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!

The only chocolate cupcake recipe you need! Homemade, moist, rich, super chocolate flavor, and so easy to make with chocolate buttercream! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

The only chocolate cupcake recipe you need! Homemade, moist, rich, super chocolate flavor, and so easy to make with chocolate buttercream! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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?

How to make chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream on sallysbakingaddiction.com

How to make chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

How to make chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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!

The only chocolate cupcake recipe you need! Homemade, moist, rich, super chocolate flavor, and so easy to make with chocolate buttercream! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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!)

The only chocolate cupcake recipe you need! Homemade, moist, rich, super chocolate flavor, and so easy to make with chocolate buttercream! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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
chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

  • 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*

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 45 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream, half-and-half, or whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste
  • rainbow sprinkles (optional)

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. Frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, the heavy cream, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to medium-high speed and beat for 2 full minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. (I add 1/8 teaspoon salt.) Use frosting immediately or cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting on medium speed for a few seconds so it’s creamy again. After thawing or refrigerating, beating in a splash of heavy cream or milk will help thin the frosting out again, if needed.
  6. Frost cooled cupcakes however you’d like. I used 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. Heavy Cream in Frosting: I love using heavy cream for the creamiest consistency. You can use half-and-half or whole milk instead if needed. The lower the fat, the less creamy your buttercream will be. Whichever you use, make sure it’s at room temperature. Otherwise your frosting could separate or appear grainy.
  4. Mini Cupcakes: Fill mini liners only halfway and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350°F (177°C). Yields about 3 dozen.
  5. Cake: Here’s a chocolate cake that is just as moist and chocolate-y.
  6. Why Room Temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information. If needed, you can use whole milk mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice instead of buttermilk. Fill a measuring cup with the lemon juice/vinegar then the rest with whole milk to reach 1/2 cup.

Keywords: cupcakes, chocolate, chocolate cupcakes, vanilla frosting

More of a vanilla person? Here are my favorite vanilla cupcakes!

Favorite go-to vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream on sallysbakingaddiction.com

884 Comments

  1. To make the cupcakes easier to stack in a container, I don’t want to put frosting on top. Do you think it will work if I put a few sprinkles on each cupcake before I bake to give the cakes a little jazz? Is there a type of sprinkle that you suggest? Thanks!

    1. Any sprinkles should work, however, I fear they would sink right down into the cupcake batter. Instead, pull the cupcakes out about halfway through baking, add sprinkles on top, then return to the oven. The tops will be *somewhat* set so the sprinkles should stick nicely.

  2. Wow! Turned out unbelievably good !

  3. Hi! Would it be possible to substitute cake flour for all-purpose flour? I know the general conversion is 1 cup 2 tablespoons cake flour for every 1 cup of all-purpose flour, but I prefer to weigh dry ingredients in grams (thanks for always providing weight measurements!)

    1. Hi Kathrin! Normally yes, but cake flour is much too light for these chocolate cupcakes. 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. We don’t have all purpose flour here in Namibia. Any suggestions?

  4. Can I just double everything to make more?

    1. Hi Charlee! For best taste and texture, I highly recommend making the batter twice instead of doubling.

  5. Hi Sally,
    I am so excited to stop by your blog. Am excited to try this recipe.
    Is it possible to bake this into 2 x 6 in baking round tin?
    What would be the suggested baking temp and time?

    Thank you. Looking forward.
    Jacqui

    1. Hi Jacqui! This recipe will fit into 3 6-inch round cake pans. The bake time should be around 20 minutes, but use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  6. Have you had any luck, Sam? I am at 7400 feet and made a batch of these last week. Same problems as you – sink city and stuck to paper. I’ve read to try less leavening, more liquid, a bit less sugar, a bit more flour and a higher oven temp. Would love to know if you’ve had any success with your adjustments before I attempt these again!

    1. Just made a batch of these — oh my gosh, they are perfect! I used a 1 TBS ice cream scoop and put 2 scoops in each cupcake. Cupcake came out of paper liner without sticking.

      I did make modifications for high altitude – 6350 ft:
      Set oven at 375
      added 3 TBS flour
      reduced baking powder to 1/4
      reduced baking soda to 1/8
      added 3 TBS water
      Baked for 15 mins

  7. hi can I store batter before I bake it? is it best to put it in the refrigerator??

    1. The baking powder is initially activated once wet, so it’s best to bake the batter right away.

  8. Yum!

  9. Gay Leachman-Knight says:

    Hi Sally, love your recipes!! Can I substitute applesauce for the oil in these cupcakes?

    1. Hi Gay! You could, but the cupcakes will taste rubbery without the fat.

  10. Thank you for sharing the recipe. Perfectly moist and the frosting complemented the cupcakes without being overly sweet.

  11. I made these a couple of weeks back and froze half, the firsthalf were so moist, soft and scrumptious. I defrosted the second half yesterday and iced them with a chocolate ganache today. There are only two left, I usually eat a half to one at a time of any cupcake but the recipe for these is perfection, even after being frozen they were amazing. My husband and I couldn’t believe how soft and delicate but full of flavour and moist they were!
    Thank you so much for sharing, this is now my go to recipe for cupcakes!

    1. I’m so glad they were such a hit, Nicole!!

  12. Sara Hosseini says:

    I’m just amazed at how these turned out, i usually never comment on recipes but this one was a huge huge hit. bakery grade cupcakes, delicious.
    i put a little less sugar and added espresso powder to amplify the chocolate taste. they turned out awesome.
    will be making them again and again and again

  13. Hi Sally,

    The cupcakes were fabulous and a big hit.
    Another ? Could you share an easy chocolate cake recipe please.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Laura! Here is my favorite chocolate cake recipe.

  14. I have made these for several events and for family and friends. Every time I get the best compliments on them! They are delicious and super quick and easy to make. Best chocolate cupcake recipe, I don’t think I will ever use a different recipe. THANK YOU SALLY!

  15. Carina Dillon says:

    Hi. Any way to make these a bit healthier? Meaning substituting the sugar for applesauce? What would the equivalent ratio be? Thanks!

    1. I do not recommend replacing the sugar in this recipe. If you are looking for a healthier alternative with less sugar I would recommend something like this muffin recipe: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/whole-wheat-double-chocolate-banana-muffins/

  16. Hi Sally! I’ve used this recipe many times and they’ve always been fantastic. Do you think filling them with caramel sauce in the middle would hold up or would the sauce just seep into the rest of the cake? Just wanted to experiment but not ruin them. Thanks!

    1. Hi Shannon! These chocolate cupcakes would be fantastic with caramel inside, though make sure you use a thicker caramel like this salted caramel. (See note about switching from Salted to Regular caramel.) Let the caramel thicken for about 15 minutes, then fill the cupcake.

  17. I filled mine half full and they still domed and some spilled over the top of the cup. They taste AMAZING, but wondering what I’m doing wrong.

  18. This is my new favorite cupcake recipe! My daughter and I made these the other day and they came out absolutely perfect. We also made the chocolate buttercream frosting and almost didn’t have enough to put on the cupcakes because we couldn’t stop eating it straight out of the bowl. We managed to save a couple cupcakes to share with family and they were very impressed with them as well!

  19. Best.. easy and delicious. Thank you.

  20. Hi Sally! I tried this one and it is sooo good! Any tips on how I can make the cupcake just a bit dense or heavier without compromising the taste? I am new with baking so I am still learning. Thank you so much! Love from Philippines 🙂

    1. Hi sally, I’ve baked this recipe quite a few times and I like how fluffy the buns are. Ive just wondering are the metric weights correct on the recipe. I struggle to get the buns to keep their shape and they often sag in the centre. On the cup measurements you use 3/4 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar. It says to put in 95g of sugar and nearly 200g of both sugars. I’m just wondering should there be more than 95g of flour or less sugar? Thanks for all the tips

      1. Hi Roisin! The cocoa powder takes place of some of the flour. So while it looks like there isn’t enough flour, keep in mind all the cocoa powder as well. 🙂

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

  22. We love these cupcakes, but are wondering if the recipe can be made as a cake? How would it differ in taste, texture, etc.?
    Thank you

    1. For a cake I recommend using this recipe: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/triple-chocolate-layer-cake/
      It’s just as moist and chocolate-y 🙂

  23. 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

    1. You are welcome, Deepika! I’m so glad you enjoy these!

  24. Hi Sally – Can the recipe be doubled?

    1. Hi Teena! You can double this recipe or make separate batches. For best results, I always recommend making 2 batches. Working with extra batter in 1 bowl risks over or under-mixing, which can ruin the cupcake texture.

  25. although this was a quick and easy recipe, I had a few things I would change. these cupcakes were nice and light, but the texture was a bit too spongy for me. (not necessarily a bad thing, just a personal preference.) the other thing I would like to note is that it was super SWEEEEEEEEEET. again as I was saying this is not a bad thing, but I would have liked for other flavors to stand out other than the sweetness from ALL THE SUGAR.

  26. 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!

  27. 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!

    1. Hi Sally, I want to make these for Easter but I have two questions I hope you can help with. First, I want to add a mini peanut butter cup to each, do you think they will rise properly? And secondly, I see so many recipes that call for hot water or coffee, yet your recipe does not. Just curious what difference the hot water makes?

      1. Hi Diane! Hot water is added to chocolate cakes to help the cocoa powder “bloom.” When used in a high quantity, you want to give the cocoa powder extra help dissolving into the cake batter. For these cupcakes, it’s not really an issue since we’re using less. You can definitely add a mini PB cup to each. Make sure you still only fill the cupcake liners halfway. You’ll have many more cupcakes from this batter since there will be less batter per cupcake.

  28. I followed your recipe exactly, using safflower oil. I did add some chocolate baking chips at the end, which extended the batter to give me 15 cupcakes. They definitely rose better than other chocolate cupcakes I have made. They are also absolutely delicious. This is a great recipe and I am definitely going to keep it, so thank you for sharing it.

  29. I put the batter in a measuring cup and poured it in the wrappers. It actually worked great! The first few spilled way over the top, but the others were great. Not sure if I’m an idiot or a genius, lol

  30. I’m going to be using this recipe to make Easter cupcakes this year! I was thinking of decorating them with a chocolate frosting “bird’s nest” and then placing some mini chocolate eggs in the “nest”. I’ll also sprinkle some of my new chocolate flakes over the nest so it looks more…nesty? I purchased the chocolate flakes at Gourmet Warehouse in Vancouver, and while I haven’t used them yet, I just LOVE how they look! Anyways, I might do some green frosting “grass” beneath the nests as well. And I would like to fill them, maybe with a mixture of frosting and crushed easter eggs. That would be tasty! I’m also planning on making your Coconut Carrot Cake Cupcakes, and decorating them with carrots I’ll make out of white chocolate that is tinted orange and green 🙂 Thanks for all the fabulous recipes, Sally! You’ve made my Easter 😉

    1. Sounds like such a festive treat for Easter weekend! Love your creativity. I also love those carrot cake cupcakes, too.

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