Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

by Alice Currah on April 18, 2011. Updated February 27, 2014

Last year I posted my recipe for Classic Vanilla Buttercream.  It’s the recipe I use for decorating cupcakes and birthday cakes, especially if I know kids will be the ones eating it.  For wedding cakes I like to use a more silkier type frosting that I’ll share with you in the near future. But for everyday cake frosting, the vanilla buttercream is what I use.  From that post, I received many comments and emails requesting a chocolate buttercream frosting which could also be used to frost cakes and for piping decorations.

I often referred readers to my most favorite chocolate frosting I use for glazing, frosting, filling, and piping.  As you can see from the picture above, chocolate ganache is very versatile and best of all it is made with heavy cream and chocolate.  But this frosting is also heavy and very decadent, unless you whip it.  Some people would write me and tell me they didn’t want ganache but wanted  a more true buttercream.  So by popular request I made a batch of American chocolate buttercream over the weekend to share with you.  It is great for frosting cupcakes and cakes.  It can also be used for frosting brownies or cookies.  Like its name suggests, it is more buttery, creamy, and slightly sweeter than ganache. And like ganache, it pipes decorative borders very nicely.

You will need to make sure your butter is soft enough to cream.  Do not be tempted to softened it in the microwave unless you know how NOT to melt the butter.  Melted butter will not work for this frosting.  But if you do use your microwave, I like to place cold sticks in the microwave for 8 seconds.  If it’s still too firm, I will microwave it for 2 more seconds.

Next, you’ll want to cream the butter and then then add sifted sugar and cocoa.

This is my daughter Mimi.  She likes to help me in the kitchen whenever chocolate is involved.  I’ve taught both of my daughters about the baker’s reward philosophy.  If you help me in the kitchen, you also get to lick the spoons.  Oddly enough, they  never seem to want to help me when I’m cooking vegetables. Those stinkers.

Be sure to start your mixer on slow speed after adding the dry ingredients.  Otherwise you will have cocoa and sugar fly everywhere landing on everything within a couple feet of you.  Your frosting will look strange like clumps of clay.  Don’t worry.  Once we add some cream it will transform into beautiful chocolate buttercream.

When deciding on whether or not to use milk or cream, I prefer cream.  It just makes the frosting… well.. more creamier.  Half and half works too.  But if you do use milk, it is better to use whole milk for the added fat content.  I also prefer to use almond extract when making frosting.  It enhances the flavor so nicely and a little bit goes a long way.  But if you only have vanilla, use it!

As you can see by these photos, this frosting pipes really nicely.  The frosting can be refrigerated to use later.  Just make sure it’s in a lidded container.  Allow the frosting to warm up to room temperature on the counter before using.  Happy cake decorating!

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3 cups
 
A simple recipe for classic chocolate buttercream frosting. Perfect for frosting cakes, cookies, brownies, or cupcakes.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or ½ pound), softened (but not melted!)
  • 3½ cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Cream butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Turn off the mixer. Sift 3 cups powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. Turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time.

Here’s a great short video tutorial I did for PBS on how to pipe these beautiful frosting flowers using vanilla buttercream on cupcakes, but you could easily do this with the chocolate one from this page. If you enjoy the video, please like it so I’ll be able to do more!

And here’s another short PBS video tutorial I did on how to make Cookie Monster Cupcakes.

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{ 486 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristin Patterson February 5, 2012 at 6:06 pm

I made this today.. my very first frosting from scratch!! OMG Its to DIE for… I topped some spiked vanilla cupcakes I made where I substituted most of the water for “fluffed marshmallow” vodka. EXCELLENT combination…

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Sandra April 5, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Kristin – Please share your ‘fluffed marshmallow’ vodka cupcake recipe !!!! I am drooling …

Thanks
Sandra

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Megan February 8, 2012 at 3:58 pm

This is the most amazing chocolate buttercream frosting i have ever tasted! I used the almond extract instead of the vanilla and it really gives it a good kick. Thanks for sharing this recipe. :-)

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melissa February 9, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Made this today it had great consistency and I was able to frost cupcakes with a bag/tip and it held up however….it is not the sweetest frosting. So, if you are looking for something sweet don’t use cocoa use semi sweet chips. It just wasn’t sweet enough for the kids–it had more of an “adult” appeal.

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Jennifer February 19, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Melissa,
Did you melt the chocolate chips or use a food processor? Also, if you did melt them, did it effect the consistency of the frosting?

Thank you!
Jennifer

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Tina @ MOMS CRAZY COOKING February 16, 2012 at 11:07 am

I made this frosting with the ALMOND, oh my! Best Chocolate frosting ever! I recently made this for a Chocolate Cake Challenge on my blog. Here is the post:

http://momscrazycooking.blogspot.com/2012/02/whopper-chocolate-cake-crazy-cooking.html

And NOW I am happy to report… that the cake I made (with your frosting) was the WINNER of the Challenge! You can read about that here.

http://momscrazycooking.blogspot.com/2012/02/ultimate-crazy-cooking-challenge-recipe.html

Thanks so much for the awesome inspiration and the awesome frosting you created and posted! :-)

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Nica February 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm

can you ONLY use confectioner’s sugar?

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ScottieOwner April 8, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Yes, only confectioner’s sugar, aka 10X sugar.

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joy126 February 21, 2012 at 1:47 am

this was delicious! i love the chocolate flavor. the sugar isn’t too sweet either. i don’t usually like butter cream but this was good! my question is… how do you make the frosting less runny? when i made mine, it was really runny and creamy…almost like a whipped consistency. i used heavy cream. what am i doing wrong? is it possible that my mixer is too fast? am i mixing the frosting too long?

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ScottieOwner April 8, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Use less cream or milk. Combine all ingredients except cream and then VERY SLOWLY add the cream a bit at a time with electric mixer.

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Audrey February 23, 2012 at 3:51 pm

I made this today for cupcakes, I cut the recipe in half because I only had one stick of butter. I used salted butter and didn’t even have any vanilla and it still came out just perfect and delicious.

I am sure following the recipe would make it absolutely incredible!

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applemini February 25, 2012 at 4:22 am

wonderful! I made this cream and I love it! thank you very much.

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mint February 28, 2012 at 3:39 am

How much confectioners sugar to use?
Ingredients says its 3 1/2 cups
Instructions says its 3 cups

Thank you.

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alice February 29, 2012 at 4:57 am

Hi Mint,
Start with 3 cups and add more if necessary.

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Maureen Gutman March 7, 2012 at 2:48 am

I love this frosting!! Not too sweet and always a hit. Have had more requests for this recipee than any other,Your classic butter cream is wonderful too. Congratulations on the cook book, cant wait!!

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Rifraq March 10, 2012 at 3:27 am

tried out this recipe and i tell you..nothing can beat the classic flavour. thanks!=)

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Jennie March 15, 2012 at 11:50 am

Can you make this with a hand held mixer?

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RejoicedOver March 23, 2012 at 5:22 pm

I don’t know the answer to your question — but I made mine with my food processor, since I don’t have a mixer or hand mixer. It worked well

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ScottieOwner April 8, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Absolutely you can use an electric handheld mixer.

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Julia May 17, 2012 at 2:01 am

I made the vanilla buttercream frosting the other day with a hand mixer and it worked just fine. Just use a deep bowl if you are able to, otherwise watch out for flying sugar.

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angela March 17, 2012 at 5:25 am

I am decorating my daughters Dora cake and needed chocolate butter cream. I really like the classic and have used that one alot and just made this and just wonderful! I like that its not too sweet and I added the almond extract out of curiosity and a wonderful flavor!

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Celeste March 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm

This was my first attempt at buttercream and it’s dee-licious! :) How long can you keep it at room temp or should it be refrigerated?

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Melissa M March 21, 2012 at 9:46 am

A simple and delicious frosting! For anyone that dares to say this is “not sweet enough”, they have been eating too many store bought treats! This is so similar to the bakery that charges $50 for a 1/4 sheet cake here. Smooth and chocolately, quick and easy! A perfect combo! This is my new go-to recipe.

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RejoicedOver March 23, 2012 at 5:21 pm

I made this today, but subbed 1/2 C Peanut butter for half of the butter, so I had chocolate peanut butter buttercream frosting. It was SO GOOD! Thanks for sharing — I’m a newbie at making frosting and this was very easy!

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alex March 26, 2012 at 6:40 pm

this was really damn good.

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Manda March 26, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Thank you for sharing this recipe!! I’ve been searching for a good chocolate buttercream and I will look no further. This is everything I’ve been wanting! Simply wonderful.

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Leora April 2, 2012 at 12:13 pm

I just made this recipe and mine is a bit liquid but too sweet to add more sweetner to it! I put in the freezer, since I read on another recipe this helps thicken it up! Also I added a little bit of ground coffee for a little different flavor! So far it tastes good but I’m hoping it thickens up!!

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ScottieOwner April 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Add ore powdered sugar to firm it up

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yoyi April 4, 2012 at 8:42 pm

I’m planing to make this for Easter, if it’s too liquidy should I keep it in the fridge? One of the comments they mentioned to put in the freezer to thicken it up. I don’t usually put frosting but I wan to make it special for my son. I love your website…thank you for sharing!

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ScottieOwner April 8, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Add more confectioner’s sugar to stiffen the frosting up.

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Tami April 6, 2012 at 5:57 am

Absolutely phenomenal. I used whipping cream, because it’s what I have here. Perfect, love the almond extract with it. So so good! Thank you :-)

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Elisa April 7, 2012 at 9:41 am

I would love to try this recipe but I live in Kenya and at the moment we have a shortage of butter…Can I use margarine instead? Tomorrow is my husband birthday and he just loves frosting….

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ScottieOwner April 8, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Yes you can! I can’t say it really changes the texture from what I have experienced.

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Alli April 7, 2012 at 10:38 am

I have always made my own buttercream but have made it with …GASP…shortening in the recipe. I am now a true convert and can’t imagine why I ever even used it! The vanilla and chocolate buttercream recipes are ridiculously easy and absolutely delicious. Thank you, Alice, for sharing these with us! If you listen carefully, you can hear my arteries applauding you… :)

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Jennifer April 10, 2012 at 10:22 am

I made this frosting just the way the recipe is written here and it is decadent and a big hit with all. But, I can never leave well enough alone. So, I wanted to make it just a little bit fluffier. I also like a contrast of sweet and salty and rather than add salt to unsalted butter (as in the recipe), I just used salted butter. So, the final recipe looked like this:

Ingredients
1 cup salted butter, softened
4 cups (powdered) sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons Marshmallow cream

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Vani Parker April 12, 2012 at 8:00 pm

I needed a Chocolate Buttercream frosting recipe in a pinch and happened to stumble on this one. It’s the Best eggless recipe I have ever tasted. Thanks for posting it. I’m allergic to eggs so this recipe saved me from trying to make one of my own (Iusually fail miserably). This recipe is a Keeper! Thank you So Much, Alice!

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tara April 13, 2012 at 10:19 am

the recipe doesn’t state if it’s sweetened or unsweetened cocoa? I’m just curious

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RitaB April 13, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Tara,
I’d assume it would be baking cocoa, which is typically unsweetened…

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Ellen April 14, 2012 at 7:36 am

I just made this icing (as we call it in Australia) for my mother-in-law’s birthday cake – it is absolutely delish!! Our quantities are different here, but I figured the ratios would still work out – and they do. You had me at almond essence! YUM! Thanks so much for sharing. :)

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Mark April 14, 2012 at 8:00 am

Hi, We would love to try this recipe but could you please answer a question for us first please? How many grams are in a cup as we do not use the measure of a cup in the UK? Many thanks

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Beverley M May 23, 2012 at 12:10 am

You can’t really ask how many grams are in a cup generically since every ingredient will have a different weight. You’re probably best to just eyeball it. 500 grams of butter, then add perhaps 3 to 4 times as much icing sugar by volume (not by weight!) Taste & adjust as necessary. Keep track of how much icing sugar you’ve added and report back ;)

But for what it’s worth, I have an unopened 1 kg bag of icing sugar, and it looks to me like it will be close to 4 cups.

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erica April 15, 2012 at 9:44 pm

great recipe! Thank you. i put this on my yellow cake with great results. Perfect consistency, tasted fantastic. I am generally not a fan of chocolate frosting, but this is fantastic stuff.

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Colleen April 16, 2012 at 9:16 pm

THE BEST BUTTERCREAM FROSTING IN THE WORLD!! I can’t even imagine someone making ‘butter’cream without butter. I don’t know how long it took you to master this recipe, but it was time well spent. Made this because it was the frosting recommended by MyBakingAddiction’s Best Chocolate Cake recipe. The cake recipe and this frosting really does make it the best EVER!!!

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C April 17, 2012 at 11:06 pm

The texture is light and fluffy (I used heavy cream), the one teaspoon of almond extract is delicious, but the color is this light, strange colored brown. I used King Arthur’s Double Dutch Dark Cocoa and thought it would be this rich, dark color — but it is far from dark. Any suggestions?

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Shar April 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm

FINALLY!!!!! I am making my son’s bday cupcakes tomorrow and I made this frosting!! This is the BEST buttercream recipe I have ever tried!!!! HANDS DOWN!! Next weekend, I have to do the same for my daughters bday, so I hope the vanilla is just as good! Thanks soooo much for sharing your recipe. Do you have a GREAT recipe for Whipped Cream frosting? Thanks again!

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Kathy C April 22, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Just made your frosting and I have to say, it is wonderful!! It will be my new go-to recipe ~ Thank you for sharing!

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AA'sMomm April 22, 2012 at 4:47 pm

To clarify for those who are wanting to ‘ice’ or decorate a cake, this is not the frosting for you. In my experience it is good ‘frosting’ consistancy but regardless of the additional sugar added, unless you want to double the sugar and make it too sweet to eat, you will not have a pipeable consistancy. Taste is good and consistancy it good for frosting otherwise.

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alice April 22, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Hi AA’sMomm – I use this frosting all the time to ice, decorate, and pipe frosting. I’m curious why you do not feel this frosting can handle this?

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Debra April 24, 2012 at 5:07 pm

I’ve made this twice and it’s a hit for sure, but can you tell me why when I frost the cake it looks as if air bubbles have popped and leaves craters (although tiny) for lack of a better adjective? I followed the recipe to a T. I’m baffled.

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Kendra April 27, 2012 at 10:15 am

Oh…my…goodness! I just finished icing my husband’s birthday cake with this unbelievable recipe! The icing is so light, fluffy and with the right about of chocolate taste; just delicious. I will NEVER use my Betty Crocker buttercream frosting recipe again, thank you!

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Caitlin May 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm

This is a fantastic recipe. We have a joke in my family about no one being able to make a frosting that doesn’t turn into a glaze. Well, I showed them!!! This was a definite hit!

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Ariane May 9, 2012 at 7:25 am

I didn’t see ANY need for all the adjustments. It was PLENTY sweet and tasty. Very good consistency. Will use again.

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Annette May 9, 2012 at 6:44 pm

This is the exact recipe I use anytime I want a choc based frosting…(for everything else I omit the cocoa for my standard buttercream and use half butter extract and half almond) I pipe with this, decorate, and frost…it is the go to formula. Once in awhile I will use half cream cheese and half butter…….that is to die for as well. Next week I am making 200 cupcakes for my God Daughters wedding, Half will be choc cupcakes, filled with nutella, frosted with a large swirl of this frosting and topped with a hunk of home made hazelnut bark …the others will be lemon cupcake with creamcheese and raspberry filling, topped with standard buttercream and a fresh raspberry…….
NO need for that yucky canned frosting anymore people, with recipes like this it is quick and easy, economical, AND you can freeze your left overs and always have it on hand!

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StarvingBitch May 13, 2012 at 9:47 am

I made this today to top my mother’s day cupcakes, I used 1 stick of butter and 1/2 cup of shortening rather than 2 sticks of butter. This is sooooooo tasty. I of course used dutch cocoa as well which made it so decadent and rich.

I had a hard time with a chocolate frosting I liked and this is a keeper!

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Milo May 18, 2012 at 10:50 pm

I found this too have too much air in it for my liking. The end result after 3 minutes of whipping was a very light brown and very air bubble-y frosting, which was not very attractive. Next time, I will only whip on low speed for a minute or so. Also, I used almond extract instead of vanilla, but I think I’ll stick to vanilla next time because the almond overpowered the chocolate a bit. Thanks for the recipe!

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Mercedes May 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Can you tell me how many cupcakes can you frost with the final product? I’m baking for a wedding :)

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Beverley M May 23, 2012 at 7:14 pm

see my review below, but you could get as many as about 85 if you do it fairly thin

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Mercedes May 24, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Thank you so much for your reply. I’m going to try this tonight to ice a birthday cake for my grandma, she turned 85!

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Francesca May 22, 2012 at 5:47 pm

This sounds delicious. I am also wondering approximately how many cupcakes I can frost with one batch (3 cups) of this icing? I need to make 4 dz birthday cupcakes this weekend and would like to use your recipe. Thank you.

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Beverley M May 23, 2012 at 7:15 pm

You can probably get away with doing a half batch or a little more, unless you are planning to put your icing on thickly (e.g. piped)… see my review below

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Beverley M May 23, 2012 at 7:12 pm

I just made this last night, with minor adjustments and can respond to a few of the questions.

I did NOT sift my icing sugar, so my weights are likely a bit off (sifted icing sugar would be lighter than mine which was poured out of the bag and into a measuring cup to be weighed) but 1 cup of icing sugar weighs about 140 grams. (I weighed 3 cups at 425 g and 4 cups at 550 g). 1/2 cup cocoa weighs around 40 g. (I weighed 1/4 cup and it was just before the 25g line, so I’d call it 20 g)

I over-poured my icing sugar and ended up using 4 cups instead of 3.5. This made enough icing to frost EIGHT DOZEN CUPCAKES. (4 boxes of cake mix)

Mixing just the icing sugar and butter weighed about 800 grams; I divided it in half and did the first 400g with cocoa. That was enough to do four dozen cupcakes (two boxes worth) with a small amount of icing spread on each. I wasn’t exactly stingy, they were fully covered and probably 3-4 mm thick, but it certainly wasn’t laid on thick.

With the next half batch, I divided it again and made another 1/4 batch with chocolate — this time I did it thicker because I wanted to have a few left over without icing, so I only iced 18 I think.

The final 1/4 batch was about the same (I left out the chocolate and put in food colouring instead) and iced about 15 cupcakes, mostly thicker but then I was running out so the last 2 were pretty thin.

So, in short, if you are only making one box mix of 24 cupcakes, do 1/4 to 1/3 recipe.

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Francesca May 24, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Thank you so much. This was definitely helpful.

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Reni May 24, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Can this frosting hold well under fondant?? Thanks!

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Alicia May 24, 2012 at 4:59 pm

I just tried this recipe today to ice a marbled birthday cake that had melted chocolate in the recipe and I substituted the vanilla with Hazelnut extract. I must say it is AMAZING! I am a newbie to baking for sale and have been trying buttercreams that don’t leave your mouth greasy and this is perfect. I have to admit, I tasted several spoonfuls and afterwards only had a sweet nutty flavor..no grease. This is my new chocolate cake frosting. Thanks for posting.

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samdog May 24, 2012 at 7:20 pm

After working my day job as a chef, I came home, fixed dinner for the wife and kids, baked a cake for a special event tomorrow, and whipped up a batch of your icing. Wow! — it’s really good and so easy.

The most common complaint I hear about bakery cakes these days is that they taste so waxy and artificially sweet. This recipe is great — creamy, smooth, and not too sweet, thanks.

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GK May 27, 2012 at 5:11 pm

This recipe sounds great. For piping, would we be able to add food coloring to change the color but still keep that chocolate flavored frosting that they want? Thanks!

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Janelle May 30, 2012 at 12:59 pm

I can’t wait to try this recipe! I see there’s milk in it, will it spoil if it’s not refrigerated for 1-2 days? If so, is there something other than milk I could use? Thank you!

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