Moist Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream

It seems rather critical that every baker have a great vanilla and chocolate cupcake in his or her recipe lineup. After baking a number of chocolate cupcake recipes that seemed promising but did not deliver I came across a recipe in a cookbook that had all the makings of what I was looking for. After a serious recipe makeover, I had a chocolate cupcake that would satisfy both the young palate and the decadent chocolate lover.


This recipe was inspired by the Devil’s Food Cupcakes from Tom Douglas’ The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook (yes, I am smitten with this book and I am having a hard time returning it to the library despite the fact that it is well overdue!)


The only problem is that I have a seriously hard time leaving well enough alone. I almost never make a recipe as written and therefore hardly ever know how the actual recipe is supposed to turn out. I can’t decide if this is because I feel like I know what the ingredient proportions should look like, because I like getting creative, or because I am lazy. Probably some combination of the three.


Anyway, this is what my thought process looked like as I analyzed this recipe:

  • “Whipped egg whites! There is no way I am whipping egg whites for a cupcake recipe. That’s ridiculous!”
  • “I think this needs a little more moisture so I am going to double the sour cream.”
  • “I don’t want to go across the kitchen to get kosher salt. I will just reduce it and use regular salt.”
  • “Cake flour seems wrong for a chocolate cupcake. I’m going to use all-purpose flour instead.”
  • “Two teaspoons is a lot of baking powder. I think I will quarter it.”
  • “There is very little sugar in this so I think I will jack it up a bit.”
  • “I really do not like chopping chocolate so I will just grate it with my rotary grater instead and I don’t feel like grating that much.”
  • “Vanilla is delicious and a little extra never hurt!”


Whatever the motivation was for these cupcakes, they are moist and light and full of chocolaty goodness. The original recipe had a peaked volcanic looking top while these have a nicely shaped dome and beautiful interior. Sometime I get to revel in serendipity!

The cupcakes are topped off with a rich Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Don’t be fooled by the soft color of the icing. The peanut butter flavor is full and pervasive and the light texture of this buttercream pairs wonderfully with the moist, smooth crumb of these mini cakes. Enjoy these tasty little beauties.

Happy baking!

Moist Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream


  • 1 ¾ ounces (50 grams) good quality cocoa powder, I used Pernigotti Dutch processed cocoa
  • ¾ cup (180 milliliters) very hot water
  • 4 ounces (113 grams) sour cream- ½ cup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 ounces (113 grams) brown sugar- ½ cup
  • 3 ½ ounces (99 grams) granulated sugar- ½ cup
  • ¾ cup (180 milliliters) canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) vanilla extract
  • 6 ½ ounces (184 grams) all-purpose/plain flour- 1 1/3 cups
  • ½ teaspoon (3 milliliters) salt
  • ½ teaspoon (3 milliliters) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (3 milliliters) baking soda
  • 2 ounces (57 grams) finely grated chocolate, semisweet or bittersweet (about 70% cacao)
  • For the Peanut Butter Buttercream:
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) egg whites from whole eggs or a carton
  • 16 ounces (454 grams) granulated sugar
  • 16 ounces (454 grams) unsalted butter softened but not warm
  • 4 ounces (113 grams) creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoons vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (177 C) and line cupcake pans with 12 paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together cocoa powder and hot water. Whisk in sour cream followed by sugars and vanilla. Whisk in eggs one at a time. Gradually whisk in oil in a steady stream.
  3. Sprinkle in flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder and whisk until well combined. Gently stir in the grated chocolate.
  4. Divide batter between the liners using a ¼ cup ice cream scoop filling 2/3 full and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then move to a cooling rack. Cool completely before icing or store in an airtight container. The cupcakes can be frozen unfrosted. Makes about 12 cupcakes
  5. For the Peanut Butter Buttercream:
  6. Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler and set over simmering water, stirring periodically, until the sugar is dissolved and the temperature reaches 160 F (71 C) if using cracked eggs. Alternatively the sugar syrup can be made in the microwave. In a microwave safe bowl heat the egg whites and sugar for 2-3 minutes on high stirring every 30 seconds until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 160 F (71 C).
  7. Remove from heat and cool until very cool to the touch. This can be done rapidly in the freezer in a cake pan.
  8. Meanwhile, beat the butter in a mixer bowl with the flat paddle attachment on high for 2 minutes until fluffy and lightened.
  9. Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually add half the cooled sugar syrup to the butter; beat 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl, add the second half of egg syrup and beat on medium-high for 2 minutes.
  10. Reduce speed to low and add the peanut butter followed by the vanilla extract. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 1 minute until light and creamy.





97 thoughts on “Moist Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream”

  1. don’t mention how much grated chocolate in the recipe, and what chocolate do you use? Thanks!

    1. I must have been really losing it because I distinctly remember writing it! It must be a copy and paste error 😉 It’s 2 ounces (57 grams).

  2. Hi Summer. First of alley me tell you I love your posts and look forward to them! Now the question: I don’t know if I was asleep when I read the post but I don’t see the amount of grated chocolate. Can you tell me how much it is and what type ( dark, semi sweet). Thanks again for sharing your insight!!!!

  3. Can’t wait to try this recipe. Love that it has a lot of cocoa powder. I think you left out the amount of grated chocolate in the list of ingredients though.

    1. Yes, they are yummy! Good thing I mentioned the chocolate in the post or you guys may have never known it was supposed to be there! It’s 2 ounces (57 grams). Thanks for calling it to my attention 🙂

  4. Summer, I just have Dutch Processed Cocoa, I’m not sure if I need to make changes on the baking soda and baking powder. Thank you! I love your recipes, but with a full time job, I have not time to try them all, but chocolate is my favorite so I will make time for this!! 🙂

  5. Hi Summer,
    in the procedure you say “stir in the grated chocolate”. How much did you use? It is not mentioned in the ingredients list. Something like 4oz (about 100g) ? Thank you very much and best wishes from Switzerland, Kathrin 😉

  6. I LOVE your blog and particularly enjoy and appreciate how you share your thoughts and logic to get the results you get. . . AWESOME!

  7. Summer, I just love your scientific approach but even more I enjoyed hearing the commentary going on in your head, that was awesome! I do this to every recipe. But I have a question. Do these taste like Devils Food Chocolate? I know a lot of folks like Devils Food but I’m not really a fan. Don’t get me wrong, I love a deep chocolate flavor just as well as the lighter flavored recipes. Thank you for sharing all that hard work in your quest to develop the best recipes!

    1. It is a deep chocolaty flavor but not too dark if that makes sense. You can use natural cocoa and a lighter chocolate if you don’t like it too deep 🙂

    1. Ooops! That’s what happens when I type recipes nodding off at 2 am 🙂 It’s 2 ounces (57 grams). I will change it asap 🙂

  8. Could I use this recipe to make layers for a cake or even a loaf cake? Do I need to double the amount of the recipe for this purpose? Thanks!

    1. Hi Louise, I think this would work well as a layer or loaf cake. It is usually easier to go from cupcakes to layers than the other way around. I can’t think of any major adjustments you would need to do. I would double it for two 8-inch layers. This original amount would probably be fine for a loaf cake, but you may have a touch extra batter. Let me know how it goes if you try it!

      1. I did make a layer cake, BUT I decided to use your previous chocolate cake recipe: Buttermilk Chocolate Cake. So I don’t know how this one would turn out! The idea of buttermilk is always more appealling to me!

  9. “Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler and set over simmering water, stirring periodically, until the sugar is dissolved and the temperature reaches 160 F (71 C) if using cracked eggs. ”

    What if you are using un-cracked eggs? Thanks! Sorry if it causes you more grief, I see your chocolate postings…Blessings.

    1. No worries! I just meant that if you are using pasteurized eggs from a carton you do not have to be super picky about temperature just be sure that your sugar is fully dissolved. If you are using fresh eggs then be sure to get to 160 F to avoid salmonella contamination. I hope that answers the question 🙂

  10. Thanks for the recipe! In getting ready to bake you state “line with 24 cupcake papers”. The recipe says makes 12. If actually 12, is it alright to double this recipe?

  11. Hi Summer! I want to say thank you for sharing all your wonderful recipes. So far I have tried the: American Mud, Vanilla cake, Essential Vanilla cupcakes(5 times), Moist chocolate cupcakes, Marshmallow, Cream cheese chocolate, Peanut butter and The easy Swiss merengue buttercream.
    I absolutely love them all. I actually wait for your blog to update hoping to find a new amazing recipe that works to perfection every time. Btw I might of gained 3 to 5Lbs since I follow your blog.
    Thank you again! Isolda.

    1. Hi Isolda, I am so glad that you have had great success with the recipes! I hear you with the weight gain. It’s tricky to churn out this much cake and stay the same size 😉 If you find a great method let me know! Smiles

  12. Hi Summer, I got confused after reading the comments. I was going to use Nestle cocoa powder for the recipe, but saw someone talking about dutch process cocoa powder. Aren’t you talking about the Nestle/natural type?

    Also, can I just chop up the chocolate finely, instead of grating it? I have carpal tunnel syndrome Easier for me to whack it with a mallet. Would it be possible to just melt it and add it to the batter?. Thanks. and Happy Father’s Day to your hubby.

    1. Hi Judy, I almost always use Dutch processed cocoa unless I am going for a pale milk chocolate-like flavor. I used Dutch processed in these. When I have compared cocoas in cake side by side the Dutch processed gives the richest chocolate flavor. If natural is what you have on hand though go for it! They interchange quite well. And yes, pound away if that is easier for you. Just be sure to get it pretty fine. The chocolate melts in and is indistinguishable in the final product. 🙂

      1. Hi Summer, Isn’t there a difference in acidity with Dutch processed cocoa? OK, in checking the recipe, you have enough baking soda for 1/2 cup of flour/cocoa and enough soda 2cups of it. So you have both soda and powder

        I’m glad I asked, the recipe didn’t say natural or Dutch.

        It’s very confusing, because one recipe writer will say they are interchangeable, and the other one says they are not.

        I’d try to add melted chocolate with the wet ingredients. It would be easiest for me.

        Thanks so much! Your vanilla cupcakes are getting RAVE reviews! My friend, Donna, has tried several of your recipes and loves them. So we are fans. 😮

        1. Hi Judy, Sorry for the confusion. I will make a note that I used Dutch processed cocoa. Yes, natural is more acidic but I have baked chocolate cakes testing a range of both natural, Dutched and combination cocoas and I did not find any difference in effect on structure or texture. Taste was the only notable difference. I have however noticed a difference when I make Red Velvet Cake which exclusively uses baking soda to leaven and relies more heavily on the acid for leavening and baking soda neutralization. I always use natural in Red Velvet! It may make a difference as well in chocolate cakes that use large quantities of baking soda. I generally don’t cake for those style of recipes since the alkalinity seems to wipe out much of the lovely chocolate flavor. Does that answer the questions? If not, let me know 🙂

  13. Hi Summer, I’ve never seen a frosting recipe that calls for 1 lb. of sugar?! Is this accurate?
    I’m quite a fan of your recipes and comments, so thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi Tobey! Yes, this is accurate. It really is just over 2 cups. I generally make my SBC in a ratio of 1:2:2 by weight of egg whites:sugar:butter. It is relatively standard but if you prefer you can cut back on the sugar a bit or add an additional 4 ounces of butter to ratio down the sugar. Give it a try as is and you can adjust from there or if you are accustomed to making SMBC you can use the ratios you prefer with this method as well. Smiles!

  14. Summer, thank you so much for sharing another fabulous recipe! I haven’t tried these yet but they are up next on my list. I am absolutely sure they will be my new chocolate cc. My friends are still talking about the vanilla cc’s I made using your recipe. I hope you have a beautiful day! I really appreciate your kindness 🙂

  15. Hi, Summer, I am just cooling a batch of these cupcakes now. Couldn’t wait to make them!
    I used the Dutch processed cocoa, I wanted to use mine up.

    The change I made was to melt the chocolate and add it to the oil before mixing it with the rest of wet ingredients. Made it very easy. I got 18 cupcakes!

    The batter tasted very chocolaty. They rose nicely. I checked them at 18 minutes and they were done. If I could post a picture, I would.

    Hubby loves chocolate, and he happened to glance at the computer yesterday while I was reading recipe. He said, “oh, WOW,” so I had to make them.

    We usually have a treat in the freezer for repair people who come by. We think “never underestimate the power of great baked goods!” It usually gets us to the top of the list if we need to be squeezed in.

  16. Hi Summer, I just found your blog and think I’m finally going to tackle some of the recipes that made me so nervous to try due to this new confidence I have after reading your scientific approach to explaining the why/what is happening!

    I have a request to make a chocolate cake with a strawberry filling for a family gathering (baby shower) in a few weeks… any suggestions for the cake recipe? I am hoping I get good results with the foolproof swiss buttercream recipe when I attempt it… as that is what I’d like to frost with.

    would love any suggestions you (or your followers) may wish to offer a novice decorator 🙂


    1. Hi Tracy, I think the Buttermilk Chocolate Cake would be a good option. You could use fresh sliced strawberries with a buttercream layer to fill but it limits your storage/work time. I would make a strawberry variation of the Foolproof SMBC by adding 1/2 cup fresh strawberry puree after adding the vanilla. You could add a teaspoon of strawberry extract or paste to boost the flavor as well. Best of luck! Feel free to ask questions anytime. 🙂

      1. Love the idea of the strawberry variation of the SMBC! Would I need to make any adjustments to cooking time/temperature if I were baking this in a 12X3″ round pan? Or a 8X3″ round layer? (and how many cups of batter would you fill each with?)

        1. I would at least reduce the oven temperature to 325 F. I personally would not attempt to bake the Chocolate buttermilk cake in 3″ inch pans. (See Size Matters). It is rich and delicate enough that I don’t know if it will hold up. The recipes that do the best in 3″ pans are usually formulated to bake under those conditions. For volume issues, I have a chart on the Sizing Up post that lists batter volumes for cake pans. Multiply by 1 1/2 for 3″ pans. Best of luck!

  17. Hi Summer, thank you so much for this. The cake was lovelyt but the peanutbutter icing was divine! I think I ate half of it just like that. It was also very entertaining to read your process. Thanks again. Hugs (from Mumbai)

  18. Made these over the weekend. They domed beautifully. They were almost too perfect looking to covr with frosting. The best cupcakes I have made…moist and flavorful. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  19. Just made these yesterday, they are delicious, thanks for the recipe! I had to cut back on the cocoa powder a bit because I only had an open package which turned out to have about 40 grs left, but still the flavor was full enough. I love your blog, the beautiful pictures of your cakes. Do you have a lemon flavored cupcake recipe you can share?

    1. Hi Samantha, I am glad the cupcakes turned out well! I don’t have lemon cupcake recipe up yet but you can make the Essential Vanilla Cupcakes and add 1 tablespoon lemon zest, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. These cupcakes are very malleable flavor wise. Good luck!

  20. These are the BEST cupcakes ever! My hubby laughed while I enjoyed one the other night, because I was making all these total enjoyment sounds!

    I gave one to my hairdresser 2 weeks ago. I saw her today and she said the same thing. She said it was getting your cake and fudge at the same time. Not too sweet and silky smooth. THANKS!

    If I ever make these with natural cocoa, should I add more baking soda? Thanks soooo much!

    1. Awesome! You will probably be fine sticking with the 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda but you could always add a 1/4 teaspoon extra. There is enough acid in this batter to neutralize it. More baking soda will give you a fluffier cupcake. Yum! 🙂

      1. Wow, that’s great to know! I had read that you need to add more baking soda if you switch from dutch process to natural cocoa. I’m guessing the acid is coming from the sour cream.

        Thanks for giving me some extra knowledge. And now I know that a bit extra soda will make cupcakes fluffier. Doesn’t always work that way with cake…

        1. Acidity and soda are a bit of a balance. Like all things in cake so much depends on the overall cake formulation. I have not had an issue with most chocolate cakes switching from Dutched cocoa to natural without changing leavening, but natural is more acidic. When I make red velvet cake I use natural because I have had cakes come out tasting overly alkaline when I use Dutch processed cocoa. I guess you just always have to work on a cake to cake basis to see what is best. 🙂

          1. I wonder what these cupcakes would be like, using Hershey’s Dark Cocoa. It’s a mixture of natural and dutch process cocoa. Cheaper too. Any comments?

          2. I am sure it would work fine. I don’t have experience with their dark cocoa but I have found that some of the darker Dutched cocoas impart more of a deep chocolate flavor. Your cupcakes may be a bit lighter in color and not so “dark” tasting but they will be delicious, none the less, I am sure!

  21. Hi Summer,

    I love your recipes, they have replaced all my others and old ones. But I have a question, why is there so much vanilla added? Even with the chocolate recipes, there’s so much vanilla extract added. Does it have an integral part in the chemistry of the cake? My mums old recipes were only ever 1 teaspoon of vanilla, so I was just curious. Clearly you can’t have too much vanilla. Yum!!! but I wanted to know cause I love the science behind your recipes and it’s clearly perfect cause they’re divine but vanilla extract ain’t cheap to buy in Australia.
    Thanks again for giving these delicious recipes to us!


    1. I just find the vanilla flavor is more pronounced when I increase the volume. There is no structural issue so you can use as much as you feel you can spare cost wise. I buy quarts of it here pretty inexpensively so I dump a lot in. 😉

  22. Hi! The recipe calls for 2 large eggs but it’s quite difficult to find large eggs where i live only 60 gram eggs are available. Should i add something else to compensate for the lack of eggs? Thanks!

    1. In this recipe that proportion should work fine. If a recipe called for 4 large eggs I would use 5 small. Just toss in an extra egg if your eggs are smaller than average. I have made cakes using varying numbers of eggs and egg volume does not make a huge difference in the final product unless you increase or decrease in extremes. A bit less or a touch more will not matter a whole lot. I usually err on the side of adding more egg than too little. 🙂

      1. Thanks for your replies 🙂 just one last question about the cupcake sticking too much on the paper liner… any idea why? i followed the recipe to the T.

        1. It may be the papers you are using. I have not had problems with sticking but you could spray your liners with a touch of cooking spray oil before you add the batter and it will help to create a barrier and aid removal. 🙂

  23. Oh. My. YUM! I just got done making these cupcakes and I am in total chocolate peanut butter ecstasy! I shared one with hubby and then proceeded to lick the frosting beater clean. I love your scientific know-how! it gives me so much confidence when trying out new recipes. for the buttercream I used my tried-and-true method and added the appropriate amounts of PB and vanilla at the end. and I got 17 cupcakes – yay! thanks Summer!

  24. Hi Summer…Your recipes are all so amazing and I really thank you so much for sharing your wisdom so freely. I am going to try this recipe today for one of my customer…first time using it but I have so much faith in you that I know it will turn out great. One question, I don’t have any sour cream but I do have buttermilk. My old recipe called for buttermilk so I have heaps left over! would this work as a substitute do you think? Thanks again! xx

    1. You can always use buttermilk with a touch of oil added to make up for the lower amount of fat. I hope they turned out well 🙂

  25. Hi I’m a bit confused (relatively new baker and from the UK) does this recipe have no butter in the actual cake batter? Or have I gone mad and can’t see it somewhere?? Thanks!

  26. Just made these cupcakes and they are fantastic! The are light yet fudgy, barely sweet which is perfect for me, and moist. Mmmmm :). Thanks for this recipe. I made your brown sugar buttercream to frost and it’s soooo good!

  27. Hi Summer! I just want to ask if it is okay to make 3 batches of this and wait for the 1st batch to bake coz i only have 1 oven? Would the remaining batter be at risk in terms of the texture when it bakes? Or should i put the batter in the fridge? Thanks a lot for your outstanding knowledge and sharing it with us. =)

  28. Amazing!! Have been looking for a cupcake that has a good dome and these baked up and domed up so beautifully!!! They tasted so good too!!

    Great blog that I’ve learnt so much from!!

  29. These look delicious. I want to try and make these for a friend’s son’s birthday party. Do these cupcakes freeze well? I was planning to bake them about a week ahead of time, freeze then thaw and decorate the day before.

    1. Oops! I just saw the part where you stated these cupcakes can be frozen unfrosted. Since I will be frosting them the day before I need them is it ok if i put the frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator until the next day? Thank you =)

  30. Hi Summer, I noticed that there is only a weight measurement for the cocoa. If possible, are you able to provide the measurement in cups? I can get it close using the weight / liquid measure in the Quintessential Chocolate Cake, but I wouldn’t mind yours just so I know it’s more exact!
    I was directed to your blog by a cousin who uses your SMBC recipe… I made the Quintessential Chocolate Cake for my son’s birthday this weekend and it is beyond fabulous. It is the best chocolate cake I have ever had! I am enjoying your blog immensely – thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Hi Deanna, sorry it has taken me a bit to get back to you. Thank you for your sweet words!
      Cocoa runs about 4.25 ounces per cup. For this recipe it puts it at about 1/3 cup. I will try to be conscious of this in the future! Let me know if you have more questions.

    1. Hi Steph! Yes, these freeze well. Just freeze the cupcakes and buttercream separately. Your cupcakes will end up with slightly sticky tops when they thaw but this will not be noticeable texturally when frosted and eaten.

  31. OMG, this is the best cake and frosting combo I have ever made, family and friends are raving about them. I have always wanted to try to make swiss meringue but thought it was difficult but its really and taste amazing. Thanks for such a great recipe.

  32. I’ve made many chocolate cupcakes and they all come out flat with no dome. I can’t tell if yours has a dome or not?

  33. Hi summer!!!
    i made the Quintessential chocolate cake with whipped chocolate frosting for my friends bridal shower.and it was a hit.
    i have some leftover buttercream from do u think think the whipped chocolate buttercream will go with this cupcake?

  34. Thank you summer for your great recipe! I wonder what if I want to pre make the cupcakes two days in advance for a party, should I wrap them with plastic wrap right after they are cooled to keep the moisture?

  35. Hi Summer! Just made these for an event at work tomorrow. Ridiculous! So good. Will these be ok at room temperature (in a covered cupcake carrier) overnight? I wasn’t sure if the peanut butter would render your SMB less stable. Also, I tripled the cupcake recipe yesterday and got 48 (so 16/batch) but only needed ONE batch of buttercream to cover 46….2 didn’t make it to today 😉 I used a French tip to create a nice textured swirl which seems generous but I guess is much less than yours? I can’t figure out how I had enough of a single batch of buttercream!

    1. Hi Lynne! The buttercream should hold up fine overnight at room temperature once it’s piped. Yes, the buttercream recipes are in quantities for cake more than cupcakes, so the volume ends up generous. It’s good to note that less is needed to frost them than is listed. In glad you enjoyed the cupcakes! I always have a couple casualties that find their way into my mouth when I make a batch! 😉

  36. Would this be good with chocolate cream cheese icing?

    I’m having a new Year’s Day brunch. I already have a bunch of red velvet cupcakes in the freezer. But not enough for the crowd. A lot of people want chocolate.

    So I plan to save time—make only cream cheese icing. I can flavor half as chocolate for the chocolate cupcakes I want to make.

    1. Yes, these are just a good, basic chocolate cupcake. They would be delicious with chocolate cream cheese icing. Have a wonderful brunch!

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