These are deliciously moist chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate cream cheese frosting. I adapted the recipes from The Cupcake Project, a site that I recently discovered. The cake is based on their Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake and the recipe went through several incarnations test-baked and then rated by a team of secret cake scientists in a bunker somewhere. I would say they’re the nicest chocolate cupcakes I’ve ever made, not that I’ve made many.

I’d make this recipe again, though. Like many American recipes, these cakes contain oil. I have an issue with putting oil in my cakes since, as a rule, I don’t bake with ingredients that I wouldn’t eat. E.g. I would eat olive oil in a dressing so I would bake with it. But I wouldn’t eat sunflower oil, so I wouldn’t put it in cake. I’ve heard that oil is the secret to light and fluffy cupcakes, so I decided to try it. My compromise was to use walnut oil, which was expensive, but a product that I would be prepared to eat. I originally wanted to use coconut oil but it was prohibitively expensive- £20/litre in my nearest supermarket. How??? It was organic and virgin, but I’m prepared to have sluttier oil if it means I don’t have to sell a kidney to fund it.

Anyway, here’s the food porn.

Shiny glitter

Check out the shine on that glitter. Oh yeah.


For the cakes

These quantities should yield 20 cupcakes.

  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (7 oz) sugar
  • 2oz (60g) of your favourite chocolate
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 fl oz) oil. I used walnut, which worked nicely*
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (3oz) full-fat sour cream
  • 1 cup (5 oz) plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) room temperature coffee, water or a mixture

*The comments on this recipe note that they rise well in the oven, but then sink as they cool. I found this too. The taste and texture is still great, but it means they look a bit sad without frosting. Someone suggested that butter rather than oil might provide a more stable cupcake. I don’t know about the food science behind that suggestion but I’m going to test this theory next time I bake these.

Update: I made these again subbing an extra 1/4 cup of butter for 1/4 cup of oil. Results were inconclusive, I think it helped them stay risen a bit but there was still some shrinkage.

For the frosting

  • 8 oz (2/3 cup) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups icing sugar (less if you’re not piping)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder


  1. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and preheat your oven to 180C (170 fan)
  2. Melt the chocolate. A minute in the microwave should do.
  3. Mix the butter and sugar in a large bowl until well combined. The mixture should resemble wet sand.
  4. Butter and sugar
  5. Once the chocolate is cool enough to touch, add to the butter and sugar and mix until combined.
  6. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating between each addition.
  7. Add the oil, vanilla and sour cream and mix until combined.
  8. Sift the dry ingredients together into a separate bowl. Add to the wet ingredients in three batches, mixing between each addition.
  9. Add the water or coffee and mix until smooth.
  10. Divide the batter among your paper liners, filling each 2/3 of the way up. I found that 1/3 cup of batter was about right.
  11. Three liners w batter
  12. Bake for 14-20 minutes, until they pass the toothpick test.
  13. Remove from pan immediately to cool on a wire rack.
  14. Hot from ovenCupcakes on cooling rack sunken
  15. You can see how much the cupcakes sank. I think my second batch, which I removed from the pan more quickly due to not taking a photo, sank slightly less. I may have imagined this, but I still recommend getting them out of the pan straight away.
  16. Leave to cool completely before frosting.
  17. For the frosting, blend the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  18. Add a cup of icing sugar and incorporate.
  19. Add the cocoa powder and incorporate.
  20. Add the remaining icing sugar until the frosting reaches your desired consistency.
  21. Frosting
  22. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes. I used my Wilton 2D (rose) tip as I wasn’t sure how it would look swirled. I think it looked good. Any large tip (shout out 1M) seems to make the frosting look snazzy.
  23. PipingFrosted

Om nom nom. These cakes have wonderful chocolate flavour and stay moist and light for at least three days stored in the fridge. I was worried the frosting might be chocolate overkill (like drinking hot chocolate with a brownie) but it really wasn’t. I thought the frosting would be reminiscent of choccy Philly but I found that I couldn’t really taste the cream cheese. I don’t think the barbecue crowd who ate them would have guessed my cheesy secret.