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.

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.

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.
David Lebovitz

Prep 20 mins
Cook 25 mins
Total 45 mins
12 cupcakes
304 kcal
5 / 2 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%)

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.

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.

Originally published March 1, 2004


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  1. Hi Ltana28, did you make any substitutions at all? Like using Dutch-processed cocoa or another kind of oil? I’ve made these, too, and they were always fantastic, never greasy.

    1. We made these using canola oil, and they were fine. (Actually, they disappeared very quickly.) Perhaps you mistakenly added more than the 1/3 C. of oil called for. It is so easy to put the wrong amount of something in when quickly reading through a list of ingredients. I hope that you give this recipe another try at some point. These are really easy to make and the cupcakes are really very good. Far too easy to eat.

  2. I have a question, David: what’s wrong with Dutch-processed cocoa? it seems I can’t find anything else here in Italy but I so want to try these cupcakes…thanks for your answer and for a wonderful blog : )

    1. Marcella, nothing is wrong with Dutch-processed cocoa, it’s more a matter of acid levels. Natural cocoa is more acidic, and Dutch-processed has been treated with an alkali solution so that it’s neutralized, and has a milder flavor. If you can’t find natural cocoa, go ahead and use the Dutch-processed. There will be some slight differences, but mostly in flavor. Let us know how it turns out!

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