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!

Print
chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles

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*

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 45 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream, half-and-half, or whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste
  • rainbow sprinkles (optional)

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. Frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, the heavy cream, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to medium-high speed and beat for 2 full minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. (I add 1/8 teaspoon salt.) Use frosting immediately or cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting on medium speed for a few seconds so it’s creamy again. After thawing or refrigerating, beating in a splash of heavy cream or milk will help thin the frosting out again, if needed.
  6. Frost cooled cupcakes however you’d like. I used 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. Heavy Cream in Frosting: I love using heavy cream for the creamiest consistency. You can use half-and-half or whole milk instead if needed. The lower the fat, the less creamy your buttercream will be. Whichever you use, make sure it’s at room temperature. Otherwise your frosting could separate or appear grainy.
  4. Mini Cupcakes: Fill mini liners only halfway and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350°F (177°C). Yields about 3 dozen.
  5. Cake: Here’s a chocolate cake that is just as moist and chocolate-y.
  6. 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

926 Comments

  1. Hi Sally! I made these cupcakes recently, for the millionth time, and after a day or so after baking and sitting in an airtight container, the wrappers started to pull away from the cake. I have never seen this before and thought I had mastered the cupcake. Is it underbaked? Bad/ cheap wrappers? Thx as always

    1. Hi Lorrie, It could simply be condensation that caused the wrappers to pull away (especially if your cupcakes were even slightly warm when placing them into your container. However, I use grease proof wrappers and have never had this problem.

      1. I recommend weighing the dry ingredients as per the recipe. Especially the flour and brown sugar which pack and give you inconsistent amounts.

    2. Shaina Gordon says:

      What do you think if i used half the batter to make vanilla cupcakes and then add coco powder for the remaining chocolate cupcakes.

  2. Ember Marelaya says:

    I have used this recipe about a hundred times and it is magnificent everytime! Thank you sally!

  3. it was a bit dry but over all pretty good! It fell apart some when i first ate it but then put in the fri dye and it was all good!

  4. Hi Sally,

    Could I sub the oil for 1/3 c of butter or will that drastically change the outcome?

    1. Hi Aubrey, When I tested it with butter they tasted pretty dry. I recommend sticking to the recipe.

  5. Hi Sally,
    I followed your recipe very closely but my batter is so thick! I’m afraid to make them now cause I don’t want them ending up too dense! What could have happened and what can I do?
    Thank you so much in advance!

    1. Hi Sandra, f you didn’t make any ingredient substitutions the culprit is likely over-measuring. Make sure you are spooning and leveling your dry ingredients and not scooping!

  6. I didn’t have buttermilk for the chocolate cupcake, I replaced by oat milk and it worked perfectly. Very moist and fluffy, kids loved!!! The best recipe I have tried. Thanks Sally!!!

  7. could i make these as mini cupcakes? any tips?

  8. Thanks for the detailed instructions! One rookie question: should the cupcakes cool in the pan or on a rack?

    1. You’re welcome! I always let them cool in the pan.

  9. Hi i made this as a 6 inch cake and it was Devine

    Thank you for your awesome blog

  10. Hi Sally! Love this recipe and always tastes great however mine always seem to sink after they’ve cooled down? Why’s that?

    1. Hi Manisha, When the centers of these cupcakes sink it’s usually because there is too much batter. Remember to only fill them halfway full!

  11. Can these be made with gluten free all purpose flour with similar results?

    1. I have not tested this recipe with gluten free flour but let me know if you try!

  12. I made this cupcake for my friend’s birthday today. Usually I am not a fan of cupcakes as I find them too sweet, often just feels like the taste is sugar itself. But I wanted to make something that could be easily shared amongst my friends without having to cut a cake into slices. The recipe was easy to follow, and to my surprise the flavour was exquisite! I could taste the chocolate, it was moist, the buttermilk brought a really nice depth to it, and I think adding the salt helps balance that sweetness. Excited to make this again!

  13. delicious batter and icing!

  14. Best chocolate cupcakes ever! I followed the recipe with just a few minor changes. Firstly, I made these with Gluten Free flour instead of wheat flour. I only had self-raising flour so used that and left out the baking powder (kept the baking soda as per recipe). Used a mix of 2/3 sour cream, 1/3 whole milk instead of buttermilk. The cupcakes turned out absolutely delicious! Super chocolatey, moist and unbelievably light! My new go-to chocolate cupcake recipes. Delicious with chocolate buttercream. I’ll look forward to trying with other frostings too, to mix it up. Thanks for the great recipe as always, Sally!

  15. Hi Sally,

    Your dark chocolate mousse cake is my all time favorite chocolate cake recipe. Just curious why the differences in this cupcake recipe? Is this just to simplify the recipe for a smaller batch? Could I add espresso powder to this one to help intensify favor?

    1. Hi Lydia, You can add 1 tsp espresso powder without making any other changes to the recipe. Enjoy!

      1. Is espresso powder just coffee? Can I use cafe bustelo espresso coffee?

  16. The first time I tried this recipe the cupcakes were very dry. I reduced the cocoa powder to 1/4 and used 1 cup of brown sugar instead of mixing 1/2 white sugar and 1/2 brown. I cooked the cupcakes for 18 minutes and they were DELICIOUS!

  17. AMAZING! I followed the recipe measured everything out with my scale they were great! I paired it with your chocolate buttercream icing taste great as well but I think these cupcakes need something more rich in chocolate.

    Thank you soo much!

  18. Can I use cream cheese instead of butter?

    1. Moist and flavorless … meh!

  19. This was delicious. Thank you for sharing.

  20. The best… yummy

  21. Hi Sally,

    I made this recipe yesterday and they turned out wonderfully soft and moist. However I found it too chocolaty. 1/2 cup of cocoa for 3/4 cup of flour seemed a lot and it was in my opinion. Would it turn out the same if I used a 1/3 cup chocolate?

    Thanks! 🙂

    1. Hi Nigar, feel free to play around with the flour/cocoa ratio. I haven’t tested the recipe that way before. Let me know how they turn out!

  22. Hi Sally, you mentioned you can make this recipe in a cake pan. How long would you bake and what temp in an 8 in pan?

    1. Hi Liz, you can use this batter for an 8-inch cake but I recommend only filling the cake pan halfway with batter, then using the rest for a few cupcakes on the side. I’m unsure of the best bake time. Same oven temperature as the cupcakes.

  23. Hi there,
    Can I use yogurt instead of buttermilk?
    Thanks,

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dia, we haven’t tested this recipe using yogurt instead of buttermilk but readers have reported great success doing so. If you try it, let us know how it goes!

  24. I made these cupcakes this morning to celebrate my husband passing an exam. I used yogurt instead of buttermilk and it was excellent. Texture, taste was all perfect. Thanks a lot!

  25. Hi Sally, when making the homemade buttermilk substitute do I let the milk come to room temperature and then put in the lemon juice or put in the lemon juice and then room temperature? Thanks!

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amanda, add lemon juice to room temperature milk!

  26. Sondra Armas says:

    Hi Sally! I follow you from Facebook and I’m ashamed to admit this is my first time trying one of your recipes! I googled ‘chocolate cupcake recipe’ and your website was the first option! so I give it a try and let me tell you THIS RECIPE IS AMAZING!!! anyone trying out this recipe hear me out is super moist! super yummy chocolate brownie feeling! I loved it so much I mean I ate 4 cupcakes at once even the buttercream is super easy and delicious to make! If you didn’t get this flavor/feeling you definitely did something wrong ok? Sally thank you so much! I will be making more recipes from your website from now on 🙂

  27. Perfect cupcakes every time

  28. Suzanne Standing says:

    Super moist and light as a feather sponge. Topped it off with vanilla buttercream roses.

  29. Great instructions and easy to follow. I ended up over cooking mine because I left them to ‘cool’ in the oven (I was afraid of them deflating) so if you plan to do that, turn off your oven at like 16min (I turned mine off at 18/19 min and propped the door open but still kept cooking them). I also used super awesome chocolate and they were so rich, I love them. (Note: I didn’t not make the frosting)

  30. Deanna Watkins says:

    I don’t want to rate yet, as I am not sure if it is my error or an error in the weights in the recipe.
    I really like the flavour, but they seem a little to soft. Not much structure to hold them together when you take the paper off. Followed the instructions, other than I over filled just a little bit. I had probably enough batter for 18 cupcakes as it turned out. I used the weights rather than volume measure, didn’t check to see if they were actually close.
    What else could have caused the cupcakes to be kind of wimpy, they didn’t collapse?

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