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.

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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

1350 Comments

  1. I made these today and followed the recipe exactly but for some reason they are very dry, definitely not moist. Not sure what went wrong. I’m so sad, using another recipe from this site for a cake tomorrow and hoping it turns out better.

    1. I made these today for the first time and they only took 15 mins in my oven. I also found them so crumbly and dry and I followed the instructions. Not the moiste cake I was hoping for.

      1. So disappointing! I’ve been weighing my flour. I realized I use way too much by scooping it out of the bag and leveling against the side of the bag. Hope this helps 🙂

      2. I made this recipe today and got 16 cupcakes and they were delicious! I checked them at 14 mins and they were done. Very soft and moist. I also added espresso powder to them like you mentioned in your chocolate cake recipe. Wonderful

    2. I’m guessing your oven was set too high or the temperature of ur oven just ran higher than set temp. I followed the recipe with only some minor adjustments like less sugar and ovaltine powder vs cocoa powder. It turned out to be so good. I also used room temperature eggs and milk. Hope this help. The recipe works but probably have to measure everything except sugar perfectly.

    3. Sadly, I also found these to be dry. They weren’t bad, per se, they are still edible, but not the amazing, moist cupcake I was hoping for. I even weighed my ingredients and turned down my oven. I also found the buttercream frosting to only be “meh.” On the other hand, I also made Sally’s carrot-coconut cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and topped them with toasted coconut. Amazing! So good.

  2. Cris valdez says:

    Mind came a bit crisp on the top… maybe baked a bit too long?

    1. Victoria Marczuk says:

      Mine to but I did more and it worked out perfectly

  3. I’ve tried multiple times making this recipe measured by weight so everything is correct and making sure not to over mix or over fill the cupcake tins every time there is way to many air bubbles, I kept trying because usually your recipes are amazing! This one not so much

  4. These cupcakes are just amazing! This will definitely be my go to chocolate cupcake recipe. They were so moist and chocolately. Sad to see some of the bad experiences with this recipe in the reviews because I made this recipe two times two different ways. The 1st time I mixed all the wet ingredients together, and then added them to the dry. The 2nd time I followed the exact instructions for adding the wet ingredients to the dry, and both times they came out perfectly moist and delicious.

  5. This recipe makes more like 16-18 cupcakes for me. I do live at 5000+ ft above sea level and I did add 1 Tbsp espresso powder. I divided the batter among 15 cupcakes but they were still too full! They also took longer to bake which is typical for baking at elevation. I know better for next time. They weren’t pretty but they were delicious! Everybody: Sally means it when she says “fill halfway”!

  6. Hi Sally, is this batter sufficient for two layer 6 inch chocolate cake?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Bindhu! This is enough batter for a three layer 6 inch cake. Here’s a blog post on 6 inch cakes!

  7. I’ve tried this recipe multiple times and it’s always a hit! I wanted to know if I can make an egg free version of this with flax egg? Would you recommend it or something else to substitute the eggs?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shika, we haven’t tested this recipe with flax egg, but let us know how it goes if you give it a try!

  8. Can I make the batter and keep in the fridge?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Fiza, no, we don’t recommend that. As soon as the batter is mixed together the leaveners are activated and if you wait too long to bake it the cake won’t rise properly. It is okay, though, to leave for a short period of time if you aren’t able to bake all the batter at once.

  9. Very disappointing. I followed the recipe so carefully by weight and I only filled the casings halfway. They’ve risen really high and all over the sides of the casing! What a mess and completely unusable. One very stressed mom who didn’t need this disaster in her life right now!

  10. These cupcakes are just amazing! I baked it for my grandparents and it was so good! Everything on your blog is the best.

  11. Best cupcakes ever!!!! My son doesn’t usually enjoy sweet stuff but couldn’t get enough of these … super moist and delicious … they’ve quickly become a family favourite.

  12. Made these last weekend. So delicous, so moist, so rich, soooooooooo good. I got 12 cupcakes from the recipe. I used your chocolate butter cream icing but halfed the recipe and it was perfect, it complimented the cupcakes well. At this rate if I continue trying your recipes I won’t be able to keep off this weight, haha.

  13. Will this recipe be suitable for a loaf tin? If so how long do you think it would take to bake? Thanks

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mary! We fear this cupcake base won’t be strong enough to support itself in a loaf pan. However, try replacing the buttermilk with sour cream so the batter is thicker and more sturdy. We’re unsure of the bake time.

  14. 3rd time making this recipe and it’s always a success!! we bake 12 cupcakes every time and they come out very moist and perfect. The choc buttercream frosting is a must, we just used about one third of the icing sugar and no salt though . This is a great recipe to make with my little 4 yr-old, thank you for all your wisdom Sally!! xx

  15. I was concerned based on some of the recent reviews that these were dry. So glad I did not let those deter me! These are so good. Very chocolatey and moist. These truly are a go-to recipe. Thanks Sally!

  16. Hey Sally!
    I can’t use brown sugar in the cupcakes. Is there any other substitute that I can use?

    Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      You can use granulated white sugar instead of the brown sugar. Enjoy!

  17. Sally,

    I just wanted to say this is the best chocolate cupcake recipe I have ever used by far. This will be the 3rd time I’ve made them and it is my new go-to for quick recipes in a pinch. You rock, thank you. 🙂

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We love to read this, Hannah. Thank you!

  18. Hi Sally, thank you for so many details in the recipe. I can’t wait to make these today. I am wondering if I can substitute cocoa powder with Cacao powder for the cupcakes. I usually do that for few recipes. I am located in Australia and Hershey’s isn’t easily available but I get nestle cocoa powder.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Daman, that substitution would require some testing. You’d likely need to switch to all baking powder and increase the amount of liquid in the recipe. For best results, stick with unsweetened natural cocoa powder rather than cacao powder.

  19. used this exact recipe for 2 six inch cakes and it was amazing! moist and just the right amount of chocolate flavor without being too rich.

  20. Hi Sally, I love your recipes and am excited to try this one for my daughter’s birthday party tomorrow. I have some cake flour leftover from a delicious vanilla cake that I made from your recipe last weekend. Should I use it in this recipe? Or is there a reason that all-purpose flour is better here? Thanks for all the great content! I still haven’t gotten over the amazing lemon cupcakes I made from your recipe last summer.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lisa, We don’t recommend using cake flour in this recipe- it’s simply too light for this batter. Cocoa powder is extremely light and takes the place of some all-purpose flour in this recipe, so we already have very light cupcakes.

      1. That’s so helpful! Thank you.

  21. I’ve tried a few chocolate cupcake recipes that I’ve found online and I have failed everytime. I had success with your banana cake recipe, so I decided I would give it a go. Yes!! at last. I succeeded. Thank you for the easy step by step instuctions, and a brilliant recipe. You’ve renewed my zest for baking.

  22. Hi Sally, is it ok to add semi sweet morsels to the dry ingredients, and, if so how much?
    Thanks a lot.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Janet, feel free to add 1 cup of chocolate chips to this batter without changing anything else.

  23. Hands down the best chocolate cupcake recipe I’ve ever used! I see some of the one and two star reviews and can’t help but think user error. If you know how to measure your ingredients and follow the directions these come out perfect every time. I prefer to use coconut oil for my oil, and it does give them a slight coconut flavor, so you could certainly use vegetable oil or another kind if you don’t want that. Thank you, Sally!!!

  24. Hi Sally! Thank you for being SO incredibly generous in your feedback and suggestions on all our questions 🙂

    I’ll be making this batter as a three layer 6” cake for my boyfriend this weekend and would LOVE to introduce a rum flavor into the mix. Already calculated how to do that for my frosting, but I’m less confident about modifications to batter and am wondering: would you recommend adding about a few tablespoons of rum in addition to the buttermilk? Or sub out some of that other liquid? Or not at all — ha!

    With gratitude,
    Annie

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Annie, We haven’t tested it but you can try replacing a few tablespoons of the buttermilk with rum (I wouldn’t add additional liquid to the batter or it would be too thin). If the flavor isn’t coming through you can also try making a rum simple syrup to brush on the finished cakes. Let us know what you try!

      1. Amazing — I’ll do just that! Will report back. Thanks so much.

      2. The bad news: I forgot to actually add the rum for my desired variation. The good news: the cake recipe was PERFECTION as written. So good! I used 3x 6” Fat Daddio pans and homemade cake strips from YouTube, which were enough to sell me on buying proper ones. No trimming needed and rave reviews. A great chocolate cake recipe and look forward to trying with more frostings. Thanks!

  25. These were good! I managed to get 16 cupcakes out of mine. I’m wondering if the people who had dry cupcakes baked them for too long. Mine only needed 15 minutes in the oven. They would have been crispy at 18 minutes!

  26. Nandini Sujan says:

    Hi Sally , been using your recipes for few years now. It is a absolutely wonderful to keep using the recipes.Especially this chocolate cupcakes are like little peace of love.My family and friends really enjoyed the cupcakes.Thank you ,Sally .

  27. Deborah Ladha says:

    Amazing recipe that I’ve used multiple times and it’s always well received. Thanks

  28. Hello Sally,
    I would like to ask something, if I will skip cocoa powder and add vanilla extract would I end up with moist vanilla cupcakes? I saw other recipe for vanilla cupcakes but chocolate are so moist and would like the same outcome for vanilla.
    Thank you

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Agata! Unfortunately, you would not have the same outcome. We recommend sticking with our tried and true vanilla cupcakes recipe instead.

  29. Sophia Kronlage says:

    This recipe is great! I have baked it many times for my family, and I have found out how to make it egg, dairy, and sugar, free!

  30. Wow wow wow!! Baked these yesterday as a trial run for easter cupcakes and they were absolutely amazing!! Every bit the moist chocolatey cake described in the recipe!! I did only bake mine for 16 mins on 165 degrees as having tried and practiced previously with sallys vanilla cupcakes this is perfect for keeping them moist and it worked for these chocolate ones too!! I have an electric fan assisted oven and tends to cook things much quicker than my previous gas oven! Having your ingredients at room temp is a must also!!

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