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Easy Chocolate Cupcakes

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Make perfectly fudgy, easy Chocolate Cupcakes! These homemade cupcakes are soft and fluffy and stay moist for days. Frost them with chocolate frosting for the ultimate chocolate dessert, or customize them any way that you’d like.

Looking for an equally irresistible vanilla version? Try my recipe for Easy Vanilla Cupcakes!

Chocolate cupcakes topped with swirls of chocolate cream cheese frosting and chocolate sprinkles on a white plate.

Easy Moist Chocolate Cupcakes from Scratch

It might be the baker in me, but I’ll just put it out there: Every household needs a perfect chocolate cupcake recipe. One that you can make for any occasion, without any fancy ingredients or techniques. Just a pure and simple, delicious, cocoa-loaded cupcake.

A perfect chocolate cupcake is soft and moist, yet still light and fluffy, with a chocolate flavor that’s rich but not overly sweet or intense. One bite and you feel as though you could inhale the whole batch. That’s what this recipe is. Insanely moist and balanced out with chocolate cream cheese frosting. No other chocolate cupcake can compare!

You’ll find yourself ditching your go-to boxed cake mix and replacing it with these homemade chocolate cupcakes. I originally published this recipe in 2018 and over the years I’ve made improvements to the recipe and lots of updated recipe tips.

Three chocolate cupcakes stacked on top of one another.

Key Ingredients

This easy cupcake recipe uses your baking basics like flour, sugar, etc. as well as a few key ingredients that give these chocolate cupcakes their ultra-rich, moist texture.  Here’s a quick overview, but the full ingredients are listed in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  • Oil – Using oil in place of butter in cake recipes is key to an ultra-moist, tender, and lighter crumb.
  • Vanilla Extract – Use a high-quality real vanilla extract for this recipe, it makes all the difference.
  • Sour Cream – Sour cream is the second secret to extra moist cupcakes. Don’t skip it! In a pinch, I recommend substituting it with either plain or non-fat Greek yogurt.
  • Cocoa Powder –  I use either natural unsweetened cocoa powder or Hershey’s Special Dark
  • Espresso Powder and Brewed Coffee – I add espresso powder as well as brewed coffee to my chocolate cakes to intensify the chocolate flavor. This is optional, so you can omit it altogether or you can use fine-ground coffee instead. See below for more details.
The ingredients for homemade chocolate cupcakes.

Why Add Coffee To Chocolate Cupcakes?

Adding coffee (either espresso powder and/or brewed coffee) helps to enhance the flavor and color of chocolate cakes and cupcakes. And if you aren’t a coffee person, don’t worry – you won’t actually taste the coffee at all!

If you’re avoiding caffeine or you’d prefer to substitute the coffee altogether, I recommend using milk instead.

How to Make the Best Chocolate Cupcakes

While your oven preheats to 350°F, prepare a cupcake pan by lining it with your choice of cupcake liners. Then, get started on your chocolate cupcake batter:

  1. Combine the wet ingredients. Beat together the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until well incorporated, then mix in the sour cream.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients. Sift the dry ingredients into a separate bowl. Next, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients gradually, alternating with brewed coffee until combined.
  3. Fill the pan. Divide the batter between the lined wells of your cupcake pan. I like to use a large cookie scoop as it makes it so much easier! 
  4. Bake. Bake the cupcakes at 350°F for 14-16 minutes. When they’re done, let the cupcakes cool completely before decorating.

Frosting the Cupcakes

These cupcakes are topped with my best-ever, melt-in-your-mouth Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. It’s rich and velvety, and the cream cheese adds just the right amount of tanginess. You can, of course, frost your cupcakes with any type of frosting you prefer (see below), but I just love this cream cheese version.

My secret to perfect frosting is COLD butter. It takes a bit of extra effort to mix, but trust me, it works! In the recipe linked above, I provide a full tutorial for the frosting including step-by-step photos.

  1. Beat the butter and cream cheese. Cube the cold butter and then beat for several minutes until it’s light and fluffy, resembling a similar consistency to the cream cheese. Next, beat in the cream cheese for another few minutes until the two are well combined.
  2. Combine. Beat in cocoa powder and vanilla. Once combined, gradually add the powdered sugar a couple of cups at a time, alternating with spoonfuls of heavy whipping cream until the frosting is smooth. Beat for an additional 2 minutes (at least) until the frosting reaches a silky, pipable consistency.
  3. Frost the cupcakes. You can transfer the frosting to a piping bag for decorating or spread it over the cooled cupcakes using an offset spatula. See the section further on for easy cupcake decorating ideas.

Tips for Success

Below are my additional tips for making perfect chocolate cupcakes from scratch:

    • Properly measure ingredients. My recipe is developed using a scale for weighted ingredients like sugar and flour. If you don’t have a scale, be sure to use the spoon and level method for measuring flour.
    • Sifted ingredients. Taking the extra time to sift the dry ingredients will not only help prevent a lumpy batter, but also help the ingredients to better incorporate together.
    • Ingredient temperatures. Over the years, I’ve adjusted the callouts for the ingredients to either be at room temperature or otherwise, which plays an important role in how the cupcakes come together.
    • Thoroughly mix the batter. While you don’t want to overmix the cake batter, it’s important that the ingredients are well combined.  Once the dry ingredients are added, mix only on low speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as you go, and give everything a good stir from the bottom to the top. This is a liquid-heavy batter, so it’s much thinner than you’re probably used to.

Two chocolate cupcakes stacked on top of one another, with a bite missing from the top cupcake.

Can I Make a Chocolate Cake Instead?

Yes! See my post for Easy Chocolate Cake if you’d like to make this cupcake recipe as a standard 9×13-inch chocolate sheet cake instead. You can also make this as a layer cake, see my Chocolate Drip Cake for details. In both cases, you’ll need to adjust the amount of frosting as needed.

A partially unwrapped chocolate cupcake topped with a swirl of chocolate cream cheese frosting and chocolate sprinkles.

More Cupcake Decorating Ideas

Want to make beautiful bakery-style frosted cupcakes? A simple trick is to use jumbo piping tips for the frosting. Start from the outside edge of the cupcake and work your way up towards the middle, and only fill your piping bag a maximum of 2/3 full. For more helpful tips and tricks, check out my post on How to Decorate Cupcakes

This cake really pairs well with any frosting recipe. Not a fan of cream cheese? Try my Chocolate Fudge Frosting made with melted chocolate or my Easy Chocolate Buttercream Frosting made with just cocoa powder. Both are good contenders. Or, you can give my recipes for homemade Vanilla Frosting, Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream, or Oreo Frosting a go.

You can top these cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles or shaved chocolate, or turn them into Turtle Cupcakes or these Easy Frosted Football Cupcakes. You can even hollow out the middles and make fudgy Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes!

A partially unwrapped chocolate cupcake topped with a swirl of chocolate cream cheese frosting and chocolate sprinkles, with a bite missing.

How to Store Frosted Cupcakes

If you live in a hot and humid climate, I suggest that you refrigerate the frosted cupcakes and allow them to come to room temperature before serving. Otherwise, I store my cupcakes in a cool, dry place in an airtight container for up to 3 days once they are frosted.

Can I Freeze These?

Generally speaking, I don’t love to freeze cupcakes. They’re never quite as good as freshly baked! However, if you need to make and freeze these cupcakes ahead of time, I recommend freezing them unfrosted. Bake and cool the cupcakes completely. Flash freeze for 15 minutes and then transfer the frozen cupcakes to an airtight container. Thaw to room temperature prior to frosting. I recommend freezing only up to one month and frosting the day of serving for best results. 

A chocolate cupcake topped with a swirl of chocolate cream cheese frosting and chocolate sprinkles.

Easy Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 24 cupcakes


This mouthwatering homemade Chocolate Cupcakes recipe makes perfectly moist chocolate cupcakes topped with a silky chocolate cream cheese frosting.


For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 ½ cups (285g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (118 ml) sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • ½ cup (40 g) cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon (5g) espresso powder  (optional)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons (9 g) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (2 g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 1 ¼ cup (296 ml) hot brewed coffee

For the Frosting:

  • ¾ cups (170g) unsalted butter, cold
  • 8 ounces (226g) full-fat cream cheese, cold
  • ½ cup +2 tablespoons (50g) cocoa powder, sfited
  • 6 cups (780 g) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) milk or heavy whipping cream


For the Cupcakes: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
  2. Combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed until the eggs and oil are well incorporated and the batter is lighter in color. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add half the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, followed by half of the coffee, and mix until the flour is just incorporated at a low speed. Then add the remaining dry ingredients and coffee. Beat until all of the ingredients are well combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  4. Using a large cookie scoop, divide the batter evenly, filling each liner 2/3 full. Bake at 350°F for 14-16 minutes. Test the cupcakes for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cupcake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cupcakes are done. Cool Completely.

For the Frosting: 

  1. Cut the butter into 1-inch blocks. Beat the butter for 3-4  minutes until it’s softened, light and fluffy. 
  2. Then add the cream cheese and cream together for 2-3 minutes until they are well combined and free of lumps, scrape down the bowl occasionally.
  3.  Next, add the cocoa powder and vanilla extract and beat until well combined.
  4. Next, add the powdered sugar 2 cups at a time, followed by one tablespoon of heavy whipping cream, and beat for 60-90 seconds until completely smooth. Add the remaining powdered sugar and heavy whipping cream and beat until desired consistency, at least 2 minutes. Transfer the frosting to a large piping bag fitted with a large open star piping tip, pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes. 


Ingredients & Substitutions 

  • Cocoa powder: I prefer to use Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder for a nice rich flavor and color. Otherwise, a natural, unsweetened cocoa powder is the next best option. 
  • Coffee substitute: I recommend using milk. You should still heat the milk in the microwave for approximately 60 seconds. 
  • Sour Cream. Use plain or Greek yogurt.

Storing and Freezing

  • Make Ahead of time: These can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature. If you live in a hot or humid climate, then they should be refrigerated. Serve at room temperature for best results.  
  • Freezing: I recommend freezing them unfrosted. You can freeze the prepared cupcakes airtight. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then bring to room temperature before frosting. I recommend freezing for up to one month and frosting the day of serving for best results. 
Nutrition Information:
1 cupcake
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: easy cupcake recipe, homemade cupcakes, best chocolate cupcake recipe

More Easy Homemade Cupcakes

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating

63 Responses
    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Rita, yes I have tested these will melted butter and it does bake fine, the consistency of the cake is a little different. I prefer the oil, it makes for a more delicate crumb.

  1. Melissa Deen

    Just made this recipe. Cake was moist and delicious. My only issue was the coffee gave a slightly bitter aftertaste. Can I opt the coffee and use something else?

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Hi Melissa, I am not sure it was the coffee as much as the cocoa powder you used perhaps. I recommend hot water or milk, or a combination of the two. Milk will produce a denser cupcake and not quite as fluffy

      1. Liz

        I’ve been making these for a couple of years now and the recipe never lets me down. Always moist, always reliable, always a hit. My son wants coloured frosting this year: bright colours so I guess I’ll do something with vanilla, icing sugar and butter and perhaps a little white chocolate though I know the fat content is different so I don’t know if it’ll work?

      2. Debora Guile

        These are my NOW new favorite cupcakes!!!! I can’t wait to try the vanilla ones!!! Easy and delish!!!

  2. Faith

    Great post! I just came across your page and I have to get some baking done. I don’t have light sour cream only the original one would it affect my cake and if yes how do I tweak it so I can bake and get the same results you got? Thank you

  3. Marta @ Foodaciously

    Hi Julianne, thanks for sharing this recipe! I usually use just cocoa in the batter and this was the first time I made them also with coffee; they were so delicious 😀 I will definitely bake more soon. Thanks!

  4. Angela Arndt

    I just found you and I am loving your site! Thank you for all your hardwork to help out us strangers!

  5. Cyndi

    Hello I made your chocolate cake and homemade cream cheese frosting . First the Cake was extremely thick and dense and not light and fluffy like you suggested. Therefore I tweaked you’re recipe and omitted the egg yolks and only used the egg whites . Complete perfection after I made that little change . I highly recommend everyone to omit egg yolks when baking a cake . If you’re looking for a very light fluffy and airy cake this is the way to go I promise you

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Hi Cyndi, I can’t imagine this cake as dense and thick, is it perhaps over mixing of the batter or over baking? You are correct that egg whites will make the ultimate light and airy cake such as a white cake or angle food. I have not prepared this recipe with egg whites only but I am glad it worked out for you!

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