Kirbie's Cravings

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes

photo of three chocolate cupcakes

If a recipe is labeled “best,” “perfect” or “ultimate,” I feel compelled to test it out.

I enjoy chocolate cupcakes and I make them quite often. But so far I haven’t found a favorite chocolate cupcake recipe. I’ve come across Cook’s Illustrated’s Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes many times and all the reviews have been positive.

close-up photo of a chocolate cupcake

I’ve had some love/hate experiences with Cook’s Illustrated recipes. But going into this one, I knew I had a winner. The cake batter uses melted chocolate, guaranteeing a rich chocolate cake. The middle of the cupcake is filled with chocolate ganache, keeping the cupcake moist and adding an extra dose of chocolate. The cupcake is topped with a chocolate meringue buttercream, which is very light and not too sweet, as not to overwhelm the cupcake.

photo of three cupcakes lined up on a plate

I love how glossy the meringue buttercream frosting is. It’s extremely light, almost like whipped cream.

I donned the cupcakes with some Valrhona chocolate pearls. These pearls are crunchy little balls covered with a light layer of chocolate. They are ridiculously addicting. I want to put them on everything I eat.  The only place I’ve seen the Valhorna pearls sold are at Surfas in Los Angeles. They also have an online store which you can visit here.

photo of one chocolate cupcake

I have to confess, the cupcakes were so rich, that they were almost a little too rich for me. Perhaps I’m not a true chocoholic. I think next time I might make these without the chocolate ganache.
The cupcakes were a little on the timely side, especially with so many steps and the need to refrigerate and cool the ganache filling  and the melted chocolate for both the cupcakes and the frosting.

photo of melted chocolate in a bowlphoto of the batter in the muffin pan
I will make these cupcakes again, but probably only for someone who really really loves chocolate desserts.

photo of chocolate cupcakes


Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes

Servings: 14 cupcakes
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 17 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 17 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
These cupcakes are made with melted chocolate and each one has a chocolate ganache center. They are rich, decadent and hard to resist!
5 from 1 vote


Ganache Filling

  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped fine
  • 1/3 cup 1 ounce Dutch-processed cocoa
  • cup hot coffee
  • cup 4 1/8 ounces bread flour
  • cup 5¼ ounces granulated sugar
  • teaspoon table salt
  • teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 1/3 cup 2 1/3 ounces granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Pinch table salt
  • 12 tablespoons 11/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate melted and cooled
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Make the Chocolate Ganache

  • Place-chocolate, cream, and confectioners’ sugar in medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave on high power until mixture is warm to touch, 20 to 30 seconds. 
  • Whisk until smooth; transfer bowl to refrigerator and let stand until just chilled, no longer than 30 minutes.

Make the Cupcakes

  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F. Line standard-sized muffin pan (cups have ½-cup capacity) with baking-cup liners (I was able to make 14 cupcakes). 
  • Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl. Pour hot coffee over mixture and whisk until smooth. Set in refrigerator to cool completely, about 20 minutes. 
  • Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside. Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
  • Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups (I filled mine 2/3 full). Place one slightly rounded teaspoon ganache filling on top of each cupcake. 
  • Bake until cupcakes are set and just firm to touch, 17 to 19 minutes (I did 17). Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before frosting, about 1 hour.

Make the Frosting

  • Combine sugar, egg whites, and salt in bowl of stand mixer; place bowl over pan of simmering water. Whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until slightly thickened, foamy, and registers 150 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Place bowl in stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat mixture on medium speed until consistency of shaving cream and slightly cooled, 1 to 2 minutes. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy. (Frosting may look curdled after half of butter has been added; it will smooth with additional butter.) 
  • Once all butter is added, add cooled melted chocolate and vanilla; mix until combined. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds, scraping beater and sides of bowl with rubber spatula as necessary.
  • To frost, mound 2 to 3 tablespoons frosting on center of each cupcake. Using small icing spatula or butter knife, spread frosting to edge of cupcake, leaving slight mound in center (I just put my frosting in a piping bag and piped it with a 1M Wilton tip).


Recipe source: Cook's Illustrated

The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.

Did you make this recipe?I'd love to see it! Mention @KirbieCravings and tag #kirbiecravings!


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13 comments on “Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes”

  1. You can buy those pearls at King Arthur Flour’s website, too. I have some, but have yet to use them!

    • Oh thanks for letting me know! I usually get them if I go to LA, so I can avoid the shipping charge. They are soo yummy!

    • Hmm, so I checked the King Arthur website. The pearls they sell aren’t the same. They are solid chocolate pearls whereas the Valrhona ones are crunchy ones. Thanks for recommending KA’s site to me though. Another source for baking supplies is always helpful

  2. These look insanely good!

  3. Oh these do look amazing! I love a good chocolate cake with chocolate frosting!

    • It’s a great cupcake base and the frosting is so nice and light. The ganache made things a little too rich for me, but overall I really liked the cupcake.

  4. These look amazing! I am a chocaholic, so I don’t understand when you say “too rich”!! Say wha?????? hahaha I can’t wait to try out my sweet tooth.

    • Thanks for letting me know. Unfortunately, I can’t access see the photo in this link. Is there another link you can provide me with?

  5. Hey! Looks like an amazing recipe to try! Just had one question….If I substitute the bittersweet chocolate with semi sweet chocolate, will it make the cupcakes too sweet or it will it taste fine? Thanks 🙂

    • I think it might be too sweet if you substitute. It’s a lot or chocolate in this recipe and I think the bittersweet works best for keeping it from being too overwhelming.

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