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!

The only chocolate cupcake recipe you need! Homemade, moist, rich, super chocolate flavor, and so easy to make with chocolate buttercream! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

The only chocolate cupcake recipe you need! Homemade, moist, rich, super chocolate flavor, and so easy to make with chocolate buttercream! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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?

How to make chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream on sallysbakingaddiction.com

How to make chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

How to make chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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!

The only chocolate cupcake recipe you need! Homemade, moist, rich, super chocolate flavor, and so easy to make with chocolate buttercream! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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!)

The only chocolate cupcake recipe you need! Homemade, moist, rich, super chocolate flavor, and so easy to make with chocolate buttercream! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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
chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

  • 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*

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 45 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream, half-and-half, or whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste
  • rainbow sprinkles (optional)

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. Frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, the heavy cream, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to medium-high speed and beat for 2 full minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. (I add 1/8 teaspoon salt.) Use frosting immediately or cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting on medium speed for a few seconds so it’s creamy again. After thawing or refrigerating, beating in a splash of heavy cream or milk will help thin the frosting out again, if needed.
  6. 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.

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. Heavy Cream in Frosting: I love using heavy cream for the creamiest consistency. You can use half-and-half or whole milk instead if needed. The lower the fat, the less creamy your buttercream will be. Whichever you use, make sure it’s at room temperature. Otherwise your frosting could separate or appear grainy.
  4. Mini Cupcakes: Fill mini liners only halfway and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350°F (177°C). Yields about 3 dozen.
  5. Cake: Here’s a chocolate cake that is just as moist and chocolate-y.
  6. 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!

Favorite go-to vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream on sallysbakingaddiction.com

926 Comments

  1. Rahina Fernandes says:

    These chocolate cupcakes are the bomb! Tried these and was a hit on the first attempt. It’s simple, fuss free and checks all the right boxes that a chocolate cupcake should be. I didn’t even get a chance to frost the cupcakes, they were gone before they cooled!!
    Loads of love to you from India!

  2. Michelle Healey says:

    I made these for a friends birthday and everyone thought I got them from a bakery. I also made the buttermilk with vinegar and 2% and worked perfectly. I topped them with an ermine frosting as I find buttercream to be a little bit too much. I also filled mine 2/3 of the way, def will do 1/2 the way next time, as your warning was right.

  3. Hi Sally!! Greetings from Viña Del Mar, Chile.
    I baked your recipe, it was absolutely amazing!! A very moisturized chocolate cupcake, tasty and with the exact amount of sweet.
    I filled it with toffee cream and it was a complete hit!!

    Thanks for sharing !!

  4. Hi Sally,

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. 🙂
    It’s my first time to bake, the cupcake tastes so nice, not too sweet and when I added the frosting it just blended with the cake perfectly.

    However, I got a little problem, the cupcake didn’t rise evenly.
    Can you share with me some tips to avoid it?

    Thanks!

  5. This recipe is fantastic. I made my own buttermilk. The cupcakes turned out so fluffy and light. I decreased the sugar because I don’t like it too sweet but the cake itself turned out sooo good. I had a little extra batter left because I only baked 12 so I used the left over batter to make a thin layer chocolate cake. Sooo good. Thanks Sally!

  6. Hi Sally

    There are so many different sized cupcake tins and liners these days. Which size fits the temperature and baking time for this recipe?

    1. You want a standard size muffin tin – not labeled as mini or jumbo 🙂 See #5 on this post for the pans I love: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/stock-your-kitchen-with-these-8-baking-pans/

  7. Can you tell me why your amazing vanilla cupcake recipe calls for cake flour and this one doesnt? Doss chocolate require something diff?

    1. Hi Holly, Cocoa is very fine and combination of cake flour and cocoa powder usually results in a flimsy cake. I actually just published this post over the weekend that explains it in detail: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/cake-flour-substitute/

  8. Jo Ann Baldwin says:

    These cupcakes were delicious and so easy to make. I used the frosting recipe from your swirl cupcake recipe, and while I didn’t swirl, I just made half chocolate and half vanilla frosted batch. I really enjoy you’re recipes.
    Thank you!

    1. These came out really nicely! One or two I must have accidentally went a smidge over half full because they caved in, but it was no big deal, they were still delicious.

      One note, I found that it made more than 14 cupcakes! I doubled the batch and was able to fill 2 regular sized muffin trays, one jumbo tray, and about half of a mini tray. But who’s mad at extra cupcakes? Nobody in my house.

  9. I made these for my daughter’s bridal shower yesterday and they were AMAZING! So delicious! Thank you for a great recipe!

  10. Hi Sally

    i love you recipes. They are so simple and beautifully explained. I had a question though. My child is allergic to eggs. Is there a way I can make these eggless.?
    Thanks

    1. I haven’t tested this recipe with an egg substitute but please let me know if you try!

  11. aliyah conrad says:

    I made these last night and somehow I got 18 soft, moist delicious cupcakes!!! I was very skeptical as I had to make cuppies for an order and the last time i tried a recipe for an order, it flopped big time! So here I was praying to the Cupcake fairies to let it come out like your post said it would…OH and did it deliver? YES, duh of course it did!!! thank you so much, this is definitely my go to recipe from now on!!!

    1. Hahaha – love the cupcake fairies!! I’m so happy they turned out well for you!

  12. For souring your own milk, should you use white wine vinegar or white grape vinegar?

  13. I used King Arthur’s gluten free cup for cup flour and these could not have turned out better! Fabulous recipe!

  14. Jana Anderson says:

    This recipe, paired with the Favorite Chocolate Buttercream Frosting was PHENOMENAL!

  15. Deena Salvatore says:

    Sally, FYI I tried to add this to my Pinterest board and all I got was a black screen. I’ll check again later when I’ve finished making the cupcakes, but I wanted you to know. Bon Appetit! Deena

    1. Hi Deena! Thanks for letting me know. The connection with Pinterest seems to be working just fine today– how are you pinning? Are you using a Pinterest extension on your browser or the pin it button on my website? (If so, which one?)

      1. Deena Salvatore says:

        Hi Sally! It seems to be working fine now. I used the pin it button on your website. I made the cupcakes following your instructions precisely and they sunk! Not to worry, the flavor was lovely. I just filled the cavity with whipped cream! ☺️

  16. Hi Sally
    Can I use butter instead of oil in this cupcake recipe ?

    1. You can use melted butter instead of oil, but the flavor and texture of the cupcake will change. Oil keeps them extra moist.

      1. Would olive oil work the same as vegetable oil?

      2. Hi Gabrielle, you can use olive oil. For best flavor, I recommend sticking with vegetable oil or melted coconut oil.

  17. Lindsey Rhodes says:

    Sally, can I double this recipe or is it best to make more than one batch? Thank you!

    1. Hi Lindsey, I recommend making two batches for the best texture!

      1. Lindsey Rhodes says:

        Thanks so much, they’re delicious!

  18. Hello!

    Any tips for making these at altitude? I’m in Denver. I followed the recipe and they sunk a little in the middle.

    Thanks!!

    1. Hi Stacia, I wish I could help, but I have no experience baking at high altitude. I know some readers find this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

  19. I’m not a fan of baking with reg oil- would the coconut oil still make it moist? Also I know you can sub oil for applesauce (I know that might be a stretch). How would those affect the texture? Thanks!

    1. Hi Emily, you can use melted coconut oil as a replacement for the vegetable oil in this recipe. I don’t suggest applesauce.

  20. My youngest food critic told me he didn’t like the chocolate cupcakes I have been making so I took it as a challenge. I topped these with some marshmallows (his favorite food), put them under the broiler for a few minutes then drizzled melted chocolate chips on top. They were a hit with all my food critics (my children)! I now have a new go-to chocolate cupcake recipe. Thank you!!!

  21. Hi Sally… i don’t know whats wrong… the cupcakes i’ve made not moist… is that because my oven… i’m using upper n below heating… or i should use only below heating… please advise…

    1. Hi Sue, Is your oven a convection oven? Meaning is there a fan that circulates the hot air around? If so the usual recommendation is to reduct the heat by 25 degrees for a baking recipe.

  22. Thanks Sally, definitely will make them again. Your measering 101 is very informative.
    Thank you!
    Wanda

  23. Hi Sally! Will these work in a jumbo size muffin pan for bigger cupcakes?

    Thank you! Love all your recipes!

    1. Yes they will! I’m unsure of the exact bake time.

  24. Hi Sally, I was wondering if adding chocolate chips in these cupcakes would change anything, and if I can just add them without changing anything

    1. I suggest adding mini chips! No other changes needed 🙂

  25. So amazing doesn’t do this recipe justice! Very easy to follow and delicious even without any frosting

  26. Sally, thank you for this!! I used this recipe for a last minute heartfelt-baked-good need and the cupcakes were quick to make and absolutely delicious– so light and chocolatey and not overly sweet. I was so skeptical of how much to fill the muffin cups, but holy mackerel you were right!

    I so appreciate that I always know your recipes are tested and perfected before they hit my computer screen; even when making one for the first time, I know I can depend on it to come out beautifully. This is why I so reliably turn to your blog whenever I need a recipe!

  27. Sally, thank you so much for these cupcakes they were amazing, but when they came out in the oven the sank inwards down? What do I need to do for them to puff up, and not sink inwards? Thanks!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed them! Sinking cupcakes are almost always caused by over-filling the liners. Be sure to only fill them with batter halfway!

  28. Made this recipe today for my anniversary and it was a hit, so delicious and so moist…

  29. Victoria Greenleaf says:

    I made these today for a small outdoor party, and they were FABULOUS. I doubled the recipe and made 2 dozen…they were all devoured!

    I loved the fact that the chocolate had a deep, rich quality that prevented the cupcakes themselves from tasting overly sweet. And that was great advice about filling the cupcake tins only half full — they all rose to the top of the liner beautifully, and not even one sank in the middle!!

    This will always be my go-to recipe for chocolate cupcakes. Thanks again!!

  30. After making with the buttercream frosting, do they need to be refrigerated? I’m making them 1 day in advance.
    – Thanks!

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