Made with cocoa powder and buttermilk, this chocolate cupcakes recipe is oh so chocolate-y and super easy to make. Even better? It works equally well with regular, all-purpose flour or measure-for-measure gluten-free flour, so even your gluten-free friends can indulge.
It seems like any time I’m hosting a birthday party and I ask what kind of cake they want…the answer is always chocolate!
Which used to mean that I went to the store and bought a cake mix.
Because I’ve never been able to make a chocolate cake from scratch that wasn’t waaayyyy too much work, and that actually tasted good.
Even better? This recipe works just as well with gluten-free flour as it does with regular, all-purpose flour.
Now before we get any further, you may be saying “Hold up! I thought this was supposed to be a chocolate cupcakes recipe!”.
You’re right. It is.
You can actually use this exact same recipe to make cupcakes or a chocolate layer cake.
But to tell you the truth, when I’m baking for a party, I always make cupcakes.
They are just so much easier to serve!
No dealing with requests for an extra-small piece…or one with more icing…or a corner piece…or having a piece of cake fall over half way to the plate. (Can you tell I don’t like serving cake?)
Anyhow, now that we have that question settled, let’s get back to the task at hand…making chocolate cupcakes!
Chocolate Cupcake Ingredients
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- Baking Supplies: cocoa powder, all-purpose flour (or measure-for-measure gluten-free flour), sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt
- Dairy: buttermilk, 1 1/4 sticks butter
- Eggs: 3 large ones
- Flavoring: Vanilla extract
- Home-made or store-bought frosting: Buy a can of already-made frosting, use one of your own favorite recipes, or try our best ever chocolate icing or cream cheese frosting recipes.
- 3 12-hole muffin tins (standard size) – yes, that’s 36 cupcakes!
- 36 cupcake liners
- small sauce pan or microwave-able bowl – for melting butter
- (optional) egg separator – we need to separate the yolk from one of the eggs
- small bowl for catching the separated egg whites
- 2 mixing bowls
- mixing spoon
- hand-held whisk, or an electric mixer with a whisk attachment – you can make this recipe with a mixer or by hand, whichever you prefer
- wire racks – for cooling the cupcakes
How To Make Chocolate Cupcakes
Heat the oven to 350F.
Line 3 12-hole muffin tins with cupcake liners.
Melt 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of butter in a small sauce pan over low heat, or in the microwave. Set aside to cool.
Combine The Dry Ingredients
In a large bowl, combine 1 1/4 cups plus 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder, 2 1/2 cups flour, 2 1/2 cups sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt.
This recipe works equally well with regular, all-purpose flour or measure-for-measure gluten-free flour. I used this gluten-free brand*.
Mix the Wet Ingredients
As I mentioned above, you can make this recipe by hand or in an electric mixer.
So for this section, you can either get out another large mixing bowl and a hand whisk, or a mixer with a whisk attachment.
First, separate the yolk from one of the eggs. (Leave the other two whole).
An egg separator is the easiest way to do this. But if you don’t have one, pass the egg yolk back and forth between the two halves of the egg shell until all of the egg white has dripped off.
In either case, you’ll need to do this over a separate bowl that will catch the left-over egg white.
Put the egg yolk plus the two whole eggs into the bowl and beat until fluffy.
Add 1 1/4 cups of warm water, 1 1/4 cups butter milk, the melted butter from above, and 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract.
Put Everything Together
Add the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients.
Mix until smooth and combined.
If you’re using regular, all-purpose flour, be careful not to mix too long or the gluten in the flour will get tough…and you’ll end up with chewy cupcakes.
Fill each of the cupcake liners about half full with batter.
Bake The Cupcakes
Bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
When they’re done, put the muffin tin on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes.
Then remove the cupcakes from the tin and put them on the wire racks individually.
Let them cool completely before adding frosting.
Add The Frosting
The final step is to add the frosting.
Some of my friends think these cupcakes are so good that they don’t need icing.
But to me, a cupcake isn’t a cupcake without icing.
If you love chocolate, my favorite is this chocolate icing recipe.
For a break from all that chocolate, this cream cheese icing is another one of my favorites.
Having said that, I find that making the icing takes just as long (or longer) as making the cupcakes. So I wouldn’t hold it against you if you went with the store-bought kind.
Chocolate Layer Cake
If you want to make a chocolate layer cake instead of cupcakes, the only differences are the pans you’ll use and the cooking time.
- Grease 2 8-inch round cake pans (or line the bottoms with parchment paper).
- Divide the batter equally between the two pans.
- Then bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
How Long Will The Cupcakes Keep?
Store chocolate cupcakes without the frosting in an air-tight container for 3 to 4 days at room temperature, or in the freezer for up to a month.
Add icing just before serving.
Other Dessert Recipes You Might Like
- 3 12-hole muffin tins
- 36 cupcake liners
- small saucepan or microwave-proof glass bowl
- egg separator (optional)
- Small bowl
- 2 mixing bowls
- mixing spoon
- electric mixer with a whisk attachment, or a hand-held whisk
- wire rack
- ½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons butter or 1 1/4 sticks
- 1 ¼ cups cocoa powder
- 2 ½ cups all purpose flour or measure-for-measure gluten-free flour
- 2 ½ cups sugar
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 ¼ cups warm water
- 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
- 1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
- home-made or store-bought frosting
- Heat oven to 350 F.
- Line 3 12-hole muffin tins with cupcake liners.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat on the stove, or in a small glass bowl in the microwave. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
- In a large bowl, combine 1 1/4 cups cocoa, 2 1/2 cups flour, 2 1/2 cups sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder and 1 1/4 teaspoon salt with a mixing spoon.
- Separate one of the eggs, keeping the egg yolk for this recipe.
- The next few steps can either be done by hand with a whisk, or with an electric mixer that has a whisk attachment.
- In another large bowl, whisk 2 eggs and the egg yolk together until fluffy.
- Mix 1 1/4 cups warm water, 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla with the eggs.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and whisk until they are combined and the batter is smooth.
- Fill each of the cupcake liners about half full with batter.
- Bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Set the cupcake tins on the wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes.
- Then remove the cupcakes from the tins and leave them on the rack until they are completely cool.
- Add the frosting of your choice.
- If you are using all-purpose flour (ie. not the gluten-free kind), be careful not to mix the batter too much or the gluten will harden causing your cupcakes to be tough and chewy.
- Using a egg separator is the easiest way to separate the yolk from the egg white. But you can do the same thing by passing the yolk back and forth between the two halves of the egg shell until all of the egg white has dripped off. In either case, doing this over a separate bowl is a good idea in case the yolk breaks (or you accidentally drop it in the bowl).
- Make sure that the cupcakes cool completely before adding frosting, otherwise the icing will melt.
- Cupcakes can be stored without frosting in an air tight container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to a month.
- Chocolate Layer Cake: This recipe also makes a delicious chocolate layer cake, following the same directions except for the type of pan and cooking time:
- Grease 2 8-inch round cake pans with cooking oil or shortening (or line the bottom with parchment paper).
- Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 45 minutes.
- For homemade icing, try our chocolate frosting or cream cheese icing recipes.
Nutrition values are estimates only, using online calculators. Please verify using your own data.
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This post was originally published on May 14, 2020 but was updated with new content on February 20, 2023.