These Chocolate Cupcakes are full of rich chocolate flavor and are super moist and fluffy! For the best chocolate cupcakes, make sure to use Dutch-processed cocoa powder and top them with chocolate cream cheese frosting. This recipe can also easily be made both dairy-free and gluten-free.
What You’ll Need to Make The Best Chocolate Cupcakes
While the ingredient list for these chocolate cupcakes might look long, the majority of what you need are pantry staples. Here’s what to grab:
- Cocoa powder - If possible, opt for Dutch-processed cocoa powder. It gives a bold and smooth chocolate flavor without bitterness. That said, you’re welcome to use natural cocoa powder, black cocoa powder, or even raw cacao powder.
- Instant coffee - Adding a bit of coffee to chocolate desserts makes them taste more chocolatey. I keep a jar of instant coffee on hand for just these occasions! Feel free to use either regular or decaf, or use instant espresso powder instead.
- Hot water - Blooming the cocoa powder in hot water activates all those yummy flavor compounds. Make sure it’s really hot, not just shower warm, to get the full effect.
- All-purpose flour - Also known as plain white flour, this is as basic as it gets. Feel free to swap in a measure-for-measure gluten-free flour blend that has xanthan gum for the best gluten-free chocolate cupcakes.
- Cornstarch - Adding cornstarch to AP flour helps to lower the protein content a bit, making it more like cake flour, and helping your cupcakes become soft and fluffy!
- Fine salt - A touch of salt helps make sweets taste magically sweeter.
- Baking soda & baking powder - You’ll need both types of leavening agents to achieve fluffy chocolate cupcakes.
- Granulated sugar - White sugar has a neutral flavor profile and no added moisture, so it behaves differently than brown sugar in recipes. If you need to make a switch, opt for organic cane sugar.
- Brown sugar - Feel free to use either light or dark brown sugar here. Dark brown has slightly more molasses than light brown, which contributes to a darker color and flavor. I love them both! You can also use light or dark muscovado sugar instead.
- Oil - I suggest you use a neutral oil like avocado oil for the purest chocolate flavor. However, if you have some high-quality olive oil with a fruity or peppery undertone that you think would pair nicely with chocolate, go for it!
- Eggs - I always recommend using large eggs for baking. If you’re using liquid eggs, you’ll need about a scant ½ cup.
- Apple cider vinegar - This is the trick to making this chocolate cupcake recipe without buttermilk! Adding a touch of acidity to the batter helps to activate the baking soda and tenderizes the crumb.
- Vanilla - You’re welcome to use vanilla extract, vanilla paste, or vanilla powder, or use half as much ground vanilla bean.
- Milk - You can use whole milk or unsweetened and unflavored plant-based milk.
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
If you're tired of having your cupcakes with chocolate buttercream, switch things up with chocolate cream cheese frosting! Here’s what you’ll need:
- Unsalted butter - I prefer using unsalted to balance out the salt that is already in the cream cheese. In a pinch, you can use salted butter, but you might want to omit the extra salt. You’re also welcome to use vegan butter.
- Cream cheese - Make sure to grab block-style cream cheese, not the type that comes in the tub. Again, feel free to swap in your favorite vegan alternative.
- Powdered sugar - Also known as icing sugar or confectioner's sugar. If you’re fresh out, you can easily make your own using granulated sugar, cornstarch or potato starch, and a food processor.
- Semi-sweet chocolate - Around 55% cocoa solids are the perfect amount of sweetness for me. Feel free to swap in dark or milk chocolate if you prefer.
How To Make Chocolate Cupcakes
This moist chocolate cupcake recipe comes together in a snap. Here’s how:
Prep. Preheat the oven to 340°F (170°C) and line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
Step 1: Bloom Cocoa. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and instant coffee. Pour the hot water on top and stir to let the cocoa powder bloom to maximize the chocolate flavor.
Step 2: Dry Ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set it aside.
Step 3: Sugar & Oil. In a large bowl, combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, and oil.
Step 4: Wet Ingredients. Add the eggs, milk, vinegar, and vanilla to the bowl with the sugars and oil. Stir until smooth.
Step 5: Dry To Wet. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
Step 6: Pour in the cooled cocoa powder mixture and stir.
Step 7: Bake. Pour evenly into the prepared muffin pan and bake for 16-18 minutes. Let them cool in the pan for a couple of minutes before taking them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
How To Make Chocolate Frosting
The icing for these chocolate cupcakes is also super easy! And, to make a dairy-free chocolate frosting, simply swap in vegan butter and cream cheese.
Step 1: Cream. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together softened butter and cream cheese. Once it’s fluffy, add ⅓ of the powdered sugar at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the vanilla, salt, and melted chocolate and whip again until fluffy and smooth.
Step 2: Decorate. Add the frosting to a piping bag and decorate your cooled cupcakes.
Here are some ways you can adapt this recipe to fit your dietary needs:
Use your favorite measure-for-measure gluten-free flour blend. Make sure to rest the batter 30 minutes before baking to avoid the cupcakes from being gritty. I've tested this recipe with Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 flour blend and it came out perfect!
Use dairy-free milk (e.g. oat, soy, almond) instead of whole milk. Don't forget to use vegan butter and vegan cream cheese to make dairy-free chocolate frosting.
Dairy-Free Gluten-Free Cupcakes
Follow the gluten-free instructions and dairy-free instructions above to make these cupcakes both gluten-free and dairy-free!
I haven't tested this recipe as a vegan cupcake recipe, so I cannot say whether you can omit the eggs. If you're looking for a delicious vegan chocolate cupcake, try my chocolate banana cupcakes or my salted caramel chocolate cupcakes instead!
Tips For Making This Recipe
- Don’t overmix the cupcake batter. Overmixing can your cupcakes to be dense. Be sure to only mix until the batter is just combined and you don't see any bits of flour.
- Rest your batter if you're making them gluten-free. Resting your batter before baking allows the gluten-free flour to properly hydrate. If you skip this crucial step, you'll end up with gritty cupcakes, and who wants that?!
- Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting. I know it’s tempting — who doesn’t want a chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate frosting, especially when you can smell it?!? Avoid the impulse. If you put the frosting on while it’s still warm, it’ll melt and slide right off.
The biggest difference in my book is that a chocolate muffin doesn’t have frosting while a chocolate cupcake definitely does. Muffins also tend to be a bit denser and chunkier, whereas cupcakes should be lighter and fluffier.
I personally prefer using Dutch-processed cocoa powder because it has a more intense chocolate flavor without any bitterness.
First, measure your ingredients properly. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, use the scoop-and-sweep method for measuring flour. Second, don’t overmix the batter! Third, don’t overbake them. You should pull them from the oven when a toothpick comes out *mostly* clean with just a few crumbs sticking on. Fourth, introduce a bit of acid. In this recipe, that’s from the apple cider vinegar. Finally, cool them properly. Allow them to cool in the muffin tin for a couple of minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
It depends on the recipe, the temperature of the oven, and how big your cupcakes are. For this recipe, 16-18 minutes is perfect if you use a standard cupcake tin.
If you stick them with a toothpick, no batter should stick. You should see a few moist crumbs, but no streaks.
Coffee helps to make chocolate taste more chocolatey. You’re welcome to swap in decaf if needed, or instant espresso. If neither of these is an option, you can omit it and just add the hot water.
Sure! Simply swap in an 8-inch square pan or 9-inch round pan that has been well-greased and lined with parchment paper. Then increase the baking time to around 20 minutes. Voila!
- These cupcakes will last for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you make them gluten-free, eat them within 2-3 days for the best consistency.
- These cupcakes need to be refrigerated because of the chocolate cream cheese frosting.
- If you opt for regular buttercream, they can be kept at cool room temperature. However, if the buttercream is made with dairy-free butter, the cupcakes will need to be refrigerated to avoid the frosting melting off.
More Cupcake Recipes
- If you love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, you have to try my chocolate peanut butter cupcakes!
- Looking for a vegan cupcake? My salted caramel cupcakes are delicious and easy if you use a jar of store-bought vegan caramel like I did.
- These dairy-free vanilla cupcakes are so fluffy and moist, you won't be able to tell they're made without milk or butter! Don't forget to top them with dairy-free vanilla frosting.
- If you love matcha lattes, you have to try these matcha cupcakes! They're topped with a delicious white chocolate cream cheese frosting.
Best Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
For the cupcakes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 6 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup oil
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon instant coffee
- ½ cup hot water
- ½ cup whole milk
For the cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 340°F (170°C) and line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.
- In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and instant coffee. Pour the hot water on top and stir to let the cocoa powder bloom to maximize the chocolate flavor.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set it aside.
- In a large bowl, combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, and oil.
- Add the eggs, milk, vinegar, and vanilla to the bowl with the sugars and oil. Stir until smooth.
- Add the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
- Pour in the cooled cocoa powder mixture and stir.
- Pour evenly into the prepared muffin pan and bake for 16-18 minutes. Let them cool in the pan for a couple minutes before taking them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For the frosting
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together softened butter and cream cheese. Once it’s fluffy, add ⅓ of the powdered sugar at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the vanilla, salt, and melted chocolate and whip again until fluffy and smooth.
- Add the frosting to a piping bag and decorate your cooled cupcakes.