Update: I discovered a similar chocolate cupcake recipe (see here) that I like a bit more than this one. The difference is very slight and the two recipes differ mainly in the ingredient, cornstarch. I still recommend this original favourite below, too, as it is delicious and has never failed me.
I have tried many chocolate cake recipes, but this is only the second recipe that I have posted so far. Can you tell I’m picky when it comes to chocolate cake? The first one posted is my favourite casual chocolate cake recipe that incorporates mayonnaise (recipe here). The recipe I’m sharing now uses buttermilk and vegetable oil and yields a fantastic chocolate cake that is very moist and chocolatey. Through recipe testing, I discovered that making cake with vegetable oil results in a better moistness than making cake with melted butter. This recipe is very quick and easy to make and I’ve used it successfully many times for cupcakes, mini cupcakes and even a wedding layer cake (see here). As a layer cake, this cake has the perfect texture; it isn’t too dense and it slices beautifully because it holds its shape well. In my opinion, this recipe makes the best mini cupcakes. I made mini chocolate cupcakes with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream for coworkers to celebrate an engagement and everyone loved them. The compliments were endless and people loved the ratio of cake to frosting, so resist the temptation to frost your cupcakes too heavily. I’ve also included a recipe below for a simple, spreadable chocolate frosting if you don’t have the time or the ingredients to make swiss meringue buttercream. Update: I recently made a chocolate layer cake with chocolate swiss meringue buttercream and the chocolate swiss meringue buttercream was amazing. I highly recommend you try it. See here for instructions.
Moist Chocolate Cupcakes, Mini Cupcakes, or Cake Recipe
makes 24 cupcakes, approximately 96 mini cupcakes, or 1 (2 layer) cake; adapted from Sweetapolita
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated white sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted (use a dark cocoa powder for a darker cake)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt (Note: I use coarse kosher salt.)
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice topped up to 1 cup with milk and allowed to stand at least 10 minutes)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup hot, strong coffee (or 1 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 cup boiling water)
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a muffin pan with paper cups, or grease and flour two 9-inch baking pans, or grease and lightly flour a mini muffin pan, and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gently stir in the sugar. Then add the eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract, and turn the stand mixer on with the paddle attachment. Add the hot coffee in a steady stream with the machine on and then beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. The batter will seem watery. Pour the batter into your muffin cups or mini muffin cups 3/4 of the way full, or divide the batter evenly into the two cake pans. Bake on the middle rack of the oven until an inserted toothpick comes out with a few crumbs attached to it, about 13 to 15 minutes for cupcakes, 6 minutes for mini cupcakes, or 20 to 30 minutes for cake layers. Do not overbake. For mini cupcakes, as soon as the middle parts are set and no longer watery, the cupcakes are done. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow the cake to cool for about 20 minutes. Then gently remove the mini cupcakes/cupcakes/cake layers from the pan and allow them to cool completely on the wire rack. Frost and enjoy. Store in the refrigerator as the cold cupcakes will taste even more rich and moist. The unfrosted cupcakes or cake layers freeze well.
Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream Recipe
Vanilla swiss meringue buttercream is the perfect accompaniment for mini chocolate cupcakes or chocolate cake. I recommend using Mexican vanilla extract for a unique flavour. Although time consuming, it is very easy to make and large batches can be frozen. Please see here for the recipe. Another option is to make a chocolate swiss meringue buttercream.
If you prefer a simpler chocolate frosting for cupcakes or a layer cake, see my recipe below. The swiss meringue buttercream can be piped whereas the chocolate frosting must be spread.
Simple Chocolate Frosting Recipe
frosts 24 cupcakes
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup cocoa (use up to 1 cup if you want a darker frosting)
1 cup icing sugar (Note: I don’t like frostings that are too sweet, so add more icing sugar to taste)
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
small pinch of salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, cocoa powder, and salt until well combined. Then beat in the icing sugar to taste until smooth and creamy. Beat in milk, 1 tbsp at a time, until you achieve your desired consistency (I used 3 tbsp milk). Spread onto your cupcakes or cake.