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

941 Comments

  1. Hi Sally,

    Thank you for all your wonderful recipes! I just wondered, would I be able to use this recipe to make a full sized cake instead of cupcakes? Or could you recommend one of your recipes for a moist chocolate cake please?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Sonia, for a cake I recommend this repine: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/triple-chocolate-layer-cake/

  2. Hi Sally, Have you tried half regular cocoa and half dutch cocoa? Then also increasing the baking powder to compensate for the use of dutch cocoa? I prefer a richer chocolate taste so I might experiment with it. Thoughts?

  3. Hi Sally, I prepped this cupcake batter twice for the 6″ cake. Both times they turned out delicious, however, the batter was quite thick. The directions say the batter should be thin. I’m using coconut oil, per the directions, so I’m wondering if that makes it a bit thicker even after being melted. I triple checked all the measurements of ingredients and I measured those right. Our home is also around 65 degrees (cool, crisp mornings here in Western NY), so I’m wondering if that’s a factor. I’m new to baking and these turned out awesome! I’ve saved your website so I can make other flavors in the future!

  4. I used your recipe for your chocolate cupcakes yesterday! My kids wanted cupcakes and I usually use a store bought cake mix but didn’t have one on hand! I know I’m bad! Let me tell you….these we’re the BEST cupcakes EVER! And I will never use a boxed mix again. Thank you so much!!!! This is a keeper recipe that I’ve already shared with 3 people. And I actually mixed up the baking soda so I had to put in less baking powder but they were still PERFECT! I plan to use this recipe for many Occasions to come. Buttermilk Rules!

    1. Yay!!! I’m thrilled that you tried a homemade recipe and that you enjoyed it so much!

  5. Ciara Gorglione says:

    Hi Sally! I love your work. I made the mistake of not using one of your recipes for one of my kiddo’s birthdays in the past. Your recipes are bomb! I can’t even…I’m glad I didn’t start baking until we “met”. Haha. Anyway, my daughter would like a princess cake, so I have it all planned out using your buttercream frosting, but she wants chocolate and I am thinking of doing one or two 8″ layers followed up by the 6″ layers on the top adorned with a crown. I LOVE this cupcake recipe, so I’m definitely using it for the 6″ layers, but for the 8″ layers, what do you recommend? The layer cake is a different chocolate and has espresso, etc. Is there a way to make this one into 8″ layers? Thank you!

    1. Hi Ciara, I’m so happy you enjoy this recipe so much! You can certainly try to make it as a 2 layer 8 inch cake and then make it again for a 6 inch cake. One recipe will make 3 6-inch layers. I hope she has a great birthday!

    2. That How I met your mother episode is my fav to.

  6. Yummmmm! Such a wonderful recipe thank you SO much! Absolutely delicious

  7. Jahnaye Sanchez says:

    I made these cupcakes, and they were delicious. (So good a made more than one batch) but I learned on the first batch that 18 minutes (the lowest time) made overdone cupcakes!! Other than that small bump in the road these cupcakes were an absolute hit with my family and friends.

    I paired it with the cream cheese chocolate frosting and it balanced out beautifully!!

  8. Kerrie-Lynn Webb says:

    Can the batter be premade and kept over night and baked the next day?

    Thank you!
    Kerrie

    1. Hi Kerrie-Lynn, for ideal taste, rise, and texture, it’s best to bake this batter right away.

  9. San Diego Chocoholic says:

    I was feeling crummy on Sunday and decided that the only thing that would make me feel better was a super moist chocolate cupcake. Enter this recipe. PHENOMENAL! This satisfied my every craving. This cupcake was moist and light and super chocolatey. It was amazing on its own, but when I topped it with buttercream frosting, I nearly died and went to heaven. Thank you for this recipe, it will be keeper forever!

  10. First off god bless you for converting to grams for us English (at best I’ve used only one conversion chart for both liquids and solids not even thinking). It was like a scene from George’s marvellous medicine.
    Buttermilk is not usually something we keep in either, and I have milk allergy sufferers so I tweaked the buttermilk to 125g sunflower spread added some espresso powder and 2 table spoons of soya. Turned out amazing, very soft, very rich and no risk of poisoning anyone with dairy

  11. Lucy Billings says:

    You can absolutely do this! It turns out almost identical. Cake (particularly chocolate) almost always turns out amazing gluten-free.

  12. Hi Sally! I used your moist chocolate cupcake recipe for a 6 Inch birthday cake. I made a double recipe. I’m just so happy to share that I got a message from my friend after the party that the cake was so good and they all loved it. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and skills. I’m a fan!!!

  13. I tried these last weekend in a 3-layer 6” cake for a dinner party. There was not a crumb leftover!! It was the best chocolate cake I’ve made and tasted. Everyone loved it!
    One question; would this recipe work doubled or tripled to make a 3-layer 8 inch cake? Thanks!

  14. Hi Sally, this recipe is hands down the best chocolate cupcake recipe I’ve tried. I Absolutely loved how fluffy and moist they turned out even though I used only white sugar. Definitely going to try out with the brown sugar next time.

  15. Kristi McWhirter says:

    Can you use this recipe for large cupcakes as long as you stick to the half full rule?

    1. Yes, you can use this batter for jumbo cupcakes. I’m unsure of the exact bake time.

  16. I would like to try your receipt Sally for my daughters birthday, she’ll be 2 in November. My question is if I can somehow use less sugar? Or what can I replace it with?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Ana, before cutting the sugar keep in mind that while sugar does make things taste sweeter it is also necessary for the proper texture and moisture in a cake recipe. So if you want to reduce the sugar it will likely change the texture of your baked goods. I have not tested this recipe with any sugar alternatives but let me know if you try.

  17. Hi Sally,

    First, thank you so much for your wonderful recipes! I’m brand new to baking and love your detailed explanation as well as accurate recipes. I followed your banana muffin recipe and the family loves it!

    I want to bake a simple chocolate cake without layers (like a pound cake) in a bread loaf pan, and so chanced upon this recipe. But I note that this batter is to make 3 6-inch cake. Can I use this batter for a loaf pan and if so, how long do you think the bake time will be? Or would you recommend a different recipe?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Jas, I fear this cupcake base won’t be strong enough to support itself in a loaf pan. However, try replacing the buttermilk with sour cream so the batter is thicker and more sturdy. I’m unsure of the bake time.

  18. Tina Cabansag says:

    I love it this is now my only go to cupcake recipe. Thank you so much. Lots of love from the Philippines

  19. I am ABOUT to make this recipe, because it looks absolutely AMAZING but have a question — can I swap out the flour for the Gluten-Free flour mixture sold at Trader Joe’s? I have to make 2 dozen cupcakes for my kid’s school…thank you in advance!

  20. Hi, why does your triple chocolate cake recipe require hot coffee / water but this cupcake recipe doesn’t?

    1. Hi Stephanie, the ratio of flour to cocoa powder differs AND we’re not using as much cocoa powder here, so blooming it (as we do with the hot liquid in the cake), isn’t totally necessary.

      1. Thank you for the reply. Another question – can I substitute the oil with melted butter? My daughter likes the cake except the flavour – she said the cake tastes like vegetable! Sorry!

        Thanks!

      2. I would suggest melted coconut oil for a slightly different flavor with the same super moist results!

  21. I was very surprised how consistently good the cupcakes turn out. A welcome change from the usual victoria, or square mix I have always sworn by. Equal weights of the eggs in butter flour and sugar. Thank you!

  22. Well I also made my own vegan buttermilk by blending soaked raw cashews with water and lemon juice…but the consistency looked like the standard buttermilk consistency. I thought maybe that had something to do with the issue.

  23. I like to try this recipe and want to use cake flour or is all-purpose flour best for chocolate cupcakes? If I can use cake flour instead how much I should I used?

    1. Hi Teresa, when paired with ultra light cocoa powder, cake flour is too light for these cupcakes. I recommend sticking with the recipe.

  24. Hi Sally,
    I’m really excited to try your recipe! I live in CO and was wondering if I need to add anything else (like extra flour) for a high altitude recipe? And how much?
    Thank you

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

  25. Yolanda Taylor says:

    I made these for my nephew’s birthday party and they were simply delicious!! This is my go to chocolate cupcakes recipe!!

  26. I baked 4 dozen cupcakes today and I will add a Swiss buttercream tomorrow. This is for the neighborhoods kids for Halloween. I love how easy the recipe! However, the first dozen, I used Bob’s Red Mill superfine cake flower and they came out beautiful. The second dozen I followed the recipe exactly and used regular all purpose flour. Those were flat and the chocolate color was quite a bit lighter and not a dark and rich and the other. The remaining cupcakes I used the cake flower and they all came out uniform with. beautiful peek dome top.

  27. These are amazing!
    So easy so chocolatey, I used your peanut butter butter cream recipe, completely decadent. Very moist!

    It is a keeper.

  28. Great recipe, my daughter loves them so much. Very moist and rich chocolate taste!
    Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  29. Incredible!!!! So easy to make and really the best recipe
    They were yummy

  30. This is now my go to recipe to make chocolate cupcakes and chocolate cake…. Thanks for the recipe.

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