Alright, let’s get one thing straight: these homemade chocolate cupcakes are great and all, but the star of the show is the over-the-top, unbelievably delicious espresso buttercream. Grab your spoons, friends, ’cause this one you can eat straight from the bowl.
So when is a good time to make these easy chocolate cupcakes? Birthday celebration? Absolutely. Anniversary? Obviously. Random Wednesday afternoon because you’re struggling to get over the mid-week hump? Winner winner, chocolate cupcake dinner.
Would I recommend letting your young children have at the leftover espresso buttercream while you clean dishes? No, actually… I tried that and it backfired wildly. But, for literally every other occasion, this buttercream will make you a hero.
What’s in these homemade chocolate cupcakes?
To make these chocolate cupcakes from scratch, you’ll need unsweetened cocoa powder, hot water, eggs, vanilla extract, cake flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder and baking soda, salt, unsalted butter, whole milk, and vegetable oil. Pretty standard, but again, why mess with a classic when it tastes this good?
For the addicting espresso buttercream frosting, you’ll need unsalted butter, powdered sugar, whole milk, and instant espresso powder. Note that you can NOT substitute ground coffee for the instant espresso powder. Ground coffee will make the espresso buttercream gritty — so not what you want.
How to make chocolate cupcakes
Whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water, then stir in the eggs and vanilla. To the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the dry ingredients and then mix in the butter, milk, and oil. Slowly pour in the cocoa powder mixture and mix until just combined.
Next, divide the chocolate cupcake batter among 12 lined muffin cups and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Once the cupcakes come out of the oven, you’ll need to transfer them to a wire rack to cool so you can use your muffin tin to bake the rest of the cupcakes.
How long to bake cupcakes?
If filled 2/3 full, these homemade chocolate cupcakes will only need 22 to 24 minutes in the oven. You’ll know they’re finished baking when the cupcake springs back immediately after you press it gently with your thumb.
How to make espresso buttercream
First, cream the butter for about three minutes, or until it’s light and fluffy. Don’t shortchange this, otherwise your espresso buttercream won’t turn out the right texture. Next, turn your mixer to a low speed and carefully sift the powdered sugar into the butter. Once incorporated, turn the mixer back to a higher speed and beat for another two minutes. Whisk the espresso powder into the milk and then add it to the butter mixture.
Voila, you’ve made espresso buttercream!
Is there a cake flour substitute I can use?
Cake flour is a must for these homemade chocolate cupcakes. Cake flour contains less protein than all-purpose flour, which makes for a super light cake. If you don’t want to invest in cake flour, you can try making it yourself using this tutorial from The Kitchn.
Can you freeze cupcakes?
If you want to prep these easy chocolate cupcakes in advance, you can most certainly freeze them for later. Let the cupcakes cool completely before popping them into a freezer bag. I don’t recommend frosting the cupcakes before freezing them, as espresso buttercream is best fresh. The frosting only takes five or so minutes to make though, so it’s easy enough to whip up at a moment’s notice.
Tips for making homemade chocolate cupcakes
When making cupcakes, it’s crucial that your ingredients are all room temperature (eggs, milk, etc). If you add cold eggs and milk to the batter, the cupcakes won’t be the same temperature throughout when they go into the oven, which could result in uneven bake times.
On a similar note, your butter must be room temperature before you make the espresso buttercream frosting. If you try to make buttercream with cold butter, it won’t whip up properly and you’ll wind up with chunks of butter in the frosting. No thanks, I’ll pass!
Oh, and one last note. You need to wait to frost the cupcakes until they’ve had time to cool completely. If you try to frost warm cupcakes, the espresso buttercream will slide off.
If you make my homemade chocolate cupcakes with espresso buttercream, please let me know by leaving a review below!
For additional dessert recipes, check out the following:
- Classic Vanilla Layer Cake with Mascarpone Buttercream
- Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake
- Milk Bar’s Crack Pie
- Dark Chocolate Chunk Browned Butter Blondies
- Chocolate Cherry Dump Cake
Tender, Moist Chocolate Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream
For the chocolate cupcakes
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder*
- 3 extra large eggs, room temperature (or 4 large eggs)
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 2¼ cups cake flour
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
- ¾ cup whole milk, room temperature
- 2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
For the espresso buttercream
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 2 Tbsp whole milk
- 2 tsp instant espresso powder*
To make the chocolate cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 350F and place rack in the middle position. Line a standard muffin tin with cupcake liners.
- Whisk ¾ cup cocoa powder with ¾ cup hot water in a large bowl. When smooth, whisk in 3 eggs and 1 Tbsp vanilla extract.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, mix together 2¼ cups flour, ¾ cup sugar, ¾ cup brown sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1½ tsp Kosher salt. Add ¾ cup butter, ¾ cup milk, and 2 Tbsp oil, then continue whisking until smooth. Carefully add cocoa powder mixture, then whisk again until just incorporated.
- Pour prepared batter into cupcake liners about ⅔ full, then bake about 22-24 minutes, or until cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting. Bake remaining cupcakes.
To make espresso buttercream
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream 1 cup butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk 2 tsp espresso powder into 2 Tbsp milk until dissolved.
- Reduce speed of mixer to low and slowly add 2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar to the butter. When fully incorporated, increase speed to medium-high and continue beating for another 2 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed. Add espresso-milk mixture, and beat until well mixed.
- Pipe buttercream on top of cooled cupcakes and serve immediately.