Chocolate Cupcake Recipe – The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake Test Baked by 50 Bakers and Counting


You should know that the Explorers did not go easy on me.  When I sent them the first recipe almost a year ago, I was sure that it would be the best cupcake recipe. It only got a 25% approval rating – ouch!  I went back to the mixing bowl and came up with a second recipe for the Explorers to try.  “Surely, this will be the one,” I thought.  It took 7 rounds of Explorer testing and a total of 69 different chocolate cupcake recipes baked by me before we found the Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake recipe.

I learned that, for the most part, the Explorers wanted the Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake to be light and fluffy (not brownie-like) with an intense chocolate flavor.  It was a hard balance to find.  As I made the cupcakes lighter, they tended to become less chocolatey; packing in cocoa powder made the cupcakes too heavy.  It took almost a year of experimentation to nail down the perfect combination of ingredients.

Then, there was the question of the chocolate itself.  Some Explorers preferred milk chocolate, while others liked deep, dark chocolate, and the rest liked everything in between.  How could I please everyone?  I almost gave up – more than once.

The recipe that I created for round 7 (the one that you read the quote about above) took all of the Explorers’ feedback into play. I created chocolate cupcakes where the cake was moist and light with an unmistakable chocolate flavor.  They got an approval of 63%.  If that sounds low, consider that more than half of all tasters not only thought that the chocolate cupcake recipe was good, but also thought that it was the best chocolate cupcake recipe they have ever tasted.  It’s a number that I’m extremely proud of.

Here’s what some of the Explorers had to say about the Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake recipe:

  • Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate is the only way to describe the taste in my mouth. Sweetness is perfect. Cake is not dry. Cake practically melts in my mouth. It’s impossible to take one bite of cake. After one taste, my mouth wants more. Delicious. The ultimate chocolate cupcake.
  • What can I say? Perfect!
  • I have participated in all seven rounds of the cupcake experiment, and I will even admit I have labeled past trials as “perfect” and as The Ultimate; however, THIS IS IT.  THIS IS THE ONE.  If others don’t agree, so be it, but this is the one for me.  I will more than likely not continue the process because I simply can not imagine a chocolate cupcake that tops this version.  Everything about it was, for lack of a better word, PERFECT!
  • I remember really tasting chocolate on my first bite and not having to search for it like you do on many standard chocolate cakes.
  • Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!  The best ever!
  • I am usually the one who likes the frosting the best.  I was pleasantly surprised on the taste of the cupcake.  It had a nice chocolate taste and was not overpowering.  The flavor was so good it didn’t really even need any frosting.
  • I’ve had way too many brown-colored cakes that taste faintly of dust. But this cupcake tastes chocolatey without overdoing it.
  • I felt like the bite I took just melted in my mouth. One person said she preferred the cupcake without icing because it was that good. I would definitely make this one of my “go to” recipes.
  • These babies, in my opinion, are the honest-to-goodness ultimate chocolate cupcake!
  • I can sleep soundly at night with these as the Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake!  The texture, appearance and taste were all just right – a perfect combination.
  • Though I have loved the past several rounds, each time I do agree that they get even better – which I didn’t think was possible!
  • Lovely. Just lovely.
  • Whoop! I think we really found it this time! Perfect in every way!! 🙂
  • Absolutely the best!
  • The immediate reactions both from myself and my taste testers make me feel that this chocolate cupcake is a winner! Good chocolate taste, excellent texture had us all making yummy noises!
  • Even my friends who aren’t big dessert people asked for a second cupcake. I can’t imagine a better recipe!
  • It is by far the best made-from-scratch chocolate cupcake I’ve ever had.
  • Perfect in all aspects of a cupcake!
  • Easy to bake, easy to eat!


  • 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.



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