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.