Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes

Whenever I need a recipe for chocolate cupcakes, I usually use the one from this recipe. It is originally from the back of the Hershey’s cocoa can. And listen, I love it, but a few gripes I have with the recipe is that it makes an odd amount (30-32) when usually I want the standard 24, and the tops end up more on the flat side than on the domed, beautiful side of things. Neither of those issues are deal breakers, obviously, especially since the cupcakes are a) delicious and b) usually covered in frosting, but nonetheless, I’ve been on the search for a fool-proof chocolate cupcake recipe that yields 24 cupcakes and acquires the lovely dome shape.

Thankfully, the recipe I found that accomplishes both of these feats also tastes magically delicious. Sturdy yet moist with wonderful chocolate flavor, these cupcakes are definitely my new go-to when I need a chocolate cupcake base. I’m not saying I won’t use my other favorite now and again, but I like knowing I have a perfect, perfect, perfect chocolate cupcake recipe to use for any variety of occasions.

Incidentally, I was making chocolate cupcakes a few weeks ago for an occasion that required them to be egg-free and since I knew I couldn’t fall back on my newfound chocolate cupcake recipe, I modified Jackson’s Wacky Cake recipe into cupcakes and seriously, the result nearly gave these perfect cupcakes a run for their money. Tender and chocolately and yes, beautifully rounded on top! I’ve added a variation to the recipe on the wacky cake post for cupcakes, in case you are interested in an egg-free option.

And finally, in case anyone wonders, to get the flowery swipe of frosting over the tops of the cupcakes, I nearly always use this Quick Vanilla Buttercream recipe or if I have time and am not serving them to oblivious and non-discretionary Kindergarteners, the Magical Frosting recipe. I use the Wilton 1M tip for the decoration (along with a few other classic, large tips). If anyone is interested in a simple cupcake frosting how-to, respond in the comments. I have 2-3 classic designs I use for the tops of the cupcakes that give them the bakery appeal but are super easy to accomplish, and I could whip up a post to demonstrate if there is interest.

Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes

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Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes

Yield: Makes 24 cupcakes

Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes

UPDATE: I feel a little silly I haven't tried this before now (5/2016) since this recipe has been on my site a while - if you were familiar with the original recipe it had some wacky measurements (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water and 2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon butter). I made them today (for the millionth time) and decided to just nix all those extra tablespoons. And guess what? They turned out amazing. So I've edited the recipe below but if you still feel strongly about those extra tablespoons, use the info in the parentheses above).


  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) cocoa powder, Dutch-process or regular unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup tablespoon hot water
  • 2 1/4 cups (11.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons, 8 ounces) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups (12.5 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs (about 5.25 ounces), at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sour cream


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 standard cupcake pans with paper liners. In a glass liquid measuring cup, combine the cocoa powder and hot water and whisk until smooth. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and sugar (I often do this in the microwave so I can use the same bowl for mixing). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth and the butter is completely melted. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer (or to a stand-alone bowl, using a handheld electric mixer) and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is cool, about 4-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated. So basically you'll add 1/3 of the flour, mix, then add 1/2 of the sour cream, mix, add another 1/3 of the flour, mix, add the rest of the sour cream, and finish with the last 1/3 of the dry ingredients.
  3. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners, filling no more than 2/3 full. If you live at a high altitude or have had overflowing cupcakes in the past, err on the side of filling the liner of one cupcake 1/2 full and baking it alone first to judge how the cupcake will rise in the oven. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes. Remove the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe Source: classic cupcake recipe adapted slightly from Annie’s Eats, egg-free cupcake recipe adapted from Jackson’s Wacky Cake

137 Responses to Chocolate Cupcakes {Perfected}

  1. Vika Tsymbal says:

    Would it be possible for me to cut the recipe for these cupcakes in half, as well as the chocolate buttercream in half? So as to get 12 cupcakes even?

  2. rick says:

    Hi do you use unsalted butter for the perfect chocolate cupcakes?
    Thanks the lemon ones are great!

  3. Shelby Javens says:

    Hi Mel, I would love some tips or “how to” when it comes to frosting and decorating cupcakes! I’ve been looking for a chocolate recipe for my sons 1st birthday party coming up, and I’d love to be able to make them look as cute as yours!! But, I did buy some cake toppers to distract away from the frosting- being I’m really new to the whole “fancy” decorating! 🙂

  4. Cindy says:

    I made these cupcakes yesterday and they really are amazing! Dense, yet moist, and they peaked perfectly. I had a problem with melting the sugar and butter together. My pan got too hot and the sugar started to melt first and form chunks of sugar in my mixture. I started over and melted the butter first, then added the sugar and mixed it together on the stove top. Worked perfectly.

  5. Jill Figgins says:

    Do you think I could sub greek yogurt for the sour cream?

  6. Jill Figgins says:

    fyi I used part sour cream and part plain greek yogurt and it was good.

    • Mel's Kitchen Cafe Admin says:

      Jill – Thank you for checking back in about the sour cream and yogurt combo. Mel is out of town this weekend and is not around internet, but she always loves hearing about substitutions that work well!

  7. Kerri says:

    I made 5 batches of these for a bake sale this week and they really are perfect!!! I loved them. The texture is great, the flavor is great, and they domed up so beautifully! Thank you, thank you, thank you! And your frosting how to video was helpful, too.

  8. Paula says:

    I have made these several times. I will never make chocolate cupcakes from a mix ever again. I have used dutch process cocoa and unsweetened cocoa both with fantastic results. I have also subbed Greek yogurt for the sour cream and they have turned out delicious too. Thanks again for another amazing recipe.

  9. Lynn says:

    PLEASE do a how to on frosting a cupcake! Everything you make tastes FABULOUS, beside being beautiful!! If you do, will we get notified by email?

  10. Jolie says:

    I loved this recipe 🙂 They turned out great! Thanks! Where did you find the cute liners?

  11. Emily says:

    Mel I read through the comments on this recipe and I’m a frequent user of your fabulous blog. I’ve made this recipe twice and both times it came out fantastic. The first time I made the two round cakes and this time I made about 20 cupcakes. Both times, phenomenal.

    For the cupcakes, I baked at 350 for about 18-20 mins.

    I’ve not had any issues as previous users experienced. I use a blendtec blender as well and I think that can make a huge difference.

    I agree with a previous commenter who said the quality of chocolate may impact the chocolate cream. Although I’ve not had trouble with this recipe and using Ghiradelli chocolate, I have had issues with store brand chocolate and gnaches in the past.

    Thanks for all that you do!

  12. Sue Kim says:

    Hi Mel, I would to try this cupcakes for a birthday. Just wondering if It’s possible to divide in half vanilla and half chocolate cupcakes. Would it work for vanilla cupcakes by omitting the cocoa powder?

    • Mel says:

      I haven’t tried that, Sue, but I’m guessing it would not. You’d have to make up the structural difference by omitting the cocoa powder with some flour and I don’t know how much. Your best bet would be to make a tested recipe of vanilla cupcakes.

  13. Amy says:

    I want to make mini cupcakes with your fantastic recipe. Would you know an approximate time for baking them?

  14. Sarah says:

    I have a dumb question. If I make these with my stand mixer, should I use the whisk or paddle attachment?

  15. Sabina says:

    Awesome cupcakes

  16. Sharon says:

    I’ve made these and they are Delicious!! I have one question. I’m looking to do vanilla cupcakes with these ones. Can I use this exact recipe and just on it the cocoa powder and hot water??

    • Mel says:

      Unfortunately, converting a chocolate cupcake recipe to a vanilla usually isn’t as easy as that. You’d probably be better off to find a vanilla cupcakes recipe that’s already been tested.

  17. Sharon says:

    I meant to type Can I use this exact recipe and just omit the cocoa powder and hot water? 🙂

  18. Beth Gebert says:

    Hi Mel. I love these cupcakes and they turned out great, but I wondered why you melt the butter in a pan with the sugar and then cool it. Why wouldn’t you just cream the softened butter in the mixer and then add the sugar?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Beth – I’m not sure of the exact science but when I’ve made them that way, the cupcakes were drier than when using the melted butter technique.

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