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The Best Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

There are so many chocolate cupcake recipes out there that don’t have a strong chocolate flavor. My chocolate cupcake recipe is moist and light, domes wonderfully, and has an amazing chocolate taste; most people think that they are better than any cake mix and just as good, if not better, than the chocolate cupcakes at their favorite bakery.

The recipe is flexible and allows for the inclusion of coffee if you like a touch more bitterness to go along with your sweetness. You can also make these cupcakes with dark or milk chocolate – they come out incredible both ways.

These chocolate cupcakes are easy enough to make that a total beginner baker can bake them. They were initially tested by over fifty people with a huge range of baking expertise.

I am so proud of this recipe. Like my vanilla cupcakes, I spent a year developing and testing the recipe; You can read about the testing process at the end of this post.

How to Make Chocolate Cupcakes

Best chocolate cupcake

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 some of the basics of cupcake making.

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 left the cupcakes short of chocolate perfection.

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

Sifting is really important when working with cocoa powder as cocoa powder often has lumps and it 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 isn’t too much 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; and 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 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.

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 cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out dry and the tops bounce back when lightly touched.

Which Frosting to Use on Chocolate Cupcakes

Chocolate cream cheese frosting being piped onto a chocolate cupcake

You can frost the best chocolate cupcakes with any frosting that you choose. For the full chocolate experience, I suggest frosting with chocolate cream cheese frosting or chocolate ganache. If chocolate on chocolate sounds like too much for you, I strongly recommend my vanilla frosting or peanut butter frosting (chocolate and peanut butter are so good together!). And I don’t think you could go wrong with my fluffy and irresistible tiramisu frosting, either.

Best Tips for Making Chocolate Cupcakes

Two chocolate cupcakes on a white background

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

Chocolate Cupcake Variations

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

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Two chocolate cupcakes on a white background
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4.77 from 237 votes

Best Chocolate Cupcakes

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

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!
    • This chocolate cupcake 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).
  • 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 chocolate 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

Nutrition Facts
Best Chocolate Cupcakes
Amount Per Serving
Calories 218 Calories from Fat 126
% Daily Value*
Fat 14g22%
Saturated Fat 9g45%
Cholesterol 54mg18%
Sodium 121mg5%
Potassium 76mg2%
Carbohydrates 22g7%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 14g16%
Protein 2g4%
Vitamin A 180IU4%
Calcium 18mg2%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Have you tried this recipe?Click here to leave a comment and rating!

The Testing Process

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake

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).

I developed this recipe with the Cupcake Project Explorers (my team of 50 test bakers that helped perfect my vanilla cupcakes by baking three rounds of cupcakes and providing feedback).

The team consisted of professional bakers and beginners because I wanted to make sure that these cupcakes would be perfect for beginner bakers and pros alike.

You should know that 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.

chocolate

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.

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!

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.

Coffee with Cathy
Cake Deco
There’s No Place Like Oz

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!

The best chocolate cupcake recipe is so easy to make!  This cupcake is moist, super chocolatey, and test baked by over fifty people. You may have just found you sweet soulmate that is also perfect for kids! Save this pin for later!
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