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!

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chocolate cupcakes

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*

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. 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

1012 Comments

  1. Laurel Heisman says:

    Hi there, I really like the look of this recipe but I need to made a bigger batch. Do you think I can just double it or do I need to make 2 separate batches or do you have a recipe for a larger quantity?
    Thank you!!

    1. For best taste and texture, I always recommend making separate batches.

      1. Laurel Heisman says:

        Ok, thank you!!

  2. Brenda S Moore says:

    I’m making these cupcake at at altitude. Should I lower baking soda and powder by half?

    Brenda Moore Boulder CO

    1. Hi Brenda, 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

      1. Brenda S Moore says:

        Thanks Sally. I’m on my way to start baking now. Will let you know how they turn out. This is a trial for Valentines Day.

  3. Brenda S Moore says:

    Just finished making these and put them away in the freezer without icing. Will take them out and make icing for Valentines. They came out perfect and taste delicious too. I used the coconut oil which adds a soft flavor to the chocolate cake. I decreased my baking powder and soda to half the amount due to high altitude.
    Thanks for the recipe Sally.

  4. Can you use half whole wheat flour

    1. I haven’t tested these with whole wheat flour. You can try but they may come out a bit dense.

  5. I’ve just tried this recipe today and the cupcakes were looking super moist and so tempting. Perfect recipe and accurate explanations. Thank you so much! Everyone in my family just loved these cupcakes. Rich in taste and I don’t even want to finish them 🙁

  6. Any suggestions on freezing frosted cupcake minis? And the defrost process if frosted? Does the frosting have a weird texture if frozen already on cupcake? I am planning on using chocolate buttercream and trying Swiss meringue buttercream but wanted to make cupcakes and decorate them as I won’t have time to when I actually need them.

    1. Hi Abby, You can freeze buttercream frosted cupcakes. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before frosting and serving. You can freeze Swiss Meringue Buttercream but I recommend freezing it in an airtight container and re-mixing it it after it thaws before topping cupcakes. You can see my freezing tips in this post.

  7. Never commented on a recipe before but felt I had to with these. They are the loveliest and fluffiest cupcakes I have ever made! I substituted the buttermilk with 7-8ml of lemon juice and then filled up to 120ml of whole milk. Amazing. These are my new go to chocolate cupcakes
    Thank you!

  8. I’m a trained chef and not a baker. However, I love to eat baked goods so I am teaching myself to bake so I can eat delicious sweets. Sally’s baking addiction is my favorite go to for almost every recipe I want to make. This cupcake recipe is perfect and so easy. Your instructions to half fill are spot on and the cupcakes came out perfect, light and airy but full of flavor. I used the chocolate buttercream recipe in the link and was not disappointed. A friend told me it was the best cupcake she had ever eaten! Thanks again Sally ♥️

  9. Your cupcake recipe was so good my niece loved them. Do you think I can use unsweetened applesauce as a substitute for the sugar? My family and I are trying to cut down on your sugar intake.

  10. Sounds delicious!! Would this work as the chocolate base to black bottom cupcakes? Thanks!

    1. Absolutely!

  11. Mary Jo Carson says:

    Hi
    I wanted to fill with raspberry filling . Think that would be okay? Going to use the SMBC.

    1. Definitely!

  12. You know it’s a fantastic recipe when you use cheap cocoa powder, fake buttermilk, and mess up the mixing order but still come out with ULTRA moist and chocolatey cupcakes. This is the best chocolate cupcake recipe I have EVER tried. Even the cheap frosting didn’t distract from the fantastic cake.

  13. Letitia Maynard says:

    These cupcakes came out very moist and super yummy. I didn’t have any buttermilk so i used the milk with vinegar trick and they came out amazing. Im so excited for my brother to try these as a birthday dessert from me. Delicious recipe that i will be using again in the future.

  14. Instead of veg/canola oil, can I use extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil??

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

  15. Hi. I can’t seem to find natural cocoa, only dutch process and I’m running out of time to make cupcakes. Can i use the dutch process and reduce the baking soda? Thanks.

    1. For the best cupcakes I recommend sticking with natural unsweetened cocoa powder, not dutched cocoa. Here’s the difference between dutch-process and natural cocoa powder

  16. Somehow I missed the part about using natural cocoa and ended up making them earlier this week with dutch processed cocoa, topped with vanilla buttercream. They turned out great! The rise was fine. Everyone who tasted them gave compliments.

  17. Hi Terry! I’m concerned about a coarse, hard crumb and am unsure what could be causing it. What brand of cocoa powder did you use? Was it natural or dutched? If you ever try the recipe again, mix the batter a little more to rid the lumps. You can also try replacing the buttermilk with sour cream, too.

    1. I used regular cocoa, not dutched. I wonder if the coarseness is because of mixing until just blended, but that is what I understood should be done from the recipe. I also wonder if they were baked too long. I baked for the minimum time and my oven is not hot, but they sure seemed overdone. I’m at 3400’ altitude. Another factor perhaps?

  18. Making this recipe tonight for my grandson’s 10th birthday tomorrow – his first full decade!

  19. I loved this recipe, thanks and my cupcakes turned out very moist and soft, what if I don’t add brown sugar, how do i substitute it and what difference will it make?

  20. This looks delectable and we will be making these this week. Could you please tell me why the “time” says that it will take 3 hours and 25 minutes total time? Is this taking into account 3 hours of cooling time? Thanks!

    1. Hi Penny, Yes that includes the cooling time! The prep time is about 25 minutes and then they will bake for about 20 minutes.

  21. I have to agree with the other reviewer. The flavor was there, but these were very dry. I didn’t use Dutch chocolate and made my own “buttermilk”, per instructions. I redid them, but this time added another egg and took them out right when they were done. That helped, but still not as moist as I expected.

  22. Hi Sally,

    I was curious if adding a tsp of espresso powder to the batter would make an difference in the texture? Should I omit a tsp of the cocoa powder if I do that?

    Thanks!

    1. Wouldn’t make a difference in the texture at all– no need to change anything to the recipe if you decide to add it!

      1. Hi Sally,

        After a disastrous day in the kitchen attempting to bake I have resolved to trying again tomorrow. I have found your recipe which I would like to use for the 6″ tin, I just wonder if I can divide the wet and dry ingredients by half before combining them, so I can mix and bake the batter one at a time (only have one tin and a conventional gas oven) also will dutched cocoa not work at all as that’s all I could find (uk) please any response would be appreciated

  23. Joining many other reviewers here. Best chocolate cupcakes we’ve ever had. I’ve made them with so many different types of frosting but always come back to this chocolate buttercream. Sally, thanks for a great recipe.

    1. Yep, add another praiser. These are great and very light. Do use the extra mix in a small cupcake pan for they come out just as tasty and they are small enough for one bite as you walk through the kitchen. And frequent walks through the kitchen means no tiny cupcakes left by end of day.

  24. Delicious cupcakes! Easy recipe. Turned out light and moist. I used the tip on making buttermilk since I didn’t have any on hand. Made a chocolate cream cheese frosting to top them with! Will definitely make again.

  25. Love this recipe.
    In response to the question about what size scoop…I used #24 and it made exactly 14 cupcakes.

  26. Hi Sally,
    If I wanted to make these cupcakes with less carbs, what would you recommend: Almond flour or coconut flour? do I need to adjust the moisture with almond flour?

    1. Hi Kathy! Unfortunately I don’t recommend either– I recommend finding a recipe formulated for either flour you’d like to use.

  27. Any changes for Baking at high altitude like above 5000 ft?

  28. Hi Sally,
    This is an amazing recipe!
    I was just wondering if I could put coffee powder in the cupcake batter to make the chocolate taste more rich, how much coffee powder would you recommend putting?

    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 me know what you try!

  29. Hi sally! Can i use jumbo muffin pans? Or is it better to use regular sized cupcake pans. Thanks!

    1. Regular size is best for this recipe.

  30. I love this recipe. I have made it according to your recipe and I have made if gluten and lactose free and it was amazing both times. I just made my own buttermilk with lactose free milk and lemon juice. I opt for the cream cheese frosting which you can get lactose free and gluten free. I am loving your recipes as they are perfect every time

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