Meet the best chocolate cupcakes you will ever have!
WINNER WINNER WINNER! Search no more, you have created the Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake! These were hands-down the BEST chocolate cupcakes I have ever tasted, let alone baked myself. I am a sucker for cupcake bakeries and I honestly don’t believe any of the cupcakes I have paid $5 a piece for come even close to these.
That was a quote from Amy Hendricks, one of the Chocolate Cupcake Recipe Cupcake Project Explorers (my team of 50 test bakers that helped perfect the chocolate cupcake recipe by baking seven rounds of cupcakes and providing feedback).
The Best Chocolate Cupcakes
You should know, that just like when we developed my vanilla cupcakes, the Explorers did not go easy on me. When I sent them the first recipe, I was sure that it would be the best chocolate cupcake recipe.
It only got a 25% approval rating – ouch! I went back to the mixing bowl and came up with a second recipe for the Explorers to try.
“Surely, this will be the one,” I thought. It took 7 rounds of Explorer testing and a total of 69 different chocolate cupcake recipes baked by me before we found the best chocolate cupcake recipe.
I learned that, for the most part, the Explorers wanted the best chocolate cupcake to be moist, light and fluffy (not brownie-like), and with an intense chocolate flavor. It was a hard balance to find.
As I made the cupcakes lighter, they tended to become less chocolatey; packing in cocoa powder made the cupcakes too heavy. It took almost a year of experimentation to nail down the perfect combination of ingredients.
Then, there was the question of the chocolate itself. Some Explorers preferred milk chocolate, while others liked deep, dark chocolate, and the rest liked everything in between.
How could I please everyone? I almost gave up – more than once.
The recipe that I created for round 7 (the one that you read the quote about above) took all of the Explorers’ feedback into play. I created chocolate cupcakes where the cake was moist and light with an unmistakable chocolate flavor.
They got an approval of 63%. If that sounds low, consider that more than half of all tasters not only thought that the chocolate cupcake recipe was good, but also thought that it was the best chocolate cupcake recipe they have ever tasted.
It’s a number that I’m extremely proud of.
How to Make Cupcakes Moist
As with my vanilla cupcakes recipe, I found that the best way to create moist chocolate cupcakes is to use a mix of butter and oil.
I don’t like using only oil because I love the taste of butter, but you need the oil to create a very moist cake.
I also use sour cream in my chocolate cupcakes which adds more moisture and just a touch of tang. If you don’t have sour cream, you can also use yogurt. I did a ton of testing on substituting yogurt for sour cream and found that it didn’t make a difference in the end result.
Is it Better to Use Cocoa Powder or Melted Chocolate in Chocolate Cupcakes?
After a year of experimentation, I found that the best chocolate flavor comes from a combination of cocoa powder and melted chocolate.
Which Cocoa Powder to Use in Chocolate Cupcakes?
This chocolate cupcake recipe has been tested with many different kinds of cocoa powder, both Dutch-processed and natural. All varieties work well! I asked my Explorers to tell me what cocoa powder they used when they baked. Those who voted these cupcakes the best used Hershey’s Cocoa, Natural Unsweetened, Hershey’s Cocoa, Special Dark, Nestle Toll House Cocoa, Bensdorp Dutch-process cocoa, Ghirardelli Chocolate Baking Cocoa, Unsweetened, Cadbury Fry’s Premium Cocoa, Penzeys Dutch-processed Cocoa Powder, Scharffen Berger Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder, Pernigotti Cocoa, Penzeys Natural Cocoa Powder, Trader Joe’s Cocoa Powder, Unsweetened, and Valrhona Chocolate Cocoa Powder.
Yes, using different cocoa powders will alter the taste of the cupcakes, but you really can’t go wrong – it’s all chocolate! If you’ve only ever tried one brand of cocoa powder, I suggest experimenting with some new ones to see which flavor profile you prefer.
I have about ten different cocoa powders in my pantry right now – including many of the ones on the list above – and I happily switch between them. The only one I would also mention is Cacao Barry for fans of really dark chocolate.
Which Chocolate to Use in Chocolate Cupcakes?
The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake recipe uses both cocoa powder and melted chocolate. You can use any plain chocolate that you like except white chocolate or candy melts. The chocolate doesn’t have to be one typically earmarked for baking – any chocolate bar that isn’t flavored and doesn’t contain mix-ins like nuts, Rice Krispies, nougat, etc. will work. This way, you can choose whatever type of chocolate you prefer to eat: milk, dark, or even flavored chocolate bars.
I asked my Explorers to tell me which chocolate they used when they baked. Those who voted these cupcakes the Ultimate used Ghirardelli Chocolate Baking Chips, 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate, Callebaut Chocolate Callets Semisweet (small discs), Lindt Classic Recipes Milk Chocolate, Hershey’s Unsweetened Chocolate Baking Bar, Guittard French Vanilla Semisweet Chocolate, E. Guittard Bittersweet Chocolate 72% Cacao Disc Wafers, Baker’s Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate Squares, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar, Whole Foods 365 Dark Chocolate, 56%, Ghirardelli Chocolate Baking Chips, Milk Chocolate, Olive & Sinclair 75% Cacao, Toll House Semi Sweet Morsels, Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Organic Belgian Milk Chocolate Bar, Green & Black’s Organic Milk Chocolate Bar, and Mast Brothers.
I’ve personally baked this recipe with a huge variety of chocolate and it’s all been great. So, if the only chocolate you have in your house is leftover chocolate chips from a batch of cookies, that’s fine. But, when I want something extra special and I’m willing to spend a little more money, I reach for chocolate with less sugar and a more complex flavor. A melted Patric Chocolate bar yielded my favorite version of these cupcakes to date. I also enjoy TCHO, Scharffen Berger, and often buy Callebaut discs since they are sold at the Whole Foods near my house.
Using Coffee in Chocolate Cupcakes
Many people insist that coffee enhances the flavor of the best chocolate cupcakes. These folks say that you can’t taste the coffee in the cupcakes; I often can and the chocolate itself has enough caffeine for me. So, I wrote the recipe with a choice. You make the call, coffee or not.
Of those who voted these cupcakes the Ultimate, 62% used coffee.
What Frosting to Use on Chocolate Cupcakes
You can frost the best chocolate cupcakes with any frosting that you choose. Check out my top ten frostings for some ideas to get you started and you can also peruse all of my frosting recipes if that wasn’t enough for you. However, for the full chocolate experience, I suggest frosting with chocolate cream cheese frosting.
However, if chocolate on chocolate sounds like too much for you, I strongly recommend my vanilla frosting. And I don’t think you could go wrong with my fluffy and irresistible tiramisu frosting, either.
Chocolate Cupcake Reviews
Here’s what some of the Explorers had to say about the Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake recipe:
- Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate is the only way to describe the taste in my mouth. Sweetness is perfect. Cake is not dry. Cake practically melts in my mouth. It’s impossible to take one bite of cake. After one taste, my mouth wants more. Delicious. The ultimate chocolate cupcake.
- What can I say? Perfect!
- I have participated in all seven rounds of the cupcake experiment, and I will even admit I have labeled past trials as “perfect” and as The Ultimate; however, THIS IS IT. THIS IS THE ONE. If others don’t agree, so be it, but this is the one for me. I will more than likely not continue the process because I simply can not imagine a chocolate cupcake that tops this version. Everything about it was, for lack of a better word, PERFECT!
- I remember really tasting chocolate on my first bite and not having to search for it like you do on many standard chocolate cakes.
- Winner Winner Chicken Dinner! The best ever!
- I am usually the one who likes the frosting the best. I was pleasantly surprised on the taste of the cupcake. It had a nice chocolate taste and was not overpowering. The flavor was so good it didn’t really even need any frosting.
- I’ve had way too many brown-colored cakes that taste faintly of dust. But this cupcake tastes chocolatey without overdoing it.
- I felt like the bite I took just melted in my mouth. One person said she preferred the cupcake without icing because it was that good. I would definitely make this one of my “go to” recipes.
- These babies, in my opinion, are the honest-to-goodness ultimate chocolate cupcake!
- I can sleep soundly at night with these as the Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake! The texture, appearance and taste were all just right – a perfect combination.
- Though I have loved the past several rounds, each time I do agree that they get even better – which I didn’t think was possible!
- Lovely. Just lovely.
- Whoop! I think we really found it this time! Perfect in every way!! :)
- Absolutely the best!
- The immediate reactions both from myself and my taste testers make me feel that this chocolate cupcake is a winner! Good chocolate taste, excellent texture had us all making yummy noises!
- Even my friends who aren’t big dessert people asked for a second cupcake. I can’t imagine a better recipe!
- It is by far the best made-from-scratch chocolate cupcake I’ve ever had.
- Perfect in all aspects of a cupcake!
- Easy to bake, easy to eat!
Read More about the Best Chocolate Cupcakes
As a special thanks for being Cupcake Project Explorers, I’ve promised the team that I would share any blog posts they write about this recipe and the Explorer process. As their posts come in, I will add links to them right here.
If you've tried this recipe, please RATE THE RECIPE and leave a comment below!
Best Chocolate Cupcakes
This is the best chocolate cupcake you will ever eat!
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 ounces chocolate Choose your favorite. You can use any plain chocolate that you like except white chocolate or candy melts. The chocolate doesn't have to be one typically earmarked for baking - any chocolate bar that isn't flavored and doesn't contain mix-ins like nuts, Rice Krispies, nougat, etc. will work.
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks room temperature
- 9 tablespoons vegetable oil This is the same as 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon - measure in a liquid measuring cup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup full-fat sour cream
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder natural or dutched will both work with this recipe
- 1/2 cup water room temperature, measured in a liquid measuring cup
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix butter and sugar until fully combined. The end result should look like wet sand.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler.
Once the melted chocolate is cool enough to touch, add it to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until just combined.
Mix in eggs and egg yolks one at a time until just combined.
Mix in oil, vanilla, and sour cream until just combined.
Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder into a separate medium-sized bowl. Use a fork or a whisk to ensure that the ingredients are mixed well after sifting.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in three additions, mixing until just combined after each addition.
Mix in water until just combined.
Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and put in the oven.
Check for doneness at 18 minutes - a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake should come out clean. If they are not done, check again every three minutes until they are done.
Immediately remove cupcakes from the cupcake tin and place on a cooling rack or on the counter to cool to room temperature. Although they are really good when they are hot, be sure to wait until they are room temperature to give your evaluation.
If you would like to add coffee to the recipe, either add 1 teaspoon espresso powder or instant coffee granules along with the sifted dry ingredients, or replace the water with room temperature brewed coffee.
Is This Your Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake Recipe?
While you may not have been an official Cupcake Project Explorer, I’d love to hear what you thought of this recipe. If you bake it, please share your thoughts in the comments.
What cocoa powder and chocolate did you use? Did you use coffee? What did you frost with, and did you use any fillings? Did you make any changes that people might want to hear about?
Let’s all learn from each other!