I have adapted this cupcake recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks (Baking Day), and we all love them. There is no comparison with a boxed mix. The thick batter may worry you at first, but it will come out fine in the oven.
Another thing I like about this recipe is the small quantity: twelve. Often I halve it to get six cupcakes.
8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup flour
1/4 cup milk or buttermilk, if needed
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream together butter, oil, and sugar. Add egg and beat well. Add remaining ingredients except milk. If batter is very thick, add milk or buttermilk. Batter will still be thick.
Use two spoons to dollop batter into 12 lined or greased muffin cups (about 3/4 full). Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
6 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk, if needed
Mix butter and cocoa powder, then add powdered sugar. Add up to 1 tablespoon milk, if needed, or more powdered sugar, to achieve the right consistency.
Makes enough to give a dozen cupcakes a respectable smearing, but not enough to pipe it sky-high.