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!
So today’s the day we are diving deep into what I like to call a “foundation recipe.” Basic chocolate cupcakes which are, indefinitely, anything but basic. See? ↓
This is a solid base recipe that serves as a jumping off point for many others. Like my basic vanilla cupcake 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.
I shared the recipe on my blog 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?
- Vanilla cupcakes and vanilla cake
- Sugar cookies and the chocolate version
- Oatmeal cookies
- Chocolate cake (try this!!)
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 imposter and forget about apple pie. That’s some sort of health food, right?
And lucky for you–my chocolate obsessed friends– there’s a double dose of the good stuff today with both a chocolate cupcake base AND a smooth and silky chocolate buttercream. More on that in a sec.
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. Am I broken record here? There’s a reason I always talk about buttermilk in baking recipes: it’s the moist maker! Gives cupcakes, breads, cakes, and the like an unsurpassable moist texture. Nothing compares. 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? I have a nerdy wordy post explaining it! And if you really want to geek out with me today, here is why I use both baking soda and baking powder in these chocolate cupcakes. And thank you for always accepting my nerd self. ♥
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. So the batter is thin.
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!
One more time: halfway full. 🙂
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, vanilla buttercream, salted caramel frosting, and cream cheese frosting. Keeping things quite monotone (though highly indulgent) with chocolate buttercream and a friendly dose of chocolate sprinkles. Figured we’re breaking the calorie bank anyway, so why not make it something that’ll seriously satisfy.
And layer that buttercream on nice and tall. (used wilton 1M!)
I don’t normally reach for chocolate desserts (I KNOW.) if there’s a fruity one on the menu, but I would gladly unwrap one of these over any other choice. Seriously!
Super Moist Chocolate Cupcakes
- 3/4 cup (95g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1/2 cup (42g) 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*
- frosting: chocolate buttercream or any of these frostings
- 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.
- 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 completely smooth. 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.
- Pour or spoon the batter into the liners. Fill only halfway (this is imperative! only halfway!) to avoid spilling over the sides or sinking. Bake for 18-21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
- Frost cooled cupcakes however you'd like. I used Wilton 1M piping tip for these pictured cupcakes. Top with sprinkles, if desired. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Make ahead tip: 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.
Interested in mini cupcakes? Fill mini liners only halfway and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350°F (177°C). Yields about 3 dozen.
Interested in making a cake? Here's a triple chocolate layer cake that is just as moist and chocolate-y.
*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.
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More of a vanilla person? Here are my favorite vanilla cupcakes!