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. Robin Ben-Chaim says:

    I baked it today. Did not have light brown sugar so used dark brown, and a couple tablespoons less. They did turn out moist at 18 minutes. Filled exactly halfway, but I had 16 cupcakes. Not as chocolaty as I like, and a half cup of cocoa is a lot. I think the frosting will make it even better.

  2. Eve Bertran says:

    I love love love this recipe!!! I have been baking so many chocolate cupcakes and cakes trying to find a chocolatey yet moist cake. This is it!! I am now wanting a vanilla recipe to make another great cake. I am checking out your website. Thanks for putting this recipe out there for me.

    1. Raeesa sheik says:

      I tried this.. Its ok for me.. I love the fact its moist but if it could have more coco would be better

  3. Hi i tried your recipe and i love the fact the it yields just right for family..but I guess i over baked it a lil bit, b’coz the top turns out a lil bit crisp but soft to touch if pressed while still hot…the inside after refrigerated my cupcakes is a bit dry and crumbly.. is it normal? I use a 1/4 measuring cup for every liner.. thanks i will make this again soon

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Michelle, it sounds like your cupcakes may be slightly over baked. We also share more about how to prevent dry and dense cakes in this post, which might be helpful for next time. Glad your family still enjoyed this recipe!

  4. Clara Byrne says:

    These cupcakes surprised me, to say the least! I added in 1/2 a teaspoon of instant espresso to enhance the chocolate flavor. This recipe is pretty perfect though! A note to any bakers reading this: Wegman’s sugar tends to have larger crystals, which may have changed these cupcakes slightly, just so you are aware of it.

    1. If in canada it’s the same with redpath vs lantic sugar redpath is a bigger granule than lantic. I use one for coffee simple syrup and caramel or candy and one for baking cakes and pastries.

  5. Super moist, but always sunken in the middle. I can fix by filling the cupcakes with a yummy filling, but I am perplexed by the sunken middles. The first time I made these, I followed the recipe and tips completely; the next time I tried with even less mixing (very light and not too much), and the third time I lowered the temperature of the oven to 320F…all 3 times were sunken cupcakes. No idea why.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Chistina! 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 (only halfway) and how long you bake time– even an extra minute or 2 would help.

      1. Christina Boyless says:

        Thanks – the second and third attempts were not overfilled at all and they hung out in the oven an extra 5 mins on the third attempt (still no luck). I feel like there’s something else I’m missing?! oh well – everyone loved them and the frosting covered the middle 🙂

      2. Melani Silva says:

        cupcakes were super delicious but from the centre, it was blown down after taking out from the oven. may I know the reason?

    2. Chistina, are you having problems with any of your other recipes? I would suggest getting an oven thermometer to ensure the baking process is precise.

    3. Do you live at a high elevation? I’m at 5280ft and they’re sinking and I’m pretty sure it’s because of that.

  6. Love your website and your recipes. They are so easily explained and are almost always perfect when tried. Will
    Make these tomorrow. Can the recipe be halved or doubled if needed? Also can I be made eggless

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Vanddy! The recipe can be halved if necessary, but for the best taste and texture, we highly recommend making the batter twice (separately) instead of doubling at once. We haven’t tested these cupcakes with any egg substitutions, but let us know if you find something that works for you!

  7. Hello! I made these cupcakes, and they were beautifully moist, but they were not super stable because they were so soft. Do you have any suggestions on how to make these more dense/able to stand well?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mariah, we’re so glad you loved them! They are super moist but shouldn’t be unstable or fall apart (see the last 3 seconds of the video above!). If you would like, next time you can try reducing the buttermilk to only 1/4 cup and adding a 1/4 cup of sour cream for a sturdier texture.

  8. Erin Maurer says:

    This recipe is amazing. Super moist and very delicious. I followed recipe to the letter, all except cooking instructions. This I did according to my oven. So baked for 18mins at 160degrees fan forced. And they worked out perfectly. No complaints from me. I used vanilla buttercream icing too, and the chocolate flavour still came through very nicely. This is now my go to chocolate cupcake receipe. Yay!

  9. This has been the best cake recipe I have ever tried and everyone that has tasted it has also told me it is one of the best cupcakes they’ve had! so thank you soooo much for sharing! People like you are amazing. You share put all that time and effort to share your recipes with us. May you always be a success and lots of blessings are showered upon you!

    One question- how long will these cupcakes keep in the fridge for?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Thank you so much for this kind review, Saj! Store leftover cupcakes in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

  10. Hi Sally!
    I love your recipes! I have made these chocolate cupcakes a few times now and they taste great but are very airy. I’m wondering if you have a chocolate cupcake recipe that has the same density as your updated vanilla cupcake recipe? Thanks in advance! ❤

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Deb, You can try replacing the buttermilk with the same amount of sour cream for a sturdier cupcake. Happy baking!

  11. Jovan Reyerson says:

    These turned out perfectly. Very moist and flavorful, perfect amount of chocolate! Great recipe!

    1. Hi Sally, I made this into a three layer 6 inch cake. Baked well and tasted good as well… but the layers are not as thick as yours, which I think it’s about 1inch per layer? Mine is half of that….. just wondering what could be the problem? (I followed all steps)

  12. Absolutely love this recipe, have made cupcakes a couple of times and have been a huge hit both times! So tastey and moist and the buttercream is so wonderfully light. I have also made two birthday cakes, the first time they sunk in the middle but I did have cake tins that were too big, the second time I used double the amount, sliced the cakes in half and made a huge tastey four layer cake. Now have regular requests for the cupcakes and birthday cakes. Thank you!!

  13. Natasha Davies says:

    The best chocolate cupcake ever! Thanks so much for this recipe, it is delicious.

  14. Can you substitute anything for the sugar to make it healthier? (For kids?)

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Angel, we haven’t tested these cupcakes with any sugar substitutes. Here’s all of our healthier recipes for treats that you may enjoy! We love these whole wheat double chocolate banana muffins.

  15. I have used this recipe twice to make the 6 inch chocolate cake as shown, and it may work well for cupcakes, not so much for chocolate cake, I followed the recipe steps exactly, I bake by weight. the first time: I baked, cooled completely. and tried to frost, that’s where the problem starts, the sides of the cake disintegrate when the chocolate buttercream frosting was applied. I tried thinning the frosting a little. The second time I cooled the cakes, wrapped tightly with multiple layers of plastic wrap, and placed in freezer for a couple of days. Made the buttercream frosting, pulled the cakes out of the freezer. and quickly tried to set layers, and do a quick crumb coat with a slightly thinner frosting let set up for 15min. unfortunately same result, the sides of the cake just disintegrate with the application of the crumb coat and frosting.

  16. I used this recipe to make your chocolate strawberry filled and topped with chocolate ganache cupcakes. I want to make a giant cupcake cake with this recipe but I don’t know what the quantities should be for the pan I have. I am using the Celebrate it giant cupcake pan which is similar to the wilton one it has one for the top and one for the bottom. I was thinking to use a measuring cup with water to see how many cups it takes to fill both sides. is this a good idea? I’m hoping you can help me out with this as I was going to bake this tomorrow for my birthday on Tuesday. Never even thought about the quantity differences. thanks

  17. Neha Chowlera says:

    Hello! I was wondering if I could make these cupcakes (unfrosted) 2 days in advance?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Neha, you can, just store them tightly covered in the refrigerator until ready to frost (then bring to room temperature). Enjoy!

      1. Neha Chowlera says:

        Ok thanks! So refrigerating them won’t dry them out? Are they not able to sit out more than one day because of the buttermilk?

  18. Can I use normal milk instead of buttermilk. If not how can I make it at home.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dua, we highly recommend buttermilk or a DIY buttermilk for this recipe. See recipe notes for a DIY buttermilk using regular milk and vinegar or lemon juice.

  19. these are so good. i tried vanilla cupcakes and they were wayyyy too sweet so i put half the sugar in these only and they turned out perfect. very flavourful, dont need frosting but german buttercream is nice.

    1. Diamond H says:

      Will adding some chocolate chips to the batter ruin my bake?

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

  20. I made this into a six inch cake and it was the best chocolate cake! All of my family also said it’s the best cake they have ever had! I am making it again but wondering if I can use sour cream instead of buttermilk and if so, how much sour cream to use for a six inch cake? Would bake time remain the same? Thank you for a wonderfully delicious recipe!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tifany, you can try replacing the buttermilk with the same amount of sour cream for a sturdier cupcake. For a six inch cake, you can follow the bake time and temperature from our 6 inch cakes post. So glad your family enjoyed this one!

  21. Jaz Keating says:

    I have to say, I haven’t made a single recipe of yours Sally that all my friends haven’t ABSOLUTELY LOVED!!
    I made this cupcake recipe and added the Nutella frosting from your Mocha Nutella cupcake recipe, and it works so well together! That frosting is sooo good!
    I make your recipes all the time and more than one of my friends have suggested I start my own baking company, they’re that good!
    I love that your recipes (combined with the extra explanations and videos) are all written in such a way that an at home baker with no real experience, can bake like a pro and impress all their friends!
    You have inspired my love for baking, thank you so much! Stay awesome and keep the delicious recipes coming!

  22. I absolutely love this recipe, nest chocolate cupcakes ive ever tasted. I was wondering could you use this recipe for a vanilla based cupcake omitting the cocoa and adding extra flour in place of the cocoa? I have seen your vanilla cupcake recipe, but wanted to see if this recipe could be tweaked at all?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kim! We’re so glad you loved these cupcakes. Cocoa powder is a finicky ingredient so unfortunately it wouldn’t be as simple as removing it from this recipe without making additional changes. We’d recommend our vanilla cupcakes instead.

      1. Thank you so much for your reply. I will give your vanilla cupcake recommendation a go x

  23. Leah Marie says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe I tried it for the first time and it was a huge success … thank you for sharing this recipe May God bless your heart

  24. Jessica Hart says:

    This is my favourite go to cupcake recipe! I need to make an egg free variant can you suggest how??

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

  25. Turned out great I didn’t have butter milk or milk so I just put vinegar in cream and it still worked out great. Question has anyone tried substituting hot water with coffee?

  26. Katryna Carosi says:

    Hi just curious why you don’t use cake flour for these, but do for your vanilla cupcakes. Can I use it as a substitute for the all purpose flour?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Katryna, that’s a great question. 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.

  27. Hello,

    Can I substitute the light brown sugar with more granulated sugar?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Pammy, we like to use brown sugar for a little extra moisture and flavor. That said, you can certainly use all white granulated sugar in a pinch.

  28. Dianne Drake says:

    I tried baking these and although the chocolate flavor was awesome, they did not come out moist. I baked them exactly as directed and only for the minimum time recommended. Can anyone advise me why?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dianne, it sounds like your cupcakes simply may have been over baked. We always recommend using an in-oven thermometer for the most accurate results. Did you spoon and level your flour, too? Both are easy fixes for next time! We also have a handy blog post with tips for baking the best cupcakes. Thank you so much for giving this recipe a go!

  29. This is my new favorite cupcake recipe! So easy, and so delicious.

  30. Hi! I tried this chocolate cupcakes recipe but even after baking, there is a strong smell of oil in the cupcakes. I have used cooking oil for it. Can you recommend a substitute? I live in India so we use ghee a lot. Can we substitute cooking oil with ghee in this recipe?
    I tried the banana cupcakes recipe which had butter in it and they turned out amazing!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sayee, oil is best for these cupcakes. Make sure to use a neutral oil like vegetable or canola to avoid any unwanted smells or taste. Hope this helps!

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