These moist chocolate cupcakes are made with real melted chocolate in the batter! Pair chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting for an extra indulgent cupcake! 

chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting on metal background with more cupcakes in the distance

I tested 6 batches of chocolate cupcakes, all in the name of research, as Ryan would say! 

3 of them were awful, 2 of them were good, and 1 was the clear winner! I wanted to create a classic, homemade chocolate cupcake recipe. But I didn’t want these cupcakes to get their only chocolate flavor from cocoa powder.. chocolate cupcakes need real chocolate in them!

But, if you put too much melted chocolate in your cupcake batter, you’ll end up with cupcakes that look like batches #4 and #5. Super delicious because of their great chocolate flavor, but WAY too dense.. almost like a brownie.

So I spent a little more time in the kitchen perfecting this best chocolate cupcake recipe, getting the proportions just right. 

chocolate cupcake laying on it’s side with a bite removed on gray background

How To Make Moist Chocolate Cupcakes

Our recipe calls for a lot of moist ingredients. Buttermilk is an essential ingredient in these cupcakes. It adds moistness and flavor. You could substitute the same amount of sour cream.

Our cupcakes also call for melted chocolate. Chocolate cupcakes need real chocolate! Adding melted chocolate to the batter intensifies the chocolate flavor and makes them moist. Our chocolate cupcake recipe calls for 3 oz of melted chocolate. Rough chop the chocolate baking bar into smaller pieces, place in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 2 minutes on 50% power. Stir and repeat until melted. Set aside to cool. 

What You’ll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

FOR THE CUPCAKES:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Unsweetened natural cocoa powder –  Like Hershey’s brand. Do not use Dutch Processed cocoa powder. 
  • Baking soda and baking powder
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter – Let this come to room temperature before you start the recipe.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Bittersweet chocolate baking bar – Found the in baking aisle. Bittersweet chocolate is between 60-66% cacao. 
  • Large eggs
  • Buttermilk – This is how you get that moist, tender crumb!
  • Hot tap water – The hot water intensifies the chocolate flavor of the cocoa powder through a process called blooming.

FOR THE CHOCOLATE FROSTING:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Vanilla extract
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder – Natural cocoa powder or Dutch process is fine, but don’t use hot cocoa mix! It’s not the same; cocoa mix is sweetened.
  • Powdered sugar
  • Milk or heavy cream
split image, chocolate cupcake batter in muffin pan and baked chocolate cupcakes in muffin pan on white background

Why Use Hot Water in Chocolate Cake?

The hot water intensifies the chocolate flavor of the cocoa powder through a process called blooming. This means the chocolate cake will have a more intense chocolate flavor once it’s baked. 

How to Properly Measure Flour

  • Fluff the flour with a fork
  • Use a spoon to scoop the flour into your measuring cup
  • Use a butter knife to level off the flour in the measuring cup

Sticking the measuring cup straight into the bag of flour will result in too much flour to be packed into the cup, which can result in dry cupcakes.

How to Make Chocolate Cupcakes

FOR THE CUPCAKES:

Prepare. Preheat your oven to 350º F and line a muffin pan with muffin liners.

Mix the dry ingredients. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the all purpose flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. 

Mix the wet ingredients. In a second mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar for a minute or two, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the melted & cooled chocolate and the eggs. 

Add in half of the buttermilk, beat for about 20 seconds. Add in half of the dry ingredients, beat. Then add the remaining buttermilk plus the hot water, beat just until the liquid is mixed in then add the remaining dry ingredients and beat on low speed until combined. 

Bake. Divide the batter into the muffin liners, filling them no more than halfway full. Bake for 17 to 19 minutes at 350ºF, or until a few moist crumbs remain on a toothpick when inserted into the center. Let the cupcakes cool completely before you frost them.

how to make chocolate cupcakes collage image

FOR THE FROSTING:

Beat the butter. Beat the butter on high for 3 minutes.

Add the dry ingredients. Sift in the cocoa powder and 3 cups of powdered sugar. I like to sift these in because it helps break up clumps, creating a light and fluffy frosting. Beat the frosting on low speed until combined and thick.

Finish. Mix in 3 tbsp of heavy cream, vanilla extract and salt. Taste the frosting and add more sugar if needed; if the frosting is too thick, beat in a dash of milk or heavy cream.

Frost the cupcakes. Fit a piping bag with a piping tip; I used an Wilton 1M. Fill the bag about three-quarters of the way full with frosting and pipe it onto the cupcakes. Decorate with chocolate curls or sprinkles, if desired. 

Total Time Required

  • 15 minutes to prep the batter
  • 17-19 minutes to bake
  • 1+ hour to cool the cupcakes completely
  • 5 minutes to make the frosting
  • 10 minutes to frost the cupcakes
aeriel shot of chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting arranged in a grid pattern on metal surface

Tips for Success

Here are some tips for perfect chocolate cupcakes!

  • Measure the flour properly. Use the spoon-and-sweep method to ensure that you’re getting an accurate measurement for the flour. When you scoop your measuring cups into the flour, you compact it, which means you end up using more in your recipe.
  • Don’t over-fill the cupcake liners. If you fill them more than halfway full when you’re portioning out the batter, your cupcakes are likely to spill over the sides.
  • Don’t make substitutions. Follow the recipe as written.

How to Store

Moist chocolate cupcakes are best stored at room temperature. Place them in an airtight container or loosely cover them on a plate; they’ll last up to 2 to 3 days.

Can I Freeze Cupcakes?

Yes, you can freeze these cupcakes. Place them on a sheet pan and freeze them uncovered until the frosting is solid. Then, wrap the cupcakes in plastic wrap and store them in a freezer bag or airtight container for up to 3 months. Let them thaw at room temperature before serving.

chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting on metal background with more cupcakes in the distance
  • Piping bags – I love these bulk piping bags
  • Piping tips – Larger piping tips are better for frosting cupcakes. My go-to tips are the Wilton 1M2D, 12 and 199.

How to Pipe Frosting onto Cupcakes

I used a wilton 1M piping tip to pipe the frosting on these cupcakes. A wilton 2D and an Ateco 844 are both very similar to the 1M.

Start in the center of the cupcake, applying pressure to the frosting bag, going in a swirling motion until you reach the edge of the cupcake then lift the tip up and tip more frosting onto that base layer you just made, stacking the frosting and continuing in a swirling motion until you reach the center of the cupcake.

More Chocolate Desserts

Chocolate Cupcakes

5 from 9 ratings
Prep Time: 25 mins
Cook Time: 17 mins
Additional Time: 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time: 2 hrs
Yield: 24 cupcakes
These moist chocolate cupcakes are made with real melted chocolate in the batter! Pair chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting for an extra indulgent cupcake! 

Ingredients

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, 1/2 cup
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 oz bittersweet chocolate baking bar, melted & cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup hot tap water

Chocolate Frosting

  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, 2 cups
  • 1 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp salt

Instructions
 

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • Preheat the oven to 350º F. Line a muffin pan with muffin liners.
  • Rough chop the bittersweet chocolate baking bar into smaller pieces, place in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 2 minutes on 50% power. Stir and repeat until melted. Set aside to cool.
  • In a mixing bowl combine the all purpose flour, unsweetened natural cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In a separate mixing bowl beat the butter and granulated sugar with an electric mixer for 2 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Add in the eggs and cooled chocolate, beat again, 30 seconds.
  • Add in half of the buttermilk, beat for about 20 seconds. Add in half of the dry ingredients, beat. Add the remaining buttermilk plus the hot water, beat just until the liquid is mixed in then add the remaining dry ingredients and beat on low speed until combined.
  • Fill the muffin liners 1/2 full. Bake for 17-19 minutes at 350º F or until a few moist crumbs remain on a toothpick when inserted into the center. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before adding the frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

  • In a mixing bowl, beat the butter on high for 3 minutes.
  • Sift in the cocoa powder and 3 cups of powdered sugar. I like to sift these in because it helps break up clumps, creating a light and fluffy frosting. Beat the frosting on low speed until combined and thick.
  • Mix in 3 tbsp of heavy cream, vanilla extract and salt.
  • Add in the additional powdered sugar (1-2 cups), mix on low. If the frosting is too thick, beat in an additional tablespoon of heavy cream.

Assemble

  • Fit a piping bag with a piping tip, I used a Wilton 1M. Fill the bag about 3/4 full with frosting. Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. Decorate with chocolate curls or sprinkles if desired.

Notes

  • Yields 24 cupcakes
  • Fill the cupcake liners only 1/2 full.
  • Moist chocolate cupcakes are best stored at room temperature. Place them in an airtight container or loosely cover them on a plate; they’ll last up to 2 to 3 days. 
  • How to Properly Measure Flour
    • Fluff the flour with a fork
    • Use a spoon to scoop the flour into your measuring cup
    • Use a butter knife to level off the flour in the measuring cup
Sticking the measuring cup straight into the bag of flour will result in too much flour to be packed into the cup, which can result in dry cake.
 
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Author: Beth
Calories: 392kcal, Carbohydrates: 48g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 23g, Saturated Fat: 14g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 68mg, Sodium: 207mg, Potassium: 134mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 34g, Vitamin A: 654IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 41mg, Iron: 2mg
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