Classic Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

At the beginning of the year, I made it a goal to post some classic recipes on my site.

Goal fulfilled.

Classic Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting from scratch are as easy as using a mix! Easy recipe at

In this very Pinteresty world, there’s always another Nutella-swirledbrown buttered, bacon crumbled, bourbon-infused recipe for everything from cookies to cakes.

But sometimes you don’t want potato chips in your cookies or pretzels in your salted caramel.

Sometimes you just want a classic yellow cupcake with chocolate frosting like you remember eating at birthday parties as a kid. These are those cupcakes.

Classic Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting from scratch are as easy as using a mix! Easy recipe at

Sure, you could use cake mix. Duncan Hines makes an almost unbeatable yellow (I ate plenty when I toured their test kitchen last month), but I just had to make these from scratch. And they really don’t take any more time to make than using a mix.

I used melted butter and so there’s nothing to cream, making it a fast, whisk-together cake batter, just like making muffins or quickbread.  A bowl of wet ingredients, fold in the dry, pour into liners, and bake.

Classic Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting from scratch are as easy as using a mix! Easy recipe at

I used melted butter not only for ease, but for color, and most importantly for flavor.

Often I prefer oil in cakes, muffins, and quickbreads because it keeps them so soft, but only in recipes where there are other dominating flavors, like chocolate or pumpkin, which will mask the butter flavor anyway. But with yellow cupcakes, that buttery flavor is instrumental.

Classic Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting from scratch are as easy as using a mix! Easy recipe at

In addition to the butter, the other ‘fat source’ is 6-ounces of nonfat honey Greek yogurt. If you can’t find honey flavor, use vanilla.

Plain Greek yogurt or sour cream will work, but you’ll miss out on a bit of sweetness and sour cream adds tons more fat. I’m very pleased that I got the cupcakes to stay soft and moist without piling in mindless fat grams.

I tinkered around with various combinations of 1 egg, 2 eggs, 1 egg plus 1 yolk, and a popular Cook’s Illustrated The New Best Recipe <– a cooking Bible, best $22 bucks you’ll ever spend on a cookbook – calls for 1 egg plus 2 yolks.

Classic Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting from scratch are as easy as using a mix! Easy recipe at

Although I try hard not to use partial eggs in recipes because it’s just annoying, I found that 1 egg plus 1 yolk gives the right amount of  moisture and thickness to the batter. Yolks add moisture, whites dry things out, and having extra moisture insurance in cupcakes is nice since they’re prone to being dry.

The extra yolk also helps add a more golden hue.

Don’t overbake. In my oven, just over 18 minutes is ideal, and by 20 minutes, while they don’t appear to be too dark, they taste dry. You’ll have to find your own oven’s sweet spot.

Classic Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting from scratch are as easy as using a mix! Easy recipe at

I made a simple chocolate buttercream. One stick of butter, cocoa powder, confectioner’s sugar, dash of vanilla. That’s it. If you want to add a splash of cream or milk to thin it, feel free but I didn’t.

It’s dense, uber-thick and fudgy. It’s not too ‘dark’ of a chocolate flavor. We didn’t have 72% chocolate on birthday party cupcakes when I was growing up, and this frosting tastes like my childhood.

Piping bags and I don’t generally get along, but I tried my best with a Wilton 1M tip and disposable piping bag.

Classic Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting from scratch are as easy as using a mix! Easy recipe at

I garnished with Wilton Chocolate Jimmies. The sprinkles taste more like real chocolate, and not like HFCS made to taste like chocolate, compared to any other brand of chocolate sprinkles I’ve tried.

These from-scratch cupcakes are soft, moist, springy, light, and are what I’d want to see on a big spread at a birthday party, graduation party, or shower. Or on any old Wednesday afternoon.

Classic Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting from scratch are as easy as using a mix! Easy recipe at

The frosting is rich, creamy, and has a perfect chocolate intensity. Not too bold and dark, or too light and wimpy, and not cloyingly sweet.

It’s piled on sky high. The only way to enjoy a cupcake.

Classic Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting from scratch are as easy as using a mix! Easy recipe at

Classic Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (From Scratch) - As fast & easy as using a boxed mix with fluffy, bakery-style results guaranteed! No mixer required.

Print Print Recipe

Classic Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

These from-scratch yellow cupcakes are like the kind you probably grew up eating at childhood birthday parties, or that are served at graduations and showers. They're soft, moist, springy, and have a nice buttery richness. They're as fast and easy to make as using a boxed mix, thanks in part to using melted butter rather than creaming it, a nice time-saver. The whisk-together batter comes together in minutse. The chocolate buttercream is simple, rich, fudgy, and complements the lighter, fluffy golden cupcakes beautifully.

Yield: 12-13 cupcakes

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 18-20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, to include cooling time


1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 cup granulated sugar
6 ounces (about 1/2 cup) Greek yogurt (I used nonfat honey Greek yogurt; vanilla or plain Greek yogurt, or sour cream may be substituted)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softenend
1/2 heaping cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted (I used Trader Joe's)
2 1/2 to 3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted is ideal
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
splash cream or milk, only as needed for consistency
chocolate srpinkles, optional for garnishing


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a Non-Stick 12-Cup Regular Muffin Pan with paper liners; set aside.
  2. Cucpakes - In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
  3. Allow the butter to cool momentarily (so you don't scramble the eggs), and add the egg plus yolk, sugar, yogurt, vanilla, and whisk to combine.
  4. Stir in the flour, baking powder, optional salt, and mix until just combined and free from large lumps; don't overmix or cupcakes will be tough.
  5. Using a medium 2-inch cookie scoop, place about 2 tablespoons of batter per cupcake into each of the 12 cavities so they're solidly 3/4 full. There will likely be enough batter for a 13th cupcake, and either lick the bowl or discard it; or I placed a large paper liner inside a mini loaf pan, and fit the mini pan on the rack next to the main muffin pan.
  6. Bake for 18 to 19 minutes, or until tops are golden, set, slightly domed, and springy to the touch. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Allow cupcakes to cool in pan for 5 to 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. While they cool, make the frosting.
  7. Frosting - To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and beat on medium-high speed until pale, light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (or use a hand mixer and beat for at least 7 minutes). Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  8. Add the cocoa (sift it, or you will have a hard time getting the lumps out of the frosting), 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  9. Based on texture and taste preferences, optionally add 1/2 cup additional sugar (for 3 cups total), which I find necessary to achieve a thick consistency with my ingredients. If your frosting seems thick enough, refrain from the additional sugar and/or add a splash of cream to thin it.
  10. Transfer frosting to a piping bag and frost the cooled cupcakes. I used a Wilton 1M tip . Or simply spread frosting on with a knife.
  11. Optionally, garnish each cupcake with a pinch of sprinkles (do it over the sink because they fly around when they hit the frosting). Cupcakes will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 3 days. I personally am comfortable storing buttercream-frosted items at room temp, but if you prefer to store in the fridge, that's fine, but note the fridge will dry them out more quickly.

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What’s your favorite kind of cupcake + frosting combination?


129 Responses to “Classic Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting”

  1. Liz — October 10, 2013 at 4:40 pm (#

    Yup, my hubby likes the classics…Nestles Tollhouse cookies, plain brownies AND yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I’m going to make these for him soon :)

  2. Arthur in the Garden! — October 10, 2013 at 7:12 pm (#


  3. Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust — October 10, 2013 at 7:14 pm (#

    These are GORGEOUS! Those tops. And that frosting! *swoon*

    • Averie Sunshine — October 10, 2013 at 8:07 pm (#

      Your vanilla cupcakes got me off the dime. I had been wanting to do these for like…oh, 2 years? and seeing yours was enough to give me the nudge :) And thanks for the pin!

  4. Jocelyn — October 10, 2013 at 8:15 pm (#

    You’re right, sometimes you just want a simple classic like this!! I adore that frosting girl, yummy!!

  5. Sylvie@Gourmande in the Kitchen — October 10, 2013 at 11:41 pm (#

    This is one of my all-time favorite combination, you just can’t beat the classics!

  6. anna @ annamayeveryday — October 11, 2013 at 6:34 am (#

    These look so good and as your recipe differs from my normal vanilla cupcake I am going to try these this weekend. You are so right, sometimes you want a straightforward vanilla cake with chocolate on top – there is a reason why the classics become classics! Or shall I just make your chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, after all I have only made that once so far this week (but 6 times in the last month….)!

    • Averie Sunshine — October 11, 2013 at 11:06 am (#

      Thrilled that you’ve made the choc cake 6-7 times in a month! That’s incredible. Love stories like this! So glad you really love that cake.

      And if you try these cupcakes, LMK what you think. Thanks Anna!

  7. Nancy @ gottagetbaked — October 11, 2013 at 4:53 pm (#

    This is a lovely post, Averie, because you are absolutely right. We don’t always want insane, balls to the walls recipes. Sometimes what we crave are the old standards, like your beautiful yellow cupcakes. Heck, making something this classic is usually harder than the over the top recipes because here, so much can go wrong. That’s why I rarely make white or yellow cupcakes – they’re either too dry, not enough flavour, etc. These looks beautifully moist and fluffy and they’re gorgeously golden. I can’t wait to try this.

    • Averie Sunshine — October 12, 2013 at 10:36 am (#

      “making something this classic is usually harder than the over the top recipes because here, so much can go wrong” — AMEN! Yes it is! It’s easy to make some brownies or cookies and dump in half the kitchen sink with add ins and candy, etc. and people ooh and ahh because it’s over the top, but do they get made in others’ homes? Hard to say. But with a classic like this, they will always get made. But…yes…cupcakes are tricky. So much can go wrong, mostly dryness and not golden enough!

  8. LoverOfAnythingChocolate — October 15, 2013 at 10:25 am (#

    Hey, is it fine if I use a pic of your cupcake for my pic on Bloglovin’?
    If you don’t want to, I understand. I just want to ask you first. I’m not selling it or anything, duh. I just want to represent my name as “LoverOfAnythingChocolate”

    • Averie Sunshine — October 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm (#

      Thank you for asking, but no, I don’t want you to use my images as your profile pic or for any other pictures/images you want to post. They are mine, I worked very hard on them, and I don’t want you to use them for your personal use. Thanks for understanding.

    • LoverOfAnythingChocolate — October 15, 2013 at 4:38 pm (#

      Okay, I don’t mind!

  9. Vera Zecevic – Cupcakes Garden — October 26, 2013 at 7:18 am (#

    It’s so refreshing to find good, old cupcake recipe among many cupcake flavor combination which overflow the internet these days.I’ve featured this recipe on my blog, hoping that you don’t mind, but if you do, please contact me and I’ll remove it. All the best.

    • Averie Sunshine — October 26, 2013 at 7:43 am (#

      Isn’t that the truth! Which is why I made a classic – not something that no one makes or makes once. Back to basics is sometimes a good thing! Thanks for the feature!

  10. LoverOfAnythingChocolate — December 21, 2013 at 9:43 am (#

    These look good, but would it be fine if I make it into a layer cake? What changes would I need?

    • Averie Sunshine — December 21, 2013 at 10:49 am (#

      I have no idea since I haven’t tried it that way.

  11. Aria — January 13, 2014 at 1:44 pm (#

    How could I turn this into a 9×13? My husband is against all things cupcake .. hes a MAN AND MAN NEED CAKE PAN .. or so he says, thank you! Ive been looking for a good easy cake to make, and honestly if something makes me whip egg whites and use 14 bowls im not gonna make it Id stick with box since its easier and everything in my kitchen doesnt get dirty .. Im excited to try this out and hopefully this is THE ONE for me and my family!! Thank you again!

    • Averie Sunshine — January 13, 2014 at 1:46 pm (#

      I would just make the batter, eyeball it, and if you think it will fit properly in a 9×13, than bake it that way. Otherwise maybe use 2 8-inch rounds? You have nothing to lose by trying & experimenting.

  12. Ilia — February 8, 2014 at 5:52 am (#

    I made these yesterday and they are very dense, more like a muffin. Wondering if I overcooked them or overmixed? My 2-year-old “helped” to mix, so i wonder if we overdid it. The flavor is delicious and we will definitely try again! I love it when you share “basic” recipes like this.

    • Averie Sunshine — February 8, 2014 at 5:57 am (#

      I’ve never had them come out dense or like a muffin. They’re not ‘dry and airy’ but I wouldn’t call them dense like a muffin. I suspect your 2 year old probably was helping stir a little too much and they got overmixed. I don’t think their density is a result of baking time (if anything, that could mean they’re on the raw/heavy side and maybe you underbaked?) but I actually think it’s overmixing as the culprit here.

    • Ilia — February 8, 2014 at 7:58 am (#

      I did wonder if I had taken them out a minute too soon. Thank you for your quick response!

  13. Christine Bailiff — February 13, 2014 at 8:54 am (#

    I made these yesterday and I just have to say they are wonderful. I will definitely keep this one, my kids were really impressed. I am making more today for a school fundraiser tonight. Thank you a bunch, I did not want to use a mix…

    • Averie Sunshine — February 13, 2014 at 1:29 pm (#

      So glad that you love these enough to make a batch yesterday and another one today! And yes to the whole mix thing, I understand :)

  14. Kate wenger — March 5, 2014 at 9:06 am (#

    These are the best cupcakes! Thank you for sharing! A big hit for my family! Perfect combination with chocolate buttercream!

    • Averie Sunshine — March 5, 2014 at 1:27 pm (#

      Thanks for trying them & glad you think they’re the BEST! That’s wonderful :)

  15. Cierra — May 4, 2014 at 4:36 pm (#

    These cupcakes look to die for! I am planning to make these for my cousin for her birthday, but her birthday in the middle of the week and I don’t have time to make cupcakes then. Will the cupcakes be good 4 days later or can I just make the batter and refrigerate it to make them later? Thanks so much for the recipe Averie!

    • Averie Sunshine — May 5, 2014 at 4:48 am (#

      You cannot refrigerate cake/cupcake batter and in fact, the minute you mix it up, you need to get it into the oven to get the most of the chemical reaction with the ingredients, baking powder, etc. so they rise properly. I also wouldnt really want special bday cupcakes to be 4 days old. Two days would be my other limit. If you want to make something for her, either you pretty much have to adjust your schedule OR pick another dessert but neither 4-day old cupcakes or refrigerating batter will work. Sorry!

  16. Deidra — May 26, 2014 at 8:37 am (#

    Could I use cake flour instead of all purpose? Also did you sift then measure the flour?

    • Averie Sunshine — May 26, 2014 at 10:38 am (#

      I haven’t ever tried this with cake flour. It’s a different type so the measurement may be different; not sure because I haven’t tried. I don’t sift the AP flour, never found a need to. Try the recipe as written – we love it!

  17. Molly — August 2, 2014 at 10:15 am (#

    This was a hit! I made it as an 8×8 cake and baked about 22-23 minutes. It was perfect, but I did have “too much” icing. That’s not a REAL problem, is it? :-) And I put some sprinkles on (chocolate ones) and was like “those aren’t fun enough” so then I put rainbow ones on. They made me smile.

    • Averie Sunshine — August 2, 2014 at 12:07 pm (#

      Thanks for trying it, glad it was a hit, and you’re right, one can never have too much icing :) Probably though because with cupcakes, you generally pile it on thicker/taller/higher and also so much is lost to a pastry bag when decorating cupcakes vs. just spreading it on pan-style.

  18. L — October 12, 2014 at 2:14 pm (#

    You said in the recipe that the cupcakes would dry out faster in the fridge – but if I were to frost the cupcakes the afternoon before, and then store it in the refrigerator, would it dry out? How could I prevent drying out from happening? Freezing isn’t an option, no space. Thanks, and love your blog!

    • Averie Sunshine — October 12, 2014 at 2:24 pm (#

      I personally would keep the unfrosted cupcakes at room temp in a covered container and then just adjust my schedule to frost them the day-of, doing whatever I needed to do to make that happen.

      I just really advise against refrigerating these…the frosting will dry out, the cupcakes will dry out, not good. Cupcakes aren’t the easiest make-ahead recipe, I won’t lie! I have tons and tons of recipes where refrigerating for a day or a week won’t matter but with these it will. Just being honest.

  19. Ambria — January 3, 2015 at 4:58 pm (#

    these look great!
    What can I use if I don’t have Greek yogurt or sour cream?

  20. Jessica — April 1, 2015 at 1:35 pm (#

    These cupcakes look delicious. I plan on using this recipe for my birthday cake. I was wondering if I could double the layers and use two 9 inch pans?

  21. Jessica — April 28, 2015 at 3:23 pm (#

    I doubled the recipe and divided it between two 9 inch pans and the batter was really really thick like it needed more liquid. I used sour cream instead of yogurt. The taste was great though, I am just trying to figure out what I did wrong. Did the batter turn out that way because I doubled the recipe or was it because I used sour cream.

    • Averie Sunshine — April 28, 2015 at 11:07 pm (#

      Some recipes just don’t double well. I don’t know if that’s the case here b/c I haven’t tried doubling it. I sense not, though.

      I think given you said the batter was really thick and seemed like it needed more liquid that it was indeed the sour cream which can be thicker than Greek yogurt (depends on brand) but if you remake, I’d use a touch less sour cream just so that batter doesn’t get as thick and/or add a bit more buttermilk or oil. Just something to thin it out a hair. Or even less flour. Many ways to approach the problem but I haven’t tested any so can’t speak for sure but you can tinker. Have fun and happy cupcake eating :)

  22. Jessica — May 19, 2015 at 12:46 pm (#

    Thank you

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