Filed under: Cakes / Cupcakes
October 14, 2021

Black Cocoa Cupcakes

My very popular black cocoa cake recipe makes the perfect Halloween cupcakes. This one comes with a cream cheese based buttercream for soft, tangy dimensions to the dark chocolate cake. Super moist, full of flavor and perfect for October! 

5 from 12 votes
Yield: 12
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My very popular black cocoa cake recipe makes the perfect Halloween cupcakes. This one comes with a cream cheese based buttercream for soft, tangy dimensions to the dark chocolate cake. Super moist, full of flavor and perfect for October! 


black cocoa cupcakes

Black cocoa cake becomes black cocoa cupcakes 

From what I can tell, a lot of bakers use black cocoa as a coloring agent and in small amounts. It’s a strong flavor, true, but it’s actually pretty delicious – if you get the right brand and have the right recipe. These black cocoa cupcakes, based on the black cocoa cake, are designed to be a really, really fantastic dark chocolate cake. 

I’ve paired these with a cream cheese buttercream this time which lightens up the taste a bit and gives the buttercream a much softer consistency. While I used plain kefir in the original, I reached for vanilla here – that soft vanilla comes through wonderfully against the dark cocoa notes. 

Since cupcakes bake pretty quick, there’s a lot less concern with these drying out. These are going to be winners! 

black cocoa cupcakes

Ingredients for Black Cocoa Cupcakes 

Black cocoa: Black cocoa is the darkest cocoa powder, ultra-dutched and it’s the most alkalized of all cocoas. It doesn’t have much acidity and some of the traditional chocolate flavor isn’t there but it’s a killer ingredient in this recipe. 

Kefir: A fermented milk that’s a staple in my kitchen. It’s thick and creamy and especially great in cocoa-based cakes which tend to dry out so well. I 

Cake flour: Cake flour, very fine flour that’s been mixed with cornstarch leads to a light & fluffy cake. Because of its special features it’s a lot less likely to overmix and create a tough texture when you’re using it. 

Butter: Unsalted (we’ll add the salt ourselves) and softened. A few people have used some oil in replace of butter in this recipe with successful results but I haven’t tried it myself. To

Sugar: granulated white sugar. Don’t substitute with brown as that can throw off the acidity. Don’t reduce the amount of sugar either as it will dry out the cupcakes. 

Eggs: Large, if yours aren’t at room temperature when you are about to begin set them in a bowl of warm water. 

Baking soda: Our leavener. I use soda instead of baking powder sot hat it neutralizes the buttermilk/kefir in the recipe. 


FAQ on Black Cocoa Cupcakes 

  1. Where can I find black cocoa? 

KAF makes a really really good black cocoa. It’s on their site and on amazon. 

  1. Can I use a different kind of cocoa? 

At the very least I’d use dutch here. And if you can find it, dark cocoa. If you use natural cocoa the cupcakes will be a light brown and will have a different texture. 

  1. What’s the difference between dark cocoa and black cocoa? 

Dark cocoa powder is a mix of dutch process and black. It’d be great here! 

  1. What can I use instead of vanilla kefir? 

Plain kefir is fine and you can add a bit more vanilla to your recipe to bring out that balance. Alternatively, a full fat buttermilk will do. 

  1. My cupcake sank! 

This has happened to me too. Chances are the batter wasn’t mixed fully and you had a burst of baking soda in the one that sank. It also could be that the batter was over mixed.

Black Cocoa Cupcakes

Super dark chocolate cupcakes made with black cocoa. Cream cheese chocolate frosting on top!
black cocoa cupcakes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yields: 12
5 from 12 votes


Black Cocoa Cupcakes

  • ½ cup unsalted softened butter 113g
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 200g
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup black cocoa
  • 1 ¼ cups cake flour
  • ¾ cup kefir or buttermilk preferably vanilla kefir

Black Cocoa Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • 1 ½ stick butter ¾ cup or 6oz, softened
  • 4 oz cream cheese softened (half a brick)
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups organic powdered sugar
  • cup black cocoa


  • Preheat the oven to 375 F. Prepare two muffin tins with liners.
  • Beat the butter and sugar together for about 5 minutes, until the mix is light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat for a few minutes more. While the mixer is running, add the baking soda, vanilla and salt.
  • Into the bowl sift the black cocoa and cake flour (if they are lumpy). With the mixer on, slowly pour in the kefir. Beat just until you have a smooth batter.
  • Fill muffin liners halfway with batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tops spring back and are firm.
  • For the buttercream:
  • The butter and cream cheese should be soft and at room temperature before you start. Beat them together until no lumps remain. Sift in the powdered sugar and black cocoa. Add the salt & vanilla and beat until it’s smooth.
  • Assembly & storage:
  • When cupcakes are completely cool, pipe or spread buttercream on top. Store in an airtight container. Cupcakes are good for a few days.

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Recipe Reviews

  1. Is it possible to add coffee granules in the recipe or some expresso. If so how can I balance between the amount of buttermilk to expresso ratio.

  2. 5 stars
    These were a hit for Halloween. Was a fun little project for the kids to decorate. The texture is so amazing (consistently airy and fluffy). Made 15 cupcakes for me, so I suppose it depends how full you fill the liners. Frosting is delicious also. We all thought the flavor was like Oreos, which I suppose makes sense bc generally that is the only medium for tasting black cocoa. Perfect amount of sweetness in these too.

  3. I love this recipe and have made it many times! I have a friend who cannot have dairy–could I substitute the kefir with oat milk?

    • Hmmm, I’m not sure! My guess is that oat milk won’t have the same creaminess that kefir has nor the same acidity so I do think it could affect the texture/structure of the cake.

  4. Can’t wait to make these for Halloween – I just ordered the “cocoa trio” from KAF which includes dark cocoa, not black cocoa. Can I substitute that?

    • In the past I’ve just placed them in a plastic airtight container, with enough space so they aren’t touching, and froze the whole thing. This works if it’s overnight or just a few days.

  5. 5 stars
    These cupcakes are so good! The black cocoa really shines, and the frosting is perfectly balanced with the cupcake. I used buttermilk powder with 2% milk and all purpose four instead of cake flour because those were the ingredients I had on hand. These still came out great.

  6. 5 stars
    These totally smashed at a birthday party last week. Cake was light as a feather, super flavorsome, and came together fast. I too got 17 cupcakes out of this recipe — more yum for me!! The black cocoa is delish. I used APF and buttermilk because it’s what I had, and the recipe still came out wonderfully. Looking forward to trying again with cake flour next time.

  7. 5 stars
    These cupcakes are SO soft, light, and fluffy! I was actually able to make about 17 cupcakes from the recipe which was a huge bonus! The black cocoa is incredible, almost like an Oreo chocolate flavor. I also used buttermilk as the liquid and they are absolutely delicious!

  8. 5 stars
    I may be late to the game with this review but it has to be said that these cupcakes are SO good and SO worth the minimal effort! They crumble a little differently than your standard cupcake but they’re unbelievably soft. As in, this one of the softest cupcakes I’ve ever made and when she says they last a few days, it’s not that they last but eventually get gross and dry. These babies LAST without diminishing in quality! I don’t eat cupcakes quickly so I had these stored for a WEEK and they were still just about as good as when I first made them. These cupcakes are perfect for Halloween or anything where you want to use a deep dark color without loads of food coloring and the kefir in these really does make all the difference.

  9. 5 stars
    Just made these and they are delicious! I bought black cocoa just for this recipe and I’m so glad I did. These cupcakes aren’t too sweet and go so well with the black cocoa cream cheese buttercream. These are the perfect Halloween treats. Looking forward to making more of your black cocoa recipes. Thanks for sharing!

  10. 5 stars
    Just made these tonight for our Halloween party tomorrow and they are SO good and SO gorgeous and oh so fun. Love them so much, Sam! Thank you for the constant inspo!