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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. 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.

Print
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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

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

Scale
  • 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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. This my new go-to recipe for chocolate cupcakes. They were so moist and spongey. Seriously the best cupcake I’ve ever had. My mind is still blown three days later. Followed the recipe to a T. Made at 2690ft elevation, so still a good one for those of us higher up.

  2. I made these yesterday and the flavor was excellent but they were very dry. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Caroline! If they were noticeably dry, it sounds like your cupcakes simply may have been over baked. Did you spoon and level your flour, too? Both are easy fixes for next time! We also have a handy blog post on how to prevent dry & dense cakes that you might find helpful.

      1. I am making this for my secret Santa, should I put the candycanes on top on inside the cupcake?

      2. Hi Maddie, you can top the cupcakes with crushed candy canes if you’d like! Or you can core the finished, baked cupcakes and add crushed candy canes that way. We don’t recommend baking the candy canes in the batter.

  3. I live this recipe. Thank you so much! But I really don’t like this cream. It really lowers the taste. It keeps feeling like I added sand to the cream. If you make a cream where the sugar have to be dessolved you would get the best. Thank you again. Love your recipes!

  4. How much frosting do you need for a batch of these cupcakes? The salted caramel frosting linked in the blog post makes 2.5 cups, is that enough for a double batch of the cupcakes?

    1. Hi Jon! Our salted caramel frosting recipe yields enough to frost 12-16 cupcakes. We would make two batches of the frosting and two batches (do not double for best results) of these chocolate cupcakes.

  5. Hi Sally! Can I substitute softened almost melted butter for the oil? I really prefer the taste of butter over the oil. Thank you!!

    1. Hi Jessica, when these were tested with butter they tasted pretty dry. The chocolate flavor really overpowers the butter flavor, and the oil helps to create a supremely moist crumb. For best results, we recommend sticking with oil.

    2. Hi Sally
      I use butter instead of oil. You can also substitute unsweetened applesauce for butter, it helps it be moist and fluffy when butter can make it more dense.

  6. Amazing cupcake recipe!! Mine doesn’t look as pretty as yours, but it tastes amazing! Fluffy, soft and delicious chocolate flavor. I frosted mine with chocolate whipped cream-I like light frosting, but the cake is thee most important part. This is going in my “need to save” recipe box.

  7. hi ! What is the nutrition information of these cupcakes? The calories, macronutrients and such.

    1. Hi Joanna, We don’t usually include nutrition information as it can vary between different brands of the same ingredients, and many recipes have ingredient substitutions or optional ingredients. However, there are many great online calculators where you can plug in your exact ingredients like this one: https://www.verywellfit.com/recipe-nutrition-analyzer-4157076.

  8. So I can use this exact recipe for a 3 layer 6 inch cake? Comparing to the vanilla cupcake/vanilla 6 inch cake recipe, there 1/4 cup less flour/cocoa combined in the chocolate recipe than there is in the vanilla recipe of just flour. I just want to be sure I have enough batter for the three layers of the 6in rounds. Thanks for your help!

      1. Hi,

        I can see coffee and espresso powder is used in your chocolate cake recipe
        but not in this one. Is there a reason? Should I add espresso powder/coffee to enhance flavour?

        I want to make a 6 inch cake. Thanks!

  9. Hi Sally,
    My cupcakes are coming over its cases while baking and sometimes it even stuck to my baking tray, looks so ugly What’s wrong with it?

    1. Hi Yana, how high are you filling your liners? It’s imperative to only fill these cupcakes half way to prevent them from overflowing out of the liners.

      1. Yes, half liner only, I have tried few times already .
        They seem to be baked from top at the begging and then some volcano appears and it’s goes all over the tray.
        I was wondering the oven with fan may affect the result?

  10. I tried two separate batches of these cupcakes and they sank in the middle. Any suggestions? I was very careful not to over mix, used brand new leavening agents and watched them so they didn’t overtake. I don’t know what went wrong. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Erin, 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.

  11. Hi Sally,
    Can I use soured cream instead of buttermilk? I have half a tub in the fridge that needs using up.
    Thanks.

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

  12. I made a double batch of these for a special event at our Youth Group, and they turned out wonderfully–super moist and soft (I’ve made them before, but this time I took the time to sift the dry ingredients together and it really made a difference!), and with great flavor. The theme was “Mystery Night”, so I cored the baked cupcakes and put some chocolate candies inside. Paired with Sally’s chocolate cream cheese frosting, they were a huge hit and everybody loved them; this is definitely my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe!

  13. Amazing recipe
    What would you suggest for eggless
    Can I add lemon juice or vinegar as a substitute?

    1. Hi Sumayya, we haven’t tested an egg-free version of these cupcakes, but let us know if you give anything a try.

  14. Hi, I was just wondering how 1/2 cup of coco powder = 41g but 1/2 cup of sugar = 100g? Are the metric measurements correct because I don’t see the consistency throughout the ingredients, whether dry or wet?

    1. Hi Bushra, cocoa powder is much finer and lighter than granulated sugar, so the metric weight is much smaller than the same volume of granulated sugar. Hope this helps!

  15. Sally .. I’d like to make these in a jumbo cupcake pan. How long should I bake them for big cupcakes please? Thank you!

    1. Hi Elizabeth, We are unsure of the exact time for jumbo cupcakes. Bake at the same oven temperature until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy!

  16. I just made these! Like 20 min ago. I’m in a new house with a new oven and I think I over baked them. They tasted great, but very dry! I only baked for 18 minutes so I will try again tonight at 16 or 17. Wish me luck!

  17. Sally, have you done any chocolate cupcakes with coffee? I love the way the coffee enhances chocolate flavor but I can’t figure out how to incorporate into this recipe

    1. Hi Sindhura, To enhance the chocolate flavor 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. If you want them to really taste like coffee you can try these Mocha Cupcakes. Let us know what you try!

      1. Can I use extra virgin olive oil instead of vegetable oil, and yield the same results?

      2. Hi Lyssa, You can replace the vegetable/canola oil with olive oil, but since it’s not as neutral tasting, the end flavor of the cake might change a bit.

  18. Just wow! I made a 6inch layer cake from this recipe with your whipped ganache between the layers and it was awesome, not too sweet and yet chocolatey. Everyone loved it!

    I was wondering if I could put some rum extract in the cake next time and if so how much would you recommend?

    1. Hi Ondine! So glad you loved this recipe! Rum extract sounds fabulous- we would start with 1 tsp. Happy baking!

  19. 1st time making these chocolate cupcakes. They were easy and taste good. I decided to top with the salted caramel recipe. The flavor is very good, but the texture was gritty, not smooth and creamy. I’m not sure what went wrong. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Joan! If your salted caramel is gritty, the sugar may not have dissolved completely – make sure to cook until all the sugar is melted before continuing with the recipe. So glad you loved these cupcakes!

      1. My go-to chocolate cupcake recipe! They turn out perfectly every time, and I always appreciate Sally’s thorough instructions and notes. You are the best!

  20. How can I make eggless version of your cakes and cupcakes, as your recipes are amazing.
    It will be really helpful, if you can add a section mentioning how to replace egg in that recipe pls.

    1. Hi Ridhima, Unfortunately we are not trained in baking with egg substitutes. While many readers report using things such as flax eggs in our recipes, you may wish to find recipes that are specifically written for them so that you don’t waste your time or ingredients. Here are all of our egg free baking recipes if you are interested in browsing there.

  21. This has been delicious as 6 inch layer cake both times I’ve tried it, but it sinks really badly in the middle. I expect it’s because I’m at a high elevation (about 5000). Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Tami, 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!

    2. I would like to try to bake it by tomorrow, can i used buttermilk powder? Can you help me how do it coz there is no available buttermilk liquid in my place. A lot of thanks

  22. I’ve made these twice this afternoon and even though I only filled them 1/2 full, they EXPLODED both times…I have to pick them out…the texture (inside) is amazing but I’m so frustrated?!

    1. Hi Genie! What do you mean by exploded? Did they spill over the cupcake pan? Make sure to only fill halfway with batter as directed (see step 3) in the recipe. Over-filling will lead to a mess!

  23. I tried this recipe yesterday for my Mom’s birthday and my guests enjoyed it! I just added a teaspoon of espresso powder to enhance the flavor of the chocolate. So moist and yummy! Thank you, Sally for sharing good and quality recipes! More power <3

  24. Hi Sally,
    I am not gluten intolerant but have family members who are so would I be able to substitute the flour with gluten free – King Arthur’s One to One Flour for both the chocolate cupcake and soft chocolate chip cookie recipe and still have a nice product? Love your website and the wealth of information you provide. 🙂

    1. Hi Elisa! We aren’t experienced with gluten free baking so can’t offer any advice but let us know if you try it!

  25. Hey Sally…urgent question! We have a guest coming for dinner tonight, but she can’t have dairy or regular sugar, so I’m frantically trying to figure out a dessert recipe! Do you think that I could replace the sugars in this recipe with either Lakanto (monkfruit sweetener; it’s supposed to be a 1:1 replacement) or coconut sugar, or a mix of both? And for the buttermilk, could I use coconut milk? Any advice here would be appreciated, so thanks in advance 🙂

    1. Hi Erin! We’d love to help but we are not trained in baking with sugar substitutes. For best taste and texture (and so you don’t waste your time trying to adapt this recipe since it may not work properly), it may be more useful to find a recipe that is specifically formulated for sugar substitutes. As for the dairy, you could try using the coconut milk to make a DIY version of buttermilk but we’re unsure of how well it will work. Thank you!

  26. These cupcakes sank in so bad. Had to throw them away. I’m sure they taste good but it would of been a terrible presentation. Going to look for a different recipe

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