Dark chocolate cupcakes made from scratch (using real dark chocolate and special dark cocoa powder!) and topped with the silky smooth peanut butter frosting that I shared last week! Recipe includes options for other frostings as well.
Today’s post is yet another addition to my series of love letters to peanut butter and chocolate. I mean, is there even a better flavor combination than peanut butter and chocolate (if you can think of one, I want to know what it is!)?
I think the last time I combined the two was when I shared my peanut butter blossoms, so we’re about due for a new recipe.
Today’s dark chocolate cupcakes take the obsession to a whole new level. They’re soft and fluffy, but deeply darkly colored, rich and just ever so slightly bitter, as good dark chocolate ought to be. If you’re a dark chocolate fan I think you’re going to love these cupcakes.
And while I usually find the frosting on top of a cupcake to be a bit too much, too sweet, too sugary, I think that a nice sweet frosting (like Friday’s peanut butter frosting) is the perfect complement to a good dark chocolate cupcake.
I already have a chocolate cupcake recipe on the blog, but after a few recipe trials I realized that it required a few more changes than just swapping out the cocoa powder for dark cocoa powder.
After plenty of test runs, I finally ended up with a winning recipe, and it’s good, guys!
These dark chocolate cupcakes use special dark cocoa powder for their midnight color, and I also added 4 oz of real dark chocolate. The 75% variety is my preference, I would recommend anywhere between 55-75%, anything higher may make the cupcakes a bit too bitter.
You’ll want to chop the chocolate as fine as you can manage (ideally the pieces will be smaller than mini chocolate chips). I roughly chopped my chocolate bar into pieces and then used a large knife to mince it as if I were mincing garlic, it worked nicely.
If you don’t chop your chocolate finely enough, it will likely be too heavy for the thin cupcake batter and will sink to the bottom of your cupcakes. This isn’t the worst thing that could happen (I certainly wouldn’t complain about a dark chocolate bonus at the bottom of my cupcake) but ideally you want the chocolate pieces to melt into your cupcake batter.
As I mentioned, we’ll also be using dark cocoa powder. I do not recommend substituting natural or dutch processed cocoa powder as you won’t get the rich dark color or taste of dark chocolate, and that’s the whole point with today’s recipe.
I use Hershey’s brand, as that’s what’s available in my grocery store.
Tips for Making Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
- This recipe calls for hot coffee, but if you don’t have hot coffee on hand, you can substitute hot water instead. However, if you have it, definitely use the coffee. It won’t make your cupcakes taste like coffee, but it will help enhance the chocolate flavor.
- It’s important that the coffee (or water, if using that instead) be very hot when you add it to your batter. If your sink doesn’t make produce very hot water (my hot sink water is literally scalding, so that’s what I use) you can heat the water in a saucepan on the stove before adding to your batter. The liquid needs to be hot because it will cause your cocoa powder to bloom — which means you will get a much richer chocolate flavor. It will also help to melt your finely chopped dark chocolate into the batter.
- Speaking of which, make sure your dark chocolate bar is chopped into extremely fine pieces. As I just mentioned, the goal is that it will mostly melt once you add the hot liquid.
- Don’t fill your cupcake liners higher than ⅔ of the way full with batter. If over-filled, your cupcakes will spread over the top of your cupcake pans.
If you don’t want to top your dark chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, you might want to try my chocolate frosting, cream cheese frosting, or vanilla frosting.
Also check out my other cupcake recipes including my easy (one bowl) chocolate cupcakes, my vanilla cupcakes, Funfetti cupcakes, and my pinata cupcakes!
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
- 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour (215g)
- 1 cup light brown sugar tightly packed (200g)
- 1 cup sugar (200g)
- ¾ cup dark cocoa powder (75g) (see note)
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter melted (113g)
- ½ cup canola oil may substitute vegetable oil (118ml)
- 2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk room temperature preferred
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 4 oz dark chocolate very finely chopped, I use 75% (113g)
- ½ cup hot coffee* or 1 teaspoon instant coffee dissolved into ½ cup hot water (118ml)
- 1 batch peanut butter frosting or your favorite frosting
- Preheat your oven to 350F (175C) and line 2 12-count muffin tins with paper liners. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, whisk together flour, sugars, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Add melted butter and oil, stir well.
- Add eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Pause occasionally to scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl.
- Stir in vanilla extract. Gradually add buttermilk and stir well, then stir in chopped chocolate.
- Add hot coffee, stirring until ingredients are well-combined (be sure to scrape sides and bottom of bowl again).
- Evenly divide batter into prepared muffin tins. Do not fill muffin tins higher than ⅔ of the way full or the batter will spread out over the top of the pan and you'll have awkward and unappealing flat-topped cupcakes.
- Bake on 350F (175C) for 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center should come out with moist crumbs (not wet batter).
- Allow to cool completely in the muffin tins before removing and decorating with your favorite frosting. I recommend using my peanut butter frosting.
Cocoa PowderA few people noted that Hershey's has changed their cocoa powder from the one shown in my post. As of August 2021 I have tested the recipe with their new formula and it still works great here with no issues!
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
This cake recipe made the best cake I’ve ever had in my life! Absolutely the best! It was like a piece of heaven! Or what you think it might be like! I made the peanut frosting for it and it was perfect. This will be my “go to” cake,! Thank you for the recipe!!!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Thanks so much for the sweet review, Maradee! We’re so happy you enjoyed the cupcakes ❤️
These are amazing! Made some for my daughter’s birthday with Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1:1 blend because she has a friend coming with celiac disease, and, even with the gluten-free flour blend, they are incredible. Off to make a batch of your strawberry frosting to top them now!
I’m so glad everyone enjoyed them so much, Shara! Thank you for the feedback using the gluten free flour blend too. 🙂
This recipe sounds great! If I put this batter in a 9 x 13 pan, how should I adjust the baking temperature and time?
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Hi Jen! This recipe will work in a 9×13 pan. The temperature will stay the same, but the bake time will be different, so keep an eye on it! 😊
Can I make this into two 6×2 or 8in pans? I noticed your chocolate cake recipie is different.
Hi Michele! This should work for a cake and the batter should give you enough for a 2 layer 8 or 9 inch cake. 🙂
Can I half this recipe to make 12 cupcakes? Can I do 1 egg + 1 yolk?
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
That should work fine, Sydney! Let us know how they turn out for you 😊
Hi Sam .. I adore your recipes .. they are sooooooooooo good. Thank you so much for sharing them with us. I have a question regarding dark chocolate here, can I use crushed chocolate chips or melted !? Thank you !
Hi Nevin! I don’t recommend it here. There will be some other alterations required and without having tried it I can’t say for sure what they would be so I really recommend sticking to the cocoa powder.
Sam, first let me say that you’re my go to for recipes. I have never found a better red velvet cake than your recipe. I typically make your easy chocolate cupcake recipe (but modify it a little by using buttermilk and half brown sugar), but was looking for something with a little more chocolate flavor. Could I do this recipe with milk chocolate? If so, would I have to make any adjustments? Not a huge dark chocolate fan…
Hi Drew! You would still need the dark cocoa powder but you could substitute milk chocolate for the chopped chocolate. 🙂
Can you make this without the coffee?
Hi Melissa! I don’t recommend it. You need the moisture and the coffee adds a great flavor. 🙂
We were going to use coffee powder mixed with hot water, but were making it gluten free (with Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 blend) for someone with celiac disease, and we weren’t 100% sure that the powder wasn’t manufactured on equipment that also processes gluten, so we just used hot water…and, while I could see how the coffee could add an extra dimension to the chocolate, they were still excellent!
I’ve made these cupcakes many times to the T, but every single time most of them come out sunken in and rarely some flat. They taste amazing, but this always happens. Then I looked at the date of the recipe. Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa in May 2018 still was a blend of natural and dutch cocoa. This means that the baking soda and buttermilk still had the natural coca powder to react with in order to give it rise. Now in 2021, they eliminated the Natural cocoa making it fully dutch which means the cocoa can’t react with the rising agents because there is barely any acidity from the cocoa. This means the cupcakes might need some baking powder, I might make a batch with some baking powder and see how they turn out. I’m 14 and I am a baking science nerd.
This is very interesting. I had no idea they even changed their formula. I really appreciate that feedback and I will test it ASAP to see if I can find out what/if any alterations are needed.
Are there any adjustments that need to be made w the new Hershey’s special dark version, as it is now Dutch processed? It is also a lighter color now. Is there another brand that you would recommend?
Hi Dana! I have tested it with the new stuff and it works just fine. 🙂
The buttermilk IS the acid that reacts with the baking soda so you do not need to add baking powder. That’s awesome you are so into baking so young! I recommend making sure you do not open the oven door until they are fully set. That is what always caused mine to be sunken when I was first starting. Good luck!
Hey there Sam!! Could this recipe be made with a hand mixer as well? In a similar way with your red velvet cupcakes recipe? Thanks in advance! 🧁
Hi Andriani You can do this with a hand mixer. 🙂
These cupcakes are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good. Its texture is just like your chocolate cake recipe but it doesn’t stick to the liners. I honestly think that this recipe is better than your easy chocolate cupcake recipe because the texture is fudgier and denser. I’ve NEVER in my life had a cupcake as moist. Next time I make them, I’m gonna have them with Nutella buttercream and a Ferrero Rocher on top! Great Job.
I am so glad you enjoyed them so much, Andres! I love the sound of that topping! 🙂
Hi, Sam! I just wondered how different this cupcake was compared to the one provided with your raspberry frosting? They are both dark chocolate but have noticed that the ingredients are slightly different. Is the texture and taste very different or are they pretty much the same?
Hi Jane! The texture and taste are quite similar, I honestly prefer this recipe now (it is more recently developed) because I think it’s easier to prepare and the taste is so similar, so I would recommend this one 🙂