The Perfect Chocolate Cupcake with Salted Caramel Buttercream

I am VERY particular about my cupcakes.

Occasionally, I will bake a cupcake with a cake mix (which is completely fine)… but to me, they just can’t compete with the moist and density of a cupcake made from scratch.

I have tried my fair share of cupcake recipes, but I think I have finally nailed the winner… the PERFECT Chocolate Cupcake.  I had quite a few people sample these cupcakes and all raved about them. Pair them with this Salted Caramel Frosting that I adapted from my Copy-Cat Sweet Tooth Fairy Cookies and Cream Frosting… and this cupcake is heaven in your mouth.

Don’t let the number of ingredients scare you away from this recipe… I promise it is SO EASY!  These are, for the most part, all basic ingredients you have in your pantry anyway.  They don’t take much longer to make than a cake mix takes, but the end result is fantastic and totally worth the few extra steps.

recipe will be back soon. This is an older one and I have temporarily taken it down in order to test it further. Thank you for your patience.

****If you liked the original here it is. Just know I haven’t gotten to further testing. It works for some people and not for others.****

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream


  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Salted Caramel Buttercream

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 packet Dream Whip dry
  • 3 cups powdered sugar more if needed to reach desired consistency.


  • Add the sifted cocoa powder to a medium sized bowl and pour in the cup of hot liquid. Whisk until completely dissolved.
  • Next add the buttermilk to cool down the mixture, then add the sugar and whisk until all is combined.
  • Add the eggs, oil and vanilla and mix again.
  • In a small bowl, stir flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk this into the wet mixture until you no longer see any lumps.
  • Stir in heavy cream until evenly mixed in.
  • Pour into cupcake tins and bake at 350 degrees F for 18-22 minutes or until done.
  • Let cool and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Salted Caramel Buttercream

  • In a saucepan, stir together granulated sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cook without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring until very smooth. Let caramel cool for about 20 minutes, until it is just barely warm and still pourable.
  • Alternatively, you could use just under 1/2 cup of your favorite caramel sauce.
  • Beat butter and salt together until lightened and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add dry Dream Whip until combined. Next beat in powdered sugar. Mix until thoroughly combined. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the caramel. Beat on medium high speed until light and airy, and completely mixed (about 2 minutes). 
  • Mixture should be ready to use without refrigeration. If your caramel was too hot when added, it will cause your icing to be runny. If this happens refrigerate for 15-20 minutes. Once cupcakes have cooled, frost onto cupcakes.
Tried this recipe?Tag @nikki_chefintraining in your picture on Instagram so we can see what you have been up to in your kitchen!

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #chefintraining and/or #chefintrainingblog. I would love to see how these recipes take shape in your kitchens.

Filed under: cupcakes, dessert, frosting

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  1. Maria

    I just made cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream. Will have to try it with your chocolate recipe next! Yum!

    1. Heidi

      I googled it because I had never heard of it either. It's a non-dairy dry form alternative to cool whip it looks like. If you want to make cool whip type stuff, you mix it in your kitchenaid with milk and vanilla. It looks like you can get it at most grocery stores :)

    2. Chef in Training

      it is a powder that comes in a packet. Each Dream Whip box has 4 packets in it. I used it dry for my frosting (didn't make it up like package directions, just left it as is). You can find it in the baking aisle next to the pudding boxes.

  2. Nicole

    Hi, what tip did you use when icing the cupcakes? Thanks :)

    1. Chef in Training

      I used Wilton 8B tip

    2. Nicole

      Thanks :)

  3. sally @ sallys baking addiction

    COMPLETELY gorgeous cupcakes, Nikki. Stunning. Beautiful photo. Beautiful food styling. PERFECTLY piped frosting. I'm dying over these cupcakes. They are beautiful! And I agree, NOTHING tastes like homemade. I love a good cake mix, but am shying away from it these days as I get more comfortable making items from scratch. LOVE THESE!

  4. Averie @ Averie Cooks

    Finding the perfect cake or cupcake recipe, be it chocolate, white, or yellow, is like finding the perfect choc chip cookie recipe...once you nail it, it's the best feeling ever!

  5. Hayley @ The Domestic Rebel

    Oh my gosh, these look divine! Salted caramel-anything is perfection in my book. I'm surprised the frosting alone made it to the cupcakes--I would have devoured it with a spoon!

  6. Jocelyn @BruCrew Life

    Give me salted caramel anything any day of the week!!! These sound super incredible!! I love love love your picture too! You just keep getting better and better girl:-)

  7. Amy

    I am curious what does the Dream Whip add/do for the frosting? There are some ingredients in it my family can't have. If I left it out, would you need to increase the powdered sugar?

    1. Chef in Training

      I just notice a lightness to it. You could definitely make it with out and just adjust the milk and powdered sugar to get it to the desired consistency.

  8. Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust

    Okay, yum. I need to find good, from-scratch cupcake and cake recipes. I always have trouble finding good ones. This one is fantastic, especially with that frosting!

    1. Christine

      These look amazing! I love ssalted caramel frosting! It's my all time favorite! I will for sure give these a go! By the way, i love all your pictures! They look beautiful!

  9. Nancy

    I made these tonight and they are delicious! I'm bringing them to work tomorrow and that will be the true test!! I know what Dream Whip is but couldn't find it, I just added a little more cream to the frosting and it still worked out. I will keep looking for it though so I can try it next time.

    1. Rachelle

      Dream Whip is not available in my area...When you left it out, was it still sturdy enough to pipe and hold shape? Thanks :)

  10. brianna

    Those sound delicious. I am definitely saving this for future reference.

  11. heather

    How do you get your cupcakes so perfect? even tops?

  12. Lindsay @ Mommy's Sweet Confessions

    Hi! These look beyond to die for. I never thought there could be a cupcake recipe that looked better than a cupcake mix (which is the only baked thing I like to get premade) but these have changed my mind. I would love love love it if you would share this at my link party at See you at the party!

  13. Kara

    I have been searching for a perfect from scratch cupcake recipe for ages! This one sounds very promising. I will definitely be trying it. Thanks Nikki!

  14. Jenifer mott

    I just made these... Cupcakes turned out great...but frosting came out tan colored and heavy? I followed the recipe and cook and bake lots and I don't think I could pipe it on the cupcake like you have pictured way to dense and sweet!

    1. Jenifer mott

      I just added some cool whip and it helped some with being more airy but still not white ??

  15. Amanda j

    What size dry dream whip package?
    I've never used it and there seems to be 2 package sizes I can order.

  16. NancyC

    Hi Nikki,
    These look heavenly. Planning on baking these this afternoon. Does the recipe state the quantity of cupcakes or am I blind! LOL! You are one of my favorites! Thank you for all the inspiration!

  17. Claire

    Hi, May I know how many cupcakes will the recipe gives?

    1. Chef in Training

      it yields about 24 cupcakes.

  18. erica

    I made these chocolate cupcakes tonight and they came out PERFECT. Little domed beauties that weren't a little bit dry. I also subbed the buttermilk for skim and the heavy cream for whole milk (just what I had on hand) and they still came out great. Thanks so much for a chocolate cupcake recipe that doesn't require the mixer or a double boiler or anything else that means more cleanup!!

  19. Alison

    I made these and had to check that I followed the recipe exactly because they aren't all that chocolatey. I also got way more than 24 cupcakes out of it (my cupcakes are maybe a little smaller but I also got 24 cupcakes plus 24 mini cupcakes). While they were very moist and looked pretty I was a little disappointed with the flavor. Have you ever tried it with more cocoa?

  20. Tina

    I just made these cupcakes, and they're delicious. However, like Jennifer, my frosting was initially very, very heavy and tannish. It was too sweet to use, so while I was mixing, I added extra heavy cream to the frosting, and it turned out perfectly!

  21. Carolann Hall

    I was wondering what kind of caramel you used, and how much. It doesn't say on the recipe and these look amazing, I don't want up :)

    1. Lindsey

      Carlann- you make the caramel, just follow the recipe!

  22. dawn

    I'm sorry am I missing something? What water am I boiling for the icing? The recipe only calls for two table spoons of water.

  23. tracey scalzo

    I love this recipe...its as delicious and moist as a mix but can standup to the weight of a good buttercream! Thanks so much.

  24. Jackie

    Hi Nikki

    I'm a little confused in the directions, let cool and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Do I put them in the refrigerator to chill as soon as I take them out of the oven.

  25. April

    I have made this chocolate cake several times. It tastes great! My only problem is I end up with weird appendages on the cupcakes! Most of them all end up cooked with a little bubble attached to it. Is there something I'm doing wrong or is that normal and I should just cut them off?

  26. Lauren

    I know this may be a silly question but when I'm adding in my cream to the caramel the sugar seizes up on me and becomes very hard almost instantly. What am I doing wrong. I am using cold cream. Should I heat it first?

  27. Lori

    These cupcakes were excellent! Definitely adding this one to my recipe book! I left out the salt in the frosting but may try it next time!

  28. Rebecca

    How many cupcakes does this recipe make? I have been looking but do not see anywhere in here where it says. Thanks!

  29. Lori

    I just made these for a holiday party and they are delicious. The recipe made about 100 mini cakes, which I baked for 12-14 min in mini muffin tins with paper. I made the frosting using some caramel sauce I had. While the frosting made as written was too dry, I added some cream until it was light and fluffy. This recipe is a keeper. Next time I will make the frosting with peanut butter instead of caramel just to try something different!

  30. Jamie

    They are tasty. I had to add milk to the icing after the confectioners sugar. It mixed into little balls. I only used about 1 tbsp of milk. Yummy

  31. Molly

    This recipe is amazing! Love how moist, light, and fluffy these cupcakes turned out. I would really like to alter this recipe for a white cupcakes...what is your suggestion? I am making cupcakes for an upcoming bday party and want them to turn out as perfect as the "perfect chocolate cupcake" :-) Did a "test" batch using a white cake recipe I found on pinterest , but it turned out too.....cakey (lots and lots of butter.....too dense).

  32. Stephanie

    Can you store this frosting? If so how long?

  33. Michelle

    I am making chocolate cupcakes with your salted Carmel frosting for my son's 3rd birthday. I am wondering, in your opinion, should I use the chocolate cupcake recipe above or you "best ever" chocolate cake recipe that adds ingredients to a devil's food cake box? I wish I had time to make that many cupcakes to taste test, but my waistline couldn't handle that many cupcakes :)

  34. Franziska

    So I just finished the icing and it was like a dough! If you guys make this go to the original recipe for the icing. Whoever copied and pasted the recipe on this side forgot 1 stick of butter and instead of using 3 cups of powdered sugar it only calls for 2 cups. I´m kinda pissed my caramel looked beautiful and now I have to start over, because somebody can´t post things right!!

    1. dawn


      I agree completely! It either was tested or not proof-read before posting. Plus, the unneeded Dream Whip left it gritty. I hate wasting ingredients too!

  35. avie

    What is the alternative for dry whip cream? Thanks

  36. Farah

    Pardon my ignorance...never heard of Dream Whip before. But found the comments below. Will try this recipe today.

  37. Debbie

    I'm going to make this for a company function-with a certain number of cupcakes needed. How many does one batch make? They look so good!

  38. zakera

    What's dry whip n whr will I get?

  39. Amber

    Looks and sounds delicious but where is the caramel? Not drizzled on top or filled in the middle? This is more like salted buttercream instead of salted caramel buttercream as pretty much all buttercreams contain butter, cream, vanilla and sugar

    1. Megan

      it appears you make a caramel sauce, and then whip it into the frosting before piping :)

  40. Megan

    how many does this make? and how full do you recommend filling the cupcake liners? thanks!

  41. Crystal

    Can I use the fresh buttermilk from my earlier DIY homemade butter today?

  42. Jess

    How many cupcakes does this recipe yield?

  43. Andrea Hunter

    Hi, I'm considering using this recipe for a friend's birthday this week. I love the depth of flavor coffee adds to chocolate I was wondering if I could substitute coffee for the water and if you think it would turn out well. I would do a trial run but don't have the time or energy with my two year old running around. Thanks in advance!

  44. Susan

    These cupcakes look amazing!!! I was thinking about trying your recipe but making the cupcakes as a dark chocolate cupcake. Do you think the cupcakes will still come out *perfect* in density and texture if I use dark cocoa and hot coffee in place of the regular cocoa and hot water? Also, is the texture of this cupcake more cake-like or light and airy? Thanks!

  45. Cassy

    How many cupcakes does this recipe yield?

  46. bob the chef


    good recipe but NEEDS butter in stead of oil. Another twist for the icing though is keep the cup cake normal, add a marshmallow cream filling and a chocolate icing with gramcraker crumbles, and hot fudge drizzled on top. i call it the smore cup cake

  47. Dawn


    I wanted to make cupcakes to share this weekend and after following the recipe to the letter, I can't recommend them. The cupcake batter was thin and not very chocolate-y. Maybe the coffee (instead of water) that was suggested in the cited original recipe would have helped. Even though they baked up well, the cake is very sponge-like with an unpleasant texture. I hoped the frosting would save them but the Dream Whip (which I still don't understand why it was needed as the original recipe didn't call for it) left an underlying grit and the aftertaste that you get from artificial sweeteners. I bake often and find it hard to believe that these were taste-tested and not just altered from the "adapted" recipes.

  48. Sue Lepard

    Can you please make this printable?

  49. Queenie


    It’s rare I hit a failure but this was one. It’s 10.00pm and I have a party tomorrow. The frosting was dry and grainy. I am a seasoned baker and cook so I believe the measurements may be wrong. This is not a buttercream frosting. You may want to check the dry to ‘wet’ ingredients.

  50. Jaimee Mitchell

    Can we get this back while you do your testing. This is my go to chocolate cake base and this is my second child’s birthday this year that’s requesting it. My daughter refused to even try another chocolate cake recipe for her birthday.

    1. Chef in Training

      Yes, just put it on for you. Glad it has been turning out for you. A lot of people have been having issues with this recipe so I definitely want to go in and retest it. but the original should be back up for you.