcakes, buttermilk also gives us the best flavor. 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 vs. natural cocoa powder. And if you really want to learn today, here is the difference between baking soda vs. baking powder and why I use both 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. (I 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. Cupcakes are a tasty chocolate flavor however I made sure to fill them all halfway and it perfectly came out to yield 12 cupcakes and they still all sank in the middle! Don’t know how to fix this if I decide to use this recipe again

  2. Hi Sally,
    If I don’t have cream, what can I substitute it for?

  3. What should I do to adjust this recipe to high altitude?

    1. Hi Angie, I wish we could help, but have no experience baking at high altitude. Some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

    2. Super moist and super easy to make!! No sinking, no overflowing, and baked in 19 minutes. I made a peanut butter frosting to go with them.

  4. Perfectly moist and chocolatey cupcakes so easy to make by hand. This should be everyone’s go-to recipe when company is coming and you need to bake something quick! I topped with mini chocolate chips and hoped they would not sink! They turned out nicely risen filling half way as instructed, NO sinking, NO overflow. Your directions are always spot on and informative. Not too sweet and great without frosting for me .I added a pinch of cinnamon. I used short 3 -1/2 ” paper baking cups I buy on Amazon, making 9 short muffins, 18 minute bake time at 350 degrees. Thanks for another great recipe!

  5. I followed the recipe precisely and the result was moist, chocolatey cupcakes which actually rose to form little peaks – no question of sinking. My only complaint is that the flavour was too cocoa-ey for me and not sweet enough. Perhaps I would substitute some cocoa with flour and add some more sugar or coconut.

  6. Could I cut this recipe in half for less cupcakes? Thanks!

    1. Hi Nav, you should be able to halve this recipe without any issues.

  7. Hi Sally, instead of putting this batter in 2x 6 inch tins, do you think it would work in one 8 or 9 inch tin? And if so, how long would you bake each size for? Thank you!

    1. Hi Rebecca, you can, just fill your cake pan half way and use any leftover batter for a few cupcakes on the side. Bake time will be closer to that of this chocolate cake, but keep a close eye on it and use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  8. I am wondering…can I exchange the oil for extra virgin or avocado?

  9. Hi, do these work best with liners or would they come out okay in a greased mini shaped cake pan?

    1. Hi Christianne, you can use cooking spray to grease your cupcake pans rather than using liners.

  10. Wow, these chocolate cupcakes are super moist and sensational!
    Could you please tell me how many days I could store them at room temperature? (just the plain cupcake without any frosting).
    Thank you so much.
    Kind Regards,
    Simone

    1. Hi Simone, even unfrosted, we recommend storing these in a refrigerator if possible.

  11. I could not get this recipe to work out for me at all. Every other recipe here has worked well for me despite being at high altitude.

    The modifications I made finally worked! Only 4/15 cupcakes sank in the middle, and they aren’t that awful of sinks.

    Keep in mind I’m at high altitude – about 7200 feet. YMMV depending on your altitude.

    This is what I changed:
    -increased flour to 1 cup
    -decreased sugar to 1/3 cup
    -decreased brown sugar to 1/3 cup

    They’re not as sweet, but they baked well and finally didn’t have to toss the whole batch!