The Best Chocolate Cupcakes
Their strong chocolate taste, moistness, lightness, and perfect dome make these the best chocolate cupcakes I’ve ever had. They’re easy enough to make that a total beginner baker can bake them. Most people think that this recipe is better than any cake mix and is just as good – if not better – than the one at their favorite bakery.
They have been tested by over fifty bakers with a huge range of baking expertise. I am so incredibly proud of this recipe; like my vanilla cupcakes, I spent a year developing it.
Chocolate is, unsurprisingly, a key ingredient. 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.
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).
The chocolate in these cupcakes doesn’t have to be one typically chosen 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.
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 using 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 recommend a neutral oil like canola, vegetable, or safflower.
While I love using flavored oils in baking, they will change the flavor of these cupcakes. If you want your dessert to take on a totally different taste, experiment with using non-neutral oils (pistachio oil, for example).
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 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
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.
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.
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.
Mix in eggs and egg yolks one at a time. Adding the extra yolks gives the recipe a little more moisture and fat content.
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.
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.
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 chocolate cupcakes. They say that you can’t taste the coffee; I often can, and the chocolate itself has enough caffeine for me. I wrote the recipe with a choice – you make the call, coffee or not.
Fill cupcake liners and bake. I find that using an ice cream scoop / disher is the best way to fill cupcake liners.
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
You can frost these cupcakes with any frosting that you choose.
- For the full chocolate experience, I suggest frosting with chocolate buttercream, chocolate cream cheese frosting, chocolate mousse 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!).
- I don’t think you could go wrong with my fluffy and irresistible tiramisu frosting or toasting my marshmallow frosting on top, either.
For something unique, combine your favorite frosting with these cupcakes to make cake truffles or cake pops!
While this cupcake cannot get any better, you can try these variations if you want to switch things up:
- Hi-hat cupcakes (Picture a cupcake dipped in magic shell!)
- Fill these cupcakes with edible cookie dough after baking them!
- Fill the cupcakes with cheesecake like Tessa from Handle the Heat did.
- Frost these cupcakes with my vanilla buttercream and use them in a cupcake bouquet!
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.
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.
You may have overmixed the batter. Be careful to mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined.
Using an ice cream scoop / disher is the easiest way to fill cupcake liners.
The Best Chocolate Cupcakes
- 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
- 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.
- 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 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 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.
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