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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
For the Frosting
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, and sour cream.
Mix on low speed until combined.
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.
Divide the batter evenly into the cupcake liners.
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.
Cool the cupcakes in the pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.
Make the Frosting
Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe 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.
In a food processor, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt.
Process until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Then add the corn syrup and vanilla.
Process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the lukewarm melted chocolate.
Pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 seconds. Do not overmix.
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.
You May Also Like
- Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate Cake
- Molten Chocolate Cakes
- Vanilla Birthday Cake with Old-Fashioned Vanilla Buttercream
- Rainbow Sprinkle Funfetti Cake
- Red Velvet Cupcakes
Sweet enough for kids but intensely chocolate enough for grown-ups, these are my go-to chocolate cupcakes.
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
For the Cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and set two oven racks in the centermost positions. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cool the cupcakes in the pans for about 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the Frosting
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
Great recipe, so delicious. Big hit with my family, so chocolatey and moist.
I didn’t have enough sour cream so used part sour cream and part greek yogurt worked perfectly.
These are the most moist and delicious little chocolate morsels. A winner again Jennifer!
These are the MOST wonderful cupcakes for chocolate lovers. I made these for dinner last night and got rave reviews for Jenn’s expertise and creativity! My son deemed this icing the best he’s ever tasted. I don’t own a food processor, so I used a mixer for the icing and ALWAYS follow Jenn’s recipes as written. Thanks, Jenn!
Another hit by Jenn that will become a staple in my household!
Wonderful cupcakes! Clear and straightforward recipe, easy to make, and turned out perfectly – moist, flavorful and delicious. The chocolate isn’t overpowerful, but just the right for my family – well described as kid and adult friendly.
I paired with Jenn’s Old-Fashioned Vanilla Buttercream icing and it was a wonderful balance. If you want more chocolate punch, pair with the suggested chocolate.
Thanks Jenn for making me look like a star and making my family happy!
Hi Jenn! I love your recipes, they always turn out amazing. Is there any way to swap out or skip the corn syrup in this recipe? Thanks so much!
So glad you like the recipes! Unfortunately, you really need to corn syrup as it stabilizes the frosting. I would just use a basic chocolate buttercream, like this one. Hope that helps!
Hi, I found your site about a year ago, and have used your recipes and tips ever since! I made these cupcakes and they are cooling right now. Question about the frosting…..Will it work well using a piping bag to decorate? Or, is the reason for spreading it because it won’t hold up to piping to make fancy? It get really warm over here, (mid 80s), It is humid too. Thanks!
Hi Sabrena! So glad you enjoy the recipes! This frosting will not hold up for piping, especially in the heat; it is soft and creamy. Hope you enjoy!
This is our go to birthday cupcake recipe. We usually only use ¼ of the frosting, so we ended up cutting the recipe down in our household.
I have a doubt with sourcream it has to be a room temperature?
Hi Fanny, No need for it to be room temperature. Hope you enjoy!
Hello, would it come out the same if I used a gluten-free flour like Bob Mills?
Hi Melissa, I’ve never tried it but I think it should work.
Can i change unsweetened natural cocoa instead of 3/4 cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa?
I don’t recommend it, Fanny – sorry!
Hi Quick question if I halve this whole recipe will it turn out the same and if so how much will come out of the recipe
Hi Mirini, It’s perfectly fine to cut the recipe in half; I’d just cut all the ingredients in half (and it will make 12 cupcakes). Enjoy!
Made these for my spouse’s birthday. Per a previous reviewer’s comment, I added espresso in lieu of hot water. Yummo! I can confidently rely on your recipes to turn out which is important to me with inflation on the rise and grocery prices going through the roof. I ordered a copy of your new cookbook! Can’t wait!
Glad you enjoyed these (and thanks for your support with the cookbook)! 🙂
wow I made those cup cakes but in a smaller version like one bite , well they turned out exactly perfect and I did iced them its a keeper ..
MERCI love all your recepies
I don’t believe you CREATED these cupcakes, you tweaked Hershey’s recipe and swapped out milk for sour cream. I suspect this is true because you do not print comments that call your attention to this and I can’t be the only one who has noticed this. You should give Hershey’s credit where credit is due. Pretty creative blog though to cover up.
Hi Harold, Any resemblance to the Hersheys recipe is purely coincidental and most chocolate cake/cupcakes are pretty standard. I did adapt the frosting from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. (When I do use recipes from other websites or chefs, I’m always very careful to give credit to them.) I appreciate your feedback.
I’ve noticed so many negative, spiteful, mean comments from men on your site. This is unfortunate, maybe misogynists are reading your recipes!! For what reason, I cannot comprehend. But you answer with such grace and nonchalance, they are not deserving of your grace and manners. Stay calm and cool, there are many women admiring you and backing you.
I made your chocolate lovers cake – amazingly moist. Then made these for my husband’s birthday and come to find, although they were delicious…..no where near the cake version. But noticed the recipe was a bit different. Next time I’ll make the cake recipe into cupcakes. Thanks.
Hi Jenn, these are in the oven as we speak, I know they’ll be amazing! I’m going to freeze half of them unfrosted for when I need a quick dessert and am wondering if the frosting freezes well? I figured I’d just make a half batch of the frosting since that’s all I’ll need now but then it occurred to me that I could make the full batch and freeze half of it separately if it freezes as well as a typical buttercream. Thanks!
Hi Emilie, I’ve never frozen frosting so I can’t say from experience, but just googled it and it looks like you can. See some tips here. Hope you enjoy the cupcakes!
Love your blog and cookbook! Would it be ok to substitute the sour cream for whole milk yogurt?
Thanks so much.
So glad you like the recipes! As long as it’s Greek, yogurt should work here. Enjoy!
Absolutely fantastic!!!!! Next time could I substitute hot coffee for the boiling water?
Sure, Tamera – I think that would work well. Glad you enjoyed!
I’m in San Antonio Texas. This week was crazy for us with 10 inches of snow, 3-4 days of power and water outages, and 50 year record low temperatures. All I could think about while sitting in the dark bundled in blankets was how amazing these cupcakes would be to make. I was finally able to bake them today and share them with all my neighbors! They are AMAZING and such wonderful texture of the moist cake and creamy frosting. A deep rich chocolaty flavor, but not sugary sweet, perfectly balanced. My husband says they are the best chocolate cupcakes ever and an excellent reward for surviving this insane week! Brava Jenn
Hi Erika, so glad to hear that you’re back in your home, safe and with power — it sounds like it’s been pretty horrendous in Texas. And happy you enjoyed the cupcakes; I’m sure all of your neighbors appreciated a little sweet treat! 🙂
We jdust made these for dessert on Shrove Tuesday…they were a big hit! I loved the rich taste of the muffin even without the icing and next to some black coffee. But of course the fam loved the icing! I must say I couldn’t get karo syrup down here so I used golden syrup, which I had on hand. It’s a little runnier so I had to offset with more icing sugar but it looked just like the pic! Thanks, Jenn!
OMG! These cupcakes are incredibly light and chocolatey! The frosting was to die for. We had extra frosting and then it somehow magically disappeared! 😉 We made plates of them and brought them to our neighbors. A big hit all around!!
Hi, Our cupcakes were very dense, like fudge, and rose up in the middle on the bottom. Can you think of something that we did wrong?
Hi Liz, Did you make any adjustments to the recipe, or did you by chance omit the boiling water?
Hi Jenn, I think maybe it was due to using insulated cupcake pans. We’ll try it again with a normal pan.
Update: It was not due to the insulated cupcake pans. My mom remembered later that she substituted self rising flour and adjusted the baking powder somehow. I guess it had too much rising agents in the end. The second batch had regular flour but substituted buttermilk because we didn’t have sour cream and it worked well in both an insulated cupcake pan and in a non-insulated mini cupcake pan. Thanks for another great recipe!
Would it be okay to use dark corn syrup instead of light corn syrup? That’s all I have! (I had light corn syrup that expired in 2018!)
I don’t recommend it, Susie – I’m sorry!
Hi Jenn. I don’t have corn syrup on hand for the frosting. Could I substitute honey for the corn syrup? Thanks…
I don’t recommend it, Ramona — sorry!
Such amazing cupcakes! I did 1/2 c. boiling water with 1/4 c. leftover coffee. Delectable.
These cupcakes are the best ! We absolutely loved them. May have to half the recipe next time since it’s only my husband and myself. I did freeze the extras and halved the frosting. These were just perfect. Thank you Jenn
I don’t have a stand mixer, just a regular hand mixer. What changes would I have to make as far as timing etc.?Love all your recipes and cook book.
So glad you like the recipes, Cathy! You can use a hand mixer here; you’ll just need to increase the speed a little. Hope you enjoy!
Okay, now I am so confused. The recipe changed on the website! Is there a recipe for chocolate cupcakes with creamy chocolate frosting? That is what the address bar says, but not the name of the recipe. I made something with unsweetened chocolate bars, espresso powder, white and brown sugar, and buttermilk along with some of the other ingredients. Where did that recipe go???
So sorry, Andrea! I updated this recipe today to make it easier – here is the original. So sorry for the confusion!
Delightful! If you love chocolate you will adore these cupcakes. I’ve made these a couple times and the recipe works out well. The frosting has rich, deep chocolate flavor and the texture is so smooth.
Love your recipes! Can I sub in honey for the corn syrup?
So glad you like the recipes, Mei! Unfortunately, you really need the corn syrup for the frosting – honey won’t work as a substitute – sorry!
I just needed a frosting recipe and this one is a WINNER! I substituted Lyle’s Golden Syrup for the corn syrup. The frosting was delicious and spread well on the cake. Thank you!
How would I make these onto mini cupcakes?
Hi Anita, Mini cupcakes would be fine. I’d start checking them for doneness at about 12 minutes. Enjoy!
is it ok to make this using cake flour？
Hi Pete, I’d recommend sticking to all-purpose flour for the best results. Sorry!
We are going to make the chocolate cake recipe from your cookbook. Can we use dutch processed cocoa powder instead of natural?
Hi Bry, I’d recommend sticking with natural cocoa powder for the cake. Sorry!
Hi Jenn, love your recipes. I made these cupcakes for my son’s birthday. His Verdict was they were phenomenal and he has now requested chocolate layer cake for Christmas Day. What is the cooking time if I were to use this recipe for a 9 inch layer cake (2 layers)
Thanks so much,
Love this recipe. I now have made 28 cupcakes from this, and have lots of frosting leftover. Please let me know the best way to store this extra frosting. Also, what’s the best way to handle leftover cupcakes – fridge? freezer?
Hi Tara, Glad you liked the cupcakes! I’ve never frozen frosting so I can’t say from experience, but just googled it and it looks like you can. See some tips here. If you have leftover cupcakes that you plan to eat relatively soon, I’d store them in the fridge. Just let them come to room temperature before you eat them.
Do you think a white frosting would go good with these chocolate cupcakes instead of chocolate frosting? Would the frosting from the recipe from the Vanilla Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting work with these?
Or would the frosting from the recipe Vanilla Birthday Cake with Old-Fashioned Vanilla Buttercream work?
What is your advice? Thank you!
Hi Heather, Sure, vanilla frosting would be just fine with these cupcakes. Either would work, but if I had to choose, I’d go with the frosting from the vanilla birthday cake (it’s less cream cheesy which I think would go better with chocolate). Hope that helps and that you enjoy!
I just sat down with your cookbook and read through the recipe for chocolate lover’s birthday cake, this will be perfect for my son’s birthday. Thank you so much
Can I ask what does the corn syrup do for the frosting? I have made the chocolate cupcakes but used your cream cheese frosting with it and it turned out incredibley delicious, moist and rich in chocolate flavour – everyone loved them! I would like to try the chocolate icing for the next batch but we don’t use corn syrup (allergies) and I am wondering if there is somethinge else I can use as replacement or can I leave it out completely? Thanks so much!
Hi Trish, Unfortunately, you really need to corn syrup as it stabilizes the frosting. I would just use a basic chocolate buttercream, like this one. Hope that helps!
Can this recipe be successfully cut in half?
Hi Jenn — I just made the chocolate lovers cake from your book. DELISH!!
Should I store this in the fridge? I would like to prolong it’s life…
So glad you liked it, Eve! It will keep well for several days at room temperature but you can keep it in the fridge for longer storage; just be sure to bring it to room temperature before serving.
Hi Jen, can i use this recipe for a layer cake? Thanks
Hi Hanna, If you want to make a layer cake, I’d suggest this recipe instead. Hope you enjoy!
Do you have a video?
Not for this recipe – sorry!
All your recipes have been a HUGE hit! Thank you for sharing your amazing recipes! I am now planning to make chocolate cupcakes but have a couple of questions:
Can I switch vegetable oil with canola oil?
Also, would you recommend using coffee for added flavor?
Hi Pooja, Glad you enjoy the recipes! You can definitely use canola oil, and I think a teaspoon or two of espresso powder would be delicious here.
I haven’t made these yet. I was thinking of doing a chocolate raspberry cupcake. Do you think a jam swirl would affect the texture/baking too much? Would it be better to wait until after they’re baked and do a filling instead? Thanks.
Hi Mistie, I haven’t tried these with a jam swirl in them. While it sounds delicious, I worry that it may throw off the ratio of wet to dry ingredients. For the most predictable results, I’d suggest adding a filling after baking them. Hope that helps!
Okay, thanks for the advice!
Can melted chocolate chips be used for the chocolate in the frosting, and/or can melted Hershey milk chocolate bars be used?
Hi Lauri, I wouldn’t recommend chocolate chips for the frosting as they don’t melt as well (they have stabilizers in them to help them hold their shape) but Hershey Bars will work well! Hope that helps!
Hi, I don’t see a list of the measured ingredients for the cupcakes. I see the ingredients in the photo but somehow my iPhone 8 is not showing the amount of each ingredient. Maybe I’m missing it! The reviews are coming on right after the photo of the completed cupcakes. If you can respond, that would be great!
Hi Terry, It sounds like your iPhone is defaulting to the setting where the comments show up right under the pictures instead of the recipe displaying. At the very top of the page, to the right of the recipe name, you’ll see an icon that looks like a notepad – if you click on that, it will take you directly to the recipe. Hope that clarifies!
This is the best chocolate cupcake and frosting recipe ever. Big hit with my family. In fact, all your recipes so far have been a hit. Whenever I’m looking for something new or a change in recipe, you’re my “go to”! Can this recipe also be used for a chocolate layer cake? Thank you for sharing all these great recipes and ideas. Your explanations are so helpful.
Hi Margie, so glad you enjoyed the cupcakes! If you want to make a layer cake, I’d suggest this recipe instead. Hope you enjoy!
Hi Jenn! Wondering how long to cook for mini cupcakes and also, can I make the batter ahead of time?
Hi Danielle, I’d start checking the minis at about 12 minutes. And, I wouldn’t recommend making the batter ahead of time; it will impact how they rise when you go to bake them. Hope you enjoy!
Can you use guiradelli chocolate melting wafers in place of the chocolate bar?
Your blog is wonderful. These chocolate cupcakes were so good! I had frosting left over but next time I think I’ll just pile it all on. The frosting was phenomenal. Followed your excellent directions and had no problems. This was only my 2nd recipe made from your site. The first was Jasmine Rice for which the technique was spot on. Thank you for being such a great resource. There are many food bloggers out there and you stand apart. I’ll definitely be back to try more of your tested recipes.
☺️ So glad they turned out well, Jeanne!
Hi Jenn, I have baked the cupcakes and plan to turn them into owls with Oreos tomorrow for Halloween. I am wondering though if there is a lighter version of the frosting that would work than the one listed here. I’d go without frosting entirely but those Oreos need to stick somehow. Also, can I use maple syrup instead of corn syrup? Many thanks! Your blog is amazing.
Hi Olga, So sorry about the delayed response!! If you choose to do these again, I would just suggest buying some store-bought frosting and just using a dab to stick each Oreo to the cupcakes.
Hi Jenn! Absolutely adore your website 🙂 Thanks for all that you do!
I want to make these into mini-cupcakes for my husband’s birthday this weekend. Any modifications needed other than the cooking time? Also – do you use unsweetened cocoa powder in the icing?
So glad you like the site, Katherine! No changes necessary for mini cupcakes (other than cook time) and yes on the unsweetened cocoa powder. 🙂
could you use Cake Flour for this recipe
Hi Luchetti, for best results, I’d suggest sticking to the all-purpose flour.
Ok, I just bought your cookbook a couple hours ago because I am craving chocolate cake and your recipes are the best! However, I noticed that the frosting requires a food processor, which I do not have and do not want to purchase. Is there another way to make this frosting, such as with a blender or hand mixer? I have an excellent Blendtec blender and my roommate has a Ninja with the cup attachment that might be easier for scooping icing out of…
Unfortunately, you need a food processor for this – it keeps the frosting from separating and getting greasy. Instead, you could try a basic chocolate buttercream. It won’t be as deeply chocolate but it will still be delicious. Here’s a recipe to consider.