One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

September  9, 2018
14 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Makes 12 cupcakes
Author Notes

A version of my favorite one-bowl chocolate cake becomes my favorite easy chocolate cupcakes. These are so good just as they are, you might be tempted to eat too many of them—even without frosting. But wait, there’s more! You can mess with this recipe endlessly and create dozens of new chocolate cupcakes—by adding nut flour or a whole-grain flour, changing up the liquid, swapping sugars, or even adding beets (!). —Alice Medrich

Test Kitchen Notes

Chocolate cupcakes are often too sweet and lack the bitter intensity of cacao. These cupcakes, however, strike the perfect balance and are super-moist. To get the most out of this recipe, be sure to use top-shelf chocolate. We used unprocessed organic cacao powder, and the aroma alone was intoxicating. While you can substitute the natural cacao with Dutch process cocoa powder, and swap the buttermilk for the water to make up for the lost acidity, we wouldn’t recommend it. The full depth of chocolatey goodness is what makes these cupcakes special.

If you can, measure ingredients by weight rather than volume, to arrive at optimal texture. The batter thins out with the addition of the water, so mix slowly at first to avoid splashing. If your mixing bowl lacks a pour spout, transfer the batter to a vessel with a spout to make filling the liners clean and easy. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup (127 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) sugar
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons (43 grams) unsweetened natural (non-alkalized, not Dutch-processed) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted and warm
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a regular (not jumbo) 12-cupcake pan with paper liners. Use a hand-held electric mixer or stand mixer with whisk attachment.
  2. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt together thoroughly in a large bowl (or stand mixer bowl). Add the butter, eggs, and vanilla and beat on medium speed for one minute. Add half of the water and beat for 20 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the remaining water. Beat for 20-30 seconds until the batter is smooth.
  3. The batter will be thin enough to pour. Divide it evenly among the lined cups. Bake 18-22 minutes (rotating the pan from front to back half-way through the baking time), just until a toothpick inserted into a few of the cupcakes comes out clean.
  4. Set the pan on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes from the pan to the rack and let them cool completely before frosting or filling. Store and serve at room temperature.
  5. Here are some of the ways that you can play with the flavor and texture of these cupcakes:
    For mellower chocolate flavor: Substitute 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (207 grams) firmly packed brown sugar (or grated piloncillo or jaggery) for the granulated sugar and/or substitute 1/2 cup hot milk for the water, or replace half of the water for buttermilk.
    For additional flavor: Substitute hot coffee, stout, or coconut milk for the water.
    For extra tender cupcakes with almond (or any nut flavor): Reduce the flour to 2/3 cup (85 grams) and add 2/3 cup (75 grams) almond meal or flour (or other nut meal or flour) with the flour. If using almond flour, add 1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract with the vanilla.
    For a super moist and natural red velvet cake (without food coloring!): Add 3/4 to 1 cup finely shredded peeled raw beets to the batter at the end.
    For a touch of molasses flavor: Reduce the sugar by 2 tablespoons (25 grams) and add 1/4 cup (85 grams) molasses (not blackstrap) with the egg.
    For extra moist, soft cupcakes: Substitute 2 tablespoons neutral flavored vegetable oil (I like expeller pressed sunflower oil) for 2 tablespoons of the butter.
    For extra bittersweet cupcakes: Increase the cocoa by 1 or 2 tablespoons (6-12 grams) and substitute 2 tablespoons neutral flavored vegetable oil for 2 tablespoons of butter in order to compensate for drying effect of the extra cocoa powder.
    You could also switch these up by adding ground spices or freshly grated citrus zest. You could substitute spirits for half of the water or wine for all of the water. You could replace a quarter of the flour with a whole grain flour like teff or buckwheat or oat flour or whole wheat or spelt. What will you do to these cupcakes?

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Julie P.
    Julie P.
  • Julia Steiman
    Julia Steiman
  • Cassandra Brecht
    Cassandra Brecht
  • Alice Medrich
    Alice Medrich
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).

21 Reviews

Julie P. December 19, 2023
This is the best chocolate cupcake recipe that I’ve found. It turned out light and airy. I made a coconut cream cheese frosting with toasted coconut on top. Delectable. Will save this recipe to make again.
Melissa D. January 15, 2022
This is likely the last chocolate cupcake recipe I will ever use. It’s everything you want, nothing you don’t. Made it as written (except using fresh salted butter because I was out of unsalted) and used a kitchen scale whenever possible. Perfection. Made two single batches side by side and baked all 24 cupcakes at once. Best ever in all the lands!
MaineMom September 25, 2021
The best chocolate cupcake recipe I have found. Super easy and chocolaty, light, just rich enough, delicious! Now my go to recipe when I need fast, easy, cupcakes.
Julia S. September 27, 2019
I made these cakes today–they are quite fluffy, but way too sweet. I'm sure my son and his classmates will be delighted none-the-less.
Bojan V. September 15, 2019
Made these cupcakes with my two-year old son today. Delicious! I have used Lamington cupcakes' recipe for the glaze (found on food52 site), which uses equal parts of sour cream and melted chocolate (I suggest halving the amounts though). Will definitely make these again!
By the way, keep in mind that the 43 grams of cocoa powder refers to 2 table spoons only, not the entire quantity of cocoa powder. An inexperienced or inattentive baker might miss this. This is an inconsistency as the instructions for sugar (225g) refer to both the cup and the tablespoons.
joyce October 28, 2020
perhaps different cocoa powders have different densities? 43g of my cocoa powder was 1/3c + 2 tbsp for me, as the recipe states.
sharon K. November 7, 2018
If you wanted to make these completely gluten free, without xanthan gum, what flour blend do you recommend?
Alice M. November 13, 2018
Rather than try to convert a recipe that is not gf, you would be better of starting with a great chocolate cake recipe that is already gluten free. I suggest the cupcake variation of "Maya's Chocolate fudge Cake" from my book "Gluten Free Flavor Flours". It is extraordinarily good. It does call for xanthan gum, but you could try using psyillium husk instead: use enough psyillium husk to equal 5%-5.5% of the weight of the flour in the recipe: recipe calls for total of 125 grams flour, thus you can try using 6-7 grams of psyllium husk.
Rachael W. October 25, 2018
Any tips on adapting this recipe for high altitude? I live in Denver and the centers of all of my cupcakes turned out concave :(
Alice M. November 1, 2018
Google "high altitude baking" or or get a copy of Susan Purdy's book, "Pie In The Sky" for altitude advice. You will find advice for your specific altitude which will include using less leavening and/ or baking at a slightly different temperature. If you live in Denver, you should book mark this for future!
Cassandra B. October 2, 2018
These are brilliant...I can't wait to start playing around with them!
Santa F. September 12, 2018
Have a chocolate frosting recipe you would recommend to go on these cupcakes? Thx.
Alice M. September 12, 2018 is one that I like :
She I. September 10, 2018
can the same recipe to be used for brownies?
Alice M. September 12, 2018
This recipe is more cakey than brownie-y. Of course you can bake in brownie pan and cut into cake squares.
She I. September 12, 2018
what does it mean - more cakey than brownie-y? (I am new to baking)
Alice M. September 12, 2018
You've eaten cake right? And brownies? Cake is lighter and although good cake is moist, it isn't gooey or fudgey inside. Brownies are more more dense and fudgy in flavor and texture and chocolate intensity. Is this helping?
She I. September 13, 2018
yes i have eaten cake :) , but i have never paid attention to the texture , i thought all sweets are all the same but different sizes and forms
Lisa L. October 7, 2018