wire cooling rack with 12 chocolate cupcakes
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Chocolate Cupcakes

Supremely fluffy, moist, and ultra-chocolatey cupcakes. There are countless chocolate cupcake recipes in existence but look no further because this is one of the best. This simple recipe yields cupcakes that are not overly greasy, overwhelmingly sweet, or dense. This cupcake is so good that you won’t even require any icing!

chocolate cupcakes
white cake stand topped with three chocolate cupcakes topped with one white vanilla fondant ghost with a frilly skirt and two candy eyes
Chocolate cupcakes decorated with chocolate icing and vanilla fondant ghosts see Halloween Cupcakes for the recipe!

Why This Works

This recipe yields a perfectly balanced batch of chocolate cupcakes. If you’re new to baking, this is a great introductory recipe to learn with. The recipe is made with accessible ingredients that may be found in your grocery store. Furthermore, it features the core baking techniques of creaming in addition to the slow incorporation of dry and wet ingredients.

clockwise from bottom left 3 large brown eggs, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, all purpose flour, baking soda, butter, sugar, and buttermilk
clockwise from bottom left large brown eggs, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, all purpose flour, baking soda, butter, sugar, and buttermilk

How to Bake the Perfect Cupcakes

1. Avoid making substitutions

Baking is a science! The main ingredients of a bake factors into flavor, texture, moisture, structure, and shape. Substitutions are tricky especially for core ingredients such as the fat, flour, sugar, and leavening agent. Unless you are a seasoned baker, I recommend only making substitutions to flavorings as long as the volume of the new ingredient is not great enough to impact the chemistry of the bake.

Baking is not as forgiving as cooking so if you are trying to make a non-vegan baking recipe vegan for example, simply find the vegan version of that recipe instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.

2. Use Premium Ingredients

What is butter?

Butter is made from churning heavy whipping cream until it’s curdled. This process causes the milk solids to separate from the liquid. The milk solids are then strained and formed into butter.

What is the main purpose of butter?

When it comes to baking, butter contributes to moisture, texture, and structure.

What type of butter do I need for cupcakes?

When baking cakes or cupcakes, always opt for Grade AA butter. Grade AA butter has a milk fat of 80% while European-style butter has a milk fat ranging from 82-86%. European-style butters are a great option for flakey pastries, pies, or shortbread but tends to be too rich for cupcakes.

There are some cupcake recipes that use oil instead of butter. I find that using softened butter yields bakes that are superior to those that are made with oil. Oil may negatively impact the crumb by creating a bake that is overly greasy, dense, and dry.

What is vanilla extract?

Vanilla extract is created by steeping vanilla bean pods in alcohol and aging the mixture.

What is the main purpose of vanilla extract?

Vanilla extract adds the aroma of the vanilla bean to bakes while also enhancing the other flavors in the recipe. Bakes without vanilla extract are muted and flat.

Do I need to use premium vanilla extract?

Premium vanilla extract is one of the most potent forms of vanilla next to vanilla paste but due to its watery consistency, it’s a lot more versatile. Imitation vanilla is a fine substitute in very specific recipes where the vanilla flavor will be less detectable such as pudding, pastry cream, and icing.

What is cocoa powder?

Almost everyone has a Hershey’s cocoa powder in their pantry but what is it? Cocoa powder is derived by finely grinding roasted cacao beans until it becomes a powder.

What is the main purpose of cocoa powder?

Cocoa powder contributes to the flavor and chemistry of bakes. It adds a rich chocolate flavor and impacts the intensity of the color.

What is dutch-process cocoa powder?

Dutch-process is another form of cocoa powder that is processed with potassium to neutralize its acidity. It’s darker than the standard and sometimes has a reddish hue. Cocoa powder and Dutch-process cocoa powder have very different flavor profiles. Dutch-process cocoa has a more mellow flavor. For cupcakes, I recommend using Dutch.

3. Do I need to weigh my ingredients?

Weighing your ingredients with a scale instead of using volumetric measurements with measuring cups is one of the simplest changes that you make to start baking like a pro. Measuring ingredients may seem like an extra step however, it saves time. By using a scale, you can save yourself the task of using multiple measuring cups and mixing bowls. By weighing your ingredients, you are also ensuring the success of the bake. For example, 1 cup of all purpose flour weighs 150 grams. When scooping with a measuring cup the weight may fluctuate significantly depending on how compact or aerated the flour. The difference in ingredients may ultimately change the flavor, texture, moisture, structure, and shape of the final product.

4. Invest in a cookie scooper

One quality of professional bakes is consistency which is accomplished by measuring out ingredients precisely. This can be achieved by using a scale however, a much more efficient solution is to use a cookie scooper with a trigger release. This tool is especially useful because it keeps your hands clean. Cookie scoopers are versatile as they may be used to measure out cupcake / muffin batter, cookie dough, and cake batter.

5. Patience is key!

Never put a bake in the oven until the oven comes to full temperature! An oven only takes 15 minutes to reach temperatures above 300 F (149 C). If you pop raw dough or batter into a cold oven while it’s climbing temperature, expect to get thin, flat, or misshapen bakes. The same effect happens when we put cold cookie dough on a searing hot baking tray. Allow the baking tray to cool to room temperature before uses which takes about 10 minutes.

white cake stand topped with three chocolate cupcakes topped with one white vanilla fondant ghost with a frilly skirt and two candy eyes

Chocolate Cupcakes

Supremely fluffy ultra-chocolatey cupcakes.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 24 cupcakes

Equipment

  • 6 or 12 cup non-stick muffin & cupcake pan
  • 24 cupcake liners
  • Stand mixer with paddle attachment or handheld mixer
  • Large cookie scooper with trigger release

Ingredients
  

  • cup (151 g) unsalted butter softened
  • cups (315 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (46 g) Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp (5 g) baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp (5 g) vanilla extract
  • 3 whole large eggs
  • 1 cup (8.5 oz) full fat buttermilk

Instructions
 

  • Prep | Prepare the center rack and set the oven to 350 F (177 C). Line a muffin tray with cupcake liners.
  • Batter | Add the softened butter and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed for 7 minutes until pale, white, and fluffy. ~ If using a hand mixer, beat at high speed for 14 minutes.
    Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and sea salt into a bowl. Mix until evenly distributed.
    In a separate bowl, add the vanilla extract, eggs, and buttermilk. Mix until evenly distributed.
    Turn the mixer onto the lowest speed setting and slowly add in the egg mixture. Once combined, add in the dry ingredients incrementally at least three or four times. Mix only until the ingredients look uniform, preventing overworking the batter. The visual cues that you are looking for is a thick, pale brown batter.
  • Bake | Using a large cookie scooper, scoop the cupcake batter and scrape off the excess with a spatula or butter knife. Use the trigger release to drop the batter onto the center of a cupcake liner. Repeat.
    Bake on the center rack until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 minutes. The cupcakes should look slightly domed and the surface should not look wet. Remove the tray from the oven and allow the cupcakes to cool at room temperature. Invert the tray over the counter to release and repeat until all the cupcakes are baked. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely if decorating with frosting.

Notes

The unfrosted cupcakes can be stored in plastic wrap and foil at room temperature for up to 2 days in a warm climate, 3 days in a cold climates, or frozen for up to one month.
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