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Chocolate Cupcakes

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Sweet enough for kids but intensely chocolate enough for grown-ups, these are my go-to chocolate cupcakes.

When my kids were little, I started a baking business specializing in special occasion cakes and cupcakes, mostly for children’s birthday parties. Before I opened, I spent weeks testing every vanilla and chocolate cake recipe under the sun, often baking into the middle of the night. My husband would wake up in the morning to find the countertops covered with cakes and cupcakes. He thought I’d lost my mind—little did he know I was just discovering my passion for creating recipes, which was the impetus for starting Once Upon a Chef! Eventually, I created a few recipes that I loved and could rely on, like these chocolate cupcakes (for the layer cake version, click here).

The cake itself is basically a one-bowl recipe. The frosting, modestly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, is fast and foolproof—a  welcome change from most homemade chocolate frostings, which are temperamental and take hours to cool.

What you’ll need to make Chocolate Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes

chocolate cake ingredients

For the Frosting

Step-by-Step Instructions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

dry ingredients in mixerMix on low speed for 30 seconds to combine.

mixed dry ingredients

Add the eggs, oil, and sour cream.

adding eggs, oil, and sour cream

Mix on low speed until combined.

chocolate cake batter with wet ingredients mixed in

Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Then, reduce the speed to low and gradually pour in the hot water (be careful to pour very slowly so it doesn’t splash). The batter will be soupy. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl; mix again until evenly combined.

chocolate cake batter

Divide the batter evenly into the cupcake liners.

chocolate cupcakes ready to bake

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the cupcakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

chocolate cupcakes cooling on rackCool the cupcakes in the pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

chocolate cupcakes cooling on rack

Make the Frosting

Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl.

milk chocolate pieces in bowl

Cook in the microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring in between, until it’s about three-quarters of the way melted. Stir, allowing the residual heat in the bowl to melt the remaining chocolate completely. (If necessary, place the chocolate back in microwave for a few seconds.) Set aside to cool.

melted chocolate

In a food processor, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt.

butter, confectioners sugar, and cocoa powder in food processor

Process until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Then add the corn syrup and vanilla.

adding the corn syrup and vanilla to the chocolate frosting

Process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the lukewarm melted chocolate.

adding the melted chocolate

Pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 seconds. Do not overmix.

finished silky chocolate frosting

When the cupcakes have cooled, use a small offset spatula or butter knife to swirl the frosting on top.

Note: This recipe was updated in February 2021. For the old recipe, click here.

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Chocolate Cupcakes

Sweet enough for kids but intensely chocolate enough for grown-ups, these are my go-to chocolate cupcakes.

Servings: 24 cupcakes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour

Ingredients

For the Cupcakes

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled off with knife
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, such as Hershey’s
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup boiling water

For the Frosting

  • 8 ounces milk or semi-sweet chocolate, broken into small pieces (see note)
  • 2½ sticks (20 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1¼ cups Confectioners' sugar
  • ¾ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Hershey's
  • Pinch salt
  • ¾ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

For the Cupcakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and set two oven racks in the centermost positions. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds to combine. Add the eggs, oil, sour cream, and vanilla and mix on low speed until combined.
  3. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Then, reduce the speed to low and gradually pour in the hot water (be careful to pour very slowly so it doesn’t splash). The batter will be soupy. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl; mix again until evenly combined.
  4. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared muffin tins (they should be about halfway full). Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the cupcakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  5. Cool the cupcakes in the pans for about 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Frosting

  1. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and cook in the microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring in between, until about three-quarters of the way melted. Stir, allowing the residual heat in the bowl to melt the remaining chocolate completely. (If necessary, place the chocolate back in microwave for a few seconds.) Set aside to cool.
  2. In a food processor, process the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the lukewarm chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 seconds. Do not overmix. The frosting can be used immediately or held at room temperature for up to 3 hours.
  3. When the cupcakes are completely cool, use a small offset spatula or butter knife to swirl the frosting lavishly over top. The cupcakes are best enjoyed fresh on the day they are made, but they will keep for two days stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
  4. Note: If making this cake for children, I recommend using milk chocolate for the frosting (Hershey or Lindt milk chocolate bars work well). Semi-sweet chocolate will lend a more intense chocolate flavor (Ghirardelli bars for baking are ideal).

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 1 cupcake
  • Calories: 320
  • Fat: 17 g
  • Saturated fat: 9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 42 g
  • Sugar: 32 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 3 g
  • Sodium: 161 g
  • Cholesterol: 47 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • My comment is actually a question— I’d like to bake these using mini muffin tins rather than regular sized cupcake tins. Will that work and how should the baking time be adjusted. Many thanks for your wonderful recipes and your responsiveness to questions.
    MP W

    • — MP W on October 21, 2022
    • Reply
    • Yes, you can definitely make these as mini cupcakes. I’d start checking them at about 10 minutes. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on October 21, 2022
      • Reply
  • Jenn,
    Can you suggest baking times for jumbo cupcakes? I own your cookbooks and all your recipes are fantastic!

    • — Sandy Ropper on October 20, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Sandy, Thanks for your support of the cookbooks! I’d add about 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time in the recipe (but I’d check them after 5 extra minutes). You’ll know they’re done when you insert a toothpick/cake tester in the middle and it comes out clean. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on October 20, 2022
      • Reply
  • Can this frosting be piped?

    • — Jane Mangelson on August 31, 2022
    • Reply
    • Unfortunately, it’s not thick enough to be piped — sorry!

      • — Jenn on August 31, 2022
      • Reply
  • My son wants chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting for his birthday party. Can you recommend a good vanilla frosting recipe to go with these cupcakes?

    • — Amy on August 16, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Amy, this frosting would work well. Happy birthday to your son!

      • — Jenn on August 17, 2022
      • Reply
  • Made this today for my grandsons birthday tomorrow and I haven’t tasted the cake part yet but the Icing!! OMG!! I can only guess all will be delicious 👍

    • — Gail on June 4, 2022
    • Reply
  • Do you think I’ll be able to swap dark corn syrup for light corn syrup? Are they interchangeable or will I need to make any adjustments?

    • — Shoba on April 22, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Shoba, I wouldn’t recommend dark corn syrup here — sorry!

      • — Jenn on April 23, 2022
      • Reply

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