Chocolate zucchini cupcakes are a decadent dessert treat topped with an irresistible chocolate buttercream frosting. If you've got some extra garden zucchini, these moist chocolate cupcakes are calling your name!
Chocolate zucchini cupcakes are the perfect place to hide some of that extra garden zucchini. If you didn't make them yourself, you'd have no idea that vegetables were hidden inside!
These chocolate cupcakes turn out incredibly moist and tender with a rich, chocolatey flavor. The simple homemade chocolate buttercream can't be beat - it's easy to make and perfectly sweetened.
Whip up a batch of chocolate zucchini cupcakes today - they can be ready in about an hour. Serve them for your next birthday bash or as a sweet after-dinner treat.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Zucchini - You'll need 220 grams or 1.5 cups of finely grated zucchini. Do not drain or squeeze the liquid from your zucchini - the liquid adds moisture to your cupcakes. For this recipe, you'll need about 1 to 1.5 medium or 2 small zucchini.
- Granulated sugar - Adds sweetness and moisture to the cupcakes.
- Vegetable oil - Adds moisture to the cupcakes.
- Eggs - Add moisture and structure.
- Vanilla extract - Adds depth of flavor to the cupcakes.
- All-purpose flour - Adds structure and balances with the wet ingredients in the recipe. I have not tested this recipe with other types of flours, so I don't suggest making any substitutions. Baking is an exact science, and altering main ingredients can change the density and texture of your cupcakes. Instead, search for a recipe that includes the flour you'd like to use.
- Cocoa powder - I've written this recipe to use natural cocoa powder. Natural cocoa powder is more acidic than Dutch cocoa powder. When paired with the listed leavening agents, you'll get the proper rise.
- Leavening agents - This recipe uses both baking soda and baking powder. They cannot be substituted for one another - you'll need both for the proper lift.
I've included a recipe for a simple, sweet chocolate buttercream frosting in the recipe card below. This recipe makes enough to pipe tall frosting onto each cupcake, as shown in the photos. If you'd like a thin layer of frosting spread with a knife, cut the recipe in half. You can also use your favorite frosting recipe instead.
For a less sweet topping: I recommend a cooked ermine frosting or a dollop of whipped cream.
Tips and tricks
Use room temperature ingredients - Eggs should be room temperature to incorporate seamlessly into the batter. To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, place eggs (in the shell) in a bowl and cover with warm tap water. After 10 minutes, your eggs will be ready.
Properly measure your flour - The biggest issue I see in baking is the improper measuring of flour. Scooping flour directly from a bin into a measuring cup compacts the flour, adding up to 25% extra flour to the recipe. This causes baked goods to turn out dry and bland. I highly recommend using a kitchen scale along with the gram measurements in the recipe card. If you don't have a kitchen scale, use the spoon and level method. Gently stir your flour, then spoon into a measuring cup until heaping. Level off the top with a knife.
Don't overmix the batter - There's no need to use a hand mixer or stand mixer for this recipe. The batter comes together with a bowl and a spoon. Overmixing can overwork the gluten, causing cupcakes to turn out tough and/or not rise properly.
Allow cupcakes to cool completely - Do not unwrap warm cupcakes. They'll stick to the liners and crumble apart until they're cooled throughout.
Don't frost warm cupcakes - Buttercream frosting will melt around 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. To prevent melted frosting, allow your cupcakes to cool completely.
Frequently asked questions
No. For this recipe, you should not squeeze the liquid from your zucchini. We're using that liquid to add moisture and thin the batter to achieve the proper rise in the oven.
No, there's no need to peel your zucchini. The skin and flesh melt seamlessly into the cupcakes as they bake. The dark color of chocolate cupcakes also helps hide the tiny green flecks.
No, zucchini has a mild flavor that makes it ideal for baking. Cucumber has a fresh "melon" flavor that's much more pronounced and not ideal for hiding in baked goods. For more information: Zucchini vs Cucumber - What's the Difference?
I recommend shredding zucchini using the small or "fine" side of a box grater. The smaller pieces melt right into the cupcakes as they bake. A larger grate also works but adds a more noticeable texture. Here's the box grater I use: Amazon: OXO Good Grips Box Grater
This recipe makes about 15 standard size cupcakes. Any standard size cupcake/muffin pan will work for this recipe. Jumbo or mini cupcakes will need the baking time adjusted. Here's the cupcake pan I use: Wilton Non-Stick Muffin Pan, 24-Cup
Zucchini cupcakes will keep at room temperature for 3 to 4 days in a tightly sealed container, or up to 3 months in the freezer. To thaw, place on the counter top for 1 to 2 hours.
Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes
- 1.5 cups (220 g) finely grated zucchini, do not drain liquid out
- 1 cup (198 g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (100 g) vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cups (150 g) all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (40 g) natural cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
Chocolate buttercream frosting
- 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 cups (342 g) confectioner's sugar
- ½ cup (40 g) natural cocoa powder
- ⅓ cup (76 g) heavy cream, cold
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners and set aside.
- In a large bowl, add finely grated zucchini (including any excess liquid), granulated sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Stir until evenly combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and stir until just combined.
- Divide batter between 15 cupcake tins, filling to about ⅔ full. Bake for about 16 to 19 minutes, OR until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with crumbs (baking times will vary based on your oven and type of pan used).
- Transfer cupcakes to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add butter. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat until fluffy, about a minute.
- Add confectioner's sugar and cocoa powder, half at a time, and slowly mix until ingredients are incorporated. Then, whip at high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
- Add heavy cream, salt, and vanilla extract and whip an addition 1 to 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
- Pipe or spread frosting with a knife onto cupcakes and serve.
- Leftover zucchini cupcakes will keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. If your cupcakes are very moist/wet, I recommend refrigerating.
- Cupcakes can be frozen for up to 6 months. Freeze, then gently wrap with plastic wrap and store in a freezer safe bag or container. To thaw, unwrap and place on the counter top for 1-2 hours.
- For a less sweet frosting option, try ermine frosting or a dollop of whipped cream.