When birthdays roll around at our house, it’s almost a given that some sort of chocolate dessert is needed for the celebration. These rich Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Cupcakes, each with a swirl of ganache, are a perennial favorite for any special occasion!

This Chocolate Cupcake Recipe is always a hit. The cupcakes are moist and tender plus the ganache-based Chocolate Frosting Recipe is to die for!

Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Cupcakes on a square white plate with chocolate chips.

Why You Must Make

  • This is my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe. The cupcakes are bakery-worthy and the frosting, made with melted chocolate, is rich, glossy, and delectable!
  • You need portion control since they’re so tasty! One cupcake is perfect for dessert.
  • These are much easier to make than a chocolate layer cake and they’re portable!
  • No mixer is needed!

One of my favorite souvenirs from a glorious summer vacation to San Francisco was (affiliate link) The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook. I wanted to bake my way through all the recipes but got stalled on a couple of delectable cupcakes, which I’ve now made numerous times. These dark chocolate cupcakes have never disappointed! I’m also partial to their Vanilla Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream.

Dark Chocolate Cupcake Ingredients with labels on a metal sheet pan.
Cupcake Ingredients
Chocolate Frosting Ingredients with labels on a metal sheet pan.
Chocolate Frosting Ingredients

Ingredient Notes

  • Kitchen Staples – Sugar, Salt, All-Purpose Flour, Baking Soda
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – Not Hot Cocoa Mix; I use Ghirardelli brand.
  • Salt – Use table salt, not Kosher salt as it is finer and will incorporate more easily.
  • Egg – All my recipes use large eggs unless otherwise noted. The size is important. Eggs provide structure and help to leaven the cake.
  • Brown Sugar – Pack (press) into the measuring cup for accuracy. If you just scoop, your measurement will be off.
  • Whole Milk – 3½% Butterfat
  • Strong Coffee or Espresso – Helps enhance the chocolate flavor without making the cupcakes taste like coffee.
  • Butter – Melted. I use salted butter, but if you use unsalted, add a touch more salt to the recipe.
  • Semi-sweet Chocolate – Chop for easier melting. I use Ghirardelli bars, not chocolate chips which have additives to help them keep their shape.
  • Heavy Cream – 36% Butterfat
  • Milk or Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips – An optional garnish.

How to Make

Expert Tips

There are a few tricks for making perfect dark chocolate cupcakes, starting with measuring and ending with making sure they are not over bakes. Here are some of my tips.

  • Baking is a science so make sure you measure each ingredient properly. Use dry measuring cups for dry ingredients and liquid measuring cups for liquid ingredients.
  • PRO-Tip: Have your refrigerated ingredients at room temperature for the best incorporation. If you need to hurry along your eggs, place them in a bowl of very warm, but not boiling water.
  • Many times, a mixer is not used so the gluten is not over-activated. Just a whisk is used in this recipe. Dried ingredients should be mixed in just until combined. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl so everything is incorporated.
  • PRO-Tip: Fill the cupcake liners only ¾ full so they don’t overflow. I like using a large scoop to evenly distribute the batter.
  • All ovens bake a little differently. Start checking your cupcakes for doneness a couple of minutes early. I like using a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake to check. If it comes out clean or with just a moist crumb or two, they’re done.
  • Once you start smelling the aroma of the cupcakes, you’ll know you’re getting close. I also will tap my finger on top of one cupcake. If the indentation remains, they’ll need a few more minutes. If the indentation springs back up, they’re done.
  • Use a 1M piping tip to swirl the frosting on these cupcakes.

Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Cupcakes on a white tray

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Do Chocolate Cupcakes Bake?

Typically cupcakes take about 15-25 minutes to cook depending on the recipe. But every oven bakes differently, so it’s best to use the toothpick test or bounce back test with your fingertip to check that they’re baked thoroughly.

How Do You Test Cupcakes to See if They’re Done?

Insert a toothpick into the middle of a couple of the cupcakes to see if any batter is coating the toothpick when it’s removed. If you see batter, they’re not done baking. Leave them in a few minutes longer, then check again.

Another method, the bounce method, is using your finger to tap the middle of the cupcake. If the cake bounces back up, the cupcakes are done. If an indentation remains, they will need a few more minutes to bake.

What Frosting Goes with Chocolate Cupcakes?

We love a chocolate buttercream frosting or this chocolate ganache frosting paired with chocolate cupcakes. But vanilla buttercream, cream cheese frosting, or even peanut butter frosting all taste amazing with chocolate.

How Do You Make Chocolate Frosting?

This chocolate frosting recipe is super easy. A ganache is made by melting chocolate with butter and cream and mixing until smooth. This ganache needs to cool until it’s spreading or piping consistency before frosting. I like using an open star tip to make swirls of frosting (see the link below in the recipe card).

3 kids in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Family trip to San Francisco in 2010 when I purchase the Ghirardelli cookbook.

You May Also Like:

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Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Cupcakes | Sublime Cocoa cupcakes with a chocolate ganache frosting!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Yield 12 cupcakes

Sublime Cocoa cupcakes with a chocolate ganache frosting!



  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • ⅓ cup strong coffee or espresso
  • ½ cup butter, melted


  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips, to garnish, optional


  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  2. Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together in a small bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, brown sugar, and white sugar. Whisk in the milk, coffee, and melted butter. Whisk in the dry ingredients.
  4. Divide batter into 12 spots in the muffin tins (fill about ¾ full).
  5. Bake for 15 minutes (mine took 21 minutes) or till a tester inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and continue cooling on wire rack.
  7. For the frosting, melt the chocolate gently in the microwave, stirring at 15-30 second intervals till smooth.
  8. Heat the cream till hot, then mix it with the chocolate. Let cool till just warm. Whisk in butter till smooth.
  9. Let sit till it reaches spreading consistency. Pipe or spread the frosting on the cupcakes and sprinkle with chocolate chips.


Adapted from The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1 cupcake

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 320Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 285mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 1gSugar: 26gProtein: 3g


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