Yield: 6 black cocoa cupcakes // Total Time: 40 min. // Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links. // This post is sponsored by Papanicholas. All opinions are my own.

Moist and rich black cocoa cupcakes, perfect for Halloween!

small batch black cocoa cupcakes

If you’re looking for a halloween spin on a chocolate cupcake, you’ve come to the right place! These chocolate cupcakes are so moist and chocolate-y and honestly taste like a dark chocolate brownie in cupcake form. They are also paired with a velvety black cocoa buttercream and topped off with candy eye sprinkles which honestly make everything adorably spooky!

what is black cocoa powder?

Black cocoa powder is essentially dutch process cocoa powder that is further alkalized. Doing so gives the cocoa a deeper, richer chocolatey flavor. It also turns the cocoa powder black – which is super perfect for all your spooky Halloween cupcake baking desires! Here is the black cocoa powder that I use and love. Black cocoa powder is also a great way to

why do you post small batch recipes?

I love making small batch bakes because they are the perfect size myself and others who don’t have a lot of people to bake for in their home. Small batch helps cut down on waste and eliminates the feeling that all that excess dessert MUST be eaten. Here on my blog I post a lot of small batch bakes with a mix of some 8-10″ single layer cakes from time to time. All my recipes can easily be doubled or tripled to fit your need, so long as you use grams to measure!

papanicholas coffee

I partnered once again with my all-time favorite coffee brand: papanicholas coffee, to bring you these delicious black cocoa cupcakes today. I seriously use their coffee beans every day! In this recipe I used their french vanilla beans to amp up the flavor in the cupcakes. It adds such delicious vanilla undertones to compliment the rich chocolate flavor! I definitely highly recommend trying some of their coffee, they have so many delicious flavors and are always the coffee I use in my recipes. You can find their website by clicking here.

recipe tips

weigh your ingredients

Weighing your ingredients is important for getting the recipe perfect and getting consistent results. Not weighing your ingredients can lead to adding too much or too little of an ingredient. In a small batch recipe it is especially important to get those correct measurements because there is less room for error. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend purchasing a kitchen scale. This one is super cheap and worked well for me when I was starting out!

mix the batter carefully

It is super important to not overmix the cupcake batter. Overmixing the batter leads to more gluten development which will make the cupcakes super tough and chewy. Only mix just until the last bit of flour is incorporated.

bloom your cocoa powder

The secret to getting more chocolate flavor into your chocolate cake? Bloom your cocoa powder! Blooming your cocoa powder just means that you’re mixing the cocoa with a hot liquid. In these espresso s’mores cupcakes, we’re using espresso because it also compliments the chocolate flavor (but you can use hot water instead if needed.) Doing so releases the cocoa powder particles from a very thin membrane on them, exposing cocoa solids and bringing out more flavor. It’s a super simple way to add more flavor into your chocolate bakes!

room temperature ingredients

It is important for the ingredients to be at room temperature so that they properly incorporate with each other. Take out the egg and sour cream at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hr 30 min. before starting the recipe. Here’s how to get room temperature ingredients FAST if you’re in a time crunch or forgot to take the ingredients out (like I often do):

  • Egg: place the egg in a bowl and run hot water over it for 1 continuous minute, or let it sit in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes.
  • Sour cream: microwave in 5-second intervals until it is no longer cold, but is not warm (room temp!)

keep an eye on those cupcakes!

Cupcakes like to go from under-baked to over-baked super quickly so it is important to keep a close eye on them. Start checking at 15 minutes with a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out wet, check them again in 2 minutes and so on until only a few moist crumbs stick to the toothpick.

ingredients and substitutions

For the black cocoa cupcakes:

All purpose flour: the structure of the cupcakes

Baking powder: for leavening and giving that “cakey” texture

Salt: for balancing and bringing out the sweetness

Black cocoa powder: gives the cupcakes a deep, rich chocolate flavor and turns them black in color!

Espresso: a shot of hot espresso poured over the cocoa helps bring out that ultra chocolatey flavor. You can use freshly brewed espresso from a machine or instant espresso mixed with the appropriate amount of hot water. Hot coffee will also work well here too. If you are avoiding espresso or coffee, you can just use hot water in it’s place!

Vegetable oil: tenderizes the cupcakes. Any neutral oil, such as canola, will also work here.

Granulated sugar: sweetens the cupcakes and helps lock in the moisture.

Egg: contributes moisture to the cupcakes and helps bind the batter together

Sour cream: tenderizes and adds moisture to the cupcakes. I recommend using full-fat sour cream for the best texture.

For the black cocoa buttercream:

Unsalted butter: the base of the buttercream. Feel free to use salted butter here, just be sure to omit the extra salt if using!

Salt: helps balance and bring out the sweetness of the buttercream

Powdered sugar: sweetens and thickens up the buttercream. If you are looking for more of a melt-in-your-mouth texture, use organic powdered sugar!

Black cocoa powder: gives the buttercream a deep, rich chocolate flavor and turns it black in color!

Heavy cream: helps thin out the frosting to a pipeable consistency. Milk will also work well here!

Candy eye sprinkles: perfect for all-things Halloween!

how to make black cocoa cupcakes

Here’s a little look into making these black cocoa halloween cupcakes. The full recipe can be found at the end of this blog post!

Whisk together the wet ingredients.
Then whisk in the dry and bake.
Top with the buttercream & enjoy!

black cocoa cupcakes q&a

do I need to use espresso in these cupcakes?

I highly recommend using espresso in these cupcakes (especially papanicholas!) If for any reason you don’t want to or can’t use espresso in these cupcakes, that is perfectly fine! Simply replace the hot espresso with an equal amount of hot water.

can I double these small batch black cocoa cupcakes?

Of course! Obviously they will not be small batch anymore but small batch isn’t always what we need. Simply double all of the ingredients in the recipe to make 12 delicious cupcakes. I even more strongly recommend measuring by weight if you are going to double the recipe for the best results.

can I make these cupcakes ahead of time?

Definitely! I would recommend making the cupcakes no more than two days ahead of time. Store the unfrosted cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature. Store the chocolate buttercream in an airtight container in the fridge. When ready to frost, simply remove the buttercream for the fridge and let it sit at room temperature until it becomes soft. Whip it up for a few minutes, then transfer it to a piping bag and you’re good to go!

how to store small batch black cocoa halloween cupcakes

Like most baked goods, these black cocoa cupcakes will definitely taste the best on the day that they are baked. You can store the frosted cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

why do you measure in grams?

My recipes are all written in grams because it is the most accurate way to bake. When you use a kitchen scale, you ensure that your baked goods turn out as close to the written recipe as possible. Plus, the cleanup is way easier when using a scale! I will provide standard cup measurements but please note that I have not tested the recipe using cup measurements and therefore can not guarantee your recipe will come out how mine did. Here is my favorite kitchen scale

a note on oven temperature

Ovens vary and fluctuate in temperature and aren’t always at the temperature they claim to be. I highly recommend getting an oven thermometer. They are super helpful for letting you know when your oven might be lying to you! I use this one.

tools and ingredients

You can find all my favorite tools and ingredients that I use on my Amazon Storefront page, here!

did you make these small batch black cocoa cupcakes?

If you made these small batch black cocoa cupcakes (which are perfect for halloween!) I would love to see and know your thoughts! Please leave a comment and review down below, and tag me on Instagram @freshbeanbakery. If you have any questions about the recipe I will gladly do my best to answer them in the comments below!

Small Batch Black Cocoa Cupcakes

5 from 1 vote
Ultra-chocolatey & moist small batch black cocoa cupcakes, perfect for Halloween!
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Servings6 cupcakes


Black Cocoa Cupcakes

  • 32 g black cocoa powder (⅓ c.)
  • 60 g Papanicholas French Vanilla Espresso (2 oz.)
  • 75 g vegetable oil (¼ c. + 2 tbsp.)
  • 100 g granulated sugar (½ c.)
  • 1 egg room temperature
  • 90 g sour cream room temperature (¼ c. + 2 tbsp.)
  • 90 g all purpose flour (¾ c.)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • tsp. salt

Black Cocoa Buttercream

  • 113 g unsalted butter room temperature (5 tbsp.)
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 180 g powdered sugar (1 ½ c.)
  • 24 g black cocoa powder (¼ c.)
  • 1-2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • c. candy eye sprinkles for decorating


Black Cocoa Cupcakes

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C. Line a muffin tin with 6 parchment liners.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the black cocoa powder and hot espresso until no lumps remain.
  • In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the vegetable oil, sugar, egg, sour cream, and cocoa-espresso mixture. Whisk the mixture together until well combined and smooth.
  • Add in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together just until no flour streaks remain.
  • Distribute the cupcake batter evenly between the six liners. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.

Black Cocoa Buttercream

  • In a small bowl with a hand mixer, beat together the butter and salt for 1 minute.
  • Slowly beat in all of the powdered sugar until combined.
  • Add in the cocoa powder and heavy cream. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add in ~½ tbsp. heavy cream until your desired consistency is reached.
  • Once the cupcakes have cooled, transfer the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with your tip of choice. Frost the cupcakes, top with halloween candy eye sprinkles, serve, and enjoy!

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Recipe Rating


  1. Just made these, my first time using black cocoa. They turned out perfect! Probably my new favorite cupcake recipe.