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How to Make Moist Chocolate Cupcakes From Scratch

Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" and "Taste of Home". She belongs to Cook's Recipe Testers for "Cook's Illustrated".

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Cupcake Recipe With Easy Buttercream Frosting

I had just paid for our lattes at the historic coffee house in Belfast when I spotted the cupcakes, shining like jewels under a glass dome. I'd painstakingly chosen two of them when my husband drew my attention to a disturbing sight: a photo gallery detailing the building's restoration. Dozens of human skeletons had been found in the basement, victims of Ireland's civil war.

As I contemplated the untold suffering man has inflicted upon man, I absent-mindedly bit into the confection. Moist, spongy cake and silky frosting melted in my mouth. Intrigued, I raised the cupcake to eye level. It wore a glorious crown of piped frosting with a whisper of silver, like the proverbial cloud's lining. If sweets could fill us with inner peace, I knew this cupcake could accomplish it.

Although I have experimented with many cupcake recipes, Hershey's is my favorite. Quick, easy and nearly foolproof, it produces a moist cake substantial enough to stand up to heavy frosting.

You can smoothly frost the cupcake tops, but why not try piping them? Pastry bags can be purchased for a few dollars at many craft and grocery stores, and you can easily learn to pipe frosting with these step-by-step instructions. Piped cupcakes add an elegant touch to any occasion. Why not bake a batch today?

Table of Contents

  • Tips
  • Recipe: Moist Chocolate Cupcakes
  • Photo Tutorial
  • Recipe: Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting
  • How to Frost a Cupcake
  • Cupcake Poll


  • Use equipment you already have or spend as much as you like on extras such as colorful liners, fancy piping tips and edible glitter.
  • Choose paper liners in colors and designs appropriate for the season and/or occasion.
  • Amazon offers airbrush food color kits for special effects.
  • Instead of disposable paper liners, why not try reusable silicone baking cups? They can be placed individually on a baking sheet for stability and are stackable for compact storage. Silicone liners resist stains and odors, are dishwasher safe and boast fill lines that take the guesswork out of baking.
  • Vegetable shortening adds stability to frosting and makes piping easier. If you prefer to use all butter, fill pastry bag with frosting and refrigerate for 20 minutes before you begin to pipe. Refrigerate decorated cupcakes.
  • Swirl cupcake wraps, as seen at right, add an elegant touch to cupcakes whether the tops are decorated, swirled or iced smooth.

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes With Buttercream Frosting

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

20 min

25 min

45 min

30 cupcakes


  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk*
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee

*Pour 1 Tablespoon white vinegar into a liquid measuring cup. Add enough milk (room temperature) to equal 1 cup total. Sour milk will thicken as it rests.


  1. Sift flour, baking powder and soda into a medium-sized mixing bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the hot coffee, and blend with hand or stand mixer for 2 minutes.
  3. With a spatula, stir hot coffee into cake batter.
  4. Pour batter into a large measuring cup and fill lined muffin cups half full.
  5. Bake at 350 F for 22-25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick tests nearly clean, with just a few crumbs.
  6. Cool completely before frosting.
Place all ingredients but the powdered sugar into a large, deep mixing bowl.

Place all ingredients but the powdered sugar into a large, deep mixing bowl.

Using a hand or stand mixer, gradually add powdered sugar and whip until fluffy.

Using a hand or stand mixer, gradually add powdered sugar and whip until fluffy.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

This frosting is delicious and of the perfect consistency for piping. Frosts 30 cupcakes.


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 2 Tablespoons whipping cream
  • 9 cups powdered sugar (a little more than 1 pound)


  1. Place first 4 ingredients in a large, deep mixing bowl.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer, cream the ingredients together until fluffy.
  3. Gradually add powdered sugar. Whip until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Piping frosting onto cupcakes

Piping frosting onto cupcakes

How to Frost a Cupcake

  1. Hold the decorating tip of a pastry bag over the cupcake you wish to frost, at a 90-degree angle to the surface.
  2. Pipe a spiral of icing, starting at the outside edge and working inward.
  3. After completing the outward spiral, continue piping a second inner spiral.
  4. End spiral at center of cupcake. Stop pressure. Pull tip straight up and away.
  5. If desired, sprinkle cupcake with edible glitter, rainbow sprinkles or a whisper of metallic spray.
Frosting with a pastry bag is so easy a child can do it.

Frosting with a pastry bag is so easy a child can do it.

Questions & Answers

Question: Could you please let me know if the cupcakes are adjusted for altitude? If so, for how many feet?

Answer: No, this is not a high altitude cupcake recipe. Please check out my “High Altitude Cake Recipe” which can also be used to make cupcakes. It’s been tested at 7,500 feet.


Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 31, 2013:

FlourishAnyway, it's nice to know you're a fellow cupcake lover! Yes, this frosting is luscious. I hope you can make a batch soon. Thanks for all the votes!

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 31, 2013:

Ooooeeeee does this look amazing! I have baked enough to know that that frosting is going to be luscious. I can almost taste it now. And on chocolate cupcakes? Wow. Voted way up, beautiful, interesting, awesome and if they had a "yummy" button that too. Mmmm.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on May 28, 2013:

Deborah-Diane, I'm glad you enjoyed this recipe. I loved cupcakes long before the cupcake craze came around. Thank you for your comment!

Deborah-Diane from Orange County, California on May 27, 2013:

This sounds wonderful. I love the idea of mixing the flavors of chocolate and butterscotch. Sounds yummy!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on March 01, 2013:

Thelma Alberts, enjoy the cupcakes! They're hard to resist. I appreciate the share, votes and pin. : )

Thelma Alberts from Germany on March 01, 2013:

Yummy! I´m a great fan of cupcakes. This recipe sounds easy to make. I ´ll give it a try. Thanks for sharing. Voted up, shared in fb and pinned.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on February 05, 2013:

Pinkchic, these are wonderful cupcakes! Thanks for the compliment. : )

Sarah Carlsley from Minnesota on February 05, 2013:

Great lens, this made me crave some sweets!!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on January 18, 2013:

Lemonkerdz, I hope to make these for you someday! The cupcake is so moist and chocolatey and the frosting can be decorated in so many creative ways. ; )

lemonkerdz from LIMA, PERU on January 18, 2013:

well done vespawolf for another great hub. We are always wondering what culinary delights you will turn up next! The vanilla bean and fresh cream in the frosting really is different and we can't wait to try it. Thanks for all the inspiration!!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on January 08, 2013:

Truthfornow, coffee really complements the chocolate flavor so well. I do love piping because I love frosting! Thank you for coming by.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on January 08, 2013:

SineaPies, it's amazing how easy the pastry bags are to use. And it means more frosting on the cupcakes! I really appreciate the vote and comment.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on January 08, 2013:

DeniseHandlon, as much as I love chocolate cake I think the frosting is my favorite. Piping makes it look even more appealing. Thanks for the vote and share!

Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on January 07, 2013:

Lots of frosting, looks so good. Wasn't expecting the hot coffee, nice touch.

Sinea Pies from Northeastern United States on January 07, 2013:

These cupcakes are a work of art. I voted "smooth" frosting because it is easy. I love the look of the piped. Voted up and beautiful. :)

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on January 07, 2013:

This cupcake recipe sounds great. Bookkeeping to try it. I love the buttercream frosting also. Thanks for sharing. Yum. Up/A and sharing.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on January 04, 2013:

MamaKim, nice to see you around! Thanks for the comment and votes!

Sasha Kim on January 03, 2013:

So cute! Plus a great frosting recipe ^_^ voting a bunch!!!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on January 02, 2013:

Yes, these moist chocolate cupcakes are simply delicious! Thanks for coming by, Flabergastic.

Barsha Gautam from California, US on January 02, 2013:


Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on January 01, 2013:

ktrapp, the pastry bag is such a small investment that makes the cupcakes so much more beautiful. And these are so moist they practically melt in your mouth. Enjoy and thanks for your comment!

Kristin Trapp from Illinois on January 01, 2013:

These cupcakes look so tempting. I usually smooth frost cupcakes, but am going to get a pastry bag and try piping the frosting on. The edible glitter is a nice final touch. I can only imagine how good they taste!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on January 01, 2013:

Kimberly Vaughn, thanks for the pin and comment!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on January 01, 2013:

Gail, I find cupcakes just require a little patience. I really enjoy the pastry bag and wonder why I didn't buy one years ago! They make such a difference in the appeal of the cupcakes. Of course, you could write many hubs about different tips, effects, etc. I really appreciate the votes and share. I wish you the best this year and thank you for coming by!

Kimberly Vaughn from Midwest on January 01, 2013:

Oh my gosh, these look amazing! I pinned the recipe to try later!

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on January 01, 2013:

I haven't made cupcakes in years, though when my son was young I used to bake them frequently.

I was drawn to this hub by that luscious looking lead photo which was absolutely mouth-watering. Even your tutorial photos were beautiful.

I never used a pastry bag, but it definitely helps create some awesome effects. I gave this recipe 5 stars and voted the hub up across the board except for funny.

Am also sharing.

Hope 2013 is filled with Blessings, Peace, Love & Joy,


Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on January 01, 2013:

I also find cupcakes irresistible, Suzanne, and especially chocolate with buttercream. I find cupcakes a little more finicky than bundt cakes but they're so tender and delicious that they're worth the extra effort. I'm glad you enjoyed this and thanks for the pin! Have a great day.

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on January 01, 2013:

Hi vespa,

Another delicious looking and sounding hub on my great love . . .cupcakes! My friends 14 year old daughter is an absolute genius in cupcakes and baking. It is gorgeous seeing all the variations and ingredients that can be used. These look heavenly in my much adored chocolate flavour and the Buttercream tops it off perfectly. I have never made a cupcake just eaten them but keep meaning to so I will be pinning this to add to my vespa delights list!!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 28, 2012:

As of late, it seems cupcakes have been the rage all over the world! Algarveview, how interesting that they've even become known in Portugal. I hope you have a chance to make these cupcakes for your children someday. Thank you for the votes and share. You have a great day, too!

Joana e Bruno from Algarve, Portugal on December 28, 2012:

Hi, Vespawoolf, you may find it strange, but I never baked cupcakes, it's not something very usual here or, at least, it wasn't until a couple of years ago... But I can definitely imagine the chocolate melting in my mouth... Your photos are very useful and I bet the kids will love this recipe... Voted up and interesting, putting stars on it and sharing! Have a great day!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 24, 2012:

Ishwaryaa, thank you for your kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed this recipe and hope you can make these cupcakes for a special occasion. I really appreciate the comment, vote, pin and share!

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani from Chennai, India on December 24, 2012:

A wonderful dessert recipe! I had cupcakes at my college a few years ago and they were really delicious! Everything in your hub right from your engaging introduction till the detailed instructions concerning frosting the cupcakes are immaculately written. Rated your recipe 5 stars! Well-done!

Merry Christmas to you & your family!

Thanks for SHARING. Useful, Awesome & Interesting. Voted up, pinned & shared

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 17, 2012:

TToombs, thanks for your vote and share! They really are delicious little cakes.

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on December 17, 2012:

omg, these look out of this world! Voted up and shared.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 15, 2012:

Jamie Brock, the recipes really are easy. I hope you have a chance to try these mouthwatering cupcakes! It's fun to play with the colors of the cupcake liners and sprinkles, too. Enjoy and thank you for the vote and share. : )

Jamie Brock from Texas on December 15, 2012:

These cupcakes look so delicious, I can't stand it!!!! The recipe looks easy enough for both the frosting and the cake. I bet I might be able to do this! Voted up and useful.. Thank you for sharing :)

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 13, 2012:

thefamilybaker, it sounds like you do a lot of your own baking! This really is the best recipe for chocolate cupcakes and I always end up returning to it when I try another. It's moist and substantial enough to hold all that frosting. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 13, 2012:

Randomcreative, I'm only a novice when it comes to piping frosting but I think it's a fun hobby. There are plenty of online sites that can help a home chef improve their skills, too. Thanks for coming by!

thefamilybaker from Philippines on December 12, 2012:

This is wonderful! I would definitely try this one. Thank you very much for sharing...

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on December 12, 2012:

My mouth is watering! I love your classic recipes. Great tip about piping frosting. My frosting skills are less than excellent, and that would really help!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 12, 2012:

Om Parampoonya, cupcakes are perfect for a crowd. They make the occasion extra special, too. Enjoy! Thanks so much for the stars and pin!

Om Paramapoonya on December 12, 2012:

Lovely! Great pictures and super yummy-sounding recipe. When I have to bake for a big crowd, chocolate cupcakes are usually one of the first things that come to my mind. I'll try your recipe soon. Rated 5 stars and pinned!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 12, 2012:

That's so cute. When I'm having friends over, I always invite the families with children to come early so they can help me pipe the frosting. They love it! Have fun and thanks so much for all your support.

Claudia Mitchell on December 12, 2012:

Another one to pin. My daughter saw this over my shoulder and requested that I make them as soon as possible. Great tips too. Thanks!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 11, 2012:

PeggyW, we are missing the cupcake craze here in Peru, which motivated me to learn to make them at home. This is my favorite recipe and one I hope others enjoy, too. The cupcakes make attractive gifts. Thank you for giving this hub a 5 star rating!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 11, 2012:

I gave this a 5 star rating just because it was such a well done hub with amazing photos to accompany your recipe and directions. Cupcakes are all the rage now. Am sure you will have many people eagerly trying this chocolate cupcake recipe. :)

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 11, 2012:

Idigwebsites, the frosting is my favorite part. I hope you have a chance to try them...they're easy to make and soooo delicious. Thank you for coming by!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 11, 2012:

Moonlake, I'm glad you like the frosting recipe. The shortening stiffens up the frosting and it also makes it less sweet than frosting made with just butter. I hope you have a chance to try it. Thank you for the vote and comment!

idigwebsites from United States on December 11, 2012:

Mmmmmmm... that cream! I haven't had my hand at baking yet but I think I might try this. Thanks for sharing this recipe. :)

moonlake from America on December 10, 2012:

These sound so good. I like your frosting recipe. I have been looking for one that is stiffer than just regular buttercream this sounds better. Vote up and shared.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 10, 2012:

Jackie Lynnley, they really are delicious and make a wonderful gift. Enjoy! I can always count on you to pay me a visit when I publish a new recipe. Thanks so much!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 10, 2012:

Mm you always make the simplest things sound so tempting and delicious. Like most women I am a sucker for chocolate and these I will have to try. Thank you so much! ^ and sharing.

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