The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake

This past week, we said farewell at work to my boss’s boss who retired after 40 years of service to the company.  For a farewell breakfast gathering on her last day, I decided to contribute by baking cupcakes.  With macarons on top because I’ve been obsessed with macarons ever since I decided to try making them again and was actually met with some degree of success.


Mini macarons filled with chocolate ganache that I made a couple of days ahead.
Mini macarons filled with chocolate ganache that I made a couple of days ahead.

I wanted to go all-out for this occassion so I went about searching for a really good chocolate cupcake recipe.  My googling led me to The Cupcake Project’s Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake, which is also copied here:

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake (from The Cupcake Project)

Yield: about 16 cupcakes


  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • 2 ounces of your favorite chocolate (You can use any plain chocolate that you like except white chocolate or candy melts. The chocolate doesn’t have to be one typically earmarked for baking – any chocolate bar that isn’t flavored and doesn’t contain mix-ins like nuts, Rice Krispies, nougat, etc. will work.)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 fluid ounces) vegetable or canola oil, measured in a liquid measuring cup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (2 3/4 ounce) full-fat sour cream
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) cocoa powder (natural or dutched will both work with this recipe)
  • 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) room temperature water, measured in a liquid measuring cup


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix butter and sugar until fully combined. The end result should look like wet sand.
  3. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler.
  4. Once the melted chocolate is cool enough to touch, add it to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until just combined.
  5. Mix in eggs and egg yolks one at a time until just combined.
  6. Mix in oil, vanilla, and sour cream until just combined.
  7. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder into a separate medium-sized bowl. Use a fork or a whisk to ensure that the ingredients are mixed well after sifting.
  8. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in three additions, mixing until just combined after each addition.
  9. Mix in water until just combined.
  10. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and put in the oven.
  11. Check for doneness at 18 minutes – a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake should come out clean. If they are not done, check again every three minutes until they are done.
  12. Immediately remove cupcakes from the cupcake tin and place on a cooling rack or on the counter to cool to room temperature. Although they are really good when they are hot, be sure to wait until they are room temperature to give your evaluation.


If you would like to add coffee to the recipe, either add 1 teaspoon espresso powder or instant coffee granules along with the sifted dry ingredients, or replace the water with room temperature brewed coffee.

This recipe is interesting because it’s not really about the ingredients but about the method and technique.  It takes a “Choose Your Own Adventure” (remember those books???) approach with respect to the following:

  1. Choose your own cocoa powder (it can be either natural unsweetened or Dutch-processed)
  2. Choose your own chocolate (but it must be plain and not white chocolate, and no candy melts and must not have any mix-ins like nuts, etc.).
  3. Choose whether or not to add coffee.

If you don’t know where to start or have difficulty choosing, you can visit the post which I’ve linked to and see her suggestions.  As for me, I knew I was going to go high-end on my cocoa powder.  I was originally going to go with Scharffen Berger (which I love and is also the cocoa powder responsible for taking me away from Hershey’s cocoa), but decided to go for something new when the Italian Pernigotti cocoa powder came to my attention while I was browsing Amazon for Scharffen Berger cocoa (since I was all out).  Fortunately, I was able to pick some up from Williams-Sonoma during my break from work because I needed the cocoa ASAP.

The image below shows the progression from package to package opening to batter making to finished product:

a. Pernigotti cocoa packaging (12 oz.); b. The cocoa has a deep reddish-brown color. c. My cupcake batter made with this luxe cocoa. d. The resulting cupcakes, cooling from the oven.
a. Pernigotti cocoa packaging (12 oz.); b. The cocoa has a deep reddish-brown color. c. My cupcake batter made with this luxe cocoa. d. The resulting cupcakes, cooling from the oven.

The batter was so delicious that it made me want to lick the bowl clean before washing it, but I restrained myself.  It even had that deep chocolate aroma of a rich, moist batter that you just know will turn out great cupcakes.  It was quite promising, but one look at how rich and thick and gooey that batter was had me worrying for the state of my cupcake liners, which in the past have had the tendency to peel away from the cupcakes whenever the batter I was working with was super moist like this one.  So before I even filled my liners, I googled for how to prevent this problem and I came across a couple of blogs where they blamed the quality of cupcake liners.  Some swore by grease-proof cupcake liners that never peeled away, but then there were others who said they were using grease-proof, quality liners yet they were still having the problem.  And then I came across a couple of other blogs where they realized that the problem is caused by underbaked cupcakes.  I thought to my past cupcake bakes and realized that yes, I had been baking my cupcakes just short of being completely done because I feared overbaked, dry cupcakes.  Anyway, the advice worked.  I baked my cupcakes at the instructed 18 minutes, then made sure that the toothpick came out clean before deciding to pull out the batch, indicating that my cupcakes were completely done.  I then set them out to cool and nervously waited for the papers to peel away, and lo and behold, they did not!  So before you shell out for more expensive cupcake liners, try this solution first!

So after all that, how were the cupcakes?  The cupcakes, my friends, were amazing.  Everyone was impressed and they loved them.  The taste was deeply chocolaty, moist and not too sweet (I cut down the amount of sugar to 3/4 cup and also cut the vanilla to 3/4 teaspoon since the cocoa powder I used has hints of vanilla in it, and I also opted to add coffee by substituting a cup of brewed coffee for the water). They also keep well in the fridge and seem to get more moist as they sit.  I just had one now without frosting (by the way, I frosted the ones I brought to work with Swiss meringue buttercream, one chocolate/espresso and the other almond).

I’m sure that if you use different ingredient choices from me, you will end up with a different experience, but supposedly, there is no wrong way to do these cupcakes.  It’s a recipe meant to please most if not everyone by catering to their particular tastes in ingredients.  So give it a try and see if the results are to your liking!  As for me, I may have found a go-to chocolate cupcake recipe.

(Edit: I forgot to mention that my chocolate bar of choice for this recipe was Godiva 72% dark chocolate!)

3 thoughts on “The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake

  1. Yay! I’m so glad that you enjoyed the cupcakes! I’ve never tried that brand of cocoa powder. I may have to give it a whirl!

    1. Great! Thanks for the recipe too! I forgot to mention in the post that I used a bar of Godiva 72% dark chocolate, just thought I’d share that! Your blog is great, I’ve been using your chocolate cream cheese frosting as a go-to for years!

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