Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes topped with a chocolate buttercream frosting! These cupcakes are easy to make, incredibly soft, light, and moist.
Have you ever made cupcakes from scratch? A long time ago, I used to think that homemade cupcakes must be hard 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 yourself.
An added bonus? The cupcake batter can all be mixed up in one bowl! Yeah! Because some of you have mentioned to me that you’re short on time or may not have many people living in your home, I’ve also included some notes below the recipe to help you. Like how to make the cupcakes ahead of time, freeze them, and how to even turn this into a 9-inch cake.
So, let’s get started.
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? If you haven’t seen it yet, hop on over and check it out. Spooning and leveling your flour is so important in baking, so you don’t end up with too much flour in your recipe. Too much flour in your recipe can lead to dense cupcakes, so let’s avoid that by spooning and leveling that flour.
Secondly, cocoa powder has a tendency to dry out baked goods especially after a couple days. To avoid that, you’ll be using a few ingredients to help add moisture to these cupcakes. No dry cupcakes anywhere in sight!
You’ll be using a mixture of brown sugar and granulated sugar in this recipe. Why? Brown sugar has more moisture than granulated sugar, which is why it’s perfect to add to recipes whenever you can. For the fat in this cupcake recipe, you’ll be using oil instead of butter. As much as I love using butter in recipes when it comes to something like chocolate cupcakes the oil helps to keep them from drying out. There’s also some buttermilk in this recipe, which like you may have guessed, adds moisture to these cupcakes as well.
The last step in the cupcake recipe is to mix in some boiling water. It may seem like an extra step, but to make it easy here’s what I do. Right before I start baking the cupcakes, I set a small pot of water on the stove to boil. Once I’m finished mixing everything up, it’s ready to go and I just measure out what I need to add to the recipe. Done.
One thing to also note is that the recipe does call for instant espresso powder, which you’ll mix in with the water. I promise that this doesn’t make your cupcakes taste like coffee. Instead, the espresso powder enhances the chocolate flavor and makes them taste even more chocolatey. Seriously, try it.
Here is a link to the espresso powder that I use and love. Espresso powder is great to keep on hand because you can add it to any baked good with chocolate to really enhance the flavor. If you can’t find espresso powder or don’t want to purchase some online, then 1/2 cup of hot coffee will work as well. Or if you don’t want to add any espresso powder/coffee to the recipe, you can simply leave it out and just use the water.
Lastly, the frosting recipe. This may be my favorite frosting ever. It’s incredibly creamy, smooth, and just ridiculously good. The frosting recipe will make quite a bit, so if you like less frosting on your cupcakes feel free to cut the recipe in half. Or just eat the leftover frosting with a spoon. Not that I’ve ever done that or anything.
For the chocolate cupcakes:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup oil (canola or vegetable)
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder optional
For the chocolate frosting:
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder sifted
- 3-4 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
To make the chocolate cupcakes:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. 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 for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake 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, cocoa powder, heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt and mix on medium speed until fully combined, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired.
Chocolate cupcake recipe adapted from Hershey’s
To make a cake:
Spray a 9-inch cake pan well with non-stick cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 10-15 minutes, then remove from the pan and transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. I suggest cutting the frosting recipe in half for a 9″ cake.
To make ahead of time:
Cupcakes may be made 1-2 days in advance. Store cooled cupcakes in an airtight container on the counter or in the refrigerator. 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.
To freeze the chocolate cupcakes:
Allow cupcakes to cool completely, then place into a freezer bag or container, seal it tightly, and transfer to the freezer. To thaw, simply remove the cupcakes from the freezer, place them on the counter, and allow to come to room temperature. Cupcakes should keep in the freezer for 2-3 months.
Want to try a different flavor of frosting on these chocolate cupcakes?
Here are a few more! Just scroll down to the recipe card to find each frosting recipe.
And last, but not least, here’s my favorite Vanilla Cupcake recipe.