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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 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. This recipe 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.