Black Bottom Cupcakes

David Lebovitz’s black bottom cupcakes are the ultimate kid-friendly, adult-minded dessert. Devil’s food cupcakes are filled with a creamy cheesecake-y surprise and then topped any way you like, whether naked, with ganache, or maybe slathered with buttercream. Up to you.

Black Bottom Cupcakes stacked on cooling rack.

Adapted from David Lebovitz | The Great Book of Chocolate | Ten Speed Press, 2004

These yummy classics deserve a revival. Who doesn’t like individual, moist, and deep-red devil’s food cakes with a creamy cheesecake filling? Children like them in lunch boxes. And adults (like me) enjoy them for breakfast.


Instead of butter, David Lebovitz uses oil in this recipe, which does actually make your cupcakes moister. A mild-flavored oil will keep those mini cakes soft and uber-delish for a few days longer.

☞ Contents

Black Bottom Cupcakes

4 black bottom cupcakes with chocolate cake and cream cheese center on a rack, one split open
David Lebovitz's black bottom cupcakes are the ultimate kid-friendly yet adult-minded dessert. Devil's food chocolate cupcakes filled with a cheesecake-y surprise and then topped any way you please. Naked, ganache, or buttercream? Up to you.

Prep 20 minutes
Cook 25 minutes
Total 45 minutes
12 cupcakes
304 kcal
5 / 5 votes
Print RecipeBuy the The Great Book of Chocolate cookbook

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For the filling

  • 8 ounces regular or reduced-fat cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate coarsely chopped

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder not Dutch-process
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup mild vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Make the filling

  • In a large bowl with a stand or electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in the chopped chocolate.

Make the cupcakes

  • Preheat to 350°F (175°C) and adjust the rack to the center of the oven. Butter a 12-cup muffin tin or line the tin with paper muffin cups.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.
  • Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, stirring just until smooth. Don't overmix or you'll end up with less-than-tender and actually quite tough cupcakes.
  • Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Spoon a few tablespoons of the cream-cheese filling into the center of each cupcake. The cups will be almost completely filled.
  • Bake the cupcakes for 25 minutes, or until the tops are lightly golden brown and the cupcakes feel springy when gently pressed. These will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.
Print RecipeBuy the The Great Book of Chocolate cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1cupcakeCalories: 304kcal (15%)Carbohydrates: 40g (13%)Protein: 4g (8%)Fat: 15g (23%)Saturated Fat: 10g (63%)Trans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 37mg (12%)Sodium: 214mg (9%)Potassium: 132mg (4%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 26g (29%)Vitamin A: 279IU (6%)Calcium: 45mg (5%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

The decadent addition of chopped dark chocolate to the sweetened cream cheese filling is a brilliant one. The filling is creamy and dense, the cake surrounding it is deep dark chocolate. What’s not to love about these black-bottom cupcakes?

The ingredients are easy to find. These little gems have something for everyone. They are sophisticated enough for grown-ups, gooey enough for kids, they travel well to picnics or potlucks as they are meant to be beautiful on their own. There’s no need to frost these. Go make some right now! These will make you very happy.

This was a fun way to take chocolate cupcakes to the next level! I brought them to a BBQ, and they were a huge hit! The cheesecake filling was a really nice touch. I didn’t add any other toppings – just left them in all their naked cupcake glory!

I did have a moment of panic when I was mid-way through mixing up all the ingredients and realized I only had Dutch-process cocoa when the recipe specifically says not to use that kind…”Well, here goes nothing,” I thought. I’m happy to say that the Dutch-process cocoa worked just fine in this recipe! PHEW, crisis averted! These did make 12 very large cupcakes, so next time I may actually make them a bit smaller and divide the batter up into 18.

I came across this recipe while searching for cheesecake on the site. We had perishable homemade Neufchatel cheese in large quantity and cheesecake seemed the perfect solution to use it up, until I spotted this option. They were quick and easy to put together. Lebovitz calls for no hard-to-find ingredients. He even benevolently offers the option of regular or reduced-fat cream cheese, and our homemade Neufchatel fell perfectly into the latter category, as well as either bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.

Black-bottom cupcakes were perfect for dessert on a cold January night—rich, delicious chocolate and cream-cheesy filling melding happily together. They were surprisingly not at all too much—the chocolate and cream cheese balanced each other, and the result was rich, but not cloyingly so. For those not generally interested in cake for dessert, consider these. They held interest through to the last bite, in part because of the variety of textures—the chocolate cake followed by the cream cheese filling and then the chocolate chunks mixed into the filling, happily better than the current cake plus too much frosting cupcake trend.

As a final note, I’d add that these are ideal for anyone feeling a little cupcake-fatigued. They take standard chocolate cake and chocolate chunk cheesecake flavors, bring them together for a classic combination that will stand the test of time. They weren’t the prettiest cupcakes ever—mine looked much like the accompanying photograph and, to me, part of their charm was this homemade look coupled with their undeniably yummy taste.


#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. 5 stars
    These are perfection! I love cheesecake-flavored anything, and the cheesecake filling here is so tasty with the bittersweet chocolate. I made these exactly as written, but instead of leaving the filling in a well in the center, I swirled it with the batter to create marbled tops. So good! And I agree with the tester above – these are great for kids and grown-ups. I gave some to my friends and their two young kids, who loved them as much as I did. 🙂

    1. Laura, yes, grapeseed oil would be fine here. And I don’t see any reason to not use melted butter—it should work fine, too.

      1. Thanks! I’m going to make them tonight for my boss’s birthday tomorrow. I am not sure yet if I will use butter or oil. But I have high expectations. I bought Hershey’s cocoa because it’s supposed to be the un-dutched cocoa (I hope I have that right!). Otherwise I would have preferred to use my cocoa from Dean and Deluca but it’s dutched…

        1. Nods. The cocoa thing is complicated. I always have to double-check to make sure which is dutched and which not, so you’re not alone. Anyways, fingers crossed that you love these as much as everyone we know does! Let us know how it goes!

  2. I haven’t had these since I was young, although my mom always made them mini. How long should I bake them using a mini muffin tin? Can’t wait to have them 🙂

    1. Hi Kristen, I would check them at around 15 minutes. They should spring back when gently pressed and look “set”.

  3. The black bottom cupcakes look good but I was wondering if I can use white whole wheat flour and if so, should there be something else I need to add? This is the kind of flour I have on hand. Please reply as I want to make them today. Thanks

    1. Hi Anna, white whole wheat flour should be fine in this recipe. I would substitute it 1:1 for the all purpose flour.

    1. Hi Samantha, you should be able to substitute olive oil in equal parts for vegetable oil in most baking recipes. That being said, we didn’t test these cupcakes using olive oil so can’t tell you for sure how the olive oil might affect the flavor or texture. Please let us know!

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