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Super Easy, Super Moist Chocolate Cupcakes

Easy to make, unusually moist chocolate cupcakes and no mixer required! No eggs either, the recipe uses a combo of baking soda and vinegar for leavening.

Easy chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing on a platter.
Elise Bauer

Have you ever encountered a chocolate cake recipe that used neither eggs nor butter, but relied on vinegar and baking soda for leavening?

Apparently, the recipe has been around for ages. We first discovered a version of it in a magazine called Cuisine at Home, but you can find other versions at Epicurious and other places online.

The thing about this cake recipe is not only is it incredibly easy to make, with ingredients that you likely already have in your pantry, but it produces a surprisingly moist and delicious cake (and cupcakes).

All without eggs or butter. (There's butter in the frosting I'm using, but we're talking about the cake.) I even tried adding an egg to the recipe and it wasn't nearly as good as the batch without it.

Over the last week I've made several batches of cupcakes following this method, including a couple for my mom's book club. (Waving hi to mom's friends!)

A quick note on how to measure flour for this recipe. Scoop flour into your measuring cup with a spoon until the measuring cup is heaping then level it off with a knife. That should give you perfect cupcake batter every time.

I used a frosting recipe from Hershey's, and instead of loading the cupcakes with frosting, decided instead to just simply drizzle frosting in patterns on the top.

Do what you will with the frosting. I think the cupcakes are perfectly delicious without any frosting at all.

If you want to make an entirely vegan cupcake, use our vegan chocolate frosting to go with the cupcakes!

A platter of moist chocolate cupcakes.
Elise Bauer

Super Easy, Super Moist Chocolate Cupcakes

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings 12 cupcakes
The coffee (and the salt) help intensify the flavor of the chocolate. If you don't have or don't want to use coffee, just skip it and use water instead. If you do use coffee, just use what would be considered regular strength coffee (or slightly weak coffee) in America, not something super concentrated like espresso. If caffeine is an issue, use decaf. If you want to make a cake instead of cupcakes, double the recipe and use two 8-inch round cake pans and cook for 35-40 minutes. Check your olive oil and make sure it is fresh, not rancid. Check your baking soda to make sure it still works (add a little vinegar to a teaspoon, if it bubbles up vigorously, it's fine.)

Ingredients

  • Cupcakes:
  • 1 1/2 cups (188 g) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (23 g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (4 g) (make sure it's fresh!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 g) salt
  • 1 cup brewed coffee (or 1 cup of warm water mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons of espresso powder or instant coffee granules)
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Frosting:
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup (30 g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cup (158 g) powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Method

Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven and prep muffin tin:

    Preheat oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Prepare a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

  2. Whisk dry ingredients:

    In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt until there are no visible clumps (cocoa tends to clump up).

  3. Mix wet ingredients:

    In a separate bowl, mix together the coffee (or water plus coffee granules), vinegar, vanilla extract, and olive oil.

  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients:

    and stir only until they just come together. Do not over-beat! The mixture should be thin and rather lumpy.

  5. Ladle the batter into the cupcake liners:

    filling them about two-thirds of the way full.

  6. Bake:

    Place in oven and bake at 350°F for 18 to 20 minutes, until a bamboo skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

  7. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan:

    for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool on a rack. Once cool, you can eat plain, sprinkle with powdered sugar, or drizzle or coat with frosting.

    Frosting:

    While the cupcakes are cooking, make the frosting. Melt butter in a small saucepan and remove from heat. Stir in the cocoa until smooth. Sprinkle in about a third of the powdered sugar, stir, then sprinkle in about a half of the milk. Keep alternating with the powdered sugar and either milk or vanilla, stirring after each addition, until the frosting is the consistency you want, and smooth. If it's too runny, add more powdered sugar. If too stiff, add a little more milk or vanilla extract.

    To pipe in a decorative pattern, scoop the frosting into the corner of a ziplock freezer bag. Use scissors to cut away 1/4-inch or so from the tip of the corner. Then just squeeze the frosting out of the bag onto the cupcakes in any design you like.