The Best Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe

The Best Chocolate Cupcakes

February 1st, 2023
4.95 from 410 votes
4.95 from 410 votes

After tons of testing and tweaking, I've finally discovered the BEST Chocolate Cupcake recipe! Truly! Keep reading for lots of recipe tips, insights into the science of baking, and the full printable recipe.

Yield: 12 to 15 cupcakes

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook: 25 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Chocolate overload in the best possible way!
Texture: The cupcakes are incredibly moist and tender without being too delicate or crumbly. And the frosting is just oh so light and creamy.
Ease: The cupcakes themselves are super simple and easy, but the frosting is more involved. It balances out in the end!
Appearance: Gorgeous.
Pros: The BEST cupcakes EVER!
Cons: None.
I make this again? 100% definitely!!

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These cupcakes are seriously the BEST Chocolate Cupcakes you’ll ever try!

ultimate chocolate cupcake recipe with delicious buttercream, sliced in half to show how MOIST it is!

These Chocolate Cupcakes were such a frustrating recipe to perfect.

If you follow me at all, then you know I love to utilize the science of baking to tweak and test recipes until I think they’re the ULTIMATE version of that recipe.

I’ve done it with my Ultimate Brownies and Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies, so it was about time I embarked on another recipe.

What better to perfect than Chocolate Cupcakes?! It took about 5 straight batches over a couple days, after previous casual tests over the months, to finally nail the recipe.

close up of chocolate frosting and chocolate sprinkles on a chocolate cupcake

I hope you love it as much as I do! It’s perfectly moist and tender. Not so moist that it collapses under the weight of frosting, and not so tender that it crumbles while eating.

Plus, they have tooooons of chocolate flavor. There are three kinds of chocolate in here in total!

This recipe underwent extensive testing to perfect. Below is a complete explanation of every major element in case you want to learn more about the science and process behind all of it.

I also wrote an entire post about How to Make Perfect Cupcakes HERE if you want to learn more!

Chef Tessa Arias piping chocolate frosting onto homemade chocolate cupcakes

How to Make the BEST Chocolate Cupcakes

The Best Chocolate to Use for Chocolate Cupcakes

We can’t make stellar homemade chocolate cupcakes without first considering the chocolate! The cupcakes themselves use a whole 5 ounces of bittersweet chocolate AND Dutch-process cocoa powder, for as much chocolate flavor as possible. Make sure to use freshly chopped baking chocolate and not chocolate chips, which don’t melt down as smoothly.

Do I Have to Use Dutch Process Cocoa Powder?

  • I do recommend you stick with the Dutch-process cocoa as it actually works differently on a chemical level compared to regular natural cocoa.
  • You can find it at many gourmet food stores, like Whole Foods, Sur la Table, and Williams-Sonoma, and also online via Amazon.
  • One of the most surprising parts about Dutch Process Cocoa is that it almost always contains more cocoa butter (fat!) than your typical grocery store cocoa powder.
  • This means more moisture, richness, and chocolate flavor!
  • Learn more about cocoa powder + fat content here.
  • If you must use regular unsweetened cocoa powder in this recipe, then omit the vinegar.
  • Your cupcakes may be a little more dry if using something like Hershey’s or Nestle.
  • You can learn more about the differences between cocoa powders here.

comparison of dutch process vs natural cocoa powder

What is the Secret to Super MOIST Chocolate Cupcakes?

  1. This recipe calls for vegetable oil instead of melted butter. I went back and forth on this for a bit and wound up choosing the oil because it creates an ultra-moist texture and an open, slightly spongy crumb, which is perfect for chocolate cupcakes. For more details on how these two fats affect tenderness, flavor, and texture, check out my Butter vs. Oil in Baking article.
  2. Since oil is liquid at room temperature, it gives a better sensation of moistness than butter does.
  3. Be sure to also use full-fat ingredients and don’t reduce the sugar in this recipe. Sugar actually helps contribute to moistness! Learn more about the role sugar plays in baking here
  4. Lastly, be sure not to accidentally over-measure your flour and cocoa powder. Spoon both ingredients into their measuring cups then level off the excess with a knife. Or better yet, use a digital kitchen scale. Check out my How to Measure Flour article for a step-by-step on how to accurately measure your dry ingredients.

    homemade chocolate cupcake in a white cupcake liner, before being frosted

    Hot Water and Espresso Powder in Chocolate Cupcakes

    • If you bake chocolate cakes or cupcakes a lot, you’ve probably seen quite a few recipes that utilize hot water or even hot coffee.
    • This helps to dissolve and ‘bloom’ the cocoa powder to bring out as much flavor with as few cocoa lumps as possible.
    • In my Best Chocolate Cupcake recipe, I use a combination of hot water and instant espresso powder.
    • The espresso simply enhances the chocolate flavor without actually being perceptible.

    Do I Have to Use Espresso Powder?

    Alternatively, you could use hot coffee for the same effect. Instant coffee and water will also work. Or you can omit it altogether if you’d prefer.


    Most of my initial recipe tests used only granulated sugar for the cupcakes. Then, I thought I’d try to add in a bit of brown sugar. The resulting chocolate cupcakes were flavorful, moist, and slightly chewy. Perfect!


    The more whole eggs a cake recipe has, the richer it’ll be. I repeated one of my favorite baking tricks and added in an egg yolk. It works beautifully for brownies and cookies, so why not chocolate cupcakes? It adds more richness, chewiness, and structure so the cupcake can stand up to a generous or heavy frosting.

    Is There an Egg Substitute For Chocolate Cupcakes?

    I have yet to find an amazing egg substitute for this recipe. My friend Gemma from Bigger Bolder Baking has an excellent resource on egg substitutes.


    This is where I encountered the most frustration! When I used both baking soda and baking powder, the cupcakes rose to a beautiful height while baking but then fell and collapsed slightly as they cooled. Bummer. That was too much leavener.

    I went back to only baking soda, which is more effective per teaspoon than baking powder, but had to add vinegar to the recipe. Why? Because there wasn’t much acid for the baking soda to react with originally. Dutch-process cocoa powder has been neutralized of its acid, so it was only the sour cream and the small amount of brown sugar. For tall and light cupcakes, we need enough leavening, so baking soda + vinegar did the trick. This is why you omit the vinegar if you’re using natural cocoa powder.


    I tried testing with bread flour after seeing a few ‘ultimate’ recipes elsewhere that used it, but found that all-purpose worked just as well. Since all-purpose flour is more readily available, I stuck with that to make things easiest for you.

    Sour Cream

    I find that sour cream adds such a lovely richness and balance of flavor to cupcakes, so I just had to include it here. I think it definitely works best, but full-fat plain yogurt also makes a fine alternative in chocolate cupcakes.

    two photos, one of melted chocolate, cocoa powder and espresso powder, ready to be combined; and the other photo after mixing til smooth, and now ready to be used in the batter

    The Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

    • When I originally published this recipe, it used the more difficult Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream as the frosting.
    • Although delicious, it’s more advanced and requires more time and special equipment.
    • In the interest of making this recipe easier but equally as delicious, I swapped in an American-style chocolate buttercream that’s made extra special with two additions.
    • The frosting contains cooled chocolate ganache for extra chocolate flavor and fudgy richness.
    • For an extra smooth and rich frosting, opt for organic powdered sugar and high-fat cocoa powder.
    • The full explanation for both is found here.
    • This frosting uses melted chocolate for the most intense and pure chocolate flavor possible. I like to use semisweet, but feel free to use milk or bittersweet chocolate instead. It’s totally up to you! 

    My Favorite Cupcake Tools:

    • Cupcake liners: These ones are my favorite for cupcakes that don’t stick to the liner.
    • Piping tip: I used the Ateco #828 piping tip for swirling the chocolate frosting on these cupcakes. Any large open star tip will work!
    • Piping bags: I love these ones.

    Can I Make a Layer Cake with This Recipe?

    I have my Best Chocolate Cake recipe here that I highly recommend you check out! It’s very similar to this recipe. You can also check out my guide for How to Convert Cupcakes Into Cake (and vice versa!).

    How to Store Chocolate Cupcakes

    Cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.

    Can You Freeze Chocolate Cupcakes?

    • If storing for longer than a week, wrap unfrosted cupcakes individually in plastic wrap (this prevents freezer burn and taste transference).
    • Place cupcakes inside a freezer bag on a shelf in your freezer where they won’t get smashed.
    • Freeze for up to 3 months.
    • Unwrap the cupcakes and allow them to defrost at room temperature for about 1 to 2 hours.
    • More details on how to freeze and make desserts ahead of time in my *free* Make Ahead Baking Guide.

    best ever chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting on a white background

    More Chocolate Cupcakes Recipes:

    More Frosting Recipes:

    4.95 from 410 votes

    How to make
    Best Chocolate Cupcakes

    Yield: 12 to 15 cupcakes
    Prep Time: 30 minutes
    Cook Time: 25 minutes
    Total Time: 55 minutes
    After tons of testing and tweaking, I've finally discovered the BEST Chocolate Cupcake recipe! Truly! Keep reading for lots of recipe tips, insights into the science of baking, and the full printable recipe.


    For the cupcakes:

    • 5 ounces (142 grams) bittersweet baking chocolate, finely chopped
    • 1/3 cup (28 grams) Dutch-process cocoa
    • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
    • 1/2 cup boiling water
    • 3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup (100 grams) packed light brown sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 cup (113 grams) sour cream (or plain full fat yogurt), at room temperature
    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
    • 2 large eggs plus one egg yolk, at room temperature
    • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    For the frosting:

    • 1/2 cup cold heavy whipping cream
    • 4 ounces (113 grams) finely chopped semisweet chocolate (don't use chocolate chips)
    • 3 sticks (340 grams) unsalted butter, at a cool room temperature
    • 2 cups (250 grams) powdered sugar, sifted (preferably organic*)
    • 1 cup (85 grams) Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt


    Make the cupcakes:

    1. In a medium heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate, cocoa powder, and espresso powder. Pour hot water over mixture. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk mixture gently until smooth, then set aside to cool.

    2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

    3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, salt, and baking soda.

    4. Whisk sour cream, oil, eggs, egg yolk, vinegar, and vanilla into the cooled chocolate mixture until smooth, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as you mix. Stir in the flour mixture until smooth, being careful not to overmix.

    5. Using a spring-loaded scoop, divide the batter evenly among prepared muffin cups until 3/4 full. Bake until cupcakes are set and firm to the touch, about 17 to 18 minutes.

    6. Let cupcakes cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan to cool completely, about 1 hour. Cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.

    Make the frosting:

    1. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let stand for a few minutes before stirring until smooth. Set aside and cool to approximately 75°F or until thickened but still pourable.

    2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter, powdered sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and salt. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase the speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes, or until very well blended, scraping down the bowl as needed.

    3. Reduce speed to medium-low and add the cooled chocolate cream mixture. Continue beating until the frosting has lightened in color and texture, about 2 minutes more, scraping down the bowl as needed.

    4. Frosting can be made 1 day ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Warm frosting in the microwave for 5 to 10 seconds and stir until creamy again before frosting cupcakes.

    5. Frosting can also be transferred to a ziptop bag and frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost in the fridge overnight then rewhip in the stand mixer until light and smooth.

    Recipe Video

    Recipe Notes

    Cupcake yield will depend on the size of your muffin tin cavities. If they’re smaller, you may need two pans to make 15 total cupcakes. You can use 1/2 cup hot strongly brewed coffee in place of the espresso powder + hot water. If using natural cocoa powder, omit the vinegar. For the frosting, opt for organic powdered sugar made with tapioca starch, such as Wholesome, instead of cornstarch, for a smoother silkier texture.
    Course : Dessert
    Cuisine : American
    Keyword : birthday, chocolate cupcakes, chocolate frosting, cupcakes

    This recipe was originally published in 2016 and updated to make the cupcakes more moist and tender, with an easier frosting. New photos by Ashley McLaughlin.

    Science of Baking Articles You’ll Love:

    Tessa Arias
    Author: Tessa Arias

    I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

    Tessa Arias

    About Tessa...

    I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

    Find Tessa on  

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    Recipe Rating

    1. #
      Rose — November 14, 2023 at 10:55 am

      Any tips on doubling this recipe? Do I need to make any adjustments?

      • #
        Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — November 14, 2023 at 2:25 pm

        Hi Rose! No adjustments needed – simply double every ingredient! Let us know what you think of these cupcakes once you have given them a try! 🙂

    2. #
      Heide — November 13, 2023 at 8:38 am

      How do you print your recipes? When I’m baking it’s too difficult to scroll up/down and I’m always losing my place. Thanks.

      • #
        Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — November 13, 2023 at 8:57 am

        Hi Heide! I’m sorry to hear that you’re having trouble printing this recipe. Up the very top, right below the recipe name and little short explanation about the recipe, you should see a little round printer icon. Simply click that to bring up a printer-friendly version of the recipe, and print from there! For your convenience, I have also included a direct link to this printable version here 🙂 Happy baking!

        • #
          Heide — November 13, 2023 at 10:21 am

          Thank you so much I found it. I think the pop-ups were blocking it. Very excited to try out the chocolate cupcakes.

    3. #
      Haley — November 5, 2023 at 6:52 am

      I made these last night and they didn’t turn out. So sad!!! The batter was delicious though so I’ll try again. I think I may have overfilled the liners because they overflowed and never cooked. They were still completely gooey after 17 minutes. I live in Denver so I don’t know if the altitude affects the baking time? My plan is to fill them less and bake them for a bit longer next time. Please let me know if you have any advice/guidance!!!

    4. #
      Jade — October 15, 2023 at 4:08 pm

      omg!!! so moist and yummy!! I wrap the ones I couldn’t finish and froze them in a airtight container. 3 wks later they still taste awesome and moist once defrosted. thank you for a wonderful recipe!!

    5. #
      Heaven — October 1, 2023 at 5:16 pm

      Excellent flavor, not a fan of a texture

    6. #
      Patty Lamb — September 19, 2023 at 4:51 pm

      they were delicious but a tiny bit dry. I weighed all ingredients. would it be OK to add more oil? I’m thinking my coco powder absorbed more liquid.

      • #
        Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — September 20, 2023 at 8:04 am

        Hi Patty! Glad to hear that you enjoyed the flavor of these cupcakes! Feel free to experiment, but adding extra oil will change the ratio of ingredients and could alter the texture of your cupcakes – and not necessarily positively! Before altering the ingredient ratios, I’d recommend double checking that your oven is baking correctly. Did you know that most oven temperatures are not accurate? Personally, my brand-new oven runs 10°F cold, and my previous oven ran 20°F hot! Check out Tessa’s article on ovens here, and consider buying an oven thermometer to verify that your oven temp is accurate. They’re inexpensive and are definitely worth the small investment! Also, I recommend checking out Tessa’s article on cocoa powders here – if your suspicion is correct and your cocoa powder absorb too much liquid, maybe consider one of Tessa’s recommended high-fat cocoa powders! I hope this helped, Patty, and I hope you’ll give these cupcakes another try! Happy baking 🙂

    7. #
      Josey — September 18, 2023 at 3:59 pm

      i only have non fat greek yogurt. Could I sub buttermilk?

      • #
        Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — September 20, 2023 at 7:43 am

        Hi Josey! We haven’t tried that, and it may change the consistency of your cupcakes, but feel free to experiment and let us know how it goes!

    8. #
      Sabrina — September 15, 2023 at 2:14 pm

      The best cupcakes recipe ever!

    9. #
      Madhura — September 10, 2023 at 8:09 am

      I would like to try this but I want to make only 6 cupcakes. So how should I divide the eggs in half.. recipe calls for 2 eggs and 1 yolk

      • #
        Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — September 11, 2023 at 8:57 am

        Hi Madhura! Sure, you can make half this recipe! Simply divide all ingredients in half. To measure half an egg yolk, separate your egg, whisk your yolk a little to break it up, and then measure out 1 Tablespoon. Alternatively, you can make the full recipe and freeze the cupcakes you don’t need right now – they freeze very well! Instructions for this are in the pink tip box, above the recipe. Happy baking!

    10. #
      April — September 3, 2023 at 2:37 pm

      I’ve made these twice and they are always THE hit of the show. The cake batter is so moist and delicious and isn’t crumbly. The frosting is to die for! I appreciate the attention to detail she gives and it definitely makes a difference to weigh out ingredients and not to mix too much. This is the PERFECT chocolate cupcake!

    11. #
      Correy — September 1, 2023 at 10:39 am

      I have been making these cupcakes for three weeks in a row. I’ve given them to friends and family and they all say that they’re the best cupcakes they’ve ever had. Thank you for the recipe I’m addicted!

      • #
        Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — September 1, 2023 at 12:22 pm

        Woohoo! So thrilled to hear that, Correy!! Thanks so much for your comment 🙂

    12. #
      Tressa — August 20, 2023 at 8:32 am

      This is absolutely my go-to recipe for chocolate cakes & cupcakes!
      I’m not a big cake fan, but I love this recipe as does everyone I make it for.

      Well done!

    13. #
      Sharona — August 14, 2023 at 1:15 pm

      i loved it. The cupcakes are delicious. I made them in the Netherlands and I often find the American recipes very powerful, but these cupcakes are light, soft and moist. Definitely the best chocolate cupcakes I’ve ever made. I doubted whether to add the espresso powder but definitely the best decision. They are so soft that I doubted whether they were baked properly, but they are really tasty.

    14. #
      Nina — August 3, 2023 at 2:53 pm

      This is the best chocolate cupcake recipe i’ve tried! It’s so delicious and they are always a hit!! Just wondering, would I be able to fold in oreos? or would that effect the baking? Thank you!!

      • #
        Emily — August 4, 2023 at 6:55 am

        Hi Nina! Glad you enjoyed this recipe 🙂 We haven’t tried this recipe with Oreos, so I can’t say for sure. Please let us know how it goes if you give it a try!

    15. #
      Sarah — July 27, 2023 at 3:18 pm

      What happened to the video for this recipe?

      • #
        Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — July 28, 2023 at 7:24 am

        Hi Sarah! It’s still there 🙂 It’s at the bottom of the recipe card. You can click ‘watch video’ at the top of the post, or just scroll down to the bottom of the actual recipe to watch the video. Enjoy!

    16. #
      Monica — July 4, 2023 at 7:09 pm

      Oh my goodness! I just made the cupcakes for the 4th and they’re absolutely delicious. Super moist. Grab a few napkins because these are oh so delicious and chocolately.

    17. #
      Karen — July 4, 2023 at 2:06 pm

      Delicious in every way. Perfect icing. Perfect crumb. Thank you.

    18. #
      Keely — July 3, 2023 at 9:35 am

      These really are the best. I love them. Even my skeptical dad who stays away from cupcakes had one and raved about it! I’ve made them several times and this time wanted to do mini cupcakes-how do you suggest adjusting the baking time? Thank you so much for great recipes! The browned butter toffee chocolate chip cookies are also a favorite. Yum!

    19. #
      LO — July 2, 2023 at 7:06 am

      trying to get the perfect chocolate cake for over 8 months now. This is it, it’s incredible, thank you so much. I didn’t have dutch chocolate only Herseys cacao. why should I leave out the vinegar, I didn’t because I read the blog later. do you have a desert cookbook?

    20. # — June 23, 2023 at 6:46 am

      Hi i just made this and this is the best cup cake i ever made!! Left in room temp not covering it for a day and its still moise! Im just wondering if i can use it recipe for regular cake???

    21. #
      Yogi — June 22, 2023 at 3:51 pm

      Mind BLOWN!! Labor intensive & special ingredients, but worth it! THANK YOU

    22. #
      Karla — April 17, 2023 at 1:08 pm

      Literally the BEST chocolate cupcakes I have ever made. Talk about “death by chocolate.” Wow.

      The cake is fantastic — soft, but not flimsy, not dry in the least (I dislike the ‘m” word!), and super chocolatey. The frosting is silky smooth and so rich. I doubled the recipe and made 24 gorgeous cupcakes. Because of this, I doubled the frosting recipe but truly did not need to. I have almost half left over.

      Thank you for a wonderful recipe. It will be my new go-to for chocoholics.

    23. #
      Sharon — March 27, 2023 at 10:26 am

      Wow!!! Your cupcake recipe sounds wonderful, and now I want to try it. Question for you. What causes a cupcake liner to separate from the cake? I recently made cupcakes from a recipe that I found online. It never said how to cool them, and so I decided to cool them in the tins for 5 minutes before removing from the tins to completely cool on a cooling rack. It was almost immediately upon coming out of the oven that I started to see the separation. Ugh. Thank you in advance!!! Sharon

      • #
        Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — March 29, 2023 at 11:06 am

        Hi Sharon! I would recommend trying different cupcake liners. High-quality liners shouldn’t separate from the cupcake like that, nor should they be difficult to remove! These are Tessa’s favorite cupcake liners. Tessa also recommends that you allow the cupcakes to cool just for a few minutes in the pan (10 minutes or so), then remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling, for best results. I hope that helps! Happy baking 🙂

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