These small batch chocolate cupcakes are a chocolate lovers dream. They're moist, fluffy, and topped with a rich and creamy whipped chocolate buttercream. This recipe makes 6 cupcakes, which is perfect for small households and get-togethers.
These small batch chocolate cupcakes are chocolate lover approved! They're moist, tender, with a rich, indulgent, pure chocolate flavor that will take you to chocolate paradise.
Each cupcake is topped with a silky cloud of whipped chocolate buttercream. Made with dutch processed cocoa powder, this frosting has a deep flavor but fluffy texture. It might be the best frosting I've ever made.
While the flavor and texture of these cupcakes are totally irresistible, one of the best parts is that they're small batch. This recipe makes 6 cupcakes, which is perfect if you live alone, with a partner, or with a couple roommates. They're also perfect for small birthday parties and other gatherings, guaranteeing that none of them go to waste.
These small batch cupcakes are a riff on my chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, chocolate ganache cake, and lemon chocolate cake. This particular recipe has the same velvety chocolate cake batter, but is tweaked a bit so the flavor and texture isn't compromised in small batch form.
Here are some notes about the ingredients used. For quantities the full instructions, see the recipe card below.
Ingredients for the cupcakes
Ingredients for the frosting
- All purpose flour- I use cake flour in vanilla cupcakes to make them super light, but I love using all purpose flour in chocolate cupcakes to make them more dense and moist.
- Granulated sugar- White granulated sugar sweetens the batter and helps retain moisture.
- Cocoa powder- I love the deep flavor and color of Dutch-processed cocoa powder in the cupcakes and frosting. It's treated with an alkalizing agent that reduces acidity. Natural cocoa powder (AKA unsweetened cocoa powder) works in a pinch, but the color and flavor won't be as rich.
- Baking powder & baking soda- These leaveners work together to help the cupcakes rise and make them super fluffy. Don't mix up quantities since baking soda is stronger than baking powder!
- Salt- Cupcakes and frosting need salt so they aren't cloyingly sweet. Use any salt you like as long as it's finely ground. If it isn't, add an additional ¼ teaspoon.
- Egg- A large egg binds everything together and adds lift. Make sure it's room temperature so it mixes in easily. Take it out of the refrigerator an hour before you start baking.
- Oil- To make chocolate cupcakes extra moist and spongy, I use oil instead of butter. You can use any neutral tasting oil, like canola, avocado, grapeseed, or vegetable oil. You can even use olive oil if you like the taste.
- Buttermilk- Buttermilk thins the batter, adds a tangy flavor, and tenderizes the gluten for an extra soft cake. Pull it out with the egg to reach temperature.
- Vanilla extract- A little vanilla rounds out the flavor profile.
- Brewed coffee- Hot, strongly brewed coffee activates (or "blooms") the cocoa powder, amplifying the full spectrum of flavors and making the cupcakes even more moist. Don't worry, you can't taste it!
- Powdered sugar- Powdered sugar adds structure and the perfect amount of sweetness to the frosting.
- Heavy cream- A little heavy cream is used to adjust the texture of the frosting to your preference.
- All purpose flour: To make the cupcakes gluten free, use Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour.
- Buttermilk: You can substitute kefir, plain Greek yogurt, or sour cream for buttermilk at a 1:1 ratio. You can also make your own buttermilk by mixing a cup of milk with a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice. Let the mixture curdle for 10 minutes and it's ready to use.
- Brewed coffee: If you don't have or like coffee, use hot water. The chocolate flavor won't be quite as deep, but the cupcakes will still turn out delicious.
- Heavy cream: Cow's milk or non-dairy milk can be used instead of heavy cream for the frosting.
Helpful Equipment and Tools
- You need a 12-well cupcake tin lined with cupcake liners. A 6-well pan works too. Don't use a glass pan because glass conducts heat differently than metal (I always use metal). Don't use a silicone pan because your cupcakes will burn.
- You need 2 large mixing bowls for combining the ingredients and a balloon whisk and rubber spatula for mixing them.
- For the frosting, I recommend a 5-quart stand mixer with the wire whip attachment to make it light and fluffy.
- To decorate, you need a piping bag and a large piping tip. My favorite beginner tip is the Wilton 1M. It makes super pretty ruffles!
Step by Step Instructions
Instructions for Chocolate Cupcakes
Before you start, preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C, brew the coffee, and line your cupcake pan with 6 liners. If you have a 12-well pan, place a liner in every other well and set aside.
STEP 1: First, add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a large mixing bowl. Whisk until the ingredients are well combined.
STEP 2: In a separate large bowl or measuring cup, whisk the egg, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla extract together vigorously until smooth.
STEP 3: Gently pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and fold them together with a rubber spatula. The batter will look lumpy at first, but just keep folding until the batter drips off your spatula in smooth ribbons.
STEP 4: Next, pour in half of the hot coffee. Fold it in with your spatula, making figure-8 motions until it's combined. Repeat with the second half of coffee, mixing until a silky smooth batter forms.
STEP 5: Use a large cookie scoop or spoon to fill each cupcake liner ⅔ of the way full. After that, place them in the oven and bake for 16-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.
STEP 6: Let the cupcakes cool in their tin for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire cooling rack. Make sure to let them cool completely before frosting.
Instructions for Chocolate Buttercream
STEP 1: Once the cupcakes are done, start making the whipped chocolate frosting. First, beat softened butter on medium high speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment for 5 minutes until it's lightened in color and creamy.
STEP 2: Next, add the cocoa powder and salt. Start mixing with the speed on low and gradually increase it to medium high until the cocoa is well incorporated. Then gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing on low until well combined. Stream in the heavy cream until your preferred consistency is reached.
STEP 3: Prepare a piping bag with the piping tip of your choice. Fill the piping bag with frosting and add a swirl on top of each cupcake. Top with sprinkles or any other decorations you like and enjoy!
(PS: for the full, detailed instructions and tips and tricks for for making the frosting, check out my chocolate whipped cream frosting recipe).
Expert Baking Tips
- Use room temperature ingredients. Make sure to use a room temperature egg and buttermilk. Using ingredients that are the same temperature creates a uniform batter.
- Use a kitchen scale. Weigh the ingredients in grams for the best results. Metric measurements are provided in the recipe card below. If you don't have a scale, make sure you measure the flour correctly using the spoon and sweep method.
- Don't overfill the cupcake liners. Only fill them ⅔ of the way full or they might overflow in the oven. You can fill them a little less to make 7-8 cupcakes.
Additions and Variations
There are so many ingredients you can add to chocolate cupcakes to enhance their flavor! Here are some ideas:
- Chocolate chips: Fold in a handful of chocolate chips into the batter for even more chocolatey goodness.
- Peanut butter: Swirl a spoonful of creamy peanut butter into the batter. Peanut butter and chocolate is the best flavor combo ever!
- Peppermint extract: If chocolate and mint is your jam, add a few drops of peppermint extract to the batter.
- Nuts: Chopped nuts like walnuts, pecans, or almonds add a delightful crunch to your cupcakes. Fold them into the batter before baking.
- Jam: Inject a fruity surprise by spooning a dollop of raspberry jam or strawberry filling into the center of each cupcake after baking.
- Orange zest: Grate some fresh orange zest into the cupcake batter for a citrusy and aromatic touch.
- Salted caramel: Drizzle a spoonful of salted caramel sauce over the frosted cupcakes or use it as a filling.
Storage and Freezing
Store unfrosted chocolate cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. Frosted cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Let them warm up on the counter for about 30 minutes before serving.
Store leftover frosting in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. Stir it well before using.
Freeze the cupcakes on a baking sheet for 2 hours or until they're frozen solid. Then transfer them to a freezer bag or another airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy, let the cupcakes thaw at room temperature for two hours or in the fridge overnight.
Frequently Asked Questions
The most common reason small batch chocolate cupcakes end up dry is over measuring the flour. Make sure to weigh the flour in grams. If you don't have a scale, fluff the flour up before gently scooping it into your measuring cup and swipe off the excess. Don't pack it in!
You can in theory, but I recommend following this chocolate cupcake recipe and topping them with chocolate buttercream for even more delicious results.
Yes, but they will be freshest the day they're made. If you're making them a couple days ahead of time, I recommend storing them unfrosted in an airtight container at room temperature so they don't dry out at all. Make the frosting the day of your event.
More Cupcakes to Try
Small Batch Chocolate Cupcakes
- 56 grams unsalted butter softened
- 17 grams dutch processed cocoa powder
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 113 grams powdered sugar
- 40 grams heavy cream
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 mixing bowl. Whisk until combined.48 grams all purpose flour, 90 grams granulated sugar, 23 grams dutch processed cocoa powder, ½ teaspoon baking powder, ⅛ teaspoon baking soda, ¼ teaspoon salt
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla until smooth.1 large egg, 40 grams oil, 68 grams buttermilk, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Fold until the batter is smooth with no lumps.
- Pour half of the hot coffee into the batter and fold until smooth. Then mix in the remaining half. The batter will be thin.62 grams brewed coffee
- Fill each cupcake liner ⅔ of way full. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let the cupcakes cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely.
For the Chocolate Buttercream
- Add soften butter to the bowl of a stand mixer with the wire whip attachment. Beat on medium high speed for 5 minutes until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.56 grams unsalted butter
- Mix in the cocoa powder and salt on low. Once incorporated, increase the speed to medium until creamy.17 grams dutch processed cocoa powder, ⅛ teaspoon salt
- With the mixer on low, gradually mix in the powdered sugar. Once it's all added, increase the speed to medium high.113 grams powdered sugar
- With the mixer running, slowly stream in the heavy cream until the desired consistency is reached.40 grams heavy cream
- Fill a piping bag prepared with a piping tip with the frosting. Pipe a swirl on top of each cupcake and enjoy.