Rich and decadent vegan chocolate cupcakes, that you would never believe are plant based! This easy recipe comes together in one bowl and each moist and flavorful cupcake is topped with swirls of light and fluffy chocolate peanut butter frosting.
Peanut butter desserts have always been a sure way to my husband’s heart.
And Henry also inherited those peanut butter loving genes, so for Valentine’s Day, I’m baking up these chocolate peanut butter cupcakes for my two main guys.
They’re incredibly moist and tender, packed with deep, dark, chocolate flavor, and topped with swirls of lusciously fluffy chocolate peanut butter frosting.
Why you’ll love these peanut butter chocolate cupcakes:
These cupcakes are adapted from my favorite basic chocolate cake, which is in the vein of a “depression” cake, traditionally made without eggs, milk, or butter, which were pricey or hard to source at the time.
As a result, these intensely decadent cupcakes also happen to be vegan (which I love because of our little guy’s egg allergy). But I promise that you’d never, ever guess it. We’re not sacrificing anything in the flavor or texture department, quite the opposite. These plant based babes are just as rich and indulgent as their traditional counterparts.
And unlike many vegan baking recipes, there’s no egg replacement needed – no flax, or chia, or specialty powders. We simply rely on a splash of apple cider vinegar to react with baking soda and the acidity of the other ingredients for our leavening. Just like the classic grade school volcano science project!
Here are the simple ingredients that you’ll need:
- All-purpose flour
- Cocoa powder
- Cane sugar
- Brown sugar
- Baking soda
- Kosher salt
- Olive oil
- Water or coffee
- Vanilla extract
- Apple cider vinegar
Another reason to love these easy chocolate cupcakes? The batter doesn’t require a mixer, and comes together in minutes in one big mixing bowl. You’ll have to wash even less dishes if you use a kitchen scale.
I do like to use my stand mixer for the frosting, which makes for light and fluffy swirls (with a lot less elbow grease), but overall, these cupcakes are super easy to make, and delicious to boot.
How to make vegan chocolate cupcakes:
We start with the dry ingredients, whisking together all-purpose flour, Dutch-processed cocoa powder, baking soda, cane sugar, light brown sugar, and salt, until combined. The olive oil, water (or coffee), and vanilla follow, before finally, the apple cider vinegar is whisked in as well.
The vinegar reacts with the baking soda and other acidic ingredients, frothing and lightening in color as it’s mixed in. This helps to provide a boost in leavening power that traditionally eggs might supply.
Once smooth and completely combined, we divide the batter between 16 muffin cups, each about 2/3 full. It will be thin, but don’t worry, the oven will work its magic. The cupcakes will rise beautifully, emerging with gently domed tops (perfect for piling high with frosting), a moist and tender crumb, and incredibly intense chocolate flavor.
And for the frosting…
While the cupcakes are cooling, it’s time to whip up the peanut butter chocolate buttercream. Now, this is when it is helpful to bust out a stand mixer. It also pays off to be patient, beating the buttercream until it’s not just combined, but light and fluffy, thanks to aeration. To ensure the best texture, this will take several minutes on medium-high speed.
For supreme chocolate flavor, we’re using both melted dark chocolate and cocoa powder. That combines with room-temperature butter, creamy peanut butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and a splash of milk. The result: a dreamy, flavorful frosting that’s a match made in heaven for our dark chocolate cupcakes.
And, in the spirit of Valentine’s day, I popped some sweet chocolate peanut butter hearts on top. You can also decorate with chocolate sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, or miniature peanut butter cups (I love the dark chocolate ones from Trader Joe’s).
Rich and decadent vegan chocolate cupcakes, that you would never believe are plant based! This easy recipe comes together in one bowl (no mixer required!) and each moist and flavorful cupcake is topped with swirls of light and fluffy chocolate peanut butter frosting.
for the chocolate cupcakes:
1–1/2 cups (180g) all-purpose flour¹
2/3 cup (64g) unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder
1–1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup (144g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (106g) (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (120g) olive oil
1–1/3 cups (315g) water or coffee, at room-temperature
2 tsp (10g) pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp (14g) apple cider vinegar
for the vegan peanut butter chocolate buttercream:
2 oz (55g) bittersweet chocolate (60-80% cacao),² chopped
2 cups (240g) confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted as needed
1/4 cup (24g) unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 cup (113g) vegan butter,³ softened
1/4 cup (66g) creamy peanut butter
1 tsp (5g) pure vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt, to taste
1 Tbsp non-dairy milk³, as needed
optional: chocolate peanut butter hearts, mini peanut butter cups, sprinkles or nonpareils, for decorating
for the chocolate cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 ℉. Line two muffin tins with 16 paper liners.⁵ Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and sugars, until combined. Add the olive oil, water, and vanilla, and whisk until well combined. Drizzle the vinegar over the top. It should react, light and frothy, as you stir it into the batter, until just combined.
Use a cookie scoop to divide the batter between your prepared pans. It will be fairly thin. Bake each muffin pan individually for 21-23 minutes, until the cupcake tops are barely puffed, and a cake tester inserted into the center of each comes out mostly clean.
Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then carefully transfer to a baking rack to cool completely before frosting.
for the peanut butter chocolate buttercream: Melt the chopped chocolate in the microwave or using a double-boiler. Set aside to cool.
In a stand-up mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, softened butter, and peanut butter on low speed until the sugar is incorporated. Then turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Turn the mixer off, drizzle in the melted chocolate, vanilla, and salt, and beat again on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the milk as needed until the frosting reaches your desired consistency. It should be fluffy and spreadable, but hold its shape on the cupcakes.
When the cupcakes have cooled completely, use a piping bag to decorate the cupcakes with swirls of frosting. Top each with a mini peanut butter cup and sprinkles. Enjoy!!
¹ I’m in the process of testing this cake with a cup-for-cup gluten free all-purpose flour blend. Will report back with my results!
² Most of the flavor of the buttercream comes from the chocolate, so use your best! The confectioners sugar in the frosting will balance out most of the bitterness in the chocolate, so a very dark, bittersweet chocolate works well.
³ I used Earth Balance (soy free) vegan butter to keep the frosting vegan to match the cake. However, you can use regular unsalted butter and cow’s milk or cream for a traditional buttercream as well.
⁴ Unfrosted, the cupcakes will stay moist for 2-3 days if tightly covered.
Keywords: vegan chocolate cupcakes, peanut butter chocolate frosting, easy, one bowl, vegan baking, egg free