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.

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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

504 Comments

  1. We were given a cupcake maker and this was the first recipe we tried. After 10 minutes they were ready. They turned out delicious! We will be using this recipe again and again!

  2. Absolute heaven! Have made these cupcakes and the chocolate frosting a couple of times and they were delicious! Printed and saved the recipe!

  3. I made these cupcakes with my grandchildren today, they were easy and delicious. We iced them with your vanilla buttercream and they were scrumptious. Thank you for sharing your amazing recipes.

  4. this is a great recipe and they taste really good but I was just wondering how many calories per cupcake?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Katie, We don’t usually include nutrition information as it can vary between different brands of the same ingredients. Plus, many recipes have ingredient substitutions or optional ingredients listed. However, there are many handy online calculators where you can plug in and customize your exact ingredients/brands. Readers have found this one especially helpful: https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp

  5. Hello! I’ve never used/made buttermilk and would like to make these for my partners birthday but I’m a bit nervous to try something new & don’t have time to do a test batch. If I use whole milk instead will it change the flavor a lot? Thank you

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Melissa, we highly recommend buttermilk or a DIY buttermilk for this recipe. See recipe notes for a DIY buttermilk using regular milk and vinegar or lemon juice — you can use your whole milk that way to make the DIY buttermilk. Hope this helps!

      1. I halved the recipe. Perfect moist, light, chocolatey cupcakes. I topped with a malted milk, cream cheese and whipping cream frosting. Absolutely delicious.

  6. Could I halve this cupcake recipe for six cupcakes instead of twelve? Would it be the same baking time?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Halle! You can halve the recipe or use this Small Chocolate Cake recipe that makes 6 cupcakes (see recipe notes for cupcake instructions). Same baking instructions.

  7. Thank you so much for this recipe! They turned out really yummy. I frosted them with chocolate mousse.

  8. I attempted these twice and both times the cupcakes remained liquid and would not rise/bake, even after doubling the oven temperature after 30 minutes of cooking. I followed the recipe EXACTLY and every ingredient was freshly bought. The cups were only filled half way. There’s no reason for it to have failed this way.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Misty, Thank you for trying this recipe and we are so sorry it’s giving you trouble. We have never had this happen to us, so that is definitely very strange! If you decide to try again, double check all of the measurements for each ingredient.

    2. I need to make 50 of these! Can the recipe be doubles or triples ect?

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Amanda! For the best taste and texture, we highly recommend making the batter in separate batches instead of multiplying all at once. Large batches risk over-mixing or under-mixing the batter. Happy baking!

  9. Can you use less cocoa for a “milk chocolate crumb?” I know you should have to add the same amount of flour for the amount of cocoa you remove. We have dark chocolate allergies and can’t go with this much cocoa!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Robin, You could likely use less cocoa powder but we haven’t tested it. Unfortunately, flour isn’t an even swap, but if you test anything out let us know!

  10. Is there a special reason not to use cake flour? Just wondering, sounds like a lovely cupcake. Thank you.

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sheila, we don’t recommend using cake flour in this recipe- it’s simply too light for this batter. Cocoa powder is extremely light and takes the place of some all-purpose flour in this recipe, so we already have very light cupcakes.

  11. Followed all instructions perfectly and got perfect cupcakes! Thank you!

  12. This is a great recipe. I tried it by making a small batch by 1/2 all ingredients and the cupcakes were delicious. Thank you so much for this. I’ll save this recipe now for my children

  13. Miriam Bassuk says:

    Sally,
    Thank you for your fine recipes and clear instructions.
    Do you have a recommendation for unsweetened natural cocoa powder?
    My old Dagoba cocoa powder isn’t carried any longer at the grocery store.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Miriam! We like Hershey’s or Ghirardelli brands of natural cocoa powder.

  14. Hi there, I’ve made these cupcakes and they were amazing and light! Could this recipe be converted for baking a cake? I really want a light fluffy chocolate cake recipe. Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sarah! We highly recommend our super light and fluffy Triple Chocolate Cake recipe for a chocolate cake – it’s a reader favorite! For a smaller cake, this cupcake batter fits perfectly in three 6 inch cake pans. Enjoy!

  15. I’ve made the triple chocolate cake several times with success but want to use 6 in cake pans for a smaller cake. I saw that this recipe is recommended for the 6 inch. Is this recipe preferred over the other due to the density of the cakes? I noticed some of the ingredients are different aside from quantities. Thanks in advance!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Adrienne, We love using this recipe for 6 inch cakes because the batter fits perfectly into three 6 inch pans with none left over! They have the same great moist and chocolatey flavor as the cake. Let us know if you try it!

  16. Can we use dark brown packed sugar instead of light brown? Will it impact the recipe? I used it and they turned out fine but was wondering if it would make a difference to switch to light for next time I try it!

  17. If we want to add sour cream to make these a little bit more dense what proportions would you suggest. You mentioned this recipe is the same texture as the triple chocolate cake and that is stated to be very light and fluffy and I’d love something that won’t crumble apart when you fork into it or take a bite from a cupcake. Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lauren! You can try replacing the buttermilk with the same amount of sour cream for a sturdier cupcake. Happy baking!

  18. These are insanely good! So happy to have finally found an amazing fluffy and moist cupcake recipe, my son loved that we could hand mix it with a wisk!
    Went with vanilla frosting as we ran out of cocoa power, but we were far from disappointed. So good!

  19. Can I add an Oreo cookie at the bottom of cups to make Oreo cupcakes with this batter? Or even crumble inside?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amanda! We haven’t tested an Oreo on the bottom of these cupcakes, but let us know if you do. You could add crushed Oreos to the batter, like we did in these cookies & cream cupcakes. Happy baking!

  20. Can I triple this recipe without any issues? I was concerned it won’t work right if it’s all mixed at once.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Morgan, for best taste and texture, we always recommend making separate batches.

  21. Can I use less cocoa and increase the flour by the amount of cocoa subtracted? Also would like to add 1/2 cup of oil instead of 1/3? I baked mine for 18 min and they were fine, but I think 15 may be enough next time. I want them a little more most and more milk chocolate.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi there, cocoa powder is a finicky ingredient and isn’t necessarily an easy 1:1 swap with all-purpose flour, so we don’t recommend that swap. For best results, we also recommend using the 1/3 cup of oil as written — adding more will change the consistency of the batter and could make it too moist. Certainly feel free to reduce the baking time if your oven runs hot. Hope this helps!

  22. Hi Sally,

    I tried this recipe for 3 layer of 6 inch chocolate cake and it turned out to be absolutely delicious and everyone loved it.
    Just one question though, the cakes were too moist to decorate later with icing and was thinking if there is way to reduce this moistness a little bit without compromising on the overall texture of the cake

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Himanshu, glad to hear you enjoyed this cake so much! It’s definitely a moist cake, but if you’re having troubles decorating, we recommend making a crumb coat first (we explain more about crumb coats in this post). That will help make it easier to decorate the outside. Hope this helps for next time!

  23. I used this recipe to make a 6″ layer cake. The cake itself is not yet assembled but the two layers themselves seem excellent – light and very chocolate-y. I intend to slice each in half then fill the layers with raspberry curd and frost with whipped chocolate ganache (my family are not fans of buttercream). The cakes took 26-30 minutes to bake. I’ll use it again for smaller batches!

  24. So yummy I loved them and the fluffy frosting was so delicious

  25. Are there special instructions for high altitudes?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kim! We have no experience baking at high altitude, but some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

  26. Love using this chocolate cupcake recipe but a friend asked me to make them without eggs for her kids birthday. Any suggestions?? TIA

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lauren, we haven’t tested this recipe with any egg-substitutes, but let us know if you do. If you’re interested, here are all of our naturally egg-free recipes on our site.

  27. Katherine Dumont says:

    Loved this recipe – made it twice as a 6 in cake. It tasted delicious but the center of my cakes sunk. Any suggestions on how to avoid this next time?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Katherine, a slight sinking is normal with this recipe, but if it’s more than that it’s likely the cake was not completely finished baking. An extra minute or two in the oven should help, and also make sure that your baking powder and baking soda are fresh for maximum lift (we find they start to lose their power after about 3 months). Hope this is helpful for next time!

  28. The cupcakes were amazing. I only replaced half the butter milk with sour cream to make them extra moist and used the Dutch cocoa as I didn’t have the natural one. Still it was amazing. And this is a go to recipe everytime.

  29. McKenna Nelson says:

    Can I swap the light brown sugar for dark brown? Will that make any changes?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi McKenna, you can use either one here. Dark brown sugar contains more molasses, so it has a slightly richer flavor.

  30. Dear Sally

    I have tried few chocolate cupcake recipes before and this is the most yummy chocolate cupcake I have ever had. Just the way i like it. Thanks for sharing the recipe with us. My family love it 🙂 Will it again.

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