Rich, decadent chocolate cupcakes filled with sweet, creamy dulce de leche, sprinkled with some coarse salt, and topped with luscious chocolate buttercream frosting.
Partial to chocolate cupcakes? Try my Double Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Chocolate Stout Cupcakes.
Table of Contents
I made my chocolate cupcakes for a frosting video idea. I made two of my popular recipes and put together these new chocolate cupcakes. They turned out AMAZING! First of all, this is my all-time favorite chocolate cupcake recipe because the cakes come out SO soft, moist, and fluffy, they are totally addicting.
Adding a filling of dulce de leche is perfect with a chocolate cupcake and chocolate frosting. And, adding a sprinkle of coarse salt to the middle and top of the cupcakes creates a perfect sweet and salty balance.
Depending on how generously you will frost the cupcake, you might have some left over. Sometimes I do but if my son and husband help frost, I don’t have much left. If you do have some left, it makes a fantastic dip for strawberries. One of my close friends used to always request that her birthday cake have this chocolate buttercream and that I make her an extra batch just for dipping strawberries.
Unsweetened cocoa powder – use unsweetened 100% cocoa powder will help enhance the richness of the chocolate cupcakes. (See below for more information.)
Hot water – make sure to heat up water first, before you will be adding cocoa powder.
All purpose flour – a simple all purpose flour will work well in these cupcakes.
Baking powder and baking soda – yes, you should use both because they are not interchangeable! Each one has it’s own job to do. While both help with leveling, each also has a separate purpose in baking.
Eggs – make sure to take the eggs out of the refrigerator about 30-45 minutes before baking to warm them up.
Sour cream – it’s best to use full fat sour cream for the rich texture of the cupcakes.
Oil – make sure to use a neutral oil like vegetable or avocado oil. Some olive oils have a strong flavor, so if you have to use olive oil, one with mild flavor, those meant for salads and dressings.
Dulce de leche – use either room temperature or warmed dulce de leche, it is much easier to work with than cold.
Unsalted butter – make sure to take the butter out of the refrigerator up to an hour before making the frosting to soften it.
Egg yolks – take the eggs out of the refrigerator to warm them up as well. NOTE: you can temper the eggs first if using raw eggs makes you feel uncomfortable, much like I do in my Tiramisu recipe.
*Raw Egg Warning: Consuming raw or under-cooked eggs may increase your risk of food-borne illness.
See recipe card for complete information on ingredients and quantities.
What Is The Difference In Cocoa Powder?
Believe it or not, not all cocoa powder is created equal. There is something special about the (unsweetened) natural cocoa powder vs Dutch-processed. The difference between natural cocoa powder, like Hershey’s or Ghirardelli, and Dutch-process cocoa powder is acid.
Dutch-processed powder has been washed in a potassium solution that neutralizes the acid. This gives the cocoa powder its much darker color. When using Dutch-processed cocoa in baking recipes, it’s best to pair it with baking powder. Baking powder will provide the acid component for leavening.
Natural cocoa powder is lighter in color and it did not have it’s acid stripped, so it still has its acids. So you will need to pair it with baking soda.
What if I forgot to take out eggs and butter before baking?
I often forget to pull butter and eggs out of the fridge before baking so I want to share a trick that I use myself. Fill a coffee mug full of water and microwave it for about 2-3 minutes (depending on the mug size) until starts to boil.
Quickly open the door and place sticks of butter (still wrapped) and eggs next to the mug. Make sure butter and eggs are not actually touching the hot mug!
Close the microwave door but DO NOT turn it on. Just let it sit there with the heat from the mug for about 5-10 minutes. This will quickly heat up the eggs and soften the butter. Remember, the point is to quickly open the door and close it to not let much heat escape.
How To Make Chocolate Cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly spray cupcake pan with cooking spray and line it with cupcake liners.
Chocolate mixture: In a small sauce pot, mix water with unsweetened cocoa powder. Bring to a low boil. Cook for about a minute and set aside to cool. Cool for at least 15 minutes so it’s no longer scalding!
Start to mix batter: In a bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix until combined. Separately, whisk together vegetable oil, vanilla extract, eggs and sour cream.
On low speed, slowly pour in the egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Once it’s combined, bring the speed up to medium and beat for about two minutes.
Finish the batter: Lower speed to low again and slowly pour in cocoa mixture. Mix until just combined. Turn off the mixer. Using a spatula, scrape sides and bottom of the bowl, continue mixing with a spatula until batter is smooth.
Baking cupcakes: Pour batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about ¾ of the way, and bake for 18-20 minutes. Do a toothpick test at 18 minutes to check for doneness. Cool to room temperature before filling and frosting.
How to Make Chocolate Buttercream
Warm the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave until melted and allow to cool slightly. (Note: I highly recommend using a double boiler since it’s so easy to scald the chocolate in a microwave and will have to start all over.)
PRO TIP: If you don’t have a double boiler, set a glass mixing bowl over a pot filled about half way with water. Water should not be touching the bowl on top. Melt chocolate in and butter in the glass bowl once the water starts to simmer. Note: glass bowl should be heat-proof!
Beat butter until it is fluffy (about 3-5 minutes) on high speed. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl. On low speed add powdered sugar and egg yolks alternately, beating after each addition. The mixture should be very fluffy.
With the mixer on medium-low, gradually drizzle in slightly cooled melted chocolate. Transfer the frosting to the pastry bag and frost the cooled, filled cupcakes.
How to temper eggs to bring them to safe temperature?
There is small risk in using raw eggs and that is why many people would choose to take the safer route and temper the eggs in desserts like custard, frosting, chocolate mousse, and tiramisu. I temper the eggs to bring them to a safe temperature in a double boiler, bringing the eggs to a recommended safe temperature of 160°F.
Heat up water in a bottom portion of the double boiler over medium heat and lower heat to medium-low. (Make sure the water in the bottom pot is not touching the top pot!) Add egg yolks and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar into the top pot and slowly and gently whisk to mix.
Heat up yolks and sugar in the double boiler over medium-low heat, slowly stirring the whole time, for 7-10 minutes. (Until eggs are 160-165 F.)
Make sure to keep gently stirring to keep eggs moving the whole time so you don’t scramble the eggs. Once they are up to temperature, take off heat. COOL them down to room temperature before making the frosting.
I almost always use 1M decorating tip for the cupcakes. It makes a nice and large star shape on the frosting, which helps make rosettes, shells, flowers, stars, or a large swirl.
Yes, because of the frosting, these cupcakes need to be refrigerated. If you plan to serve them the same day, you can leave them out on the counter, covered, for about 2-3 hours, but I wouldn’t recommend any longer.
You can always refrigerate the cupcakes and take them out about an hour before serving to let them warm up. Since not many people like to eat cold cupcakes, this will keep bring them to room temperature before serving.
If you want to prepare these cupcakes ahead of time you can bake the cupcakes and full them with dulce de leche but don’t make the frosting. They will keep longer in the refrigerator without the frosting. Make sure to keep them air-tight! Even if you will be using a lid that comes with the baking pan, place an extra layer of plastic wrap or beeswax paper, or another wrap you use.
Unfrosted, you can make the cupcakes about 2 days before, any longer and they will start to harden.
Frosting is best to make fresh or about a day before. Frosted cupcakes should also be stored in the refrigerator and covered. If you don’t have a lid for the baking dish, you can store them in a 9×13 casserole dish with tall sides and cover it.
More Desserts To Try
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Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1½ cups hot water
- 2½ cups all purpose flour
- 1¼ cup white granulated sugar
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 eggs room temperature
- ¾ cups vegetable oil
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 10 oz dulce de leche
- 1-2 tbsp coarse salt for filling and frosting
- 16 oz unsalted butter room temperature
- 2-3 cups powdered sugar
- 3 egg yolks*
- 5 oz dark semi-sweet chocolate melted and cooled a little
- Chocolate Cupcakes:
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly spray cupcake pan with cooking spray and line it with cupcake liners.
- In a small sauce pot, mix water with unsweetened cocoa powder. Bring to a low boil. Cook for about a minute and set aside to cool.
- In a bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix until combined.
- Separately, whisk together vegetable oil, vanilla extract, eggs and sour cream.
- On low speed, slowly pour in the egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Once it’s combined, bring the speed up to medium and beat for about two minutes.
- Lower speed to low again and slowly pour in cocoa mixture. Mix until just combined. Turn off mixer.
- Using a spatula, scrape sides and bottom of the bowl, continue mixing with a spatula until batter is smooth.
- Pour batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about ¾ of the way, and bake for 18-20 minutes. Do a toothpick test at 18 minutes to check for doneness.
- Cool to room temperature before filling and frosting.
- Using a small cookie dough scoop (number 50), scoop out some of the cupcake on top and then, using the same size scoop, fill each cupcake hole with dulce de leche.
- Sprinkle a little bit of coarse salt over each cupcake.
- (You can make cake pops or cake truffles with the scooped out chocolate cake.)
- Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
- *Raw Egg Warning: Consuming raw or under-cooked eggs may increase your risk of food-borne illness.
- Warm the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave until melted and allow to cool slightly. (I highly recommend using a double boiler because of how easy it is to scald the chocolate in the microwave.)
- Beat butter until it is fluffy (about 3-5 minutes) on high speed. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl. On low speed add powdered sugar and egg yolk alternately, beating after each addition.
- The mixture should be very fluffy.
- With the mixer on medium low, gradually drizzle in melted chocolate.
- Transfer the frosting to the pastry bag and frost the cooled, filled cupcakes. (I use 1M frosting tip to decorate the cupcakes.)
- Sprinkle some coarse salt on top of frosting too.
Heat up yolks and sugar in the double boiler over medium-low heat, slowly stirring the whole time, for 7-10 minutes. (Until eggs are 160-165 F.) Make sure to keep gently stirring to keep eggs moving the whole time so you don’t scramble the eggs. Once they are up to temperature, take off heat. COOL them down to room temperature before making the frosting.
Originally published on Will Cook For Smiles in July, 2016.