There’s no better combination than chocolate and peanut butter. These vegan chocolate peanut butter cupcakes are the perfect way to showcase it! They’re like a peanut butter cup in cupcake form—delicious and salty sweet.

A chocolate peanut butter cupcake has been sliced neatly in half. It's resting on a small dessert plate.

It took me a while to perfect these cupcakes. They were so, so worth the time it took to get them just right.

What’s better than the combination of chocolate and peanut butter? Very few things, if you ask me. When I was a kid, Halloween meant one thing and one thing only: chocolate peanut butter cups. Mini or full sized, they were my favorite treat, the candy I longed for and was always hoping to accumulate in my trick-or-treating bag.

I haven’t lost my love of chocolate and peanut butter, but I have developed more of a taste for cake, less taste for candy. That love of cake, as well as cupcakes (mini cake!) are what inspired these chocolate peanut butter cupcakes.

The top of a few cupcakes, which have been piped with a light-colored buttercream frosting.

The perfect peanut butter frosting

It’s really the peanut butter frosting that makes these chocolate peanut butter cupcakes shine. Without it, they’re regular chocolate cupcakes—a wonderful thing, but no different from many birthday treats I’ve made over the years.

The peanut butter frosting is what creates all of the sweet and salty goodness that peanut butter cups are famous for. And it’s a fun, different alternative to regular buttercream.

This frosting went through maybe five rounds of testing. I had to find the right texture. This is a challenge when you’re working with peanut butter, which tends to be dense and heavy. But I got there (more on the best peanut butter for the job below).

The frosting also took a few rounds of piping practice. Luckily, the piping process itself was easy, thanks to a little baking guidance from the folks at Nielsen-Massey Vanillas and their fun, inspiring “Better Your Bake” campaign.

A piping hack for beginners

If you love to bake, then you know that the process isn’t only worthwhile for the finished treats. There’s a soothing quality to baking, a way of getting lost in stirring and pouring and measuring flour.

I know better than anyone, though, that there’s nothing less soothing than a cake that never rises, cookies that get scorched in the oven, or pie that ends up with the dreaded soggy bottom.

The idea behind “Better Your Bake” is that, in order to make baking the soothing activity it truly can be, we have to master certain basic techniques. This idea resonates strongly with my experience as a baker. Once I took the time to teach myself about the fundamentals of baking, I started to have better results and a lot more fun.

The “Better Your Bake” website features short, digestible, easy-to-follow videos on baking basics, including how to temper chocolate, how to roll cookie dough and how to fill a homemade pastry bag for piping at home. I really love to pipe with a specialized piping bag. But for new bakers who are just getting used to frosting and decorating, using a plastic bag can be a good starter technique. This video explains it perfectly.

A sideways photograph of vegan chocolate peanut butter cupcakes, which have been piped with a creamy frosting.

Chocolate peanut butter cupcake ingredients

Vanilla extract

Speaking of Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, this recipe benefits from two vanilla extracts! Each has different flavor notes. The Ugandan Pure Vanilla Extract is bold with notes of chocolate, so I used it in the cupcake batter. The Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract has a creamy-sweet flavor and is a perfect “all-purpose” baking option. I used that in the icing.

As counterintuitive as it might seem, vanilla actually accentuates and brings out the flavors of chocolate baked goods.

Nielsen-Massey Vanillas is a third-generation family business that has been crafting premium vanillas and flavors for more than a century. Their products are all-natural, allergen-free, Non-GMO Project Verified, and certified Kosher and Gluten-Free. I love how each vanilla origin has its own distinct flavor profile, and it was a treat to experience two of them in this recipe!

Unbleached, all-purpose flour

Always my go-to for baking! I use King Arthur’s unbleached, all-purpose. See below for a gluten-free option.

Cocoa powder

It has taken me years and years to understand which cocoa powder is best for baking. But the upshot is that Dutch process—or a blend that includes Dutch process—is appropriate for baked goods like this one, which are predominantly leavened with baking powder. (If you use only or predominantly baking soda, natural cocoa is better.)

I really like King Arthur’s triple cocoa blend, which has some Dutch process and some natural cocoa.

Cane sugar

My baking sweetener of choice. You can substitute coconut sugar if you prefer it.

Vegan butter

You can use your favorite vegan butter in the frosting. I like to use a less expensive brand when the butter is getting whipped up into frosting. Earth Balance is my go-to.

Peanut butter

It’s really important to use the right type of peanut butter in the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes’ frosting! A nice, smooth texture is essential. If you use peanut butter that’s overly grainy, the frosting won’t be luxurious and easy to pipe. I use this one, but any smooth variety that doesn’t separate easily will work.

Can the cupcakes be made gluten-free?

Most definitely! Just use your favorite gluten-free, all-purpose flour blend. I love this one.

Preparing and storing chocolate peanut butter cupcakes

It can be helpful to make the actual cupcakes ahead of time when preparing this recipe. That way, you’ll need only to whip up the frosting and decorate when you’re about ready to enjoy the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes. I usually prepare them over two days.

Once the cupcakes are ready, you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days. The cupcakes—frosting and all—can also be frozen for up to a week.

Three cupcakes with a dark base and a light, whipped frosting are positioned on a parchment paper surface.
A chocolate peanut butter cupcake has been sliced neatly in half. It's resting on a small dessert plate.
5 from 7 votes

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Cooling time 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Yields: 12 servings

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

For the creamy peanut butter frosting

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 350F. Lightly oil or line a muffin/cupcake baking sheet. To prepare the cake, whisk the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, vinegar, vanilla and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until batter is shiny and smooth (a few tiny lumps is OK).
  • Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until the cupcakes have firm tops and a toothpick inserted into one of them emerges clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer them to a wire cooling rack and allow them to cool entirely before decorating.
  • To prepare the frosting, place the butter and peanut butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the vanilla and sugar. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes, until you have a smooth mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl down with a spatula and swap the paddle attachment for the whisk attachment.*
  • Mix again on low speed, drizzling in the tablespoon of non-diary milk as you go. The icing should stay thick and spreadable but become creamy and loose enough to be able to pipe
    smoothly. If you need an extra drop or two of non-dairy milk, use your judgment and add it.**
  • Follow the “Better Your Bake” video instructions for preparing a piping bag and decorate your cupcakes. Alternately, use a piping bag to decorate as desired. Enjoy!

Notes

*If you don’t have a stand mixer, mix with a hand-held beater on low speed to incorporate all ingredients except for the non-dairy milk. Then add the milk and whisk by hand (using a regular whisk) to finish the icing.
A vegan chocolate peanut butter cupcake has been sliced neatly in half. A cross section of the muffin is visible, with muffins that are still in their liners in the background.

What can I say about these cupcakes? I’m always debating vanilla vs. chocolate for birthday cake, because I love both flavors. But this combination might really be the dream. I can imagine making this recipe for many birthdays to come.

Added bonus? If you love the recipe, you can also bake it as a 9″ round or square cake, and you can frost it with an icing spatula instead.

In the spirit of adoring baking and its capacity to elevate happiness, I’m wishing you a wonderful rest of the week. Happy piping!

xo

This post is generously sponsored by Nielsen-Massey Vanilla and their Better Your Bake campaign. All opinions are my own, and I love these flavor-forward vanillas. Thanks for your support!

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Categories: Baking, Cakes, Recipes, Vegan, Soy Free

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Recipe Rating




    7 Comments
  1. 5 stars
    Holy smokes! These were delicious (they are now gone). Made these for my daughter’s backyard birthday lunch. I was very worried about the frosting while I was making it. It seemed impossibly thick and dry, but I slowly added a little extra soymilk as I whisked and it magically became smooth and fluffy. The only change I made was that I used sunflower oil in the cupcakes because that’s what I had. So so yummy!

  2. My daughter and I made these last saturday and they were a hit. We only had vegetable oil, but came out fine. This recipe was enough for 6 jumbo muffin/cupcakes. They went fast and some leftover icing got eaten by the spoonful!
    Thanks Gena!