The Best Chocolate Cupcakes

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My chocolate cupcakes are moist and light, dome wonderfully, and have an amazing, strong chocolate taste. They’re easy enough to make that a total beginner baker can bake them. They have been tested by over fifty people with a huge range of baking expertise.

Most people think that this recipe is better than any cake mix and is just as good, if not better, than their favorite bakery’s.

I am so proud of this recipe. Like my vanilla cupcakes, I spent a year developing and testing it.

Ingredients

After a year of experimentation, I found that the best chocolate flavor comes from a combination of cocoa powder and melted chocolate. Using just one form of chocolate didn’t yield cupcakes with chocolate perfection. Here’s my advice on choosing your chocolate ingredients.

Cocoa Powder

bowl of Cocoa-powder

Using different cocoa powders will alter the taste of the cupcakes, but you really can’t go wrong – it’s all chocolate!

This recipe has been tested with many different kinds of cocoa powder, both Dutch-processed and natural. All varieties work well! 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. Some of my favorites are Scharffen Berger Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder, Penzeys Natural Cocoa Powder, and Cacao Barry (when I want something really dark).

Chocolate

Chocolate chips in a bowl in the microwave

The chocolate in these cupcakes doesn’t have to be one typically earmarked for baking – any chocolate, bar, chips, or discs that don’t contain mix-ins (like nuts, Rice Krispies, nougat, etc.) will work.

You can choose whatever type of chocolate you prefer to eat: milk, dark, or even flavored chocolate bars. I typically opt for dark chocolate, but love making cupcakes with milk chocolate for my German chocolate cupcakes.

When I make these for a special occasion and want something fancy, 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 Lily’s sugar-free chocolate.

Other Notable Ingredients

Oil and Butter

The recipe uses both oil and butter. The butter should always be unsalted.

I’ve used canola oil, generic vegetable oil, and safflower oil. While I love using flavored oils in baking, keep in mind that they will change the flavor of these cupcakes. Experiment with using non-neutral oils and try baking these cupcakes with pistachio oil, for example, to get a totally different taste.

Sour Cream

If you don’t have sour cream in the house, I’ve done extensive testing and found that yogurt works perfectly as a substitute for sour cream.

Coffee

Coffee is optional in this recipe. Some people love the inclusion of coffee to add a touch of bitterness, but it’s not something you need. I typically leave it off.

How It’s Made

Best chocolate cupcake

Tip: If you’ve never baked a cupcake from scratch before, I suggest you take a minute to read my post on how to make cupcakes. It covers many of the basics of cupcake making and offers up help troubleshooting problems you may encounter.

To begin making the cupcakes, you’ll need to whisk together the dry ingredients: all-purpose flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt.

Sifting is really important when working with cocoa powder as cocoa powder often clumps and won’t properly integrate with the other ingredients without sifting.

Sieve with dry ingredients including cocoa powder being sifted

Mix butter and sugar. Because there is only a little butter in the recipe (it calls for both butter and oil), when you mix the butter and sugar together, it will end up looking like wet sand.

Note: Cupcakes that are made with only only oil lack the flavor that butter provides; without the oil, the cupcakes can end up being too dense.

Butter and sugar mixed in stand mixer

Mix in the melted chocolate. The easiest way to melt chocolate is to use the microwave. Break or chop the chocolate into small pieces and put it into a microwave-safe bowl. Then, microwave in 20 second bursts, stirring after each burst, until all of the chocolate is melted.

Adding melted chocolate to chocolate cupcake batter

Mix in eggs and egg yolks one at a time. Adding the extra yolks gives the recipes a little more moisture and fat content.

Adding eggs to chocolate cupcake batter

Mix in sour cream and oil. The sour cream gives the cupcakes a subtle tang that enhances their flavor while also adding more dairy/fat to the recipe.

Adding sour cream to chocolate cupcake batter

Mix in the dry ingredients in three additions. Be sure to mix only until just combined. Over-mixing can cause the cupcakes to become gummy.

Mixing in dry ingredients to chocolate cupcake batter

Mix in water or brewed coffee. Perfect cupcake batter should be runny. Adding more liquid to the recipe gets it to the correct consistency.

Many people insist that coffee enhances the flavor of these cupcakes. They 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.

adding water to chocolate cupcake batter

Fill cupcake liners and bake. I find that using an ice cream scoop / disher is the best way to fill cupcake liners.

Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

You’ll know that the chocolate cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out dry and the tops bounce back when lightly touched.

Expert Tips and FAQs

Frostings

Chocolate cream cheese frosting being piped onto a chocolate cupcake

You can frost these cupcakes with any frosting that you choose.

For something unique, combine your favorite frosting with these cupcakes to make cake truffles or cake pops!

Variations

Not that this cupcake could get any better, but if you want to switch things up, you can try these variations:

FAQs

Can you make these in other sizes?

Yes! You’ll need to increase the baking time if you do a cake or decide to make jumbo cupcakes and decrease the baking time if you choose to make mini cupcakes.

How long will these last?

This depends on the frosting you choose. For most cupcakes frosted with buttercream or cream cheese frosting, I will keep them on the counter (assuming it’s not too hot) for up to three days and refrigerated for up to a week. If you refrigerate them, be sure to bring them to room temperature before serving.

You can also freeze unfrosted cupcakes for months in an airtight container.

Why did my cupcakes come out gummy?

You may have overmixed the batter. Be careful to mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined.

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Best Chocolate Cupcakes

This is the best chocolate cupcake you will ever eat!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Total Time 33 minutes
Servings 16 cupcakes
Calories 218kcal
Author Stefani

Ingredients

  • 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
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 ounces chocolate Choose your favorite. You can use any 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 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
  • 1/2 cup water room temperature, measured in a liquid measuring cup

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • 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. Set aside.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Video

Notes

  • 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.
  • Using different cocoa powders will alter the taste of the cupcakes, but you really can’t go wrong – it’s all chocolate!
  • The chocolate in these cupcakes doesn’t have to be one typically earmarked for baking – any chocolate, bar, chips, or discs that don’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 and Cupcake Project readers have tested this with so many different kinds of chocolate with amazing results. When I make these for a special occasion and want something fancy, 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 Lily’s sugar-free chocolate.
  • If you don’t have sour cream in the house, I’ve done extensive testing and found that yogurt works perfectly as a substitute for sour cream.
  • For making these cupcakes, use any mild vegetable oil.
    • I’ve used canola oil, generic vegetable oil, and safflower oil. While I love using flavored oils in baking, keep in mind that they will change the flavor of these cupcakes. You can experiment with using non-neutral oils and try baking these cupcakes with pistachio oil, for example, to get a totally different taste.
  • You can make this recipe as a cake. You will just need to increase the baking time.

Nutrition

Calories: 218kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 121mg | Potassium: 76mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 180IU | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 1mg
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The Best Chocolate Cupcakes