Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes topped with a chocolate buttercream frosting! This chocolate cupcake recipe is easy to make, incredibly soft, light, and moist.
*Post and pictures updated April 2020*
Have you ever made chocolate cupcakes from scratch? A long time ago, I used to think that homemade cupcakes were difficult to make. But let me tell you, they’re not. In fact, they’re actually pretty easy! And there is really nothing better than sharing and enjoying cupcakes that you made completely from scratch.
One thing that I love about this chocolate cupcake recipe is that the batter can all be mixed up in one bowl. These cupcakes are also incredibly light, soft, and they stay moist for days. I topped these with my homemade chocolate buttercream frosting, but I’ve included several different frosting options for you to try too.
I’ve also included some notes for how to make the cupcakes ahead of time, freeze them, and how to even turn this into a 9-inch cake. If you love chocolate, I guarantee this will be your new favorite cupcake recipe!
How To Make Chocolate Cupcakes
To make these cupcakes, you’ll start by mixing together your dry ingredients – all-purpose flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.
- All-Purpose Flour: First things first, when making cupcakes it’s important to measure your flour correctly. Remember when I put together this post about how to measure flour? Too much flour in your recipe can lead to dense cupcakes, so let’s avoid that by spooning and leveling the flour.
- Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder: To get that beautiful chocolate flavor! I don’t suggest using dutch processed cocoa powder in these cupcakes, otherwise, they won’t rise as tall.
- Baking Soda, Baking Powder, and Salt: To help the cupcakes rise and the salt balances out the sweetness.
- Sugar: You’ll be using a mixture of brown sugar and granulated sugar in this recipe. Brown sugar has more moisture than granulated sugar so it helps to keep the cupcakes moist.
Then, you’ll mix in your wet ingredients – oil, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla extract, boiling water, and instant espresso powder.
- Oil: For the fat in this cupcake recipe, you’ll be using oil instead of butter. Any kind of neutral-flavored oil like canola, vegetable, or melted coconut oil will work just fine.
- Buttermilk: The buttermilk adds moisture and creates a tender crumb. Don’t have any buttermilk on hand? You can use my homemade buttermilk substitute here.
- Egg & Vanilla: The egg helps bind everything together and the vanilla adds a little flavor.
- Boiling Water & Instant Espresso Powder: I suggest mixing in the first 4 wet ingredients first, then mix in the boiling water. I love to add some instant espresso powder too because it enhances the chocolate flavor in the cupcakes.
As you can tell the batter will be very thin for these cupcakes, but this is normal! I only fill the cupcake liners about halfway full because they rise quite a bit in the oven. The recipe will make 16 cupcakes, so you can use two muffin pans and bake in separate batches or use a large 24-count muffin pan to bake them all at once.
The cupcakes will take about 16-18 minutes in the oven. You’ll know they’re done when the tops are set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Once they’re done, remove them from the oven, carefully remove them from the pan, and transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool while you make the frosting.
Different Frosting Options
I used my homemade chocolate buttercream frosting on top of these cupcakes, you can find my full tutorial for how to make it here. If you prefer a different flavor, here are a few more options that would work great too:
- Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
- Cream Cheese Frosting
- Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Can you make these cupcakes ahead of time?
The cupcakes may be made 1-2 days in advance. You can store the cooled cupcakes in an airtight container on the counter or in the refrigerator. The frosting may be made 1-2 days in advance as well, cover tightly and refrigerate, then bring the frosting to room temperature and mix well before frosting the cupcakes.
Can you freeze them?
Yes, these cupcakes freeze great! Allow the cupcakes to cool completely, then place them into a freezer bag or container, seal tightly, and transfer to the freezer for up to 3 months. To thaw, remove the cupcakes from the freezer, place them on the counter, and allow to come to room temperature. The frosting will also freeze well for up to 3 months, just thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature and mix well before frosting the cupcakes.
I don’t have any instant espresso powder do I still need to use the boiling water?
Yes! If you don’t have any espresso powder you can omit it and just use 1/2 cup of boiling water or use 1/2 cup of hot coffee.
- When measuring your flour, make sure to spoon your flour into your measuring cup and level it off with the back of a knife.
- I suggest sifting the first 5 ingredients together, this will help remove any lumps of flour or cocoa powder in your cupcake batter.
- Want to make a cake? You can pour the batter into a 9-inch round baking pan and bake at 350°F (177°C) for about 30 minutes. If you’re looking for a layered chocolate cake, I suggest using my homemade chocolate cake recipe.
For the chocolate cupcakes:
- 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) oil
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) boiling water
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder optional, but recommended
For the chocolate frosting:
- 1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter softened
- 3 cups (360 grams) powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup (42 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder sifted
- 3-4 tablespoons (30-45 ml) heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
To make the chocolate cupcakes:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two 12-count muffin pans with 16 cupcake liners and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk in the granulated sugar and brown sugar until well combined. Add the oil, buttermilk, egg, and vanilla extract and mix until just combined.
- Add the instant espresso powder to the 1/2 cup boiling water and mix until fully dissolved. Add to the mixing bowl and mix until everything is just combined. The batter will be thin, but this is okay.
- Evenly distribute the batter between all 16 cupcake liners, making sure to just fill each one a little over halfway full. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and remove the cupcakes from the pan. Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the chocolate frosting:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until smooth.
- Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, making sure to mix well after each addition, then add the cocoa powder and mix until fully combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the heavy whipping cream, vanilla extract, and salt and mix on medium speed until fully combined.
- Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired.
Hi, your recipes are the BEST! However I tend to find that the top of the cakes go a bit sticky.. same with the vanilla ones.. is there anyway to avoid this? I love how moist they are so we like to eat em without buttercream. Thanks for sharing x
Thank you, Zenica! The tops tend to get sticky because the cupcakes are moist. I’m not really sure of a good way to prevent that though.
I cant wait trying this chocolate cupcake recipe. Just wondering which tip I should use for the following design please. Thnksss.
Omg, i cant attach/send the picture in this comment. Do u know how to post the photo in this comment box please?
I used the Wilton 1M piping tip for these cupcakes! There’s also not a way to attach pictures, but you can always e-mail me or tag me on Instagram.
hello! i have’nt tried this recipe yet but am going to later. I was wondering if you have the nutrition facts for this recipe for a project in culinary. If so can you please email them, thank you so much!
I’m not sure on the nutrition information, but you can plug it into an online calculator to get an estimate. Hope you enjoy the cupcakes!
Hello! Can I use sour cream in place of the buttermilk? 1/2 C ?
It would probably be okay, the cupcakes won’t be quite as light and soft though.
Why do my cupcakes always separate from the cupcake liners? I live in a tropical country where it is hot and humid
It’s likely just due to the humidity.
Hi, I’m going to make these cupcakes for my son’s birthday but just wondering when you say mix do you mean with a mixer or just by hand? Also what temperature should I cook them if I am using Celsius not Fahrenheit?
Either way is fine, I just mix it by hand with a whisk. Also, 350°F is equal to 177°C.
Cant wait to try out this recipe. For the chocolate buttercream frosting . I could not get heavy cream anywhere. Is it possible to substitute it with whipping cream? Or what would you suggest? Thanks in advance
Yes, that should be fine. You can use milk too.
i’m considering making these cupcakes but i would like to know if 3-4 tablespoons is just 3/4 tablespoon written differently, sorry i know it’s a dumb question !
Hi, Katy! It’s 3 tablespoons to 4 tablespoons of heavy cream.
I was making the chocolate cupcakes and decided not to use the expreso. Do I still add the boiling water to the batter.
Yes, you still want to add the boiling water.
Do I need to spray the cupcake liners with oil? You don’t mention it so I assume the answer is no.
No, you don’t have to spray the liners 🙂
Hi I have a question, at the moment my local grocers are running out of all purpose flour can I substitute with cake flour
( that’s what I have at home)? and if yes how is the measurements like? Thank you ? .
Yes, that would be fine! You’ll want to use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of cake flour in place of the 1 cup of all-purpose flour.
Thank you ?
Thankyou for replying. I followed the recipe as mentioned only thing I did was I doubled the quantity as I needed more cakes. Will it help if I reduce the quantity of coffee or buttermilk a bit?
And I added boiling coffee mixture to the batter , was that the reason for the cake to fall apart?
That’s so strange, the coffee shouldn’t have affected it either. It’s really hard to say what caused it, but sometimes under mixing the batter can cause cakes to be crumbly. I would double check that the quantities were all doubled correctly too.
All of your recipes are amazing but thanks again for this one. I made a cake for my daughter’s first birthday and my boys who don’t even like cake regularly loved this cake. The baby loved it to! You should have a book.
Thank you, Monica! So glad you enjoyed the cupcakes!
Cup cakes were the best we’ve ever had, better then Zingermans bakery cup cakes and they are really good. If making a cake do you double the recipe, it looks like you are saying only makes one 9″ cake in the notes. I guess I’ve never baked a single layer cake it’s always 2 – 9″ cakes put together with frosting. Thank you!
Yes, if you want a layered cake you can double the recipe. I also linked to my homemade chocolate cake recipe in the baking tips section, it’s similar to this one but makes a layered cake.
Have tried your chocolate brownies and they were very good with the toffee sauce. Loved it
But today I tried this cup cake recipe they turned out to be light and yummy but it was all crumbling , the cup cake waas not holding together and also the top part was sticky
I wonder what could have gone wrong. Please guide me
Sorry to hear that, they definitely shouldn’t be falling apart. Did you make any adjustments to the recipe?
Cupcakes are out and cooling, and so far smell fantastic. I used natural cocoa in the cake, but was wondering what you prefer for the frosting. Since it doesn’t have baking soda to neutralize it, should I use dutch process instead or natural for the frosting?
Either one would be fine for the frosting! Dutch-process may be just a bit better because it’s not as acidic, but I’ve used natural in the frosting and it tastes great too.
Ur recipes sound amazing
I dont have piping nozzles or bags
r they necessary????
You don’t have to use one. You can just use a spoon or angled spatula to spread the frosting on top of the cupcakes.
Hi I was making these and adding water seemed weird but the batter was still liquid in the oven after 20 minutes
The boiling water is normal in chocolate cupcakes/cakes. Did you double check the measurements or make any adjustments to the recipe? They should be baked by 20 minutes.
Love these cupcakes! Was wondering if doubling the recipe would work out okay or should it be made in 2 seperate batches?
It would be fine to double the recipe!
This is one of the best cake recipes ever, would you have a similar chocolate recipe to this but an egg free version? I have some family
Members who don’t eat egg and would love to try this cake. Is there anything I need to add/change for the eggless recipe?
I haven’t tried an eggless version yet. You may be able to substitute the egg with a flax egg though.
LOVE THESE CUPCAKES! Super! I did it first time and twas perfect!
Btw, Can i use powdered buttermilk? If i can, what is the ratio? Will it not affect the texture of the cupcake?
Tks n rgds
You can use powdered buttermilk, but I would suggest adding water (per the instructions on your container) to make buttermilk, then measuring out 1/2 cup of the liquid.
Thank you so much for the chocolate muffin recipe, will definitely try it for my babies! ?
These are the BEST chocolate cupcakes ever!! So moist, so chocolatey, so delicious. I’ve also had success using this recipe to make a three layer 6-inch cake – equally delightful. Thanks for a home-run recipe!
This was exactly the chocolate cupcake taste and texture I was looking for! Thank you so much for sharing. I do wonder is there a way to make this into a vanilla cupcake? By omitting the cocoa powder and espresso? And changing to all white sugar? I like that this recipe did not use butter.
Hi, Lori! You would likely need to make more adjustments than that. I do have a vanilla cupcake recipe here and a vanilla cake recipe here. They both use butter, but I think butter tastes better in vanilla cupcakes. Hope that helps!
I absolutely love your recipes and I cannot count the amount of times I have used this recipe. We love it! The cupcakes are always moist and delicious 🙂 I live in Australia and I just wanted to check if we are meant to use use caster sugar or white sugar (for granulated sugar). Thanks!
So glad you’re enjoying the recipes, Anita! I always use white sugar in this recipe, but it would be fine to use caster sugar too.
can i add chocolate chips to the batter?
I wouldn’t recommend it for this recipe. I’ve tried it, but the batter is very thin and they just sink straight to the bottom.
Do you have an idea for altitude adjustment? Can’t live without these cupcakes when I’m in the mountains!
I’m not familiar with high altitude baking, but some readers have found this guide helpful!
Hi, I was wondering if I could use sour cream in the chocolate cupcakes instead of buttermilk like your vanilla cupcakes recipe calls for? Every time i make the vanilla ones I get such compliments. Eager to try the chocolate ones!! Thank you for sharing!
I haven’t tried it, but I think it would be okay to use sour cream in place of the buttermilk. They are really delicious with the buttermilk though!
When we went back to the office, my manager bought some cupcakes from a shop and they were great, moist, fluffy, but as usual, too sweet for me.
When I saw this recipe and the ingredients, I was sure those would be as good and it sure didn’t disappoint. I cut down the amount of sugar and used your chocolate cream cheese frosting. It was just perfection and everybody kept complimenting me…
Thanks for the recipe, and plan on making them this week. You mentioned a couple oil options to use that are neutral flavored oils……which do you prefer when making these cupcakes?
I typically use canola or vegetable oil, since it’s what I keep on hand.
I literally use this recipe for all of my chocolate cupcakes. They are amazing. I just did a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter buttercream and they are so delicious. I posted them on my Instagram.