This Easy Chocolate Cupcake recipe is a lower sugar take on a classic dessert—but it’s filled with chocolatey flavor and creamy frosting that the kids will totally love. And: They are so easy to make!
Easy Chocolate Cupcakes
This recipe comes together in a few minutes with basic pantry staples. I have a few options in case you happen not to have one ingredient or another, as well as adjustments for food allergies. We love that this cupcake recipe is easy, lower in sugar than traditional recipes, and that it still boasts a lot of chocolate flavor!
Healthy Chocolate Cupcakes
Okay, I do admit that these will not be as sweet as the cupcakes you’d get at a bakery, but they are definitely a food that your toddler will be happy to dig into. (And I bet you’d like to have one too.) You can use any type of frosting you like, though I’m partial to cream cheese frosting since it tastes creamy without the need for cups of powdered sugar. You can also add sprinkles or fresh fruit to make these even more fun.
TIP: A standard chocolate cupcake recipe has anywhere from ½-1 cup of sugar, but this one has just ⅓ cup. This means that there’s enough sugar to make the right texture and flavor, but they’re less sweet.
Ingredients You Need
To make this recipe, you’ll need:
- plain whole milk Greek yogurt or sour cream
- all purpose flour
- cocoa powder
- baking powder
- baking soda
TIP: If you don’t have sour cream or yogurt, you can use all milk.
Here’s a look at the process involved in making this Chocolate Cupcake recipe from scratch.
- Gather your ingredients.
- Mix the wet ingredients in a medium-size bowl.
- Gently stir in the dry ingredients.
- Portion into a muffin tin lined with paper cupcake liners. bake!
TIP: You have two options for sizes when making this recipe—12 modest size cupcakes or 9 larger ones. See the recipe at the bottom of the post for the information.
What makes a cupcake moist and fluffy?
The key to moist and fluffy chocolate cupcakes is to beat lots of air into the eggs and flour, but to not overwork the batter once you add the flour. That would cause the gluten in the flour to toughen up.
How do you make cupcakes moist?
The moisture in these chocolate cupcakes comes from the sour cream, butter, and eggs. Beating the eggs well before adding in the flour helps to ensure that they bake up both moist and fluffy.
How do you ice cupcakes?
The easiest way to ice cupcakes with a pretty swirl is to put the frosting into a zip top bag, seal it, then snip off one corner. Use it like a piping bag to make swirls on the top of each cupcake. This is also a place where the kids can help! You can also simply spread it on with a butter knife or off-set spatula.
Frosting Recipe without Powdered Sugar
We like to use cream cheese frosting since it’s naturally lower in sugar than a traditional buttercream, which needs cups of powdered sugar to hold shape. (It’s delicious, but it can be a lot for a tiny toddler!) It also is super easy to make, and is rich and creamy. The recipe here is for a Fresh Strawberry Frosting, which has a pretty pink color. If you want a plain cream cheese frosting, simply omit the strawberries.
Egg-Free Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
I wanted to make sure that I gave an egg-free option for these cupcakes in case of a food allergy. You can use 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed and 5 tablespoons water in place of the eggs called for in the recipe. The batter bakes up moist and fluffy and it’s actually hard to tell the difference! (That’s an egg-free one shown right above.)
TIP: My Healthy Chocolate Cake is also egg-free and is SO good!
Easy Chocolate Cupcakes
- 1/4 cup butter (softened at room temperature)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Fresh Strawberry Frosting or frosting of choice
- Prepare the Fresh Strawberry Frosting and place into the fridge. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a standard muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar with a handheld electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream, vanilla, and milk. (You can also use a blender for that part.)
- Slowly add in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir gently until just combined.
- To make more modest sized cupcakes for younger kids: Fill prepared paper liners about ½ full. Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out cleanly.
- To make more standard size cupcakes: Fill 9 cupcake liners with about ¼ cup batter. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out cleanly.
- Remove from oven. Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.
- Just before serving, remove the frosting from the fridge. Snip off one corner of the bag and pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Garnish with a slice of berry, if desired, and serve immediately.
- Handheld Mixer
- Fresh Strawberry Frosting: Place ½ cup chopped strawberries into a food processor. Grind until very smooth, about 20 seconds. Add 2 tablespoons honey, 6 ounces cream cheese, and 2 tablespoons butter, softened at room temperature, and process until very smooth. Spoon into a quart-size zip top bag, seal, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Standard Cream Cheese Frosting: Add 2 tablespoons honey, 6 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature, and 2 tablespoons butter, softened at room temperature, to a medium bowl. Blend with a spatula or hand-held electric mixer until very smooth. Spoon into a quart-size zip top bag, seal, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- You can use whole-wheat pastry instead of all-purpose if you prefer.
- To make these egg-free, use 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed and 5 tablespoons water in place of the eggs.
- To make these dairy-free, use unsweetened plain non-dairy milk instead of dairy milk and melted coconut oil in place of the butter.
- If you don't have yogurt or sour cream, you can use all milk.
- These cupcakes are best when they are freshly baked, so make them on the day you plan to eat them if possible and keep them at room temperature.
- Frost just before serving if possible.
I made these for my son’s 2nd birthday last year, and they were a hit! So I’ve made them again for his 3rd birthday this year! This time, however, I made mini cupcakes for his daycare class, and I followed your timing from your Mini Carrot Cake Cupcakes recipe (12-14 mins). It made 24 mini cupcakes — perfect!
I made these cupcakes last night (Thursday), and now have 12 leftover mini cupcakes. Will they last until Sunday (his family birthday party in 2 days)? Should I freeze them now and then pull them out of the freezer on Sunday morning?
I am sorry that I am just seeing this but fridge or freezer would likely be ideal. Enjoy!
Hello, is the cocoa powder sweetened or unsweetened? Thanks!
Can the strawberry frosting sit out at room temp? Thank you 🙂
It would be fine for a few hours. Longer than that it’s best in the fridge.
So excited to make these for Valentine’s Day tomorrow with your strawberry frosting. Yum! I have lowfat greek yogurt but not whole milk. Would you use that or sub all milk instead? Thanks for all your wonderful recipes.
Hi- the creamiest results will come from whole milk Greek yogurt (so full fat greek yogurt made with whole milk). There is no actual milk, just to clarify that. If you only have low fat Greek yogurt, that will work similarly though so use what you have!
We have made these 3 days in a row!! So yummy and 100% kid approved. We left the icing off and just added chocolate chips instead. I love knowing they’re low in sugar and in the healthier side! Thank you for this delish recipe!
Hi! Love your recipes.
I am planning to Make these for a neighbour family who has a gluten allergy. I am not familiar with baking with gluten free flour. Can I sub AP flour for equal part gluten free? Would the baking time change?
Alternatively, can I just use oat flour?
I’m planning to try the eggs free option with flax seed. I’ve never substituted eggs. Any tips?
Also, I’m curious if anyone has tried adding mini chocolate chips? How much?
Just stir the ground flax with the water and let sit for a minute, then add to the batter. You could also use a store bought egg replacer if you prefer. I think you could add 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips to the batter and it would be yummy. Enjoy them
Made for babe’s first birthday and making again for her 2nd.
These were so great! Followed the recipe as written, making sure to get the right amount of blending time as mentioned. Substituted a mix of soy creamer and almond milk for the cow milk with no issues. 3-year-old kiddo had fun helping once the blending was over. They tasted great! Thanks for this recipe.
I would like to make these healthy cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday, I’ve gone through a few of your recipes and really like this one. I am thinking of making light colour cupcakes, so would this recipe work if I replace the cocoa powder with plain flour instead or how should I adjust the recipe? Thanks very much.
Hi- I think I’d look at this vanilla cupcakes recipe instead: https://www.yummytoddlerfood.com/lower-sugar-vanilla-cupcakes/
Hi, I see I can use coconut oil for this instead of butter. Is it still 1/3 cup coconut oil?
Can I use honey instead of sugar? Thanks
Yes, the oil amount is the same as the butter amount. And I haven’t tried it with honey and the texture might be a little different, but I’d think it would still work.
SO delicious!!!!!!!! I did a test run ahead of my son’s second birthday in a couple weeks, and they we’re gobbled up by the family in no time. I’m hoping I can make them the night before his birthday party because it starts at 9am (wait to frost until the morning though). Or perhaps I’ll just wake up a lot earlier. 😉
Thanks for the great recipe.
Made it today. It was so good. Very taste and soft, the perfect amount of sweetness. All the kids loved it! Thank you! 🙂
I’m glad to hear it!
Thank you for this! We’ve never done a ton of added sugars for our kids, so this was perfect for our daughter’s 3rd birthday! I also love the size—9 cupcakes was the perfect amount for our family
I’m so glad to hear that and happy birthday to your daughter!
Made these today because I liked the vanilla ones so much that wanted to try the chocolate version. Delicious. I love that they are easy, light, fluffy, not too sweet. Thanks!
Do you think unsweetened baking chocolate could work instead of cocoa powder? That’s all we have and we’re snowed in!
I suppose you could melt it and stir it into the batter? I haven’t tested it that way though so I am not 100% sure of how it would work (it may need more sugar to balance out the flavor). If you try it, just be sure to melt it and let it cool a bit so it’s not hot when it’s stirred into the batter with the eggs. Could be a fun experiment!
Do you think it’s OK to make the batter two days ahead of time and leave it in the fridge? And then bake it the morning of?
I think you could do that, though it may thicken up a bit! Be sure to cover it tightly or put it into an airtight container.
I’m planning to make these cupcakes with strawberry frosting for my daughter’s 4th birthday. Can I use powdered freeze dried strawberries instead of fresh ones for the frosting ? How many oz. would I need?
Hi- I think you’d probably want about 1 ounce. (that’s my best guess!) Sounds like a yummy combination!
Just made these for my little guy’s third birthday and I’m so happy with how they turned out – we all loved them. Also, thank you for always listing alternatives with your recipes – I realized as I was gathering my ingredients that my yogurt was way past the best-before date, but you’d noted that milk could be subbed entirely for yogurt, which is what I did and it was perfect. Thanks again & happy holidays!
So so easy and delicious!
Thank you from AZ with my toddler, Eli ❤️
I’m so glad!
I just made a test batch of these and they will be perfect for my kiddo’s birthday. Do you think adding chocolate chips to the batter would work? Would I need to adjust the bake time for the modest sized cupcakes?
Thanks a bunch!
Awesome! For the chocolate chips, I’d just stir some into the batter and bake as directed. It should be the same I think.
I’m hoping to use this recipe to make a small cake (6′) for my daughter’s birthday. I can certainly look for a chocolate cake recipe, but your recipes have been so helpful for us so I’m hoping to stick with yours 🙂 Do you this would work by adding more baking time?
Thank you so much!
Are you planning to do one layer or two? Just so I know how much batter will be in the pan. Sounds like a good plan!
I’m thinking one layer as the “center piece”, and make the rest of the batter into mini muffins. How much batter do you recommend that I pour in the cake pan, or how thick of a layer? Thank you!!
Can cake flour be used instead of all purpose?
I used geek yogurt instead of sour cream and it worked great. Really moist and tasty. Toddler and husband, who has a minor sweet tooth, loved them! So easy too. I didn’t use an electric whisk as I didn’t want to wake my baby but the butter was soft enough to beat easily.
I’m so glad!
Can I substitute plain Greek yogurt for sour cream?
That should work well!
Hi Amy, if this recipe were made as mini cupcakes instead of standard size, how long would the bake time be? Thanks!
I haven’t made them mini but I would think 14 minutes-ish. Maybe check them at 12 with a cake tester inserted into the center and then bake a few more minutes if they’re not totally set!
This looks like a great recipe. How will it be if the cake is made the night before? And do you know if this can be left out for a few hours in room temp? Planning to make cupcakes for my toddler’s class birthday and frosting the cupcakes the morning of (to keep the frosting refrigerate, but leave cake part out); but then they will have to be left out for probably 3 hours or so before they eat it.
Hi! If you make the cupcakes the night before, let them cool fully and then store them in an airtight container at room temp. They should be okay left out I’d think as long as they’re not outside in the heat or sun. I hope the kids enjoy them!!
Hi, such a great recipe. Can the same quantities be used to make a standard round cake?
Yes, it should work just fine with I think the same baking time. Just be sure to grease the pan well—I usually grease it and then line it with a round of parchment paper just to be sure.
I can’t wait to move these! The link for the fresh strawberry frosting is not active and I can’t seem to locate it using the search.
The strawberry frosting recipe is at the bottom of the recipe, above the variations. Apologies if it’s easy to miss!
Oh gosh,I see it! I’m sorry!
No worries, I’m glad you asked!
I have been trying to eat less sugar but it is hard this time of year so thanks for the perfect compromise recipe! It looks so good!
I hope you enjoy them!