Moist and tender with an extra fudgy chocolate flavor – these chocolate cupcakes are incredible. They’re made with oil and buttermilk to make them soft and fluffy, and cocoa powder creates the perfect chocolate flavor. Top them with chocolate frosting for a double dose of chocolate!
**This recipe was published November 9, 2016 and updated March 1, 2020 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.
- ⅔ cup dutch-processed cocoa powder. I like a rich chocolate flavor, which is why I used dutch-processed.
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder and ¾ teaspoon baking soda to help the cupcakes rise. I found the combination of both helped the cupcakes rise the best.
- ¼ teaspoon salt to balance out the chocolate flavor.
- ½ 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. So since chocolate cupcakes already have lots of flavor from the cocoa, for this recipe we’re using oil to keep them extra moist.
- 1 ½ cups white sugar. I often find that bakery cupcakes are too sweet, so it was important to me that that didn’t happen here. 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.
- 3 large eggs add tenderness. Also, when you beat the eggs into the batter it adds air, therefore, helping the cupcakes to rise.
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract – always a must.
- ¾ cup buttermilk. I love using buttermilk because it creates a softer, fluffier cupcake crumb. If you don’t have any on hand – you can make your own with vinegar (or lemon juice) and milk. I’ve included the details in the recipe notes.
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.
- 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, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and buttermilk. I often whisk together everything except the buttermilk first to ensure I’ve removed any lumps of sugar, then whisk in the buttermilk after.
- Carefully whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients about ½ at a time. I simply do it ½ at a time to avoid the dry ingredients spilling.
- 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 buttermilk 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 18-20 cupcakes, so if you only yield around 12 or 14 your liners are too full.
- Always bake 1 tray at a time on the middle rack of the oven. This ensures even baking – without one tray getting burned on the bottom and the other tray burned on top.
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
- 1 cup all-purpose flour spooned & leveled
- ⅔ cup cocoa powder I use dutch processed
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¾ cup buttermilk* room temperature
- 1 ¼ cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 4-5 cups powdered sugar sifted
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder sifted
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3-4 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
- Preheat the oven to 365F degrees and line 2 muffin pans with muffin papers. You'll end up with about 18-20 cupcakes total.
- In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a separate large bowl using a stand mixer or whisk, whisk together the oil, sugar, vanilla extract and eggs until no lumps remain. Whisk in the buttermilk.
- Whisk in the dry ingredients about ½ at a time until smooth.
- Spoon the batter into your lined muffin papers, filling each about ½ full. You should end up with 18-20 cupcakes total.
- 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.
- Turn the mixer down to low speed and beat in the cocoa powder.
- 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.
- If you don't have buttermilk, add 1 and ½ teaspoons distilled vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup and fill to the ¾ cup line with 1%, 2% or whole milk. Allow to sit for 5 minutes for the milk to sour.
- If you plan to frost the cupcakes with a knife, you won't need as much frosting. Instead use: ¾ cup butter, 3-4 cups powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ cup cocoa powder. The process is the same.
- 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 information is based on 1 cupake with frosting, with the recipe yielding 20 cupcakes total.