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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. Chewy brownies
  5. Peanut butter cookies (foundation for 6+ other cookies on my site!)

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 vs. natural cocoa powder. And if you really want to learn today, here is the difference between baking soda vs. baking powder and why I use both 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. (I 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: 1214 cupcakes 1x
  • 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 (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*



  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.

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

Reader Questions and Reviews

    1. Hi Linda, we don’t recommend it here. Cocoa powder is a very fine ingredient, so pairing it with cake flour would make for a very fine and almost flimsy cake. Best to stick with all-purpose flour here!

    2. I used cake flour and they are the most moist and softest cupcakes ever! I think they are better with cake flour

  1. Can I add instant coffee to add more depth of chocolate flavor or would I have to up the flour to do that? Thanks!

    1. Hi Sarah, You can add 1 tsp espresso powder without making any other changes to the recipe. If you wish you use liquid coffee you can try swapping some in for some of the the buttermilk. Let us know what you try!

  2. Hi Sally! I’m thinking of making these cupcakes for my friend’s birthday! But I couldn’t find baking soda anywhere… Is it ok to use baking powder only? Should I add a bit more than the mentioned amount as it’s not pure Sodium Bicarbonate? Will it affect the cupcake’s quality? If so, what would you recommend doing? Thank you!

    1. Hi Pinidi, the short answer is yes, you could definitely adjust the baking powder and leave out the baking soda. However, this would require testing because the best amount of just baking powder for this recipe is unknown. You’d need to add more since it’s not as strong as baking soda. If you test anything, let us know!

  3. Hi Sally, I just made your cupcakes. Delicious!! How long do these keep for? Thank you

    1. Hi Layla, you can store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. So glad you enjoyed the cupcakes!

      1. Amateur baker here.
        First time baking with my daughter and it was soooooo yummy!
        Love this recipe

    1. Hi Debra, 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!

      1. Hi Sally,
        Sending appreciate for your cupcakes all the way from the UK . Is there anyway this recipe can be scaled to yielding 12 cupcakes instead of 14 without compromising the flavour. I only need 12 at a time and I constantly find that I’m throwing the rest out.

        Please help!!

      2. Hi Bella! It would take quite a bit of math and exact measuring to scale the recipe down to 12 cupcakes. You can always freeze the extra cupcakes for later, they freeze beautifully! See recipe notes for instructions.

    1. Hi Diane, for best taste and texture, we recommend making two separate batches rather than doubling. This will prevent over mixing. Hope you enjoy the cupcakes!

      1. Thank you for getting back to me! I will do just that! Senior Year Field Hockey Party! Ill get back to you!! Cheers

  4. Flavor was awesome but any idea why mine were way too soft? I thought I only filled halfway but must have been more because they were a little flat.

    1. Hi Jess! These are very moist and soft cupcakes. A flat cupcake is perfect for topping with buttercream, but if they sank down at all after baking they could have been under-baked. A couple extra minutes in the oven should help for next time.

  5. Hi sally! I love your cupcakes I always use your recipes but If I don’t have milk, Is it okay by adding just normal milk? Will that be okay for the cupcakes?

    1. Hi Emaan, buttermilk is best for this recipe. See recipe notes for using regular milk + vinegar or lemon juice to make your own DIY version of soured milk.

      1. I used a couple of tablespoons of sour cream, and whisked milk into that to add up to 1/2 cup. Worked a charm.

    1. Hi Nancy, we haven’t tested this recipe with any egg substitutes so we’re unsure of the best replacement to still ensure best results. If you give anything a try, we’d love to know how it goes.

  6. Hello Sally..Thx for a wonderful recipe. If I have to use this recipe for a 6inch cake should I add all the batter to one baking tin or separate them. How many cake tins I would need if I have to split the batter. Regards, Priya.

    1. Hi Priya, this is the perfect amount of batter for 3, 6 inch cake rounds. If you don’t have three available, you can leave the remaining batter covered at room temperature while waiting for the other layer(s) to bake. We do not recommend baking it all in one, for fear it would overflow and bake unevenly.

  7. Hi – I tried this recipe with 1/2 cup of yoghurt with no other changes to the recipe – works beautifully! Thanks 🙂

  8. Hello!
    Are there any recipe adjustments for high altitudes? I live at 7300 ft, and both times I made this recipe, the cupcakes have fallen. I follow the recipe to the letter, and all of my ingredients are fresh.

    1. Hi Katharine, I wish we could help, but have no experience baking at high altitude. Some readers have found this chart helpful:

  9. I’ve made this recipe twice. Once as cupcakes and once as a six inch layer cake. Both times it’s been a disaster. The cake I made today just fell apart completely- I couldn’t even frost it because it was too crumbly and also very sticky/moist. Cupcakes were the same story. I baked until a tester stick came out clean. The texture was off too- very open crumb. Any ideas on what went wrong here?

    1. Hi Liz, thank you so much for the feedback. When baked as a cake, it’s quite crumby so a crumb coat is definitely helpful. Are you familiar with crumb coats? These cupcakes are springy and sponge-y, so large open crumb sounds about right. However, if they were just too crumby, you could try replacing 1 egg with about 1/4 cup of sour cream. It’s a little heavier and could keep the crumb a bit tighter. You could also reduce the cocoa powder by 1-2 Tbsp and replace with the same amount of flour. Hope this is helpful!

    1. hi! I only have baking soda that is double acting. Should I use less?

  10. Hi! This is my favorite cupcake recipe and I’d like to make them with my daughter, but she can’t have all purpose flour! Can I substitute with a gluten free all purpose flour? Thanks

    1. Hi Emma, we haven’t tested this recipe with gluten-free flour, but let us know if you do!

      1. Hi, I just made these cupcakes using gluten free plain flour, I also doubled the recipe to make 24 cupcakes and the cupcakes were delicious, so soft and rose perfectly even. Couldn’t even tell that they were gf cupcakes. Thank you

  11. Hi I made these, great flavors an very soft but mine were very dry on the inside it was almost like a thick brownie texture is it possible that I left them in the oven too long or that my temp was too high. Is there anything I can do to make them really moist?

    1. Hi Sabrea, it sounds like the cupcakes may be slightly over baked if the insides are dry. For next time, try a minute or two less in the oven (you can use a toothpick to test for doneness). This post with tips to bake the best cupcakes might also be helpful. Thanks so much for giving this recipe a try!

  12. Hi Sally – I make these cupcakes with my boys & they love them. My daughter has been diagnosed with the dairy allergy. Eggs are fine but unable to consume any other dairy for now. What are your thoughts on subbing full cream milk for oat or another non-dairy milk? Soy is also out for my daughter. Would you still add vinegar? This is new territory for me.

    1. Hi Renee, we’re so glad to hear these cupcakes are a hit with your family. While we haven’t tried it ourselves, you can certainly try making a dairy-free version of the DIY buttermilk. We would start by trying with oat milk or almond milk. If you do give it a try, we’d love to know how it goes!

  13. They’re fantastic! For a first time baker with a family legacy of turning cupcakes into tarts (they never rose, and always came out rock-hard), I was genuinely surprised at how well my batch came out: very professional looking too! 😀
    I had yogurt that was going a bit sour, so I diluted that with water (3/4 water for every 1/4 yogurt) instead of using buttermilk. I’m really happy with them, and they’re soft and moist a week later too. Saving this recipe!

  14. Great recipe. The cupcake flavour is strong and so easy to make. I did the recipe with gluten-free flour and they came out very moist and tasty (I would just be wary of overbaking). Wait until complete cool down before icing as cupcakes are fragile. I used a piping method to avoid touching the cupcake too much.

  15. Could I use anything other than buttermilk? Could I use regular non-fat milk by itself? How would that change the recipe?

    1. Hi Taylor, buttermilk is necessary for this recipe. See recipe notes for making your own DIY version using milk and vinegar or lemon juice.

  16. I have a general question: Can any cake recipe be made into cupcakes? Is the baking time the only difference? Also, could yogurt be used in place of buttermilk? Why is the buttermilk important in this recipe? Thank you!

    1. Hi Elizabeth! Generally speaking, yes. Cake recipes do need to be heartier to support more weight than cupcakes usually. Buttermilk provides acidity in a thinner form than yogurt, which leads to extra light and fluffy cupcakes. You can try replacing the buttermilk with the same amount of sour cream or yogurt for a sturdier cupcake. Hope this helps!

    1. Hi Jazz, 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. Enjoy!

  17. I’m thinking of making these cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting and salted caramel drizzle. Do think that would be a good combination or should I go with a salted caramel frosting instead?

  18. These are delightful. Sometimes when we bake them they end up with teeny holes on top. No big deal once the frosting is in place. Am I over mixing?

    1. Hi L, Small bubbles in cakes are normal, but if you have larger bubbles or holes in your cupcakes it could be from any number of reasons. Some common causes of air bubbles are over-mixing the batter, not having all of your ingredients at room temperature, using too much leaveners, or adding the eggs all at once instead of one at a time. Hope this helps for next time!

  19. I made these today for my sister’s birthday – I’ve never made cake of any kind without a cake mix!! I’m a batter taster and this batter tastes just like brownies – winner from the beginning. But I think I overfilled the cupcakes! I was trying to use all the batter in 14 cupcakes and I probably could’ve made 16 instead. Still. Super delicious.

  20. I gave these three stars as I love the taste, however the cupcake is very small. I think the cupcake should be more substantial. I followed the directions and filled 1/2 way, I think I will try a large cupcake or oversize cupcake pan and see how they come out

  21. Followed recipe to a tee. 10 of 14 cupcakes were sunken in the middle. Extremely disappointing. Sally has been my go to. Not anymore. Have to find and try a new recipe…

  22. This was a first attempt. My daughter and I had fun. We did mess up a bit in that we didn’t mix the sugars with the wet ingredients. I was a bit worried, but they turned out soooo good anyway! So good that my 11 year old said the cake was the best part; she normally just eats the frosting off the cake, so I’d say that’s high praise.

  23. Oh my, I am a complete novice Baker and made these cupcakes and buttercream today. They came out a dream, moist, light as air and full of flavour. I am not a chocolate fan, in baked goods but these have converted me. I cannot tell you how well it went. I just want to say thank you. The recipe, notes and advice you give is such a god send to someone like me, just starting our on their journey as a Baker. The buttercream is completely devine. I am going to try your vanilla cake and white cake next. I am learning so much from your posts. Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind feedback, Jayne. We’re so glad you enjoyed these cupcakes and hope you find many more recipes from our site to enjoy!