Mocha Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Cupcakes are the perfect dessert for any big event. I like to put them out at holidays along with cookies and other pastry or candy. They keep well, you can make them a few days ahead, and everyone seems to like them. Of all the cupcakes I make, these Mocha Chocolate Chip Cupcakes are probably my favorites for the holiday season. They’re moist, they pack a lot of flavor, and kids and grown-ups alike seem to love them.

I adapted this recipe from my The One Bowl Chocolate Cake recipe. With a few tweaks and some extra flavor punch from the buttermilk and espresso powder, this recipe is more about the sponge itself than it is the frosting. I generally make a simple vanilla frosting, but this is one of those recipes that goes well with an incredible range of frosting flavors. Sometimes I even just top it with a dollop of whipped cream. You could top it with a mocha or peanut butter buttercream, or try a chocolate ganache — and I would think a caramel frosting of almost any kind would be delicious. And if you don’t feel like frosting it, just a dusting of powdered sugar would be more than enough to make these little beauties party-ready.

Holiday table with hot cocoa, gingerbread man, and Mocha Chocolate Chip Cupcakes.

Buttermilk really adds a nice tang to this cake, enhances the chocolate flavor well, and makes for a fluffier finished product. You can substitute regular whole milk for the buttermilk, but you will need to adjust the amounts of baking powder and baking soda as I’ve explained in the notes. Baking is more science than art and should be treated accordingly!

Mocha Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Recipe by Add Recipes
3.3 from 82 votes
Course: Dessert


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 2 cups Sugar, white granulated

  • 1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons All-purpose flour

  • 1 cup Water, boiling

  • 1 cup Buttermilk

  • 1 cup Cocoa powder, unsweetened

  • 2 Eggs, large

  • 1/2 cup Semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • 1/2 cup Vegetable or canola oil

  • 1 tablespoon Instant espresso powder

  • 1 tablespoon Vanilla extract

  • 2 teaspoons Baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon Salt


  • Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C). Line ungreased standard sized muffin tins with paper cupcake or muffin liners.
  • In stand mixer bowl or large mixing bowl, sift together 1 3/4 cups flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine. Add sugar and stir thoroughly.
  • Beat in eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Beat on medium for 1-2 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, dissolve instant espresso powder in 1 cup boiling water.
  • Add espresso mixture to cupcake batter, stirring slowly to combine to avoid splashing boiling liquid. Stir or beat on low briefly to fully combine. Batter is thin and runny.
  • Toss semi-sweet chocolate chips in 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, shake to remove excess. Fold chocolate chips into cake batter.
  • Fill lined muffin tin cups about 2/3 full. Batter will rise so it is important not to overfill or cupcakes will overflow.
  • Bake cupcakes in preheated one dozen at a time oven 20-24 minutes. Cupcakes are baked when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Cool on racks for 1-2 hours. Frost when thoroughly cooled.


  • Buttermilk may be substituted with whole milk. If making this substitution, change baking soda and baking powder amounts to 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.
  • Unsweetened cocoa is preferred for this recipe, however you may use any cocoa you wish. Chocolate flavor may change.
  • 1 cup of strongly brewed regular coffee may be substituted for instant espresso powder and 1 cup boiling water the recipe calls for. Regular instant coffee can be used in place of espresso powder. Mocha taste will change.
  • Decaf instant espresso powder may be used instead of caffeinated.

I will freely admit that I have never made the move to silicone baking pans. I don’t even use the silicone baking sheet liners (I know they would make my life easier, I know!) I am aware that there are silicone muffin tins available and that some of my readers may use them in place of the ancient metal muffin tins I’m used to. Silicone baking pans have different baking times than metal, and I will leave it to your best judgement to determine when your cupcakes actually finished.

Muffin tin with paper cupcake liners.

If you’ve ever baked a cake, you’ve probably heard of the toothpick method. Basically, a toothpick is inserted in the middle of the cake and then removed. If a toothpick pulls out with batter or bits stuck to it, the cake is simply not finished yet and needs to bake a bit more. This is probably the best way to determine doneness for most recipes — and it’s certainly true with this one.

Leave a Comment