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

1357 Comments

  1. Sally, this super Moist chocolate cupcakes are a bomb. Moist, yummy, crunchy everything I dream of. I am in love . Can’t thank you enough. I have tried the vanilla cupcake with the white eggs, I wasn’t fun of it. I wished you have a super Moist vanilla cupcakes recipe to share, I will appreciate. I definitely love your recipes, and can’t to try more, and more for sure.

  2. I made these cupcakes for my sons birthday and he and my husband loved them! My husband said this recipe is a keeper!

  3. Hi Sally,
    Thank you so much for all these amazing recipes. I have tried this one and it came out sooooo delicious and I received compliments from the whole family. It’s the second time I attempted to make buttercream (the first time was a flop) and this one had a very creamy texture, piped so well and was not too sweet like we like it. Always look up to your site whenever I want to bake something new…and will definitely continue to do so 🙂

  4. Hi!
    If I only have dutch cocoa, how can I modify your recipes? I love all your recipes and congratulations to you for taking the time to share such great recipes.
    Hanaelle

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Hanaelle, it’s really best to use natural cocoa where specified. We wish we could help with substituting, but if using your 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. We share more on the difference between natural and dutched cocoa here if you’re interested.

      1. Hi Lexi, thank you very much and will follow your link to read more on the subject!

  5. The cupcakes worked really well for what I was doing (I was making German Chocolate Cake cupcakes). The pecan/coconut frosting that I also used as filling in these cupcakes stole the show (from Sally’s German Chocolate Cake recipe). If the cupcake was standing on its own without this filling/frosting, personally, I would have preferred a richer, more chocolatey flavored cupcake. But a solid recipe–easy to follow, and came out well! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Etta allen says:

    great cupcakes, but I would recommend instead of buttermilk normal milk and no vinegar, I’ve used this recipe countless time, best cupcakes you’ll ever eat

  7. Can this recipe be used for vanilla cupcakes leaving out the cocoa?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amaniy, 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. Brooke Lingerfelt says:

        Just made these for the first time tonight. I topped them with a chocolate peanut butter buttercream (which was amazing!!). Problem was that the cupcakes came out a bit dry. Any thoughts on what would have cause that?

  8. Do you use bleached or unbleached flour?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Josephine, we bake with unbleached flour when we can.

      1. Hi Lexi, thank you very much! I’ve recently switched from bleached flour to unbleached flour. Too bad, all my cakes turned out to be heavy and dense 🙁 Any tips?

      2. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Josephine, there could be a variety of factors contributing to your dense cupcakes — this post on How to Prevent Dry and Dense Cakes should help!

  9. Hi Sally, I was just wondering about oven temperatures. I’m in the UK with a fan oven so I’m assuming I need to reduce the temp slightly from the one given in the recipe?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alison, If you use convection settings for baking, lower your temperature by 25 degrees F and keep in mind that things may still take less time to bake.

  10. Brooke Gibson says:

    Can you double the batch without any issues?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Brooke, For the absolute best results we recommend making one batch at a time.

  11. I have been making these cupcakes nonstop for the last 3+ weeks. They are perfection: the most glorious combination of the light airy mouth-feel of a cupcake and the chocolatey decadent goodness of a brownie. Many recipes punch you in the gut with sugar but the brown sugar and buttermilk lens itself to the deep complex notes which makes this recipe a hit with both children and adults. I can leave these, unfrosted, cupcakes sitting on the counter for 2-3 days (it never lasts longer) and it doesn’t begin to dry out.

    Sally has been my one-stop shop for baking recipes since I found her blog, and this recipe does not disappoint. Buttermilk being the only ingredient that’s not always stocked in my kitchen, which makes this a reliable go-to in my back pocket in the case of emergencies. Speaking of emergencies, when hosting a dinner party recently I realized I didn’t have a dessert, threw this together with some whip cream and fruit, and it was a big hit.

    I cannot sing enough praises for this recipe.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      You’re so kind to leave this rave review, Ari! We’re so glad you love these cupcakes

  12. These cupcakes are the best! They taste really good and are soft. They are also moist. They are perfect. They are also really easy to make. Would recommend.

  13. Is there an adjustment needed for baking at higher elevations? I’m at 7,000 feet. Thanks.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Julie! We wish we could help, but we have no experience baking at high altitude. We know some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

  14. Hieu Nguyen says:

    Just made this. They tasted great but they were flat on top, with some actually sinking in the middle after cooling. Any suggestions to have a better rise?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Hieu, 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.

  15. I am allergic to grains so I replaced the all-purpose flour with Bob’s Red Mill Paleo Baking flour 1:1 and they turned out divine! Moist & chocolately & delicious! Even the wheat eaters who had them couldn’t tell they were grain free & gluten free 🙂

  16. These cupcakes are amazing. The first time I made them they were a little dry, but Sally’s recipes are awesome so I knew it had to be me. I shortened the baking time to 15 minutes and magic happened. Highly recommend this recipe!

  17. Jennifer Cannady says:

    Fabulous flavor! I tried with the suggested chocolate buttercream and while both recipes are wonderful I’d try a vanilla frosting next time as the cupcakes had such amazing flavor but I felt the chocolate frosting overtook it a bit. Definitely keeping both recipes in rotation

  18. Do I need to make any altitude adjustments? I have tried this several times and even filling 1/2 full, they still sink. What should I do differently?

    So frustrating because all your other recipes turn out beautifully for me.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Melinda, sinking can also happen if the cupcakes are under-baked. If you make them again, keep a careful eye on how high you fill the liners (only halfway as you mention) and how long you bake time– even an extra minute or 2 would help. As for high altitude, we wish we could help, but we have no experience baking at high altitude. We know some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html Thank you for trying this recipe!

  19. The cupcakes didnt rise as my usual recipe. They also cracked on top. They were quite fudgey in texture and not dry. Quite nice.

  20. I’ve made a handful of your recipes and they’ve always gotten great feedback :’) I’ll be making these cupcakes tonight but I’m all out of cupcake liners— if I butter the tin do you think it’ll turn out the same or should I change the time a bit? Thank you for your yummy recipes

  21. hi can i use milk instead of buttermilk?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Yan, 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.

  22. I’m wondering if these would be good with cream cheese frosting? My son is requesting chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for his birthday. Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Emma, these would be delicious with our cream cheese frosting or even our chocolate cream cheese frosting. Let us know if you give either a try!

  23. I made these twice and wasn’t impressed. The first time I filled them too full. The 2nd time I still overfilled a few, but the ones that weren’t overfilled were flat. It’s a very small cupcake since it’s flat. The picture here shows that it has a little hump to it like cupcakes usually do. Maybe they are supposed to be flat?? They tasted delicious however. They just didn’t look very appetizing to me.

  24. Can I use cake flour instead of all purpose?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Monika, 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.

  25. I have been on the hunt for a scratch-made chocolate cupcake for a while, since my go-to chocolate cupcake is actually a doctored-up cake mix recipe. I’m trying to completely get away from cake mixes altogether 🙂
    Well, these turned out to be absolutely beautiful (nice and uniform-looking – no sinking) and were also amazing flavor wise, in my opinion. I would not say that they were dry at all, but they were noticably not as moist as the doctored up cake mix recipe that I had been using.
    I did a side by side taste test (3 people, with me included) and my other 2 testers still liked the doctored up cake mix recipe better. I voted for yours 🙂
    I’m just wondering if my use of regular cocoa powder messed the moistness up?? I didn’t have dutch processed, and I know that was recommended. Would that have made a difference with the moisture?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Becky! Thanks so much for giving these cupcakes a try. The recipe actually calls for natural unsweetened cocoa powder, so you’re all set there. If they were noticeably dry, it sounds like your cupcakes simply may have been over baked. Did you spoon and level your flour, too? Both are easy fixes for next time! We also have a handy blog post on how to prevent dry & dense cakes that you might find helpful.

  26. I just made this recipe and I’m wondering where did it go wrong. The cupcakes were very dry. Not what I expected. The batter tasted delicious prior to baking, but the result was very dry. I did the recipe exactly how the directions suggested.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lee, If they were noticeably dry, it sounds like your cupcakes simply may have been over baked. Did you spoon and level your flour, too? Both are easy fixes for next time! We also have a handy blog post on how to prevent dry & dense cakes that you might find helpful.

  27. Cynthia Carmichael says:

    I am making cupcakes for a shower. These look wonderful! I noticed that the size of the cupcakes isn’t indicated. This recipe makes regular sized (mine made 16). The other recipes also don’t say the size.
    IE: Homemade Lemon Cupcakes and Apple Crumble Cupcakes say that they make 12 and 18, respectively. I made regular sized and got 21 and 3 dozen, respectively.
    Perhaps you can make a notation in your recipes as to the size. I will have more than I needed to make and this would have been helpful.
    They all look yummy and I’m sure that I will be asked for the recipes.

    1. Hi Cynthia! Thank you so much for the note and feedback. We don’t have a recipe for apple crumble cupcakes– do you mean the apple spice cupcakes? Just want to make sure you have the right website and/or we have the right recipe!

      1. Cindy carmichael says:

        Oh yes, that one isn’t on your site. I’m sorry about that. I got the others and frosting recipes from yours. 🙂

  28. I bake a lot and make a lot of cupcakes for my coworkers. I found this recipe and had a lot of hope. So of course I jumped right in and made enough batter for 4 dozen. Biggest mistake of my week. They are inedible. After the first batch came out burnt I decreased the cooking time by 4 minutes. The new batch somehow is both burnt and raw. Disgusting. Don’t waste your time

  29. HI Sally, planning to make this for a bake sale. I am used to using coffee for chocolate cupcakes, so could I add some? Or are these flavourful enough without it?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Emma! These cupcakes have plenty of flavor, but 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!

  30. dear sally,
    Is it possible to make these with only caster sugar since that’s all I have at the moment. If it is, what would the measurements be? Also, is the texture that you got, was it fudgy or spongey and slightly dense?
    thank you so much

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shreya, these are light and fluffy cupcakes. You should be fine to substitute caster sugar for granulated.

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