Moist and tender with an extra fudgy chocolate flavor – these chocolate cupcakes are incredible. They stay moist for days thanks to a few key, but simple, ingredients. Better still, the entire recipe can be made by hand without the use of an electric mixer. Top them with chocolate frosting for a double dose of chocolate!
**This recipe was published November 9, 2016 and updated February 14, 2023 with new photos, recipe tips and a slightly adapted ingredient list**
Over the past few weeks I’ve made enough chocolate cupcakes to feed a small army, and after diligently testing and retesting each recipe, I can finally say that I’ve found the perfect chocolate cupcake. They’re moist without being too heavy or greasy, have a rich chocolate flavor that isn’t too strong, and a cupcake crumb that’s light and delicate. They have more flavor than any cupcake from a box mix, and they’re almost as easy to make. They’re the perfect complement to a batch of vanilla cupcakes, and this recipe is now, without a doubt, my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe.
Making the Perfect Chocolate Cupcake
These cupcakes are very simple to make, but every ingredient and step has an important purpose. So…. let’s get onto some cupcake science.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour. Plain and simple to provide the cupcake structure.
- ½ cup dutch-processed cocoa powder. I like a rich chocolate flavor, which is why I used dutch-processed as opposed to natural cocoa.
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon baking powder to help the cupcakes rise. I found the combination of both produced the best rise.
- ¼ teaspoon salt to balance out the sweetness.
- ¼ cup vegetable oil. Some cupcake recipes use butter and some use oil. Typically vanilla cupcakes use butter because they require the extra flavor. However, because oil is liquid at room temperature it actually makes cakes moister and stay moist for longer. Since chocolate cupcakes already have lots of flavor from the cocoa, for this recipe we’re using oil to keep them extra moist.
- 1 cup granulated sugar. I often find that bakery cupcakes are too sweet, so it was important to me that these chocolate cupcakes didn’t turn out sickeningly sweet. Also – having too much sugar in your cupcake recipe can also weaken the structure of the cake, and cause the crumb to weaken. I found this was just the right amount to sweeten the cupcakes perfectly, without going overboard.
- 1 large egg for tenderness. Also, when you whisk the eggs into the batter it adds air, therefore, helping the cupcakes to rise.
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract – always a must.
- ½ cup whole milk (or 2%). I know a lot of chocolate cupcakes use buttermilk. But after multiple test and retests – I found it wasn’t necessary in this recipe. They’re incredibly moist and fluffy without the use
- ⅓ cup freshly brewed hot coffee – or boiling water. The coffee/boiling water helps the cocoa powder to bloom. Essentially, this means that the chocolate flavor becomes richer and more flavorful
Because this recipe uses oil instead of butter, it’s a simple “whisk together” type method as opposed to pulling out your electric mixer and creaming together the butter and sugar.
- Start by preheating the oven to 350F (180C) and lining a 12-cavity muffin pan with muffin papers. Because the batter is very thin, you will need to line the pan (if you only grease and flour it, the cupcakes will get stuck).
- You’ll first whisk together the dry ingredients. This ensures that there’s no lumps of cocoa powder and that the baking powder and soda are evenly distributed.
- Then in a separate bowl – whisk together the oil, egg, vanilla extract and milk. I often whisk together everything except the milk first to ensure there aren’t pieces of egg, then whisk in the milk after.
- Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, then pour the wet ingredients into the well. Carefully whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
- When the batter is about 60-70% incorporated, whisk in the hot coffee/boiling water. The batter will seem very thick before whisking in the coffee, but will then become quite thin.
- Then spoon the batter into your lined cupcake pan, filling each ½ full. You’ll end up with about 18-20 cupcakes total. It’s imperative that you only fill the liners ½ full – otherwise the cupcakes can overflow and sink in the middle.
- Then bake in the oven at 350F for 18-22 minutes, or until the tops are slightly firm to the touch and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Important Baking Tips & Tricks
This recipe is very straight forward – but a few small things can make a big difference.
- Cocoa powder can often be very lumpy. Make sure to sift yours (after measuring) if it’s lumpy.
- The milk and eggs should be room temperature before getting started. Take them out of the fridge 30 minutes prior. You can also warm up the eggs more quickly by placing them in a bowl of lukewarm water for 10 minutes. The milk can be microwaved for 10-second intervals at medium powder to warm it up more quickly.
- Only fill your cupcake liners ½ full – they will look very small/empty, but that’s how it should be. The recipe will make about 12 cupcakes, so if you only yield around 9, your liners are too full.
I love topping these cupcakes with creamy chocolate frosting for a double dose of chocolate. They’re equally delicious with chocolate cream cheese frosting for something a little less sweet, vanilla frosting, or even raspberry frosting if you’re feeling a little fancy. I love to pile on the creamy, fluffy chocolate buttercream using a piping bag (I used a 1M tip). If you’d like to frost your cupcakes with a knife in a thin layer, I’ve included the amounts in the recipe notes because you won’t need quite as much.
Moist, flavorful, full of chocolate – these are the most tender chocolate cupcakes you’ll ever try.
Double Chocolate Cupcakes
- 12-cavity muffin pan
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (125 grams) spooned & leveled
- ½ cup cocoa powder (45-grams) I use dutch processed
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup vegetable oil (60 ml)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
- 1 large eggs room temperature
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ cup buttermilk* (120 ml) room temperature
- ⅓ cup coffee (80 ml) freshly brewed, or boiling water
- 1 cup unsalted butter (226 grams) softened to room temperature
- 3.5-4.5 cups powdered sugar (385-495 grams) sifted
- ¾ cup cocoa powder (68 grams) sifted
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3-4 tablespoons whipping cream (45-60 ml) or milk
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees and a 12-cavity muffin pan with muffin papers.
- In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar
- In a separate large bowl whisk together the oil, egg, vanilla extract and milk. When finished, you should no longer see any pieces of egg.
- Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Whisk together.
- Once the batter is about 60-70% mixed, carefully pour in the hot coffee/boiling water and whisk everything together until smooth.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared cupcake pan, filling each about ½ full. You should end up with 11 or 12 cupcakes. If you only get 9 or 10, the cupcakes are too full.
- Bake 1 tray at a time on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 16-20 minutes, or until the tops feel slightly firm to the touch and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Let cool in the pan for 10-20 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling
- In a large bowl using a stand or hand-held electric mixer, beat the butter until fluffy.
- Add in 2 cups powdered sugar, vanilla extract and salt and beat until combined starting with the mixer on a low speed.
- Turn the mixer down to low speed and beat in the cocoa powder. If lumpy, be sure to sift the cocoa first.
- Beat in the rest of the powdered sugar about ½ cup at a time, alternating with 1 tablespoon cream until the desired sweetness and thickness is reach.
- Frost the cupcakes using a piping bag and your favorite cupcake piping tip (I used a 1M) or a flat edge knife. Optionally decorate with chocolate chips or sprinkles.
- Room Temperature Ingredients: Be sure that the egg and milk are at room temperature before getting started for the best results.
- Frosting: If you plan to frost the cupcakes with a knife, you won't need as much frosting. Instead use:
- ½ cup butter
- 2-3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1-3 tablespoons whipping cream
- Make-ahead & Storage: Cupcakes are best if enjoyed the same day they're made. Leftovers keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days, or in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. If you'd like to make the cupcakes the day before, cool fully then store in an airtight container at room temperature. Make the frosting the day of.
- Nutrition: Nutrition information is an estimate only and based on 1 cupcake with frosting, assuming the recipe yields 12 equal cupcakes and all the frosting is used.