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

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.

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. 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 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!)

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!

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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


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.


  • 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*



  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.


  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. 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!

vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles


  1. Can this recipe and your vanilla cupcake recipe be cut in half? how so?

    1. They can. Simply cut each ingredient about in half to keep all of the same ratios.

  2. Can this be made dairy free? What can I use instead of buttermilk?

    1. I would use cashew or oat milk instead since they’re very creamy! But there’s not harm in experimenting a little with different types.


    Definitely a superior recipe. The cakes were as yummy as acclaimed. Here’s my problem,; frosting. The cake is about 2 inches tall. Add the luscious buttercream frosting (2 inches) and now it’s about a 4 inch bite. My mouth can only open large enough to handle the 2 inches of cake. How do you get each bite of cake into your mouth with the frosting? Usually I have to lick off the frosting off to fit the cake into my mouth. So next time I bake up a batch of these beauties I will try filling the cake with the frosting and put a simple chocolate ganache on top. Hoping the frosting injection won’t compromise the cake – yet still achieving each bite of cake with frosting. Of course, putting the frosting on only about an inch tall would help and maybe I could get a 3 inch bite (1 inch of frosting plus 2 inches of cake) into my mouth. Although so pretty with the huge mound of frosting, actually eating the cake is whole other dilemma. I’m always baking for the end result – for each bite to contain all the flavors; cake and frosting. Of course no frosting and just a dusting of powdered sugar works too.

  4. Delicious! In general I have never been a fan of cake but once in awhile I crave a chocolate cupcake and this recipe was perfect. Easy to make and they turned out beautifully fluffy and moist, very similar to the ones at my favorite bakery. I got 18 cupcakes out of the recipe so I’ll be sharing with friends and family who I am sure will love them too. Thanks sally

  5. I tried this recipe and it was amazing. If I want to use it for the 6 inch cake, how long would I have to bake for?

    1. Hi Themby, use the baking instructions for my 6 inch cake.

  6. Hi Sally! I’d love to make these as mini cupcakes for an event – would you recommend the same time and temperature for baking in a 2-dozen capacity mini muffin pan?

    1. Hi Tori! See note about mini cupcakes.

  7. Hi, can I double the recipe? I know doubling recipes doesn’t always work out.

    1. For the best taste and texture I recommend making this recipe one at a time!

  8. I’m not a sweet tooth, and I like to eat pretty healthy so cupcakes aren’t exactly my fave. BUT THIS RECIPE IS HOLY!! So so delish and very chocolatey and soft, hands down the best cupcakes I’ve ever had!

  9. Loved it. Made a practice batch last week before thanksgiving and they were amazing. Making them for thanksgiving this year.

  10. Hi Sally! This recipe looks awesome and I’m going to try it out for my daughters birthday party. Question – I’m going to need 36 cupcakes. Would you recommend tripling the recipe or doing three batches? I know sometimes it’s not as simple for scaling up! Thanks a bunch! Jamie

    1. Hi Jamie! For best taste and texture, it’s best to make 3 separate batches. That way you won’t risk over or under-mixing the batter.

  11. Hi Sally, can I add coffee powder+hot water to this as mentioned in your super moist cake recipe!?
    The only reason I am.referring to this recipe is I am lookimg for a 6 inch cake.

    1. Hi Meghana! There’s no need in this particular recipe, but you can try swapping some of the buttermilk for hot coffee. 🙂

  12. Nichole Marie says:

    We just spent several hours making 3 different recipes for chocolate cupcakes.. this was the clear winner from my tasting panel (the family). Our new go-to chocolate cupcake recipe- thanks so much!

  13. Made these for Thanksgiving and loved them. Delicious flavor and so moist. Only problem was that they fell apart when you tried to eat them. Is that how the texture is supposed to be?

    1. Hi Stephanie, I’m so glad you loved them! They are super moist but shouldn’t completely fall apart (see the last 3 seconds of the video above!). If you would like, next time you can try reducing the buttermilk to only 1/4 cup and adding a 1/4 cup of sour cream for a sturdier texture.

      1. Thank you so much…I will definitely be making them again.

  14. Would this work without muffin cups? I can’t seem to find any and I really want to make these, would I just have to spray the muffin pan or flour them to make them not stick?

    1. Yes, simply grease the muffin pan. I recommend nonstick cooking spray for the best results.

  15. These turned out amazingly soft & tasty. @Sally they sunk a little in the middle though… any idea what i did wrong?

    1. Hi Shaz! Sinking in the middle would be either (1) the cupcakes are a little under-baked or (2) the cupcake liners were a little over-filled. Either way, as long as you enjoy them– just cover it up with frosting. Thank you!

  16. This recipe and your “best vanilla buttercream frosting” recipe are my go to recipes. Today is my 3rd child’s birthday and I took a cake in to his class which I had made from the above recipe and the frosting. They were literally licking the plates after finishing their pieces. There was nothing left on their plates!

    I also made cupcakes for my daughters class on her birthday and everyone asked what shop they were from as they were so delicious!

    Can’t go wrong with this recipe!

  17. This recipe went beyond my expectations! I was looking for chocolate cupcakes with buttermilk and oil, plus reasonable amount of eggs, so this is exactly what I need! I was little hesitant because I started to bake with raw sugar through the last few years, and sometimes it’s tricky and change the consistency. I want to tell you that your fantastic recipe turned out just great with raw sugar and whole white flour!

  18. These cupcakes were so light and fluffy and so easy to make. Highly recommend! Also delicious with the chocolate butter cream icing!

  19. Heather M. Whipple says:

    I made these and when I tasted the batter
    it had a chemical taste to it. I did not like it at all. The only thing I can think of is the baking soda in this recipe. I sent the baked cupcakes home with our guests a day later. They tasted too weird to me even baked. The next time I make these I will be leaving out the baking soda entirely and see how these are. And maybe use sour cream instead of butter milk.

    1. Brilliant recipe ! Have made this three times now , this time I’ve used the vanilla frosting but substituted the cream with Baileys liqueur , absolutely delicious ! Definitely a favourite for me .

  20. Hi Sally
    Is there a way to make these gluten-free and dairy free? Or would you have a recipe for chocolate cupcakes that are gluten-free and dairy free

    1. Hi Brandie, Unfortunately I don’t have much experience using a gluten free flour. You can try making a DIY buttermilk with a non dairy milk using vinegar or lemon juice. Let me know if you try using them!

  21. Hi Heather, Did you let them cool in the cupcake tin? If so the heat from the pan could have continued to bake them after they came out of the oven. Next time try removing them from the pan to cool just on a wire rack.

    1. Heather McNulty says:

      I did have them cool on a wire rack, I’m wondering if I should have pulled them a minute earlier? The recipe said 19 minutes and I took them out at 15, but maybe my oven was running hot?

  22. Sally im thinking of christmassing these up a bit. Can i replace one teaspoon of vanilla with peppermint?
    Also what frosting would match a mint choc cupcake? X

    1. Absolutely! You’d like my peppermint mocha cupcakes. You can leave out the espresso.

  23. Hello can I use olive oil instead of vegetable oil?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Laura, I don’t recommend olive oil as it has a pretty distinct taste. You can use canola oil or even melted coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.

      1. Perfect I have coconut oil!
        Thanks so much!

  24. If I make a 6 inch cake how long should it bake?

    1. Hi Becky, you can use this batter to make a 3 layer 6 inch cake. Use my 6 inch cake baking instructions.

  25. Delicious and fluffy. I made “buttermilk” with almond milk and a tbsp of lemon juice. Used half olive oil and half grapeseed oil (no obvious flavor from the olive oil at that amount). 18 minutes was perfect cooking time at sea level. They are beautiful. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for another brilliant recipe! I had my sister and niece coming over and nothing in the house for them. Threw these together in no time and my niece really enjoyed icing and decorating them, well we all did.

  26. I live at 5500 feet altitude. Any specific adjustments recommended?

    1. Hi Annie! I wish I could help, but I have no experience baking at high altitude. I know some readers have found this chart helpful:

      1. Thank you for responding, Sally. I took a chance and made them according to your recipe and they came out great! Frosted with ganache. Yum!

  27. Dianna Poindexter says:

    Full of flavor and very moist

  28. I love the recipe! My family says they love it!!! Thank youuu!

  29. I’m going to bake more cupcakes with this recipe for New Year!

  30. Just made a batch of these, its so yummy!!! Thank you

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally