How to Make Easy Chocolate Cupcakes

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It's possible to make easy chocolate cupcakes—from scratch. These cupcakes are moist, rich and made with simple ingredients.

I know baking can sometimes be intimidating. It requires making exact measurements, weighing ingredients and knowing exactly how much to mix so that batter is not overmixed. This might sound scary, but I promise that you can learn how to make easy chocolate cupcakes that will be absolutely delicious.

Choosing Your Ingredients

Walk down the baking aisle at your grocery store—and you’ll find a variety of different flours, sugars, cocoa powders and oils. If you want a high-quality chocolate cupcake, look for high-quality cocoa powder. Premium cocoa powder will be 22% – 24% fat, which is nearly twice the amount of regular cocoa powder. You’ll need to look at the nutrition label to find the fat content, and it should be around 1 gram of fat per 5-6 grams serving size.

Butter is another essential ingredient. You’ll want to find a brand with a higher fat content for the best results. Keep in mind that butter loses moisture as it ages, so using fresh butter will help keep your baked goods moist.

The other important ingredient in this recipe is buttermilk. Buttermilk will create a light and tender baked good, ideal for cupcakes. If you can’t find buttermilk at the grocery store, or if you prefer to use items on hand, you can make buttermilk with milk and lemon juice or vinegar.

How to Make Chocolate Cupcakes

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup water
FROSTING
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3-3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 2 tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Chocolate sprinkles

See what brand of baking chocolate our taste testers recommend.

Essential Tools You’ll Need

  • The most important thing you’ll need for baking cupcakes is a sturdy muffin tin. You’ll want to find a nonstick steel pan for a tool that will last.
  • You’ll also need a hand mixer to whip your ingredients together properly and create beautiful air pockets for fluffy cupcakes.
  • If you bake often, investing in our Test Kitchen’s recommended stand mixer. It will last for years to come.
  • To get fancy with the frosting, start with a basic set of cake decorating tips. There are a lot of different ways to pipe frosting onto a cupcake and using the different tips will give you different effects.

Directions

Step 1: Prepare the batter

Cupcake wet ingredients - eggs, butter, milkApril Preisler for Taste of Home

Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Then, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

The next step is to combine the buttermilk and water. (You can also use coffee instead of water for a richer chocolate flavor.) Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk and water, beating well after each addition.

Step 2: Bake the cupcakes

Cupcake batter in muffin tinsApril Preisler for Taste of Home

Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. (Don’t overfill!) Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

Step 3: Frost

Frosted Chocolate CupcakesApril Preisler for Taste of Home

For the frosting, in a small bowl, beat butter and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Beat in melted chocolate, milk, vanilla and salt. Frost cupcakes; garnish with chocolate sprinkles.

Easy Chocolate Cupcake Tips

Here are a few common questions people run into when making chocolate cupcakes.

How can I make cupcakes fluffier?

When preparing your batter, be sure that your ingredients are at room temperature, especially the eggs. Room temperature eggs mix better and rise more easily. Making sure the butter is at room temperature is also important so it whips up nice and fluffy with the sugar. Don’t overmix the batter, as you can burst the air pockets that keep the cupcakes light and fluffy.

How can I tell if they’re finished baking?

Because there are a lot of variables involved in the actual baking process—and chocolate cupcakes are dark to begin with—rely on a toothpick to make sure that the cupcakes are finished. You simply poke a toothpick into the center of one of the cupcakes, and when it comes out clean, your cupcakes are finished!

Can I make chocolate cupcakes without liners?

If you don’t have liners, you can easily make cupcakes without them. You’ll want to use a nonstick cooking spray in your cupcake pan and allow the cupcakes to cool completely before popping them out of the molds.

How to Store Chocolate Cupcakes

It’s important to allow the cupcakes to cool completely before storage so that they don’t create moisture in the container. The steam in the container will create sticky tops and will make it hard for the frosting to stick. You’ll want to store them in a container with an airtight lid and avoid using plastic wrap or aluminum foil. (This can often stick to the top of the cupcakes.)

Can I refrigerate cupcakes?

It’s not ideal and can dry out the cupcakes quicker. I suggest storing them on the counter at room temperature, out of the sun and away from your oven. You’ll also want to frost and eat your cupcakes within 2 days of making them.

Can I freeze cupcakes?

Yes! If you end up making too many cupcakes or you want to prepare them ahead of time, you can freeze unfrosted cupcakes. First, allow the cupcakes to cool completely. Then, wrap them individually in plastic wrap. Once you have each cupcake wrapped, place into an airtight container or zip-close bag. Be sure not to put anything on top of the cupcakes to avoid squishing them. For best results, do not freeze for more than 3 months.

How to Make This Recipe Your Own

It’s always fun to personalize cupcakes, especially when it’s for a party. I like to make mini chocolate cupcakes if there is more than one dessert featured.

I like to play around with other frostings for these cupcakes, like cream cheese frosting for a rich flavor. It’s also fun to add different sprinkles or decorations to the cupcakes to fit the theme of your party or add more flair!

Can I make vegan chocolate cupcakes?

Absolutely. This recipe for vegan chocolate cupcakes uses coconut milk and dairy-free margarine to create cupcakes that taste equally delicious.

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April Preisler
April is a food and travel lover, wine enthusiast, ice cream obsessed and the vision behind the blog, Food n' Focus. Her favorite cuisine is Italian and loves to cook international recipes.