Emma's Favorite Cupcakes (dairy- and gluten-free optional)
Yield: I always make 22 cupcakes, but you can stretch to 24 if preferred

Frosting yield: ~2 cups (enough to frost 24-30 cupcakes or a two layer cake)
We consider these to be cupcake perfection, whether following the standard recipe or using the dairy- and gluten-free adjustments. The chocolate frosting is silky smooth and so easy (and you'll likely want to use it on other cakes), but you may absolutely use your flavor of choice!

For the cupcakes

  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups (224g) all-purpose flour or a cup-for-cup gluten-free flour (like Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 3/4 cup (60g) Hershey’s cocoa (I use regular, not Dutch)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (240ml) milk of choice*
  • 1/2 cup (112g) neutral oil (I use safflower; canola or vegetable work well, too)
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla
  • 1 cup (227g) boiling water

For the classic chocolate frosting

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) melted butter (I recommend Earth’s Balance for dairy-free frosting**)
  • 2/3 cup (54g) cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (360 grams) confectioner’s sugar
  • 4-6 tablespoons milk of choice*


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line cupcake tins for 24 cupcakes. (For not a speck of sticking, I like parchment liners, which are becoming more widely available.)
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat with a hand or stand mixer until completely mixed, 30 seconds to one minute. Stir in the boiling water. The batter will be thin.
  3. Evenly divide among the 24 lined cups; they should be about 2/3 full. (I’ve made as few as 22, which is the point where they just start to creep over the edge when baked. For slightly smaller cupcakes you could increase the yield to 30 and check the oven a minute early.)
  4. Bake for 18-20 minutes, give or take a few depending on oven, or until the center is just cooked through. (If you want to be really precise, the internal temperature should be between 200 and 205 degrees F; 18 minutes is perfect in my oven.) Also keep in mind that dark-coated baking pans tend to cook a bit faster than light-colored pans. The trick to cupcake perfection is to remove them from the oven when they are just cooked through, so check on the early side to avoid overcooking.
  5. Cool the cupcakes for about 10 minutes in the pan, and then remove to a baking rack and cool completely. Frost as desired.
  6. I store the cupcakes in an airtight container or under a glass cake dome at room temperature. I think they actually taste better on day 2 and they taste fabulous for up to 4 days. (They’ve never lasted longer than that!)

For the chocolate frosting

  1. In a mixing bowl (a quart-size Pyrex measuring cup also works well with many hand beaters and the butter or Earth’s Balance can be melted in it first), stir the cocoa powder into the melted butter. Stir in the vanilla, and then add half the sugar and half the milk.

    Stir to partially incorporate (I stir with the turned-off beaters – this prevents a powdered sugar dust cloud), and then beat on medium speed, adding the remaining sugar and enough milk to achieve a smooth, creamy consistency. If necessary, add more milk by the scant-teaspoon – a little goes a long way. Frost the cooled cupcakes and enjoy!


*I usually reach for 2% milk for the cake recipe (although nonfat and whole may be used), but for Emma’s dairy-free cupcakes we used unsweetened vanilla almond milk with excellent results. I feel fairly certain that soymilk, coconut milk (the carton kind, not canned), cashew milk or one of the blends (like Silk’s almond-coconut milk) would work well, too. I’d choose an unsweetened variety (although sweetened wouldn’t be a deal breaker), vanilla or plain as preferred.

**When using Earth’s Balance instead of butter, I find the frosting to be slightly looser at first. If necessary, refrigerate it to firm it to desired frosting consistency, about 30 minutes or so.

Advance prep tip: Frosting may be prepared up to several days in advance, covered with a piece of plastic wrap pressed onto the surface and refrigerated. Before spreading, bring the frosting to room temperature and give it a good stir.

Make as a cake: The batter can be poured into 2 (9-inch) greased cake pans and baked at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until just cooked through the center. Cool the cake in the pans for 10-15 minutes and then remove to baking racks and cool completely before frosting.

The batter would work with a 9×13 pan as well; baking time would be somewhat longer.

More recipes at FountainAvenueKitchen.com