Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting
The best (and easiest!) chocolate cupcakes made from scratch topped with my favorite vanilla buttercream frosting recipe. A perfect combination!
Oh hello there cupcake perfection.
For all of the cupcake recipes that live on this site, can you believe I had yet to share with you the classic combination of chocolate cupcakes and vanilla frosting? I’ve used each of these recipes in other places, fancied up in different ways, but the chocolate-vanilla combo definitely deserves its own place of prominence on these virtual pages.
If an ultimate chocolate cupcake sounds like too much for you (yes, we can still be friends), and a vanilla/vanilla cupcake seems a bit too, well, VANILLA… this is the best of both worlds and the balance that you might be craving.
Okay, let’s first talk about the chocolate cupcakes here. These are the only chocolate cupcakes that I’ve made for years and years.
They are the base of the ultimate chocolate cupcakes, which also includes a chocolate ganache center and a satin-like chocolate frosting (they are sublime). They are perfect for big-time chocolate lovers, but I’ve also had tons of success adapting it for other cupcake adventures. I omit the ganache center and go from there… they were the perfect base for the Cookie Monster cupcakes I made for Joseph’s birthday last year!
So, How Do you Make Chocolate Cupcakes From Scratch?
It’s insanely easy, I promise! In fact, this might the easiest, BEST chocolate cupcake recipe I’ve ever made.
There is no butter in the recipe, so you don’t have to wait for it to soften, which means as soon as you have a craving for chocolate cupcakes, you can start ASAP. Additionally, no mixer required! I love my stand mixer as much as the next person, but I also love simplicity, and this recipe is the definition of simplicity. Just grab two bowls and a whisk and you’ll be good to go!
These chocolate cupcakes are seriously the BEST. They are soft, super moist, and fluffy – exactly what you’d expect from the perfect cupcake recipe. I’ve yet to find a better chocolate cupcake recipe!
QUICK NOTE! I get a lot of questions from people who don’t want to use coffee in chocolate recipes because they don’t like the taste of coffee and want to know if they can use a substitute. Here’s the thing, I get you, I don’t like coffee either, I don’t drink it. However, when it’s called for in a chocolate recipe, it’s to enhance to the flavor and really intensify it more than using water would. You cannot taste it in the actual recipe, I promise!
If you can’t use coffee for a medical or religious reason, then you can totally substitute hot water. If you just don’t like coffee, I beg you to have faith and use it… you won’t taste it and your chocolate will have significantly more depth of flavor!
Now, let’s move on to the vanilla frosting on these beautiful chocolate cupcakes.
It’s a super simple American buttercream frosting (i.e. butter with powdered sugar and vanilla), and is a serious DREAM.
So, How Do You Make Buttercream Frosting?
I first came across this vanilla buttercream frosting recipe nearly 10 years ago while I was watching a local morning show. They were featuring a local bakery, which happened to share their cupcake frosting recipe during a recipe demo on air. It’s super simple, but the trick is to cream the butter at medium-high speed for a full five minutes before adding any sugar.
The difference that makes is mind-blowing. Many buttercream recipes taste sickeningly sweet or gritty from the powdered sugar. By using more butter and really whipping it up, it creates a frosting that is light-as-air, silky, and melts in your mouth. The original recipe didn’t include heavy cream, but I find if I’m using it to pipe cupcakes, the cream helps to thin it out just enough to make it easier to pipe and spread, and not so thick.
Also! If I’m making this vanilla frosting for cupcakes and am not planning on adding any sprinkles or drizzles, I’ll often substitute vanilla bean paste instead of the vanilla extract so you can see all those gorgeous flecks of vanilla bean in the frosting!
There you have it! The absolute best combination of my favorite chocolate cupcakes and the best vanilla frosting recipe.
So simple, but so delicious and a total classic!
I hope you’ll make these cupcakes and share them with some of your favorite people… whether it’s for a birthday, a special occasion, or just an after-school snack. They are deserving of being served for any reason you can dream up!
Four years ago: Dulce de Leche Brownies
Five years ago: Chipotle Chicken and Corn Chowder
Six years ago: Beef and Cheddar Dog Biscuits
Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting
For the Cupcakes
- 3 ounces (85.05 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- ⅓ cup (28.67 g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- ¾ cup (177.75 ml) hot coffee
- ¾ cup (93.75 g) bread flour
- ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) salt
- ½ teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) baking soda
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Vanilla Frosting:
- 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2½ cups (300 g) powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- Make the Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard-size muffin pan with liners. Place the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Pour the hot coffee over the mixture and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate mixture for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside.
- Whisk the oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla extract into the cooled chocolate mixture until smooth. Add the flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
- Divide the batter evenly between the muffin pan cups. Bake until the cupcakes are set and just firm to the touch, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pan and place on the wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.
- Make the Frosting: Using the wire whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the heavy cream a little at a time, whipping after added, until desired consistency is reached.
- Frost the cupcakes as desired (I used the Wilton 1M decorating tip). Frosted cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- You can substitute all-purpose flour for the bread flour if needed, but bread flour is recommended.
- I used Ghiradelli 60% cacao bittersweet baking bar for the bittersweet chocolate.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
Can I sub out butter for the oil?
Just incredible!!! I made these gluten free by using Pamela’s GF Artisan flour blend and switching out a tablespoon of the GF flour for an equal amount of cornstarch. They were decadent with a rich chocolate flavor, but light and tender with the perfect crumb. Used vanilla bean paste in the frosting. These will be a favorite go-to! Thank you BEB!
I had made vanilla cupcakes, so was looking for a buttercream vanilla frosting, & this was so easy to make!
I had one of my kids add food coloring, and after frosting, he added different sprinkles. Who knew that making buttercream frosting was so easy! I can’t see ever using canned frosting again.
Thanks for another great recipe!
I made these for my dad’s birthday with his favorite 7-minute frosting. They were wonderful. I was a little worried that the bread flour would make these heavy, but they were light, tender and moist. We aren’t a coffee-drinking household, but I keep espresso powder on hand for baking. I used a teaspoon in 3/4 cup boiling water, and it was perfect. Thank you for a fabulous recipe that will be my go-to from now on.
what type of heavy cream should be used? whipping cream or cooking cream? and what percentage? 15 or 35?
Hi Cynthia, Either “heavy cream” or “heavy whipping cream” would work. I don’t see percentages listed on the containers.
I’ve had several pretty big baking failures lately and I was about ready to throw in the towel out of disappointment that nothing ever seemed to turn out right. Then I gave these a try – they were so yummy! Thanks for helping me get my baking confidence back!
As a whole family and friends we litterally LOVED these cupcakes! I can say they were the best cupcakes I’ve made and tasted. I made it twice; first with coffee but I put baking powder instead of baking soda (agghh 🤦♀️) it was still ok but the second time I just used hot water instead of coffee which was a blast! I will definitely make these cupcakes with coffee as me and my girls love chocolate cupcakes! Thanks for sharing this awesome recipe! BTW I didn’t make the frosting part as I didn’t have much time. I just used the one I bought from store. Next time I will try the frosting too! THANKS!
I don’t use internet recipes very often, but these came out so perfectly! Exactly what I was looking for, thank you. I drizzled with a little salted caramel! :)
YEP! DELICIOUS!! Since I’ve been weighing ingredients I think they are more consistent and closer to what was intended too. It would be great to see those measurements on all recipes, but I assure you, it was worth flipping to a conversion chart :) Very HAPPY!!! Thank you!
Girl, these are the best cupcakes I have EVER MADE. EVER. They are so full of flavour, moist, and just overall delicious. Took them to a BBQ this past weekend and they were a hit. This is my new go-to chocolate cupcake recipe! Might try it as a cake next time. Thanks!
These cupcakes are amazing!!!! I’ve tested so many recipes for chocolate cupcakes and these are by far the best and a keeper. I narrowed done 3 recipes and did a taste at BBQ and these were the winner by unanimous decision. I did not have bread flour so I used cake flour and the cupcakes were perfect. The cupcakes have a perfect balance of chocolate, sweetness and the texture is just right. They are not dense, super moist and not too rich. I’ve made this recipe twice, once with the coffee and other with 3/4 cup boiling water and 1 teaspoon of espresso powder. I prefer the water with espresso powder, you taste the chocolate more. Hope this review helps for those looking for their perfect chocolate cupcake recipe. I found mine! Thanks Michelle!!!!!
Hello. Thank you for the recipe. Why is bread flour used in your cupcake recipe? Thank you.
Hi Madeleine, The bread flour helps the cupcakes maintain their structure with the ganache filling.
Michelle, have you ever made these as mini cupcakes? If so, how long would you recommend baking them for? I’ve made them as standard size, and they are the best ever!
Hi Isa, I have not personally but I know many have! I would start checking around 8 minutes just to be on the safe side.
Would it be possible to add strawberry to this frosting to make a valentines cupcake? I have made these twice and they are a huuuge hit! I thought chocolate and strawberry or raspberry frosting might be fun too!
Hi.. the cupcakes look great! Can you please tell me why the vinegar in the recipe ?? I’ve seen it if there is milk in the recipe (to create buttermilk), however, this recipe has no milk. Thank you !!
I made these for coworkers this morning with both the buttercream frosting and a peanut butter frosting option that I put in plastic sandwich bags and let people pipe on themselves. I used mini semi sweet chocolate chips and they were small enough to melt in the coffee. Yay, time saver! I only had unsweetened cocoa and all purpose flour and they still worked fine. The cupcakes were a huge hit! So moist and fluffy! Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe.
Hello…Love these cupcakes!! Question…I need to make 75 of these for an event. I was just going to x6 all the ingredients, Will using that much vinegar (1/2 cup) in the mix would be too strong (for taste)?? Thank you!
As long as all of the other ingredients are increased by the same factor, I imagine that it would be fine.
Is the hot coffee necessary? And if so, what kind?
Hi Shayla, I really do recommend it, as it totally amps up the chocolate flavor and you can’t taste the coffee. You can use any type you’d like.
I absolutely LOVE this recipe and I make it all the time for my family! I use the chocolate cupcake recipe for all of my chocolate cupcakes and the vanilla buttercream has become the base for most of my frostings. 5 stars!!
This is the third time baking these yummy cupcakes. This time I wanted to try them using my bigger muffin pan with the large liners. So instead of one dozen, I have (had) 6. Because I always wanted to eat another with the little ones, this sounded like a great idea. And it was! Except we are now totally stuffed. Hubs asks me to make small cupcakes from now on. And really, these are so delicious, the small one is just right. And PS, I only made half recipe of frosting, but only because last time I had a lot left and well, it took a week or so but, yep, I ate it. Thanks Michelle for all your great recipes.
I see baking soda, but no baking powder? I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t over looking anything. I am new to this baking world… so I apologize in advance if my question seems silly.
Hi Teresa, Yes it’s correct. Recipes don’t always call for both… enjoy!!
These cupcakes look amazing! Can you substitute semi-sweet chocolate for bittersweet chocolate? Also, can you use chocolate chips instead of a bar of chocolate?
Hi Caitlin, Yes to both!
Thanks Michelle! Also, when the directions say to whisk, can you do that with a whisk attachment on a mixer?
You’re welcome Caitlin! :) I actually recommend whisking by hand so as not to overmix.
I’m planning on making these for my soon to be 4 year old’s birthday party. I’m wondering if the caffeine from the coffee would be an issue since they’re going to be for little kids (they definitely don’t need to caffeine!). I’m not sure how baking with coffee affects the caffeine levels or if the amount of caffeine is even enough to make a difference? Is decaf a suitable option? Thanks!
Hi Jake, Absolutely you could use decaf (I did that while I was pregnant!).
I was wondering if I could substitute buttermilk for the vinegar, or is there anything else I could use if I don’t have vinegar? Thanks so much! Looking forward to trying these!
Hi Patty, I’ve never tried a substitute, but I would go with lemon juice if you have to substitute.
Hi Michelle! Have you made these as mini cupcakes before? I love this recipe and was thinking of making mini cupcakes for my son’s birthday party this weekend with it but am unsure how long to cook them for.
You are the bomb! I was wondering how the bread flour would be. I used all the batter between 12 cupcakes and was concerned that they might be filled too high. But, they baked absolutely beautiful! Perfect dome on the top and supremely delicious! My search for the perfect chocolate cupcakes is over! This recipe is so easy too. Thank you for sharing!
So many chocolate recipes call for coffee / espresso in one form or another, and beyond adding moisture or enhancing the chocolate flavor, is there any other reasoning? I don’t mind the coffee, but many people I bake for don’t like the coffee / chocolate combination and I am wondering how to substitute for the coffee as a liquid in this recipe – is it just subbing with hot water or buttermilk, maybe?
And thank you – all of your recipes are fabulous hit!
Hi Sarah, I actually discuss this in the post above, but yes, coffee is used to retain moisture and enhance the chocolate flavor. You CANNOT TASTE IT in the finished product, so there’s no need to substitute if people just don’t like coffee. I personally do not like coffee, I don’t drink it, but used like this, you can’t taste it at all. If you still want to make a substitution, I would recommend water, not buttermilk (which could affect the rise and texture).
My mom is super picky so the substitution is really helpful. Thank you!
Hi! I can’t wait to try these!! I can’t thank you enough for all the awesome recipes and helpful tips for amateurs like me. My little guy is turning one next month so I’ve been looking for and trying out cake recipes and was curious if A: you could use this recipe to make a cake instead of a cupcake? and B: what is your favorite birthday cake recipe?
Hi Britni, Happy early birthday to your son! I’ve never used this recipe to make a cake, but I do have a favorite chocolate cake recipe that I’ve used in many different cakes now: https://www.browneyedbaker.com/peanut-butter-cup-overload-cake/. I really love chocolate cake so much more than white/yellow cake, but if I were to pick a favorite of those, it would be this one: https://www.browneyedbaker.com/yellow-cake-chocolate-frosting/. I hope that helps!!
I’m always looking for the ultimate chocolate cupcake recipe. These look delicious!
Thanks Katie, I hope you enjoy the cupcakes! Definitely my favorite!
I don’t see where the heavy cream is added to the frosting. 🤔
Hi Jennifer, End of step #5. So sorry I thought I had included it, fixed now!
Do you find the Dutch process cocoa powder in the grocery store or buy it online?
Hi Rebecca, I buy it online, I’ve never found it at any regular grocery store. I linked to the version that I use above (King Arthur Flour Bensdorp Dutch-Process Cocoa)
Oh, I love the idea of coffee in these cupcakes and I am a coffee lover here. I cannot go without my coffee in the morning.
I was SO excited to see *your* recipe pop up in my Google news feed–and to have it be one of my favorite combinations, perfect!
This has been my ‘go-to’ chocolate cupcake recipe for years now (mostly without the ganache)…and they are definitely the BEST! I do not drink coffee either, but it is a must for these cupcakes.
So awesome to hear you’ve been enjoying them as well, Lori! And thanks for the confirmation on the coffee note!
Everyone, please click on the link to Joseph’s birthday. No matter what mood you are in, it will absolutely make you smile. You have to see the Cookie Monster cupcakes. Michelle, as always, this chocolate cupcake recipe is hands-down the most thoughtful, well-studied recipe I have come across. Thank you. (The hint about the frosting is something I never heard of before. )
Aw you are too sweet, Amanda! And I’m so glad you found this post really helpful, I hope you enjoy the cupcakes!
I love this recipe! It’s the only one I use for chocolate cupcakes now and for the past seven years. Thanks for the reminder! Totally the best.
Come to think of it, I always use your easy vanilla bean buttercream on them as well! I posted them that way on my little blog a couple times. :D
That’s so awesome! Glad you’ve been enjoying them for so long!
In the directions, you use a ganache “filling”; this is not listed in the ingredient list. Is this just a regular chocolate ganache or something different? Thanks.
Hi Karen, That’s a typo from the old original version, I meant to omit it, so sorry for the confusion! I’ve deleted it.
These are the prettiest cupcakes, I can’t wait to try them! Is bittersweet chocolate the same as semi sweet? Did you use a bar of baking chocolate?
Thanks so much Racheal! Bittersweet is different than semisweet, as it’s usually a bit of a darker chocolate. I used Ghiradelli 60% cacao bittersweet baking bar.
These cupcakes look perfectly delicious and I’m really looking forward to tasting them! Yum! Thanks for sharing the recipe, Michelle!
You’re welcome, Deb, enjoy the cupcakes!
Hey! Can you substitute Regular Cocoa for Dutch process? Would I need to change the leavening agent I use?
Also, any idea if AP flour could be used?
Thanks! Beautiful Cupcakes!!
Hi Erin, You could not successfully substitute regular unsweetened cocoa powder for the Dutch process cocoa powder here, as the recipe specifically relies upon the combination of the Dutch cocoa with the baking soda and vinegar for a great rise and keeping the cupcakes light. I do not recommend making that substitution. However, you can use all-purpose flour in place of the bread flour without an issue, if you need to do that.
Put cream cheese frosting on the chocolate cupcake and you have my favorite cupcake.
Ahhhh another fantastic combination!
I’m curious about the use of bread flour vs. ap or cake flour? I have to try these!
Hi Julie, So the original recipe that this version hails from uses a chocolate ganache center and the bread flour is useful in keeping the surrounding cupcake sturdy enough for that filling. I still use bread flour in the “plain” chocolate cupcakes featured here and they are unbelievably light and fluffy; but others have said they’ve successfully used all-purpose flour without an issue, as well.
Thank you Michelle. I was wondering too, but now I know. What a great tip. And thank you for the super recipe too!
You’re welcome, Francesca! Enjoy the cupcakes! :)
YUM! I love chocolate cupcakes and these look absolutely delicious! Can’t wait to try this recipe ♥
Thanks Natalie, this chocolate cupcake recipe is seriously so easy and turns out perfectly every time.
They really do look like cupcake perfection ! Especially the frosting. Yum!
Thanks Maja, they are a huge favorite!