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These really are the best ever super moist chocolate cupcakes. Made from scratch with cocoa powder, they are deeply chocolatey, perfectly fluffy, and with a slightly domed top. And dare I say it? These homemade, moist chocolate cupcakes are way better than any boxed cake mix, with the same super moist crumb and texture that you know you love.
If you also prefer homemade cakes made from scratch over box cake mixes, you will definitely want to check out my Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting, Homemade Funfetti Cake, and Best Red Velvet Cake.
Moist Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe
This is the be all, end all, of chocolate cupcake recipes. Your days of resorting to a cake mix can be a thing of the past.
If you love making desserts from scratch and have been searching for the perfect chocolate cupcake recipe, your search is over.
I know these are big claims, but honestly, I feel like I have tried every chocolate cupcake recipe on the planet.
And while there are many good chocolate cupcake recipes out there, this one is hands down the best chocolate cupcake recipe ever. I’m pretty confident you will agree.
These cupcakes are the perfect thing to pair with homemade rainbow chip frosting recipe. Or the best chocolate buttercream you’ve ever tasted (it’s the chocolate frosting that is pictured in these photos). And I have a salted caramel frosting recipe that is also amazing with these cupcakes.
Heck, I have an entire category of frosting recipes that would pretty much all be amazing with these moist chocolate cupcakes! And honestly, the cake part itself is so amazing that I always eat at least one cupcake sans frosting while I wait for them to cool.
What makes these chocolate cupcakes so moist?
The two biggest players in keeping these chocolate cupcakes moist are using buttermilk and oil in the recipe, as opposed to butter and sour cream, which are both commonly used in chocolate cakes.
If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, you can make an easy substitute by adding 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a 1/2 cup measuring cup, then filling the rest of the way with milk. Stir, then let sit for 5 minutes before adding to the recipe in place of the buttermilk.
And while you technically could replace the oil with butter in this recipe, the cupcakes won’t be as moist for some science-y reason that I can’t explain. Just go with it – if you want to replicate the moist texture and fluffiness of a box cake mix (with way better flavor because these cupcakes are made from scratch), use the oil instead of melted butter.
How to Make Super Moist Chocolate Cupcakes From Scratch
Start by combining flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until everything is combined.
There is one more ingredient, which is very hot water. It’s super important to achieving super moist chocolate cupcakes with an intense chocolate flavor.
The hot water doesn’t have to be boiling, but it needs to be really hot because the heat is going to react with the cocoa powder, causing it to “bloom”, which brings out as much chocolate flavor as possible from the cocoa powder. I find that my tap water gets hot enough if I let it run for 10-15 seconds or so, but you could also microwave some water for a minute or boiling some water on the stove.
The hot water is also going to create a pretty thin batter, too. Don’t be alarmed! It really is supposed to be like that.
The thin batter is going to allow the baking powder and baking soda in the batter to really do their magic and the cupcakes will rise and dome beautifully, with a wonderful texture thanks to all the scientific magic going on behind the scenes.
Readers have said you can use hot coffee in place of the water, but I haven’t tried that myself.
How much do you fill cupcakes?
Be sure to only fill the cupcake liners halfway full! Not 3/4 or even 2/3 full, which are common amounts for other cupcake recipes. Just half.
It is going to seem strange and like there is not nearly enough batter in each cupcake liner, but just trust me on this one. There is so much lift to the thin batter that if the cupcake liners are too full, the cupcakes will overflow and you won’t get that beautiful, domed cupcake shape that is the hallmark of perfect cupcakes.
Plus, the top edges will get crisp and stick to the pan and the cupcake centers are probably going to sink. So just halfway full, m’kay?
If you find that your cupcakes aren’t doming on top, try filling your liners a little less next time. Or if you are baking at a high altitude, you might want to use this helpful guide to high-altitude baking and see if that helps, since I’m in California near sea level.
How do you tell if cupcakes are done without a toothpick?
I never use the toothpick test on cupcakes. For one, I hate digging around the back of my spice cupboard to find them. But also, I feel like it isn’t as accurate as simply touching the tops of the cupcakes.
The best way to tell if cupcakes are done is to lightly tap the top of a cupcake. If it bounces right back, they are done. If a little indentation from your finger remains, the cupcakes need to bake a little bit longer.
What kind of cocoa powder do I prefer?
I have a few chocolate brands that I think make really great cocoa powder, like Rodelle and Ghiradelli, but I don’t have any problems with good old Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder, which is available at any grocery store.
Can I Use This Chocolate Cupcake Recipe to Make a Cake?
Yes, you can absolutely use this recipe to make a super moist chocolate cake instead of cupcakes. Just keep the following in mind if that’s the route you decide to go:
- This recipe only makes 14-16 cupcakes which is the same as one square baking dish or 9-inch round cake layer. If you are trying to make a cake in a large rectangular baking dish or create a two layer cake, just double the recipe or use my One-Bowl Chocolate Cake Recipe!
- The oven temperature stays the same, but the baking time will change since individual cupcakes cook faster than cakes cooked in larger pans. Cakes cooked in 9-inch baking pans should take about 30-35 minutes to fully bake, but just be sure to test the center of each cake with a toothpick or sharp knife to test for doneness before taking your cake layers out of the oven.
More Cake & Cupcake Recipes You’ll Love
- Key Lime Cupcakes
- Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes
- Dulce de Leche Cupcakes
- The BEST Homemade German Chocolate Cake
- Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
- Gingerbread Cupcakes with Eggnog Buttercream
- S’mores Cupcakes with Graham Cracker Frosting
- Homemade Funfetti Cake From Scratch
- Best Red Velvet Cake
- Vintage Cherry Chip Layer Cake
Best Ever Moist Chocolate Cupcakes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 1/2 cup buttermilk room temperature
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup very hot water
- [Chocolate Buttercream Frosting]
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
- Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl and whisk together.
- Combine the egg, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla in another bowl and whisk together.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix using a stand mixer until combined.
- Add the hot water to the batter and mix again, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, until combined. Batter will be thin.
- Fill cupcake liners only 1/2 full, then bake for 18-21 minutes, until the tops bounce back when you touch them with a finger or a toothpick comes out with only a few moist crumbs when used to test a cupcake.
- Cool completely before frosting.
- This recipe calls for buttermilk, but if you don’t have any on hand, you can make an easy substitute by adding 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a 1/2 cup measuring cup, then filling the rest of the way with milk. Stir, then let sit for 5 minutes before adding to the recipe in place of the buttermilk.
- Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen for up to 3 months.
When I first posted these chocolate cupcakes, I made them with my salted caramel frosting, which is a super scrumptious combination! Here is one of the original images below.