Chocolate cupcakes were one of the first recipes I became obsessed with perfecting.
To me, the ideal chocolate cupcake is moist with a deep chocolate flavor. The recipe also should produce exactly one dozen cupcakes in a standard muffin tin, no more and no less.
The Secret to Moist, Rich Cupcakes
I worked hard, trying a half dozen different versions. My original recipe called for sour cream in the batter, which produced a rich and slightly denser cupcake. But one day, I tried substituting buttermilk and it has now become my go-to.
These cupcakes are just rich enough. They're nicely moist and a little lighter in texture than my sour cream version, yet sturdy enough to hold a generous crown of whatever frosting you choose.
The Best Chocolate Frosting for Cupcakes
I’ve opted to top these cupcakes with a fudgy, dark chocolate frosting. It’s a little thicker than classic buttercream thanks to lots of melted chocolate, but it has a deeper chocolate flavor.
To gild the lily, I like to finish the cupcakes with a shower of chocolate sprinkles on top—my favorite are Dutch dark chocolate sprinkles, like Deruyter brand. They actually taste like chocolate instead of wax! I find them at World Market, online, or even in the international aisle of some grocery stores.
How Far Ahead Can You Make These Cupcakes?
- Frosted Cupcakes: You can store the frosted cupcakes at room temperature for a few days. If your kitchen is warmer than 70°F, or your cupcakes have been out for a while, refrigerate them.
- Unfrosted Cupcakes: Store the unfrosted cupcakes for in an airtight container at room temperature. Frost within 2 days.
- To freeze baked cupcakes without frosting, wrap them individually in plastic and seal in a plastic bag or tub. For the best favor, use within a month.
- Frosting: On its own, the chocolate frosting will keep refrigerated for up to a week, and frozen for up to 2 months. Give the frosting time to come to temperature before frosting the cupcakes.
Swaps & Substitutions
- Do not swap the Dutch processed cocoa powder for any other cocoa powder. Dutch processed is important for both flavor and for the recipe to work properly.
- If you don't have buttermilk, swap in some yogurt or sour cream thinned with a little milk. You can also make a DIY buttermilk substitute by combining a cup of milk with a tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar.
- Try another frosting! Regular vanilla buttercream or cream cheese frosting would be great.
Love Chocolate Cake? Try These Recipes!
Double Chocolate Cupcakes
- For the cupcakes:
- 1 cup (4 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (2 oz) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (4 oz) sugar
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- For the frosting:
- 8 ounces dark chocolate
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 4 to 6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Chocolate sprinkles
Preheat the oven to 350°F:
Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners.
Make the cake batter:
In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, sifted cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar together. In a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, canola oil, eggs, and vanilla. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until just smooth and combined.
Bake the cupcakes:
Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups (each cup will be nearly full). Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and cool completely on a rack before frosting.
Melt the chocolate for the frosting:
Place the chocolate for the frosting in a glass measuring cup and melt in the microwave for 30-second intervals, stirring between each, until completely smooth. Stir in the corn syrup.
Set aside to cool to room temperature (I usually pour it into a wide, shallow bowl to speed up cooling).
Make the frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add 1 1/2 cups of the powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Beat until combined; it may be crumbly, but that’s okay. Beat in 4 tablespoons of the heavy cream and the salt and continue beating until the mixture smooths out.
Beat in the room temperature chocolate and corn syrup into the mixture until smooth and incorporated. If needed, beat in additional powdered sugar and/or heavy cream to get a smooth and spreadable consistency that you like.
Spread the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes using an offset spatula or butter knife, or transfer to a piping bag and pipe. Top with sprinkles if you want.