These chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are the moistest, fluffiest cupcakes you'll ever eat. The rich, decadent chocolate cake is perfectly balanced with slightly tangy cream cheese frosting. They're easy to make and perfect for any occasion.
Have you ever bitten into a perfectly baked moist chocolate cupcake, topped with tangy, luscious cream cheese frosting, and felt like you were in dessert heaven? If not, you're in for a real treat. These chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are absolutely delicious and will leave you wanting more.
The chocolate cake is rich and decadent, with a deep cocoa flavor that goes perfectly with the creamy and sweet cream cheese frosting. The cake is also soft, moist, and tender, with a texture that will make your tastebuds sing.
But don't let the deliciousness fool you into thinking these cupcakes are difficult to make. They're actually super easy! With simple ingredients and some basic baking tools, you can whip up a batch in no time.
These cupcakes are similar to red velvet cupcakes and are the cupcake version of my chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. They're perfect for any occasion, from birthday parties to potlucks to simple weeknight desserts. They're versatile enough to dress up or down and can be customized with a variety of frostings (like coffee cream cheese frosting, whipped chocolate frosting, or almond buttercream), toppings, and decorations. So, whether you're looking to impress your guests or satisfy your sweet tooth, these cupcakes are the way to go.
Here are some notes about the ingredients used. For quantities and the full instructions, see the recipe card below.
Ingredients for the Chocolate Cupcakes
- All purpose flour- I usually use cake flour in vanilla cupcakes to make them super light, but I love using all purpose flour in chocolate cupcakes to make them slightly dense and ultra moist
- Granulated sugar- White sugar sweetens the batter, retains moisture, and mixes in well.
- Cocoa powder- I prefer the deep flavor and color of Dutch-processed cocoa powder. It is treated with alkali, which reduces the acidity. Natural or unsweetened cocoa powder works too, but the color and flavor won't be as deep.
- Baking powder & baking soda- These two leaveners work together to help the cake rise to perfection. Using them together creates a sponge that is fluffy and moist.
- Salt- Cupcakes need a little salt so they aren't cloyingly sweet. Use finely ground sea salt, Kosher salt, or pink Himalayan salt. If your salt is coarse, add an extra ¼ teaspoon.
- Egg and egg white- An egg binds the ingredients together while the egg white gives the cake extra lift. Make sure they're at room temperature; take them out of the refrigerator an hour before you start.
- Oil- To give chocolate cupcakes extra moisture and sponginess, I prefer using oil over butter. You have several options to choose from, like canola, avocado, grapeseed, or vegetable oil - just pick the neutral oil you prefer.
- Buttermilk- I'm a huge buttermilk fan. It thins out the batter, adds a tangy flavor, and tenderizes the gluten, making a super soft cake.
- Vanilla extract- Vanilla enhances the chocolate flavor and gives the cupcakes a gorgeous aroma.
- Brewed coffee- Hot coffee is used to activate (or "bloom") the cocoa powder and bring out the full spectrum of chocolatey flavors. Don't worry, you can't taste it at all!
Ingredients for the Cream Cheese Frosting
- Unsalted butter- Make sure the butter is softened so it's easy to mix. Pull it and the cream cheese out of the refrigerator an hour before you start. The butter should still be cool to the touch but easy to dent with your finger while applying gentle pressure. If the butter is too warm, the frosting will be greasy.
- Cream cheese- Use softened, full fat cream cheese to make the frosting extra creamy. Make sure the cream cheese is in block form, not from a tub. Cream cheese from a tub will be too runny.
- Powdered sugar- Powdered sugar (also called icing or confectioners sugar) adds structure and sweetness, giving the frosting a sturdy, pipeable consistency. You don't need to worry about sifting it beforehand.
- Vanilla extract- Vanila adds extra flavor and a beautiful aroma to the frosting.
- Salt- Salt rounds out the flavor profile and balances the sweetness of the powdered sugar.
- All purpose flour: Use Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour to make the cupcakes gluten free.
- Buttermilk: You can substitute plain kefir, plain Greek yogurt, or sour cream for buttermilk at a 1:1 ratio. You can even make your own buttermilk by combining 1 cup of whole milk with 1 tablespoon of either vinegar or lemon juice. Let the mixture curdle for 10 minutes and it's good to go.
- Brewed coffee: If you don't have coffee, use hot water. The chocolate flavor won't be as deep, but the cupcakes will still be delicious.
Helpful Equipment & Tools
- You need a 12-well cupcake tin lined with cupcake liners. I don't recommend using a glass pan since it conducts heat differently than metal, which I used to test this recipe. Don't use a silicone pan because the cupcakes will burn.
- Large mixing bowls are need for combining the ingredients.
- You need a balloon whisk and rubber spatula for mixing the ingredients.
- For making the frosting, I recommend using an electric hand mixer or a 5-quart stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- For decorating the cupcakes, you'll need a piping bag and a large piping tip. I love the Wilton 1M for making pretty ruffles.
Step by Step Instructions
Here are the steps to make the recipe. Before you start, line a 12-well cupcake pan with liners, brew your coffee, and preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
Instructions for the Cupcakes
STEP 1: First, pour the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
STEP 2: In a separate large bowl, whisk the egg, egg white, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla extract together vigorously until smooth.
STEP 3: Gently pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and fold everything together with a rubber spatula. At the beginning, there will be lots of lumps, but keep mixing until the batter is smooth and drips off the spatula in ribbons.
STEP 4: Pour half of the hot coffee into the batter and fold it in with your spatula. Repeat with the other half, folding until smooth. The batter will be very thin.
STEP 4: Use a cookie scoop or spoon to portion the batter between the cupcake liners. Fill them only half way or they might overflow in the oven.
STEP 5: Bake the cupcakes for 16-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with a few loose crumbs. Let the cupcakes cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove them from the pan and let cool completely on a wire cooling rack.
Instructions for the Frosting
For more detailed instructions, see my small batch cream cheese frosting recipe, which is doubled for this recipe.
STEP 1: First, add the softened butter and cream cheese to a large bowl. With your mixer, mix them together on medium-high speed for 5-10 minutes until there are no lumps.
STEP 2: Gradually add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. Beat with the mixer on low and increase speed to medium once the sugar is slightly combined, mixing until smooth. This keeps the powdered sugar from flying out of the bowl.
STEP 3: Mix the vanilla and salt in on medium speed until fully combined.
STEP 4: Pipe or spread the frosting over your cooled cupcakes and enjoy!
Expert Baking Tips
- Use room temperature ingredients. Room temperature ingredients mix more easily, creating a smooth and uniform batter.
- Use a kitchen scale. Weighing the ingredients in grams instead of using cup measurements is best for accuracy and consistent results. Metric measurements are provided in the recipe card below.
- Don't overmix the batter. Overmixing can make the cupcakes tough and gummy. Make sure to mix the ingredients until they're just combined.
- Don't overbake. Check on the cupcakes a few minutes before the suggested baking time as oven temperatures can vary. The cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or when the tops bounce back when lightly pressed.
Additions and Variations
This chocolate cupcake recipe is delicious as is, but if you want to take it to the next level, there are several ingredients you can add. Get creative and consider adding:
- Chocolate chips: Fold a handful of chocolate chips into the cupcake batter before baking. You can also sprinkle some on top of the frosting as a garnish.
- Chopped nuts: Chop up some almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, or walnuts and fold them into the batter. Like the chocolate chips, they can also be used as a garnish.
- Peanut butter: Drop a small dollop of peanut butter on top of the cupcake batter in each liner before baking. Alternatively, you can swirl the peanut butter into the batter for a marbled effect.
- Spices: Add a pinch of cinnamon or cayenne to the batter. Adjust the amount to your taste preferences.
- Fresh berries: Top your cupcakes with fresh strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries for an elegant touch.
- Chocolate cream cheese frosting: Mix ½ cup of cocoa powder into the frosting after beating in the powdered sugar to make it chocolate flavored.
Storage and Freezing
Store frosted or unfrosted cupcakes in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Let them warm up on the counter for about 30 minutes before serving. Leftover cream cheese frosting can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week, just give it a good mix before using.
Freeze the cupcakes on a baking sheet until they're frozen solid, about 2 hours. Transfer them to a freezer bag or airtight container and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy, let the cupcakes thaw on the counter for two hours or in the refrigerator overnight.
Frequently Asked Questions
Make sure that your cream cheese and butter are both at room temperature and fully combined. If they aren't the same temperature, the frosting might turn out grainy.
Yes! That's what I did with my lemon chocolate cake. This will make enough batter for two 6" round pans, three 6" pans, two 8" pans, or a 9x13" cake pan.
There are several reasons why your cupcakes deflated or sunk in the center. Your oven could be too hot, you could've overfilled the liners, or you may have added too much or too little baking powder.
More Cupcakes to Try
Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 160 grams all purpose flour
- 300 grams granulated sugar
- 75 grams Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 1 egg white room temperature
- 130 grams neutral oil
- 225 grams buttermilk room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 205 grams brewed coffee hot
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 113 grams unsalted butter softened
- 226 grams full-fat cream cheese softened
- 500 grams powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
For the Cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Prepare a cupcake pan with liners and set aside.
- Add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a large mixing bowl and whisk until combined.160 grams all purpose flour, 300 grams granulated sugar, 75 grams Dutch-processed cocoa powder, 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder, ¾ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, egg white, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla extract until smooth.1 large egg, 1 egg white, 130 grams neutral oil, 225 grams buttermilk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Fold until there are no lumps and the batter is smooth.
- Pour half of the hot coffee into the batter and fold until smooth. Then mix in the remaining half. The batter will be thin.205 grams brewed coffee
- Fill each cupcake liner ½ way full. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.
For the Frosting
- Beat the butter and cream cheese together with a stand mixer or hand mixer on medium-low speed until creamy and lump free.113 grams unsalted butter, 226 grams full-fat cream cheese
- With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until completely combined and smooth.500 grams powdered sugar
- Add the vanilla and salt and mix well.1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Fill a piping bag with the frosting and frost each cupcake. Enjoy!
- Use room temperature ingredients. Using room temperature ingredients creates a smooth, uniform batter.
- Use a kitchen scale. Weighing the ingredients in grams instead of using cup measurements is best for accuracy and consistent results. Metric measurements are provided in the recipe card.
- Don't overmix the batter. Overmixing can make the cupcakes gummy.
- Don't overbake. Check on the cupcakes a few minutes before the suggested baking time as oven temperatures vary.