chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting on white background

These easy chocolate cupcakes are made with real melted chocolate in the batter, making them super chocolatey and moist chocolate cupcakes! Plus we included 14 frosting recipes to pair with chocolate cupcakes. 

Did you see the photo I posted on Instagram of these cupcakes? You can follow me on Instagram here!

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 with chocolate frosting on gray cake stand

How To Make Moist Chocolate Cupcakes

Our recipe calls for a lot of moist ingredients. Sour cream is an essential ingredient in these cupcakes. It adds moistness and flavor. I do not recommend substituting it for another ingredient. I tried that in one of my test batches and the cupcakes were dry. 

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 2 tbsp melted chocolate which is about 2 heaping tablespoons of chocolate chips. I melted the chocolate chips in the microwave with a little bit of vegetable oil. You won’t need to microwave for long, try 20 seconds, stir and then another 30 seconds. 

Chocolate Cupcake Ingredients

  • unsweetened cocoa powder: adds a full rich chocolate flavor
  • all purpose flour: flour is necessary to build structure
  • baking powder: helps to leaven and lift the batter
  • baking soda: helps to leaven and lift the batter, reacts with the sour cream
  • salt: just a pinch to balance the sweetness and enhances the other flavors of the cake
  • unsalted butter: makes the cake tender and helps with leavening 
  • granulated sugar: adds sweetness and flavor
  • eggs: binds the cake together by providing structure 
  • vanilla extract: adds flavor
  • sour cream: adds moisture and creaminess
  • melted chocolate: intensifies the chocolate flavor and adds moisture 
chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting in a grid on white background

How Long Does it Take to Make Chocolate Cupcakes?

  • 10 minutes to prep the batter
  • 20ish minutes to bake the cupcakes
  • 1 hour, at least, to cool the cupcakes
  • 15 minutes to make the frosting and frost the cupcakes

Frosting to Pair with Chocolate Cupcakes

How to Freeze Unfrosted Cupcakes

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely. Wrap each cupcake in plastic wrap, then place inside a freezer ziplock bag or freezer storage container.

To thaw: place the bag or container of cupcakes on the counter overnight. Frost once fully thawed. 

chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting with bite removed on gray cake stand

Recommended Frosting Piping Supplies

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

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.

How to Make Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes

This recipe turned out great using gluten free flour! We love King Arthur Gluten Free Measure for Measure Flour. Follow the directions as stated, but substitute gluten free flour for all purpose flour. 

More Chocolate Desserts

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For a step-by-step of how to make this chocolate cupcake recipe, watch this short video:

Chocolate Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes

Yield: 12 cupcakes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours

These easy chocolate cupcakes are made with real melted chocolate in the batter, making them super chocolatey and moist chocolate cupcakes!

Ingredients

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp melted chocolate, cooled (which is about 2 heaping tablespoons of chocolate chips)

Chocolate Frosting

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • dash of milk or heavy cream if frosting becomes too thick

Instructions

Chocolate Cupcakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently mix using a spoon.
  3. In a larger mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar, beat using an electric mixer until fluffy. Add in the eggs and vanilla, lightly beat.
  4. Add in the sour cream and melted chocolate, mix by hand using a spatula.
  5. Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, do not dump it in, rather take spoonfuls of the flour mixture and gently shake it over the wet ingredients, as if you were sifting in the flour. Fold in the mixture until no flour remains. Repeat with the other half of the flour, folding it in and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate everything.
  6. Fill the cupcake liners 1/2 full with batter.
  7. Bake for 17-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before adding the frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

  1. Place room temperature unsalted butter in a mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer on medium and beat the butter for 1 minute, until whipped and fluffy. 
  2. Add in the cocoa powder, powdered sugar and vanilla extract, beat again on low for 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until everything is incorporated. 
  3. If the frosting is too thick, add a tablespoon of milk or heavy cream, and beat until creamy. 

To assemble

  1. Place the chocolate buttercream in a piping bag fit with your desired tip. Be sure to push the buttercream down into the bag, and twist the top a few times to secure the bag. Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.

Notes

Our chocolate cupcake recipe calls for 2 tbsp melted chocolate which is about 2 heaping tablespoons of chocolate chips. I melted the chocolate chips in the microwave with a little bit of vegetable oil. You won’t need to microwave for long, try 20 seconds, stir and then another 30 seconds.