This is my all-time favorite chocolate cake recipe. It is incredibly simple to make and always receives rave reviews. The coffee in the recipe isn’t overpowering and actually enhances the chocolate flavor. However, you can reduce the amount of coffee and substitute some or all of it with hot water. This cake is extremely moist and tender, and therefore I use all-purpose flour rather than cake flour to give it more structure.—Kristin Hoffman

Chocolate Cupcakes FAQs

How do you avoid curdled buttercream?

Use room temperature ingredients to make your buttercream. Using cold ingredients can cause your frosting to curdle.

What’s the difference between natural and Dutch process cocoa powder?

The main difference between natural and Dutch process cocoa powders is their acidity. Natural cocoa powder is very acidic, however, Dutch process cocoa powder has been treated with potassium carbonate to neutralize the acid.

When baking goods that are required to rise, such as cake, the two types of cocoa powder are not interchangeable. Natural cocoa powder will react with baking soda and allow your batter to rise during baking. Dutch process cocoa powder is unable to react with baking soda, so it is generally combined with baking powder in baked goods.

Several chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter buttercream frosting piped on top.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream

5 from 1 vote
This cake is extremely moist and tender, and therefore I use all-purpose flour rather than cake flour to give it more structure.
David Leite
Servings24 cupcakes
Calories397 kcal
Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time1 hour 20 minutes


For the cupcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups natural cocoa powder
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup mild oil
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups very hot coffee or water

For the peanut butter buttercream

  • 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons milk or heavy cream


Make the cupcakes

  • Position the oven rack to the center position. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.
  • In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the salt and whisk to evenly distribute.
  • Pour the oil into the mixing bowl and mix on medium-low speed with a , or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until well combined, 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed until incorporated.
  • With the mixer still running on low speed, slowly pour in the milk and then the hot coffee or water.
  • Continue mixing until everything is evenly incorporated, about 1 minute. The batter will be very thin. Use a silicone spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pans, leaving about 1/2-inch (12-mm) space at the top of each cupcake.
  • Bake until the cupcakes are firm but spring back when gently pressed in the center, or when a cake tester comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes.
  • Cool the cupcakes in their pans completely on a cooling rack before turning out of the pan and frosting.

Make the peanut butter buttercream

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and peanut butter on medium speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Add the confectioners’ sugar into the mixing bowl and start mixing on low until the sugar starts to combine with the butter. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract and salt.
  • Add a bit of milk or heavy cream if needed to thin out the texture. If the texture becomes too thin, you can add a bit more sugar until you get a spreadable consistency.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: If the frosting is too sweet for your taste, whisk a dollop of sour cream into the frosting.

  • If not using immediately, store the buttercream in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Allow to come to room temperature and re-whip to use.
  • Frost the cupcakes. Store the cupcakes covered in foil or plastic wrap, at room temperature, for up to 3 days.
Baker Bettie's Better Baking Book

Adapted From

Baker Bettie’s Better Baking Book

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Serving: 1 cupcakeCalories: 397 kcalCarbohydrates: 50 gProtein: 6 gFat: 22 gSaturated Fat: 7 gMonounsaturated Fat: 9 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 44 mgSodium: 233 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 38 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2021 Kristin Hoffman. Photo © 2021 Kristin Hoffman. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I hope that I can write well enough and give this recipe the credit it deserves!  I haven’t rated a recipe a 10 since I started testing. These chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter buttercream easily earn a 10 plus more! 

The cupcakes are so moist and full of flavor. I used dark roast Starbucks instead of water and wouldn’t change it at all.  The peanut butter buttercream was amazing and smooth. I was tempted to eat it with a spoon it was so good. I would even make this recipe as a cake as it would be just as good and a bit easier and less time consuming. 

It makes a lot of cupcakes. I could have made 26 but didn’t have an additional tin. I added 3 tablespoons milk to the buttercream and had more than enough to frost the cupcakes. They will be a crowd pleaser for sure. Don’t be concerned that the cupcake batter is thin. They bake beautifully.

If you get a hankering for that beloved chocolate/peanut butter combo, these simple yet delicious chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter buttercream will satisfy your taste buds. I loved how moist and tender they were yet had enough structure to stand up to the frosting.

You could not taste the coffee however, it contributed a nice dark chocolate flavor to the cupcakes. Despite using natural, unsweetened peanut butter, the frosting was a touch too sweet for me. After frosting half the cupcakes, I ended up whisking a hearty dollop of sour cream in the remaining buttercream. This amendment cut down on the sweetness and additionally gave the frosting a nice silky texture. My husband liked the original frosting quite well so this is obviously a matter of personal taste.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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