This Easy Chocolate Cupcake recipe is a lower-sugar take on a classic dessert—but it’s filled with chocolate flavor and creamy frosting that the kids will totally love. And: They are so easy to make!

chocolate-cupcakes-with-strawberry-hearts

Easy Chocolate Cupcakes

I am a huge fan of easy, one-bowl baked goods, and this one has been a favorite in our house for years. The recipe comes together in a few minutes with basic pantry staples, and I have a few options in case you don’t have one ingredient or another, or need adjustments for food allergies.

We love that this cupcake recipe is easy, lower in sugar than traditional recipes, and that boasts a lot of chocolate flavor!

You can use any type of frosting you like, though I’m partial to Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting or Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting since they are both flavorful and easy. You can also add sprinkles or fresh fruit to make these even more fun.

A standard chocolate cupcake recipe has anywhere from ½-1 cup of sugar, but this one has just ⅓ cup. This means there’s enough sugar to make the right texture and flavor, but they’re less sweet.

(You can find more kids birthday cakes and cupcakes, too.)

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Ingredients You Need

To make this recipe, you’ll need to have the following ingredients on hand and ready to go.

ingredients in chocolate cupcakes on counter.
  • Butter: I typically use unsalted butter in baking and use that here.
  • Sugar: The texture of the cupcakes is best with granulated sugar so that’s why I use a small amount here.
  • Eggs: I use large eggs in my baking.
  • Plain whole-milk Greek yogurt or sour cream: You can use either of these to add moisture and tenderness to the base of the cupcakes.
  •  Milk: I bake with whole milk, but you can use the type you usually have.
  • Vanilla: You can use pure or artificial vanilla extract in this recipe.
  • All-purpose flour: Using all-purpose flour keeps these cupcakes tender and light.
  • Cocoa powder: I usually use SACO or Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder and sift it with a small sieve to remove all of the lumps.
  • Baking powder and baking soda: Using these together helps the cupcakes rise nicely.
  • Frosting: You can use any frosting you prefer. My favorites are listed in the recipe below.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s a look at the process involved in making this Chocolate Cupcake recipe from scratch.

sifting dry ingredients in bowl.
  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium-size bowl
  2. Mix the wet ingredients.
  3. Portion into a muffin tin lined with paper cupcake liners.
  4. Bake until just cooked through and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out cleanly.

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.

easy chocolate cupcake batter in bowl.

Tips to Make Cupcakes Moist

The key to moist and fluffy chocolate cupcakes is to beat air into the eggs, but to not overwork the batter once you add the flour. That would cause the gluten in the flour to toughen up.

Additional moisture in these chocolate cupcakes comes from the sour cream, butter, and eggs.

chocolate cupcake batter in pan.

Frosting Tips

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 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 offset spatula.

frosted-chocolate-cupcakes

Egg-Free Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

I wanted to make sure 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! (These are egg-free cupcakes shown above.)

My Healthy Chocolate Cake and Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes are also egg-free and SO good!

How to Store

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.

Best Tips for Success

  • Be sure not to overbake the cupcakes to ensure the best tender texture.
  • Let cool completely before frosting.
  • Let the cold ingredients from the fridge sit at room temperature a bit so they blend more easily.
  • Top with sprinkles or fresh fruit if you’d like.

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chocolate cupcakes in a row with strawberries

Easy Chocolate Cupcakes

This Easy Chocolate Cupcake recipe is a lower-sugar take on a classic dessert—but it's filled with chocolate flavor and creamy frosting that the kids will totally love. (This recipe makes a dozen modest-size cupcakes or 9 more standard cupcakes.)
4.96 from 50 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Total Time 33 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Dessert
Calories 75kcal
Servings 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

Instructions

  • 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.

Equipment

Notes

  • 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupcake, Calories: 75kcal, Carbohydrates: 13g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 29mg, Sodium: 127mg, Potassium: 68mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 59IU, Calcium: 45mg, Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

 This post was first published January 2018.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I halved this recipe so I could have a couple to give my kiddos for Valentines day today. I made them in such a rush that I forgot the milk and only realized a minute after they were in the oven. Took them out and quickly added some milk to each and stirred it. They turned out great. I topped them with your quick chocolate frosting and it was icing on the cake 😉 Thank you for the fabulous recipes.

  2. 5 stars
    I expanded this recipe a little bit by adding a little more of everything so I got 12 normal size muffins. I added some brown sugar also. They came out dance and fairly moist. I might add apple sauce or more yogurt next time.

  3. I’d like to make this as a cake for my girl’s bday. How large of a double layer cake do you think this would make and how long should it stay in the oven?

  4. 5 stars
    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?

    1. I am sorry that I am just seeing this but fridge or freezer would likely be ideal. Enjoy!

  5. 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.

    1. 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!

  6. 5 stars
    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!

  7. 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?

  8. 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?

    1. 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

  9. 5 stars
    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.

  10. Hi Amy,
    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.

  11. 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

    1. 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.

  12. 5 stars
    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.

  13. 5 stars
    Made it today. It was so good. Very taste and soft, the perfect amount of sweetness. All the kids loved it! Thank you! 🙂

  14. 5 stars
    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

  15. 5 stars
    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!

  16. Do you think unsweetened baking chocolate could work instead of cocoa powder? That’s all we have and we’re snowed in!

    1. 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!

  17. 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?

    1. 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.

  18. Hi Amy!

    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?

    Thanks !
    Maria

    1. Hi- I think you’d probably want about 1 ounce. (that’s my best guess!) Sounds like a yummy combination!

  19. 5 stars
    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!

  20. 5 stars
    Hi there!

    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!

    1. Awesome! For the chocolate chips, I’d just stir some into the batter and bake as directed. It should be the same I think.

  21. Hi Amy,

    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!

    1. 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!

      1. 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!!

  22. 5 stars
    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.

  23. Hi Amy, if this recipe were made as mini cupcakes instead of standard size, how long would the bake time be? Thanks!

    1. 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!

  24. 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.

    Thanks!

    1. 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!!

    1. 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.

  25. 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.

    1. The strawberry frosting recipe is at the bottom of the recipe, above the variations. Apologies if it’s easy to miss!

  26. 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!