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.

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: 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

1399 Comments

  1. Chocolate cupcakes are the best! And that pile of frosting on top looks so good, too!!

  2. Tracee Arcala says:

    Hi Ms. Sally, i have followed everything but mine is a little dry. What should i do?

  3. Cori @ Sweet Coralice says:

    So this is the cupcake I’d need to excuse myself with.  I’d need privacy to devour it, it looks so decadent and rich!  Love

    1. HAHAHA I don’t blame you!

  4. Jennifer Landsberger says:

    They look delicious (as always)! What is the steelish-colored background you used on the shot with the mixing bowls (one with the dry ingredients, one with the wet)? I think you sprinkled some flour and cocoa on there (I have to use that idea more often), but I loved the background. 

    1. Thanks Jennifer! It is this background from Erickson Woodworks: https://ericksonwoodworks.com/products/cookiesheet

  5. Hey sally! These look amazing. I have one question: what if I want to bake this batter as a cake rather than cupcakes, can I do so and how? 

    1. I suggest making my chocolate layer cake recipe instead. Just as (if not more!) moist as these. Enjoy!

  6. Alison Meads says:

    Hi Sally could you freeze the cakes before frosting? I need to make a lot for a party. Thank You

    1. Sure can! About 3 months– thaw in the fridge.

  7. Thank you sweet Sally these are gonna be so great with my brand new 575watt Kitchen Aid stand mixer . Keep on coming with sweet and savory recipes hun 🙂

  8. Every weekend, I treat myself by trying one of Sally’s recipes. They never disappoint! When my daughter said she wanted cupcakes for her high school graduation party, I got busy perusing Sally’s many choices. I decided on the Death by Chocolate, Simply Vanilla and Butterscotch. I made 6 different batches. They were so delicious! I ran out of frosting (and time!) and had to put a few out with no frosting. They still got gobbled up, but both the chocolate buttercream and vanilla buttercream frosting are so good I might make a batch to eat even without the cupcakes! Thank you, Sally, for doing all the hard work of testing the recipes and coming up with clever and delicious ways to use my favorite foods (butter, sugar and chocolate).

    1. Love this weekend tradition! Congrats on your daughters graduation!

    2. Jenny from jennyisbaking.com says:

      That is such a sweet tradition. And I agree completely with you, all of Sally’s recipes are good. Like good in the true sense of goo-hood! I always get raving reviews and people request the recipes all the time. Thanks, Sally!

  9. Seriously , all your cupcake recipes are flawless 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Christina!!

  10. Can I use this recipe to make a layer cake?

    1. Hi Ann– instead, I suggest making this chocolate layer cake recipe.

  11. Krista Ochieng says:

    Hi Sally,

    I want to make these cupcakes, but don’t have access to brown sugar. Can I use granulated sugar instead? What would be a good substitute?

    Cheers,
    Krista

    1. You can use granulated instead, yes.

  12. Kimberly Kerr says:

    Sally can I make frosting a day in advance?

    1. Yep! Cover and store in the fridge.

  13. Catherine Smith says:

    HI Sally! I always use Valrhona  cocoa powder which  I believe it’s Dutch  processed. Can I still use this?

    1. Make sure you use natural, not dutched cocoa.

  14. Hi Sally! Can I use the Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder instead?

    1. That would be fine for this recipe, yes!

  15. Kathleen Hallas says:

    Hi Sally,

    I want to make this recipe but I only have olive oil on hand…do you think it would work?

    1. It should be OK– same amount.

      1. Kathleen Hallas says:

        Great, I’m on it…thanks Sally! 🙂

  16. Hi Sally! Thanks for the recipe. The cupcakes turned out to be flawless and extremely moist. I would like to know which brand of cupcake liners are the best to use.

    1. You can use any you love– I always recommend greaseproof liners. These are my favorite. https://www.amazon.com/Standard-Paper-Cupcake-Liners-Baking/dp/B00J4U8QX0/

      1. Thank You!

  17. See my recipe note– enjoy!

  18. Jenny from jennyisbaking.com says:

    Just to report back: I baked these cupcakes with half the amount of sugars (German simply don’t like it as sweet) and a little less cocoa, about 30 grams. Other than that I followed the recipe. Wow, I have never seen cupcakes disappear so quickly. Super, super moist and delicious, thanks! I would give this recipe 5 stars.

  19. I made these for a farewell party at work. I got responses like “holy cannoli” and “these are bomb!” Thank you for publishing such great recipes!

    1. I love both responses 😉

  20. Hi Sally,
    These look amazing and I want to make them for my daughter’s birthday party. Her party is in the early afternoon. Is there any chance the cupcakes would turn out ok if I frost them the night before? 

    1. That would be just fine. Enjoy!

  21. Just finished icing one of these to try ! Topped it with some coconut cannot wait to dig in

  22. Kayle (The Cooking Actress) says:

    mmmm these are chocolatey cupcakey perfection!

  23. I know there’s been lots of questions about natural vs dutched cocoa, and I’ve read your article explaining the difference – I get that. I just looked at my cocoa, and it’s SACO brand dutched. Can I use this or do I need to buy the natural?

    1. Correction, it’s combination dutched and natural. I hate typing on a smart phone!

    2. Make sure you’re using natural for this cupcake, not the dutched. Though a combo should be fine.

      1. Good to hear – thanks! Now I don’t have to buy more cocoa! This recipe came just in time, I have a granddaughter’s birthday on Saturday to bake cupcakes for, and she requested chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing!

  24. Cheryl Woods says:

    I just tried these chocolate cupcakes. My new go to recipe 🙂 Thanks for your amazing recipes. Love your attention to detail. It makes my heart happy and makes me look like a rockstar.

    1. Thank you so much Cheryl!

  25. Hi Sally. I am new to your cookbooks. How many cookbooks do you have? I am interested in your pies (Apple is my favorite) and your cookies. Do you have cookbooks for both ?
    Please advice.
    Thank You
    Reva

    1. Hi Reva! I have 2 published cookbooks and my next cookbook will be published in September. There are links to both, including places to purchase, in my desktop website sidebar. I don’t have a pie cookbook, but there are a few pies in Sally’s Baking Addiction cookbook. Sally’s Cookie Addiction (link: https://www.amazon.com/Sallys-Cookie-Addiction-Irresistible-Macaroons/dp/1631063073/ ) is all cookies and will be published this Fall.

  26. wow sally! looking sooooooooooooo RICH

  27. Hey Sally! Would it alter the cupcakes if I used dark brown sugar instead?

    1. You can use dark brown instead.

  28. This made me so sad! My cupcakes did the unthinkable and flattened like a pancake on the edge of my cupcake pan . The sad thing is that I filled up the liners half way and they rose, splatted on the outside, and then sunk really low in the middle.The taste is delicious, but not pretty. I’m not sure what I did wrong!! I tested my baking soda and baking powder which are both still good and I didn’t think I overmixed it… I definitely over mixed the wet ingredients but not when I combined it together. Is that why it did that? Please help this distressed baker .

    1. Typically that means the cupcake liners were too full OR the cupcakes were underbaked. Were they only halfway? I know you said they were!

    2. Same thing happened to me and they were almost impossible to get out of the pan without messing up the sides of the cupcake…they all looked like little pathetic bad souffles that had sunk in the middle and ended up stuck in the liners as well. Yes I followed the directions and all my ingredients were fresh and I made sure to only fill the halfway…I would suggest you tell people only to fill them 1/3rd of the way, as it was a complete mess and they were hardly presentable for my birthday guest. The mini ones I made with the leftover batter fared better but the recipe itself is just not worth the effort…they are so airy I doubt they will even be able to be peeled out of the liners…I wasn’t looking for a cupcake you can eat out of the liner with a spoon. I would definitely recommend that you sift your cocoa powder too since some of those lumps don’t bake down.

  29. I’ve tried many of your recipes and enjoyed them all. I struggle with cakes and cup cakes beca7se I live at high altitude (5000 ft). Should I make any adjustments?

    Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful talent!

    1. Hi Jennifer! I’ve had reader who live at higher altitude bake these without any issues. Unfortunately, I’m not a pro at high altitude baking because I have zero experience. You can check out this chart to help if you’d like: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

  30. Sally, which recipe would you recommend more for a child’s birthday…this one or the more recent chocolate cake/cupcake one with the zucchini? They both look great but which is your favorite???
    Thanks!

    1. Depends on if you want veggies in the cupcakes! The recipes taste almost identical, though these homemade chocolate cupcakes may be a little softer and less dense.

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