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

537 Comments

  1. Best.. easy and delicious. Thank you.

  2. Hello Sally! These cupcakes are AWESOME. We found our new chocolate cupcakes recipe. I loved the chocolate frosting too.

  3. Hi Sally!
    First of all, Thank you so much for this amazing chocolate cupcakes recipe.Being a newbie to baking, I was little worried how this would turn out, but to my surprise , this turned out to be the best of all cup cakes I have tried so far. And now, This has been my go to recipe for chocolate cupcakes as well as for cakes. Sending love all the way from India

  4. I’ve made these four times in the last two weeks and I have finally mastered them. The first batch came out dry and this is because the cooking time is wrong. 18-21 minutes for half-filled cupcakes is too long. Either you have to fill them more or cook them less. I prefer to fill them to 3/4 full and cook for 17-18 minutes. This will give you exactly 12 cupcakes. I know this is not advised, but I like my cupcakes a bit larger. The flavour of these is phenomenal. These cupcakes are moist, rich in chocolate, not too sweet and have so much depth. This will be my go to recipe for chocolate cupcakes from here on out!

  5. Love this recipe❤ It’s my go-to cupcake – so super moist and delicious……and the bonus is that there’s no butter!!! Thank you Sally!

  6. Linda Shurley says:

    Best cupcake. The brown sugar gives it more of a “quick bread” texture. I had to increase to 18 cupcakes in a batch to prevent ”mushrooming”. Baked 14 minutes. Perfect. I made a second batch and made cake pops too.

  7. Nicole Hull says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for your wonderful website! I have tried many of your recipes so much so that, when I have baking to do or want to try something new, you are my only go to baking expert! I am made your vanilla cake for Easter and now I’m making these chocolate cupcakes for my friends birthday. The batter is scrumptious so I KNOW the cupcakes will be too! Thank you from Ottawa, Canada! Xo

  8. I am not a huge fan of chocolate cake but this recipe is amazing! Perfectly moist and incredible chocolate flavor without being too rich. This is definitely a keeper!

  9. Hi Sally,
    I was wondering why these cupcakes do not have any butter in them.
    Also, could I just make these cupcakes with milk instead of adding white vinegar or fresh lemon juice to it?

    1. Hi Britney! Oil is the fat in this cupcake batter. You can use the DIY buttermilk alternative listed in the recipe notes. Hope you enjoy!

  10. My family of 5 is vegan so I made these for them as a treat. I used coconut flour, coconut oil, flax eggs, ground up cacao nibs, and homemade soymilk for substitutions. We made a little frosting recipe to go with it that’s just as good as the non-vegan one looks. We used soymilk, cacao nibs ground up, bananas, the slightest touch of coconut oil, and some pure cane sugar. My, it was delicious. My three-year-old, who is a very fussy eater, gobbled down three of these! Sure, most of it is my own recipe, but thank you for the inspiration. If you are ever looking for really good vegan recipes, please reach out to me.

    1. Thank you so much for your positive feedback, Marlene! Thrilled you were able to adapt this recipe for your family 🙂

  11. Can I substitute oil for butter?

    1. Hi Danica. When there’s a drying ingredient involved (cocoa powder), oil is necessary. Also, we don’t really need the flavor of butter in chocolate cupcakes since chocolate will overpower it. I recommend oil for these.

  12. This recipe is awesome, I love it !
    Now, I just wanted to make a white cupcake with vanilla.
    So, I thought I could just exchange the cocoa powder with flour and remove the baking soda. Then I saw all your other receipts, but they are so different.
    Why is only the chocolate recipe with vegetable oil and buttermilk and the other receipts are with butter and whole milk and sour cream ?

    1. Happy to help! Chocolate is an overpowering flavor, so we don’t need butter (flavor) in the recipe. Oil keeps these extra moist as the fat. Butter flavor is imperative in vanilla cake and vanilla cupcakes. It’s not as moist as oil, so I typically add sour cream to keep the cupcakes light and moist. All-purpose flour is pretty heavy, but when paired with cocoa powder– it makes for a light dry ingredient base. (That’s why I use AP flour in these chocolate cupcakes.) There is no cocoa powder in the vanilla cupcakes, so that’s why I use cake flour.
      Hope this all makes sense!

  13. I made these last night with the same chocolate frosting and they turned out nicely. First batch was little over half full and they did go up a bit too high then off to one side (but didnt sink or get a cracked top), second batch was half full or even a little under and they came out to perfect height. My suggestion is if you’re not sure when filling them up, a little less is probably better :). These cupcakes paired well with the frosting, which tasted like whipped hot chocolate. I put them in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before serving and that light cooling really made them super. Thank you for another great recipe!

  14. Followed the recipe exactly and the cupcakes were fantastic – moist and crumbly and perfect. My kids and their friends LOVED them. Also made the Favorite Chocolate Buttercream frosting (just mixed everything by hand) and it turned out wonderfully. Thanks for such great recipes!

  15. Wonderfully delicious, moist and easy!! Thank you for this recipe.

  16. Thanks for your great recipes Sally. I was wondering if you thought it would be ok to make these two days in advance. Is there a way to keep them fresh for that long? Thanks a lot

    1. Hi Valeria- for best results, I recommend baking the cupcakes one day in advance and keeping them very tightly covered until you frost them. Frost the day of serving!

  17. Hi Sally, can I add nuts to this recipe?

    1. Sure can! I recommend 1/2 – 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans.

  18. Best chocolate cupcakes ever. Guests were stunned at how fantastic they looked and tasted. No leftovers 🙂

  19. Best chocolate cupcakes! Followed recipe exactly and loved the chocolate frosting, too.

  20. The cupcakes I made using this recipe were not only the best cupcakes I had ever personally made, they were some of the best I’ve ever eaten! They turned even non-chocolate lovers into majors fans. Love love love!

  21. This recipe is perfect, it produces a nice, sturdy cupcake, but it’s so moist and full of flavour. I use this as my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe! Thanks Sally!

  22. Omg, I had to comment because these were absolutely amazing! Moist, not too sweet, and just fantastic. Thanks a lot for the great recipe!

  23. Glennis Byron says:

    Hello, I just adapted this for high altitude – I made adjustments as recommended for around 5000 feet (I’m at around 4500 feet) and it worked brilliantly. First time I’ve managed to do a decent chocolate cupcake.

    In case anyone else is interested, these were the adjustments:
    To the dry ingredients: add 1 tablespoon extra flour, use a bit under 3/4 tsp of baking powder, and only 1/8 tsp of soda.
    Remove 1 Tbsp of sugar
    To the wet ingredients: add 1 egg white and 1 Tablespoon extra buttermilk.
    I baked them at 365 for 15 minutes.
    Absolutely lovely!

  24. Vanessa Ramirez says:

    I am a home baker, I’ve been baking for years. So far this has been the best chocolate cupcake recipe I’ve ever made. Ever!! And I’ve tried quite a few. They’re moist, yet super fluffy. And not too sweet, literally just right. I yielded exactly 28 cupcakes, I made the recipe in 2 separate batches and they came out perfect. 18 mins did it in my oven. Follow directions people and you will get it right. Thankyou for this wonderful recipe! It’s a keeper in my books. I’m topping mine with Oreo cream cheese frosting

  25. WOW! Incredibly moist, scrumptious cupcakes! I used 1 cup of plain yogurt rather than buttermilk. Just divine!

  26. If I were to make mini cupcakes would I need to adjust the time?

    1. Yep! See recipe notes.

  27. Rahina Fernandes says:

    These chocolate cupcakes are the bomb! Tried these and was a hit on the first attempt. It’s simple, fuss free and checks all the right boxes that a chocolate cupcake should be. I didn’t even get a chance to frost the cupcakes, they were gone before they cooled!!
    Loads of love to you from India!

  28. Michelle Healey says:

    I made these for a friends birthday and everyone thought I got them from a bakery. I also made the buttermilk with vinegar and 2% and worked perfectly. I topped them with an ermine frosting as I find buttercream to be a little bit too much. I also filled mine 2/3 of the way, def will do 1/2 the way next time, as your warning was right.

  29. This recipe is fantastic. I made my own buttermilk. The cupcakes turned out so fluffy and light. I decreased the sugar because I don’t like it too sweet but the cake itself turned out sooo good. I had a little extra batter left because I only baked 12 so I used the left over batter to make a thin layer chocolate cake. Sooo good. Thanks Sally!

  30. Can you tell me why your amazing vanilla cupcake recipe calls for cake flour and this one doesnt? Doss chocolate require something diff?

    1. Hi Holly, Cocoa is very fine and combination of cake flour and cocoa powder usually results in a flimsy cake. I actually just published this post over the weekend that explains it in detail: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/cake-flour-substitute/

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