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

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: 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 (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

512 Comments

  1. I just made these this week for my daughter’s birthday party, along with the vanilla cupcakes! I used the raspberry buttercream to frost them and they were amazing!!! It’s taken me forever to find a homemade chocolate cupcake recipe that I like and I’m so glad that I finally found it!!

  2. Hi Sally! Can I use the Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder instead?

    1. That would be fine for this recipe, yes!

  3. Hi Sally,
    These look amazing and I want to make them for my daughter’s birthday party. Her party is in the early afternoon. Is there any chance the cupcakes would turn out ok if I frost them the night before? 

    1. That would be just fine. Enjoy!

  4. Cheryl Woods says:

    I just tried these chocolate cupcakes. My new go to recipe 🙂 Thanks for your amazing recipes. Love your attention to detail. It makes my heart happy and makes me look like a rockstar.

  5. This made me so sad! My cupcakes did the unthinkable and flattened like a pancake on the edge of my cupcake pan . The sad thing is that I filled up the liners half way and they rose, splatted on the outside, and then sunk really low in the middle.The taste is delicious, but not pretty. I’m not sure what I did wrong!! I tested my baking soda and baking powder which are both still good and I didn’t think I overmixed it… I definitely over mixed the wet ingredients but not when I combined it together. Is that why it did that? Please help this distressed baker .

    1. Typically that means the cupcake liners were too full OR the cupcakes were underbaked. Were they only halfway? I know you said they were!

  6. Hi Sally can I double this recipe?

    1. Hi Tania! I recommend making two separate batches instead. Doubling and all the extra batter could lead to overmixing. Best to just make 2 batches.

  7. Made these TWO DAYS IN A ROW! a total hit!!! Everything is perfect. Sally, what number tip do you use to make such beautiful swirls? 

    1. Thank you thank you!! I used Wilton 1M tip 🙂

  8. Claudia Roitman Santamaria says:

    Hi Sally I was wondering If I could make this batter and bake it in a 8 inch round pan? I need a mini cake for a birthday, I have already made your death by choc cupcakes into a cake and it turned out super delicious!. Thanks for sharing your amazing and easy to follow recipes, I am a huge fan!

    1. Hi Claudia! There is too much batter for an 8-inch pan, but you can fill it halfway and use the rest of the batter for cupcakes. Enjoy!!

  9. I feel like mine came out a tiny bit dry. What can I do to make them more moist??? Once I get that down they’ll be 100%

    1. Overbaked? With so little dry ingredients, I’m surprised they’re dry! Did you substitute anything?

  10. Hey Sally! All your cake recipes I have made so far have been the best I have ever made. I’m going to be making these cupcakes for my sister’s birthday on Saturday, can’t wait!

    I have one question. I have a bunch of dark chocolate chips that I need to use and was wondering if it would mess up the recipe if I mixed them into the batter. Would the cupcakes still rise OK? What do you think?

    1. You can certainly add chocolate chips to the batter, but remember to only fill the liners halfway 🙂

  11. Hi Sally,

    I made these cupcakes for a baby shower with your chocolate buttercream frosting and they were amazing, everyone loved them!!! What are your thoughts on using this same recipe for a cake? I want to make my niece a birthday cake and she loved these cupcakes. I wanted to do a layered cake, either two or three layers and use the same chocolate buttercream frosting. Please let me know if you think that will work or if I need to double the recipe or the frosting recipe.

    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Nadine! Make my triple chocolate layer cake instead. You can use hot water instead of coffee if you prefer. The frosting is the exact same, only on a larger scale.

  12. Made these yesterday! A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!!! Thank you for
    sharing your recipe ❤️

  13. I cannot believe I made such yummy cupcakes so easily. Thank you so much for posting this recipe!

  14. These came out amazing for me!! Thank you, thank you!! My first ever homemade cupcakes and they were winners!!! I was a bit worried because I live at a high altitude, but they came out just right! I ended up with 16 cupcakes! I made your chocolate buttercream frosting that is to die for… and added chocolate sprinkles just like you did, and funny, it’s what my 9 year old birthday boy requested! This recipe goes in my book for sure! Death by chocolate!! Yum!

  15. Stephanie Copeland says:

    Sally…I’m new to baking and I’m sorry if you’ve already answered this question, but why don’t you use cake flour in this recipe? What the difference?

    1. Hi Stephanie! Great question and I’m happy to answer. Cake flour is too light; the chocolate cupcakes will fall apart. Cocoa powder, which takes the place of some of the all-purpose flour is just as light (if not lighter) than cake flour and the mix of cocoa + cake flour would create a flimsy cupcake.

  16. Sally – I remember your post about the pretty 6″ layer cake you made for your birthday, and want to confirm that a cupcake recipe which yields 12-14 cupcakes would make a nice 3-layer 6″ cake? I think this will be great for Valentine’s Day with your raspberry buttercream. Thank you!

    1. Yes! Any cupcake recipe yielding about 12-14 cupcakes (this chocolate cupcake recipe included) fits perfectly into 3 6-inch cake pans. Let me know how you like it!

  17. Sally, I have started baking and started out with a couple of your recipes. This cupcake recipe was PERFECT. After baking your recipes I know I can count on you for delicious recipes and this is my go-to site! I keep finding myself coming back to find what to bake next. Love all of your helpful tips along the way. So glad I found this resource. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Margaret Paris says:

    Question already asked but not answered: can these be made GF. If so what flour would you recommend. many thanks.

    1. Hi Margaret! I’m sorry, I don’t have much experience baking with gluten free flour. I wish I had a recommendation for you! Let me know if you try anything.

  19. Sally…I tried these cupcakes and they turned out to be the best chocolate cupcakes I ever ate!!! My kids loved them too!!! Only issue was ever cupcake rose more in the center than the sides. I don’t think this is an issue with the recipe but something wrong that I am doing as every cake I bake rises more at the center than at the side. What could be the reason for that?

    1. Hi Charu, I’m glad you all loved them! One possibility is that you are overfilling your cupcake liners. Be sure to only fill them half way up!! If your cakes are doming it can be that your oven is too hot or your pans are not insulated causing the edges to bake first, and the center keeps rising after the edges are set. You can try using baking strips to insulate your pans and definitely check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer!

  20. I followed the recipe exactly and used silicone baking cups. I filled them half full as recommended. Surprisingly, the cups I placed on a cookie pan turned out much higher than the ones that fit the muffin tin ( there were a couple of extra). Next time I’ll set all the cups on a cookie pan. They were delicious and moist and definitely a go-to recipe for chocolate cupcakes.

  21. I made these cupcakes tonight, kept some unfrosted and some with vanilla chocolate chip frosting. I ate a plain one while it was still very warm with some milk and OH my Goodness! They are moist and so delicious! I filled them half way as suggested and ended up getting 14 nice cupcakes. Thank you Sally, I will be making these again and again!

  22. I haven’t made this recipe yet, but plan to. I am wondering if you have ever weighed the cupcake liners when 1/2 full? I have a terrible time gauging how full the liners are. Most of the baking I do is by weight. Love your site and your cranberry orange scones are one of my personal addictions!! Thank you.

    1. Hi Kriss! I actually haven’t. You’ll need around 2 full Tablespoons of batter though.

  23. These cupcakes turned out amazing!! We made them with your “Favorite Chocolate Buttercream” frosting, and omg — I truly think these were the best cupcakes I’ve ever had. We used very high-quality organic cacao powder, which I think added to the depth and richness of both the cupcakes and the frosting. So delicious! My daughter now wants these to be her cupcakes for all future birthdays 🙂 Thank you for your delightful recipes!

  24. Wow! Turned out unbelievably good !

  25. Thank you for sharing the recipe. Perfectly moist and the frosting complemented the cupcakes without being overly sweet.

  26. I made these a couple of weeks back and froze half, the firsthalf were so moist, soft and scrumptious. I defrosted the second half yesterday and iced them with a chocolate ganache today. There are only two left, I usually eat a half to one at a time of any cupcake but the recipe for these is perfection, even after being frozen they were amazing. My husband and I couldn’t believe how soft and delicate but full of flavour and moist they were!
    Thank you so much for sharing, this is now my go to recipe for cupcakes!

  27. Sara Hosseini says:

    I’m just amazed at how these turned out, i usually never comment on recipes but this one was a huge huge hit. bakery grade cupcakes, delicious.
    i put a little less sugar and added espresso powder to amplify the chocolate taste. they turned out awesome.
    will be making them again and again and again

  28. I have made these for several events and for family and friends. Every time I get the best compliments on them! They are delicious and super quick and easy to make. Best chocolate cupcake recipe, I don’t think I will ever use a different recipe. THANK YOU SALLY!

  29. Hi Sally! I’ve used this recipe many times and they’ve always been fantastic. Do you think filling them with caramel sauce in the middle would hold up or would the sauce just seep into the rest of the cake? Just wanted to experiment but not ruin them. Thanks!

    1. Hi Shannon! These chocolate cupcakes would be fantastic with caramel inside, though make sure you use a thicker caramel like this salted caramel. (See note about switching from Salted to Regular caramel.) Let the caramel thicken for about 15 minutes, then fill the cupcake.

  30. This is my new favorite cupcake recipe! My daughter and I made these the other day and they came out absolutely perfect. We also made the chocolate buttercream frosting and almost didn’t have enough to put on the cupcakes because we couldn’t stop eating it straight out of the bowl. We managed to save a couple cupcakes to share with family and they were very impressed with them as well!

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