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

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.

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. 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 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!)

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 (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.

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

1191 Comments

  1. Hi, this is now my go-to recipe to make cupcakes. I’m not the best baker but these come out so good. I’ve tried it five times now. I have also doubled the recipe which I suggest because these cupcakes are so easy to eat!
    Thanks for the detailed instructions, especially the one saying only filling the batter half way!
    I don’t love the cocoa taste personally but they still taste fine.

  2. I made this for the first time today and they were very good! The only question I have is this…your recipe says the batter will be thin but mine actually wasn’t. It was more the thickness of cake batter. Why is that? What did I do wrong?

    1. Hi Brian, did you alter the recipe at all? If not, I don’t think you necessarily did anything wrong. If you let the batter sit for awhile, it will begin to thicken as the flour and cocoa powder begin to absorb some liquid.

      1. I didn’t alter anything but is it possible that I overbaked? Your recipe says 18-21 mins and I went straight to 20 mins.

      2. Hi Sally, I want to make not so sweet cupcakes. Should I just reduced the sugar? If so, how much sugar, you recommend I can reduced?

  3. Jemelah Al-muqhawi says:

    Hi Sally can I use Powdered buttermilk Instead?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Sure can! Just mix according to the directions on the package to make 1/2 cup of liquid buttermilk.

    2. Sally Patrick says:

      Made these last night and they came out so good! I used your vanilla buttercream frosting recipe. Amazing! The whole family loved them.

  4. Beautifully moist so simple to make the taste it yummy
    Very happy xx

  5. Can I use this recipe for a 6 inch cake?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Sure can! See our post on 6 Inch Cakes for details 🙂

  6. This is my go-to recipe when I make chocolate cupcakes with my three girls. This recipe makes the perfect chocolate cupcakes that are moist, light, and delicious – the perfect cupcake combo. I think the ingredient of buttermilk makes all the difference with taste. A slight tanginess adding to the decadence of the finished product. We also make your chocolate buttercream icing, and I let me girls do the sprinkles. Thank you!

  7. These are wonderful. I don’t think they are the easiest to bake since most of mine did sink and overflow. However, I am not a huge chocolate cake fan and I thought these were delicious. Super tasty and very light and fluffy.

  8. Wow, amazing recipe. Looking forward to making this tomorrow.

  9. Even though these are light and fluffy, can they still be filled? I like a filling surprise in my cupcakes

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Christel, Yes! You can see how we fill them in these Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes. Enjoy 🙂

  10. This was a super yummy chocolate cupcake recipe, and it turned out moist. However, I expected my cupcakes to be just as moist on Day 2, and they were already dry and crumbly. Actually, it had only been about 14 hours – so, overnight. I was a bit bummed. Wondering if maybe I should use more oil next time.

  11. Hi Sally, I hope you are well. Thank you for the wonderful recipes. I have previously made this cupcakes, and they were delicious. I would like to bake these cupcakes again, however would like to add shredded bacon. Do I need to alter anything? or can I use the recipe in its entirely then add the bacon.
    Regards, Faith

    1. Hi Faith, I really can’t say without testing the recipe myself. Are you adding bacon to the cupcake batter? I recommend blotting it if it’s extra greasy, then chopping it up. It may be best to use bacon as garnish though.

  12. Truly the best chocolate cupcake recipe out there! I love that it only makes 12-14 cupcakes. The perfect recipe size. The cake itself, moist (the word that should only be applied to food) and so very delicious. We make it often.

  13. I made these today! They did not rise in the middle. Hope they taste good!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Katelyn, The cupcakes will sink in the center if (1) there’s too much batter in each cupcake liner and/or (2) if the cupcakes are under-baked. If you make them again, keep a careful eye on how high you fill the liners and how long you bake time– even an extra minute or 2 would help.

  14. I have been wanting to try this recipe as I have been looking to change from butter to oil in my cakes, so this was an experiment bake- I followed the recipe exactly ! Which is a very, very first thing for me as I only use a recipe as a guide! This recipe absolutely works! I would like to add chocolate chips to the mixture- should I mix the chocolate chips in or sprinkle on the top once the batter is in the cases?? Thanks for advise!
    Deb The Baking Nurse

  15. I just made these cupcakes, and had to use dark brown sugar since I had no light brown, but all other ingredients were measured/weighed as per the recipe. The batter was not thin, but more between thin and muffin batter thickness. I was careful to only fill the liners halfway – and they still sunk. I baked them 15 min since my oven runs a little hot, they’re baked through and fluffy, no dryness. They taste good – if a little too sweet – but I’m still really disappointed they didn’t rise correctly since I was making these for my 2yo’s birthday. 🙁

  16. I halved this recipe and they turned out great: light, airy and delicious. I followed the recipe as closely as possible but used dark brown sugar because it was what I had on hand and since I had no buttermilk, I added fresh lemon juice to 2% milk. I made 6 cupcakes but should have made 7 as one or two were “muffin-topped” (I’ll know better next time). I cored the centers of each and filled with whipped cream and a dollop on top then drizzled with chocolate syrup. The hubby, who does not have a sweet tooth, proclaimed them “oh mmmm gee.” Thanks much, Sally. This is a recipe I will use regularly.

    1. Can I use a buttermilk powder instead?

      1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Veronica, we haven’t tested this recipe with powdered buttermilk, but many readers report back saying that the powdered buttermilk works wonderfully. Let us know how it goes!

  17. This is now my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe, my friends and family love it just as much as I do!

  18. Hi, I noticed that you specify using natural cocoa powder. I only have dutch-processed cocoa, and I was wondering what you recommend for substituting? Is there anything I can add to the recipe to get the same effect you have? Thanks for the help!

    1. Hi Kim, it’s best to use natural cocoa powder in this recipe. If using dutched cocoa, you would need to switch out the baking soda (or some of the baking soda) for baking powder. Increase the amount of baking powder in the substitution since it isn’t quite as strong as baking soda.

  19. Is it possible to add chocolate chips to this and bake into mini loaves…?

  20. Mohinder Jakhar says:

    Thank you! the recipe is perfect and the little details you provide are quite useful. I’m a dad who loves to bake with my daughters. I have, in the past, use recipes from various websites but the results weren’t always good. However, using your recipes, my success rate has been 100% so far and my daughters love the finished products. Also your technical details are also very informative and have helped me in becoming a better baker!

  21. Elise Elvander says:

    I absolutely love this recipe. It is my go-to if I ever need a delicious dessert. I was wondering if you know how many calories were in each cupcakes

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Elise, so happy you love it! We’re unsure of the nutritional info of this recipe, but there are many great online calculators like this one.

  22. Could I use almond milk instead of buttermilk? Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Isabela, See recipe note #2 – you can use almond milk to make your own DIY version of buttermilk.

  23. Can I substitute brown sugar with granulated sugar for a 3 layer 6inch cake? Also why are you not adding hot water/coffee in this recipe as you did in 9 inch chocolate cake?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Aysha, Yes, you can use all granulated white sugar instead of the brown sugar.
      The ratio of flour to cocoa powder differs and we’re not using as much cocoa powder here, so blooming it (as we do with the hot liquid in the cake), isn’t totally necessary. But you can try swapping some of the buttermilk with hot coffee if desired.

  24. Hi Sally,
    Thank you for sharing such a fantastic recipe.
    I have heard so much about adding coffee to chocolate cake to improve its flavor. I want to add coffee to this recipe but I am not sure how much. How shall in incorporate it ? In liquid form or granule (sorry for a silly question)
    Please could you assist?
    Many thanks
    Honey

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Honey, 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 us know what you try!

  25. Hello Sally! I’m planning to use this recipe and turn it into an 8 inch cake. Should I do a 1 whole recipe and add 1/2 of the recipe to make a 3 8 inch cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dianne, you can use our handy Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions guide to scale this recipe for a cake, or you might like our Triple Chocolate Cake recipe instead. Happy baking!

  26. Hi Sally! Thank you for this recipe! I already made it twice and it was a success. I just have a question, I am planning to make this into an 8 inch cake with atleast 4 layers. Should I double the recipe for it? I hope you can help me with it

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Liz, you can use our handy Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions guide to scale this recipe for a cake, or you might like our Triple Chocolate Cake recipe instead. Enjoy!

  27. These cupcakes are delicious! I’m not great at baking from scratch so I usually stick to box mix but these were quite easy! I steeped 2 peppermint teabags in the milk for a couple hours before baking to add some flavour. I don’t use dairy so I made a buttermilk substitute with soy milk and 1tsp apple cider vinegar.

  28. This is truly the best chocolate cupcake recipe!!

  29. Thank you for the recipe. This is the best chocolate cupcake recipe ever! Everyone loves it.

  30. Well, shoot, I followed the link from a post on 6″ cakes that mentioned 3 layers, and assumed it would be enough for 3 6″ layers, but I barely managed to fill 2 6″ pans with a 1/2″ of batter (using my new Fat Daddio’s pans for the first time.). I’ll come back & update after baking as to just how my 3 layers turned out.

    1. Next time I’ll use 3 pans for certain. I think I must have overfilled my 2 6″ pans, as they took 24 minutes to get to done, and they cratered in the center, but I’ll just fill that with more frosting. They smell amazing and look very tender!

    2. Hi Alison, this amount of batter fits nicely into 3 6 inch cake pans. Filling only 2 with 1/2 inch of batter would be around 1-2 cups of batter total. Did you alter the recipe at all or are your pans larger than 6 inch?

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