This is the Best Chocolate Cupcake Recipe! These chocolate cupcakes are moist, rich, tender, and are topped with the creamiest Chocolate Buttercream with melted chocolate. These cupcakes take less than 30 minutes to make, too! Throw some sprinkles overtop and you have the perfect cupcakes for a special occasion or birthday! 

You’re here, so I’m going to assume you are a chocolate lover and a cake lover! If so, you’ll go crazy for these moist chocolate cupcakes. Pile on a serving of my delicious chocolate buttercream frosting recipe and you’re in business. If you need a cupcake recipe for a birthday party, then use this one! Kids and adults will go crazy for it.

A row of three chocolate frosting topped chocolate cupcakes.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Chocolate cupcakes in under 30 minutes. If this doesn’t convince you this is the best chocolate cupcake recipe, then I’m at a loss! Cupcakes in under 30 minutes? Sign me up! 
  • Moist chocolate cupcakes. These chocolate cupcakes are very moist! There are two key ingredients that help with this: buttermilk and vegetable oil. The vegetable oil is a liquid fat. Fat is important because it is what adds moisture. With the vegetable oil, the fact that it is a liquid at room temperature means our cupcakes will be extra moist at room temperature, too! The buttermilk is an acid which helps break down the gluten, making the crumb of the cupcake nice and tender.
  • Rich chocolate flavor. These are the best chocolate cupcakes because the chocolate flavor is rich! This is due to 1/2 cup of cocoa powder in the batter. 

Ingredient Notes

The Best Chocolate Cupcake recipe ingredients in glass bowls on a light gray background.
  • Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder: This cocoa powder is bitter and acidic unlike dutch-processed cocoa powder. Natural cocoa powder is usually used in recipes that call for baking soda because the acidity in the cocoa powder reacts to the base (the baking soda) to help give a nice rise. For more information on cocoa powders, check out my cocoa powder guide.
  • Kosher Salt: These salt grains are coarser than table salt. So if you don’t have kosher salt and will be using table salt, cut the measurement by 1/4. So if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon kosher salt then you would only use 3/4 teaspoon table salt. 
  • Baking Powder: It’s important to use baking powder in addition to the baking soda to create an added lift because the baking soda + buttermilk reaction won’t be enough to get the proper lift we want. 
  • Baking Soda: The baking soda reacts with the acid in the buttermilk to help create the nice rise in the cupcakes. 
  • Eggs: Use room temperature eggs so they incorporate better into the cupcake batter. 
  • Buttermilk: Using buttermilk in cake or cupcakes is very important! It has two roles: The first is to provide added moisture to the cake. The second is to help with the rise. The acid in the buttermilk will react with the baking soda, helping the cake or cupcake to rise better. 
  • Vanilla Extract: Using vanilla extract in a chocolate recipe helps round out the flavors. 
  • Vegetable Oil: It’s usually better to use vegetable oil in cakes/cupcakes than butter because vegetable oil is a liquid at room temperature. Butter is a solid at room temperature, meaning when the cake is at room temperature, you’ll have a more moist crumb with the oil than with the butter. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk the cocoa powder, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in a medium bowl until combined. 
A glass bowl with dark brown flour mixture in it.
  1. Combine the wet ingredients. Add the eggs, sugars, oil, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until everything is thoroughly combined.
A glass stand mixer bowl on a gray background with eggs, oil, and vanilla in it.
  1. Alternate combining dry ingredients and buttermilk. With the mixer on low, alternate adding the dry ingredients with the buttermilk staring and ending with the dry ingredients. (Dry ingredients, buttermilk, dry, buttermilk, dry.)
Chocolate cupcake batter in a glass bowl on a light gray background.
  1. Fill the cupcake liners. Be sure to only fill them half full
Chocolate cupcake batter in cupcake lined cupcake tin.
  1. Bake. Bake the chocolate birthday cupcakes for 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.
  2. Let cool. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting them with homemade chocolate buttercream frosting with melted chocolate.
A single chocolate cupcake topped with a swirl of chocolate frosting and colorful sprinkles.

Recipe Tips

I frosted my chocolate cupcakes with this chocolate buttercream frosting recipe

Don’t over mix the cupcake batter! Over mixed cake or cupcake batter creates a tougher consistency within the batter, which will affect the rise. 

Always use room temperature wet ingredients when making cupcakes or cakes. 

If you have a problem getting your cupcakes to rise, check the expiration dates on your baking soda and/or baking powder. Using room temperature wet ingredients will help get a better rise on the cakes/cupcakes because the ingredients incorporate better together. 

Yes, you really only need to fill the cupcake liners 1/2 full. Not 2/3 full, not 3/4 full. Half full. If you overfill the liners, the cupcakes will have spill over, stick to the pan, and create problems. Filling the liners half full will perfectly fill out the cupcakes when they rise while baking. 

Learn more about cocoa powders and why we use unsweetened cocoa powder in this recipe.

The Best Chocolate Cupcakes topped with chocolate buttercream and colorful sprinkles on a white background.

Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing

You can store unfrosted chocolate cupcakes at room temperature in an airtight container for 1-2 days. 

Once the cupcakes have been frosted, store them in an airtight container in the fridge.

Refrigerated cupcakes will last for up to 1 week, but keep in mind that these cupcakes taste best when consumed within a few days of making them.

To freeze cupcakes, once completely cooled, flash freeze the cupcakes on a baking sheet in the freezer until solid (about 10 minutes) then wrap the cupcakes individually in plastic wrap (if unfrosted) and store in an airtight container or Ziplock bag. Frozen chocolate cupcakes will last in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Remove from the freezer and let thaw overnight in the fridge, then unwrap, frost and serve! 

If you’d like to freeze the cupcakes after they are frosted, flash freeze the cupcakes on a baking sheet in the freezer until solid (about 20 minutes). You want to be able to wrap the cupcakes without dieting or messing up the frosting. Then wrap the cupcakes individually in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container or Ziplock bag in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight. 

FAQs

Is oil or butter better for cupcakes? 

Making cupcakes with oil is better because your cupcakes will be more moist due to oil being a liquid at room temperature. 

Are these chocolate cupcakes moist?

Yes they are! That’s the reason why this is the best chocolate cupcake recipe! The vegetable oil and buttermilk are key ingredients to this moist chocolate cupcake recipe. Vegetable oil helps a baked cupcake retain moistness since vegetable oil is a liquid at room temperature. The buttermilk is acidic, which helps make the gluten tender, getting a softer crumb to the cupcakes. 

Can I use Dutch-processed cocoa powder instead of unsweetened cocoa powder?

It’s important to use the cocoa powder that a recipe calls for since the way cocoa powder is processed can affect how it reacts in baking. For example, unsweetened cocoa powder is acidic and bitter. This will give you a different result than Dutch-processed cocoa powder which is rich and neutral. 

The best chocolate cupcake with a bite taken out of it.

More Cupcake Recipes

Did you make this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Click here to leave a rating and review, or scroll below the recipe card and do so there. 

Stay up-to-date by following us on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Three chocolate cupcakes lined up side by side on against a white background.
Print Review
5 from 7 votes

Best Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

This chocolate cupcake recipe is absolute perfection! What you get is a light and moist cupcake that's loaded with chocolate flavor. These cupcakes are perfect for dessert and/or birthdays!
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 18 mins
Total Time: 23 mins
Servings: 14 cupcakes

Ingredients
 

  • 1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large eggs - at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar - packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Equipment

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • In a large bowl whisk the cocoa powder, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment add the eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla. Mix on medium speed for 1 minute or until thoroughly combined.
  • With the mixer on low, alternate adding the dry ingredients with the buttermilk starting and ending with the dry ingredients. (Dry, buttermilk, dry, buttermilk, dry). Don't overmix.
  • Line a regular sized muffin tin with cupcake liners. Fill the liners half full. If you fill them over halfway, they will spill over! Don't do it. Only fill half full.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Frost with chocolate buttercream frosting.

Notes

I frosted my chocolate cupcakes with this chocolate buttercream frosting recipe
Use room temperature wet ingredients.
Make Ahead, Storing and Freezing:
You can store unfrosted cupcakes at room temperature in an airtight container for 1-2 days. Once the cupcakes have been frosted store them in an airtight container in the fridge. 
Refrigerated cupcakes will last for up to 1 week.
To freeze cupcakes, once completely cooled, flash freeze the cupcakes on a baking sheet in the freezer until solid (about 10 minutes) then wrap the cupcakes individually in plastic wrap (if unfrosted) and store in an airtight container or Ziplock bag. Frozen chocolate cupcakes will last in the freezer for up to 3 months.Remove from the freezer and let thaw overnight in the fridge, then unwrap, frost and serve!
Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction. 

Nutrition

Calories: 162kcal (8%)Carbohydrates: 25g (8%)Protein: 3g (6%)Fat: 7g (11%)Saturated Fat: 5g (25%)Cholesterol: 31mg (10%)Sodium: 105mg (4%)Potassium: 112mg (3%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 18g (20%)Vitamin A: 60IU (1%)Calcium: 37mg (4%)Iron: 1mg (6%)
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Did you make this recipe?Leave a star rating and review on the blog post letting me know how you liked this recipe! Take a picture and tag @saltandbaker on Instagram and Facebook so I can see what you’re making!

This recipe was originally published on June 14, 2019. It was republished on Jan. 18, 2022, to include additional information and photos.