Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

The ultimate chocolate cupcakes with tons of rich chocolate flavor thanks to buttermilk, brown sugar, and a touch of oil. These chocolate cupcakes have a very moist crumb and bake up with a nice little dome that's perfect for a swirl of chocolate buttercream frosting!
↓ Recipe ↓ Video Never Miss A Cake
Total Time: 40 mins
Serves: 24 cupcakes
chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream.

This is the best chocolate cupcake recipe with a creamy mock Swiss meringue chocolate buttercream. This easy cupcake recipe comes together quickly with no special equipment required. Pair it with chocolate buttercream for a chocolate lover, strawberry buttercream for a springtime dessert, or cream cheese frosting for a perfect birthday treat.chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream.

These homemade cupcakes are similar to my famous easy chocolate cake recipe and easy buttercream frosting, but even easier to make! Even my daughter, Avalon could make these cupcakes at 5 years old. The trick is warming your wet ingredients and not over-mixing the batter so that it stays cohesive and doesn’t separate.

Chocolate Cupcake Ingredients

chocolate cupcake ingredients.

Oil – Cocoa powder is very drying so to make your chocolate cupcakes moist, you will need oil. Some recipes use butter (like mine) for added flavor and texture but oil really helps create moist cupcakes.

Warm Buttermilk – Not only does the warm buttermilk help bloom the cocoa powder, it also makes the cupcakes super tender and moist. 

Espresso powder – This is an optional ingredient, but helps make them delicious. It doesn’t make your cupcakes taste like coffee, it just enhances the flavor of the chocolate. I use hot coffee in my chocolate cake recipe, so it has a similar effect without adding extra liquid.

Brown Sugar – Did you know that white sugar is just brown sugar with the moisture removed? It adds a depth of flavor that is delicious, just make sure to sift it to remove any hard lumps. That moisture is called molasses. If you want to add moisture to a recipe, replace half the white sugar with brown sugar.

Cocoa powder – Really any kind of cocoa powder will work for these cupcakes. You can also use dutch-process cocoa powder for a darker color and more intense flavor, or natural cocoa powder for a more milk chocolate flavor.

Chocolate Buttercream Ingredients

chocolate buttercream ingredients

Pasteurized egg whites – Many meringue-based frostings use eggs as a key ingredient. This chocolate buttercream is a mock-Swiss meringue buttercream where you skip the step of heating the eggs with sugar. Pasteurized egg whites are heat treated and are safe to eat without cooking and normally come in a carton. If you only have fresh eggs, I suggest making my chocolate Swiss meringue recipe.

Making Chocolate Cupcakes

  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF and prepare your cupcake pan with paper liners.
  2. For the best results, warm the buttermilk in the microwave (roughly 100ºF), bring the butter to room temperature, and warm the eggs in hot water for 5 minutes. Warm ingredients will create an emulsion and a smoother batter.
  3. Combine the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla together and set it aside.hand pouring vanilla into bowl with buttermilk and oil.
  4. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder in a mixing bowl and set it aside.hand adding cocoa powder to other dry ingredients in a bowl.
  5. Cream together the butter, white sugar and sifted brown sugar in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use the whisk attachment and a hand mixer, but I would mix the rest of the ingredients by hand to avoid overmixing. hand adding brown sugar to stand mixer bowl with butter and sugar.
  6. Add in the eggs one at a time while mixing on low, letting the first one mix in before adding the second. Scrape the bowl to be sure that everything is mixed well.hand adding eggs one at a time to to the stand mixer.
  7. While mixing on low speed, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by 1/3 of the wet ingredients. Alternate two more times until just combined.adding 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the stand mixer bowl.hand adding portion of the buttermilk mixture to the stand mixer. finished chocolate cupcake batter in the stand mixer.
  8. Fill your cupcake liners 1/2 of the way full. This recipe makes about 24 cupcakes.hand using a cupcake scoop to scoop batter into a cupcake liner.
  9. Bake the cupcakes at 350°F for 18-20 minutes until set. Do not overbake.hand placing cupcake pans into oven.
  10. Cool completely on a cooling rack before frosting.2 trays of baked chocolate cupcakes.

Making Chocolate Buttercream

  1. Place the pasteurized egg whites, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder into the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on high for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve the sugar.hand adding pasteurized egg whites to cocoa powder and powdered sugar in a bowl. photo of mixed egg whites, cocoa powder and powdered sugar.
  2. Add the vanilla, salt, and softened butter in small chunks, then whip on high until light and fluffy, about 8-10 minutes. Once it no longer tastes like butter, it’s done.hand adding chunks of softened butter to the stand mixer.
  3. If your buttercream looks curdled, remove about 1 cup of buttercream and melt it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds until it is barely melted. Pour it back into the whipping buttercream to bring it all together.hand pouring heated buttercream portion back into stand mixing bowl.
  4. Switch to the paddle attachment and mix on low for about 10 minutes to remove the air bubbles and create super smooth buttercream. This is optional but will make it extra creamy.chocolate buttercream mixing in a stand mixer.
  5. Frost the cupcakes as desired. I used a 2F piping tip and a piping bag for mine.piping frosting onto a chocolate cupcake.

FAQ

What makes a cupcake moist?

Oil is important for making moist chocolate cupcakes, but too much oil in a recipe will cause the wrappers to peel away from the cupcake. Some people add sour cream for moisture, but I prefer buttermilk for that moisture and acidity.

How do you make chocolate cupcakes fluffy?

If you want to make sure your cupcakes are very fluffy, you want to cream the butter and sugar together really well. I have had a lot of really delicious cupcake recipes that come together in one bowl with no creaming required but the texture is fudgy rather than fluffy. 

How do you make a chocolate cupcake recipe with a dome? 

I used to think it was a problem with the recipe that I was using but the secret to a perfectly domed cupcake is actually how full you fill the cupcake liner. You only need to fill the cupcake liner 1/2 to 2/3 full. If you over-fill then your batter will rise up and then collapse over the edge. 

What is the best way to fill cupcake liners?

You can use a medium cookie scoop to get your batter in your liners or you can even put your pan on a scale and pipe your batter into the liners for the ultimate accuracy!

bite taken out of a chocolate cupcake

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Did You Make This Recipe?Leave a rating and tell me how it went!
chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream.

Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

The ultimate chocolate cupcakes with tons of rich chocolate flavor thanks to buttermilk, brown sugar, and a touch of oil. These chocolate cupcakes have a very moist crumb and bake up with a nice little dome that's perfect for a swirl of chocolate buttercream frosting!
4.86 from 61 votes
Print Rate Never Miss A Cake
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 40 mins
Serves: 24 cupcakes
Calories: 373kcal

Ingredients

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 5 ounces (142 g) unsalted butter softened (1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp)
  • 6 ounces (170 g) granulated sugar (1 cup)
  • 4 ounces (113 g) brown sugar sifted (1/2 cup)
  • 2 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces (227 g) all-purpose flour (1 3/4 cup)
  • 2 ounces (57 g) cocoa powder dutched or natural (1/2 cup)
  • 1 Tablespoon espresso powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces (284 g) buttermilk warm (1 1/4 cup)
  • 2 ounces (57 g) vegetable oil (1/4 cup)

For the chocolate frosting

  • 4 ounces (113 g) pasteurized egg whites (1/2 cup)
  • 16 ounces (454 g) powdered sugar (2 cups)
  • 3 ounces (85 g) cocoa powder sifted (1/3 cup)
  • 16 ounces (454 g) unsalted butter softened (2 cups)
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Equipment

  • Mixer with whisk and paddle attachment (stand or handheld)

Instructions

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • Preheat your oven to 350ºF and prepare your cupcake pan with paper liners.
  • For the best results, warm the buttermilk in the microwave (roughly 100ºF), bring the butter to room temperature, and warm the eggs in hot water for 5 minutes. Warm ingredients will create an emulsion and a smoother batter.
  • Combine the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla together and set it aside.
  • Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder in a mixing bowl and set it aside.
  • Cream together the butter, white sugar and sifted brown sugar in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can use the whisk attachment and a hand mixer, but I would mix the rest of the ingredients by hand to avoid overmixing. 
  • Add in the eggs one at a time while mixing on low, letting the first one mix in before adding the second. Scrape the bowl to be sure that everything is mixed well.
  • While mixing on low speed, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by 1/3 of the wet ingredients. Alternate two more times until just combined.
  • Fill your cupcake liners 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full. This recipe makes about 24 cupcakes.
  • Bake the cupcakes at 350°F for 18-20 minutes until set. Do not over bake.
  • Cool completely on a cooling rack before frosting.

Easy Chocolate Buttercream

  • Place the pasteurized egg whites, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder into the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on high for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve the sugar.
  • Add the vanilla, salt, and softened butter in small chunks, then whip on high until light and fluffy, about 8-10 minutes. Once it no longer tastes like butter, it's done.
  • If your buttercream looks curdled, remove about 1 cup of buttercream and melt it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds until it is barely melted. Pour it back into the whipping buttercream to bring it all together.
  • Switch to the paddle attachment and mix on low for about 10 minutes to remove the air bubbles and create super smooth buttercream. This is optional but will make it extra creamy.
  • Frost the cupcakes as desired. I used a 2F piping tip and a piping bag for mine.

Notes

  1. For the best rise, fill your liners 2/3 with cupcake batter or 1 1/2 ounces per cupcake
  2. Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature before mixing your batter (milk, butter, eggs). 
  3. Use clear vanilla extract for that “classic grocery store cake” flavor. Use good quality vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste, or even a vanilla bean for true vanilla flavor. One vanilla bean = 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. 
  4. Preheat your oven to 350ºF for 30 minutes before baking to give your cupcakes a good rise and set the dome. 
  5. Baked cupcakes can be frozen for up to 6 months.
  6. Buttermilk is essential to this recipe because it adds flavor and moisture. If you have whole milk and white vinegar or lemons, you can make your own buttermilk substitute.
  7. If you don’t have a paddle attachment, mix by hand with a spatula to avoid overmixing. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupcake | Calories: 373kcal (19%) | Carbohydrates: 45g (15%) | Protein: 4g (8%) | Fat: 22g (34%) | Saturated Fat: 14g (70%) | Cholesterol: 72mg (24%) | Sodium: 196mg (8%) | Potassium: 161mg (5%) | Fiber: 2g (8%) | Sugar: 33g (37%) | Vitamin A: 706IU (14%) | Calcium: 44mg (4%) | Iron: 1mg (6%)
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25 comments on “Best Chocolate Cupcake Recipe (Super Moist)

  1. Hey love thanks for the recipe but do u use low fat buttermilk or whole because I can’t find while buttermilk anywhere!

  2. Can you use instant coffee instead of espresso powder?

  3. 5 stars
    Baking a cake for my niece for her bday but she is allergic to raw egg. whats the replacement for egg white in the chocolate buttercream. Please can u suggest. Thank u ?

    1. There isn’t a replacement for this recipe, you could make chocolate ganache or you could make American buttercream and add in 1/4 cup sifted cocoa powder

  4. 5 stars
    Best Chocolate Cupcakes…EVER. All of the other chocolate cupcake recipes I’ve tried have had such a sticky texture, but not these, which is EXACTLY what I was looking for. So light and fluffy, it was the perfect bakery cupcake. Your vanilla cupcakes were awesome, so I knew these would be too. Thanks so much!!!!!

  5. I LOVE these cupcakes! Best chocolate cupcakes ever!! I often get orders for a dozen, can I easily half this recipe and be safe?

    Thanks!!!

  6. Oh, freezing them would be nice so they are on hand! Do you need to wrap the cupcakes individually in plastic wrap or anything to keep them moist? And how/when do you need to thaw them for use?

    1. I would wrap individually in plastic wrap and then into a freezer bag. No need to defrost in a certain way. Just take them out of the bag and leave at room temperature.

  7. 5 stars
    These cupcakes are so so good. Truly the BEST chocolate cupcakes ever. Thank you Liz.

  8. Hands down the best chocolate cupcakes! thank you for another good recipe.

  9. Can I substitute pasteurized egg whites for raw egg whites? Thanks.

  10. What can be used as an alternative to buttermilk ?

  11. Can I double the recipe to make double the serving? Or a different recipe for doubling / triple ?

  12. If I need to use this recipe to bake a cake how long should I bake it?

    1. I would recommend using my easy chocolate cake or death by chocolate cake recipe instead 🙂

    1. It’s very similar to my easy chocolate cake, so I’d use that recipe instead 🙂 Or check out my death by chocolate cake

  13. 5 stars
    These were incredible! For years I’d used an old one bowl recipe from Martha Stewart, but lately had found it to create sunken cupcakes almost half the time. I ended up shopping around and still wasn’t quite satisfied. I tried yours and will not be looking anywhere else. It’s easy to put together and creates such a fudgy and soft cupcake without the common crisp tops or sunken centers. Thanks Liz!

  14. 5 stars
    Wow! I made these for my husband’s work team. He and I ate a couple of cupcakes before I delivered them to his work . . . you know, to test and make sure everything turned out well. Oh my gosh, we almost decided to keep them all at home! They are so good! I went over the top and filled the cupcakes with fudge and iced them with vanilla buttercream. But the chocolate cake part itself really, ahem, takes the cake. I even had them refrigerated and they were still moist and yummy. I’ll be baking those again soon. 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.

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