I made this striking black velvet cake last Halloween and it has since become one of my most popular recipes (and a personal favorite of mine as well)! I love it for so many reasons. The cake layers are naturally pitch black, super moist, and have the flavor profile of an Oreo cookie. And since I recently discovered a way to make black buttercream without food color gel, the entire cake is 100% dye-free! So this year I knew I had to whip up a cupcake version in time for your Halloween party planning.
One of the most wonderful things about these black velvet cupcakes is that they will NOT stain your mouth black or kick off any startling bathroom experiences (iykyk). The beautifully dark color of the cupcakes and buttercream comes from black cocoa powder, which doesn’t contain any dye. I was so thrilled when I realized I could make the entire recipe dye-free that I ate far too many of these cupcakes and kept checking my mouth in the mirror in amazement!
What is Black Cocoa Powder?
Black cocoa powder is an ultra-Dutched cocoa powder, meaning it’s been treated with an alkaline solution to reduce its acidity. It’s very dark in color and while it isn’t as chocolatey as regular cocoa powder, it does have amazing flavor. It’s the main ingredient in Oreo cookie shells, and that’s basically what the cake layers end up tasting like. The best part about black cocoa powder is it gives the cake layers a rich black color without having to add any additional food coloring! That means it won’t turn your mouth crazy colors.
Where to Find Black Cocoa Powder
You probably won’t be able to buy black cocoa powder at your local grocery store, but you might have some luck at a dedicated cake decorating supply shop. There aren’t many of those around me, so I get my black cocoa powder on Amazon. This brand is the darkest black cocoa powder I’ve found, and it makes a huge difference in the final results of the buttercream specifically. Other black cocoa powders aren’t as Dutched, but any brand will work in this recipe (see the recipe notes for more info on that).
If you don’t want to get black cocoa powder online, you can substitute it with an equal amount of Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder, which can be found at most grocery stores. It’ll make the cake batter and buttercream dark brown, so if you’re going for black colored cupcakes you’ll need to add some black food color gel to take it all the way.
How to Decorate Black Velvet Cupcakes
You can decorate these black velvet cupcakes any way you want, but I went for a super simple yet elegant theme here. I used Wilton Tip 1M to pipe the black buttercream in a swirl and then sprinkled some metallic gold stars on top.
Other design ideas: topping them with galaxy buttercream for a space-themed party, filling them with vanilla buttercream to go all the way with the Oreo cookie flavor, or keeping it creepy with some edible spiderwebs. However you decorate, these cupcakes will be a true crowd pleaser!
Black Velvet Cupcakes
Black Velvet Cupcakes
- 1 Cup (132g) all purpose flour
- 3/4 Cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1/3 Cup (38g) black cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 Cup (60ml) vegetable oil
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 Cup (120ml) full-fat buttermilk*, room temperature DIY recipe in notes
- 1/2 Cup (120ml) hot coffee or hot water
Dye-Free Black Buttercream
- 1 Cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 1/2 Cups (300g) powdered sugar
- 1/2 Cup (56g) black cocoa powder**
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp whole milk, room temperature
- pinch of salt
Make the Black Velvet Cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF/177ºC and line a cupcake pan with 12-15 liners.
- Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir on low for 30 seconds to fully combine them. Add the vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk and mix on low until just combined. With the mixer still on low, add the hot water in a slow stream, then turn the mixer to medium and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. The batter will be very thin.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake liners (no more than ⅔ full) and bake for 15-18 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted comes out with just a few moist crumbs on it. Cool completely before frosting.
Make the Black Buttercream
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, whip the butter on medium speed until creamy and light in color, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and paddle, then add half of the powdered sugar. Mix on low speed until just incorporated, then add the rest of the powdered sugar. With the mixer still in the off position, sift in the black cocoa powder and add the vanilla, milk, and salt. Mix on low until all ingredients are thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle as needed.
- The buttercream will look dark brown at this point, but the color will darken significantly over the next several hours. See the recipe notes for storage instructions if you're not planning on piping the cupcakes the same day.
- The black velvet cupcakes can be made ahead and stored at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap, for up to two days. Alternatively, they can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to two months.
- The black buttercream recipe can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. It will get significantly darker after 24 hours. When you’re ready to use it, bring it back to room temperature and re-mix with your stand mixer on low speed to bring it back to frosting consistency.
These black velvet cupcakes are sure to be a hit at your next gathering! I hope you love them as much as I do. Let me know what you think in the comments below and feel free to tag @sugarandsparrowco on Instagram if you post a pic! I love to see what you create.