Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes

A few weeks ago I bought the current issue of Cooks Illustrated. I usually flip through the pages before buying to make sure I’m interested in enough recipes to make it worth it, but this purchase required no deliberation whatsoever solely for this one recipe – Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes. But I’ll admit, I bought it with skepticism thinking “Sure, CI…Ultimate. Whatever”. Well, CI was right. These are the ultimate, best-ever, no need to look for more, chocolate cupcakes.

Chocolate Cupcakes

It took me a while to make these because I kept forgetting to buy bread flour, one of the key ingredients in the recipe. In the article you can read why bread flour is used as opposed to cake or all-purpose, but I can tell you that the cupcakes were soft, moist, and tender without being too crumbly or grainy. The chocolate flavor was also pretty intense, but I used Lindt 70% Intense Chocolate so that was no surprise and I’d definitely use that again.

Ganache Filling

I was worried the ganache would be overkill since there was already a rich, buttercream chocolate icing, but it wasn’t. It tied everything together perfectly and the heft of the ganache combined with the lightness of the top layer of frosting just added more texture into the equation which always makes things better.

Anyway, look no further. This is the ultimate chocolate cupcake. It will vary depending on what brand of chocolate you use, what brand of cocoa and how accurate you measure your ingredients, but if you do all of the above with care, you’ll get great results.

The full recipe is available at CI’s website, but it’s been published on numerous blogs already including Amazon’s Al Dente so I’m going to go ahead and post my adaptation as well.


Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
The ultimate chocolate cupcake -- for real!
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12
Ganache Filling:
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp powdered sugar
Chocolate Cupcakes:
  • 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 5 tablespoons Dutch cocoa
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup bread flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsps vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Creamy Chocolate Frosting:
  • 4 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Small pinch salt
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1 tbsp pieces
  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Ganache Filling: Place chocolate, cream, and confectioners’ sugar in small microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high power until mixture is warm to touch, 10 to 30 seconds. Whisk until smooth; transfer to refrigerator and let stand until just chilled, no longer than 30 minutes.
  2. Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 standard size muffin cups with paper liners. Place chocolate and cocoa in a mixing bowl and pour the hot coffee over. Whisk until smooth then cool in refrigerator for about 15 min.
  3. In another bowl, mix the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda together, set aside.
  4. Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla into the cooled chocolate mixture until smooth, then stir in the flour mixture. Divide batter between the baking cups and place 1 rounded spoon of ganache on top of each cupcake. Bake 17-19 minutes, until cupcakes are set and just firm to the touch. Cool completely on a rack before icing.
  5. Creamy Chocolate Frosting: Combine sugar, egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl over a small pot of boiling water and whisk gently and constantly until the mixture reaches 150 on a thermometer, about 2-3 minutes.
  6. Place bowl back in the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat at medium speed about 1-2 minutes. One piece at a time, add the butter, then the cooled melted chocolate and vanilla. Mix until combined, then increase speed to med-high and beat until light and fluffy. If your frosting doesn’t fluff up enough (which may be because ingredients weren’t at the exact right temperature), just throw the bowl into the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes and beat it chilled.
For the chocolate I used Lindt 70% Intense Chocolate. It is indeed, intense. I wouldn’t go any higher than 70% with the chocolate. For the cocoa, I used Hershey Dark, which is the only Dutch process I had in the house and I used cider vinegar instead of white. The frosting is pretty easy to make even though you do have to use a candy thermometer and boil the egg sugar mixture, but it’s worth it.

Related posts:


  1. Louise says

    OMG These look like I should stop doing everything right now, which happens to be spraying lawn weeds, and go straight to the kitchen. I have everything on the ingredients list. 🙂

  2. The Blue-Eyed Bakers says

    Oh dear. These are impossible to resist…I mean, the chocolate with the ganache and the buttercream?! Chocolate happiness!

  3. says

    I was skeptical about the “ultimate” label too, just looking at the first photo before clicking the link. Then I saw the ganache filling inside and knew these had to be the “ultimate” for real! This recipe is a must try for me.

  4. mav says

    chocolate cupcakes, yum! but i have a few questions.. i don’t like ganache much, so i could just leave that part out, right? i don’t like to use coffee either; i assume just leaving it out would mess up the texture of the cupcake? so what should i use in place of it? thanks~

  5. says

    My husband LOVES chocolate cake. I’ll have to try these.

  6. says

    Louise, I made them this morning and think we’ll still have some more tomorrow. I’ll let you know how they taste on Day 2.

  7. says

    Wow, these really do look like “the ultimate” chocolate cupcakes – sinking your teeth into that filling and frosting must be something else!

  8. says

    I have that issue of CI and I have to say I’ve had those cupcakes on the to-do list. I was thinking I’d save them for fall birthdays. I’m glad you made them and think they’re “ultimate”. 🙂
    They certainly look “ultimate’! Great job!!

  9. Sheri says

    I love these cupcakes, they’re worth the work. They’ve become my go-to chocolate cupcakes, when I have the time!

  10. says

    Whoa! Those look so good. I like the idea of having ganache for filling :).

  11. says

    Definitely want to try these soon! Your photo is great. A few months ago I made an old choc. cupcake recipe from CI (don’t remember the exact one; found it on their website), and it is the only recipe from them I’ve been disappointed with. They were crumbly and grainy, to quote you:), and I’m confident I didn’t screw up the procedure. I’m glad they developed another recipe that’s getting raves!

  12. says

    I saw these and approached with the same skepticism. And did you see the malted chocolate variety? I’ll have to try to make that for my dad.

  13. says

    The front page photo was drool-worthy enough, but when I clicked through and saw that filling…ooohhhhhhhh. I always like a high frosting-to-cake ratio, and that seems like the way to satisfy it. Ultimate, indeed. Must make, and soon.

  14. Amanda says

    These look amazing. Any one with a chocolate sweet tooth would love them. Thanks for sharing the recipe as well as the tips I think I going to give them a try.

  15. Jennie says

    Anna, I printed this recipe when you posted it to save to make for my boss for her birthday. I baked a “test run” today and all I can say is OH MY GOD! They are to die for! I can not wait to make them again to take in to work.

    THANK YOU!! Maybe now I will finally get a raise! 🙂

  16. julie says

    I have made these cupcakes multiple times and they are the biggest hit of any cupcake ever. I am a CI fan and rarely come up with a recipe I don’t find to be completely as they said it would be and these cupcakes are no exception. I have made them in mini cupcakes for parties and dessert trays and they are beautiful and very popular.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate This Recipe: