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
- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 20 minutes
- Makes 12 cupcakes
(127 grams) all-purpose flour
plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) sugar
plus 2 tablespoons (43 grams) unsweetened natural (non-alkalized, not Dutch-processed) cocoa powder
(113 grams) unsalted butter, melted and warm
pure vanilla extract
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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?