The Best Chocolate Frosting

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This is the BEST Chocolate frosting recipe! It’s a homemade, rich chocolate buttercream frosting made with cocoa powder. It’s the perfect chocolate frosting for piping cupcakes and for decorating cakes, it’s whipped and airy but very stable and hold its shape. I am sharing all my tips for making the perfect chocolate buttercream.

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A gorgeous unwrapped chocolate cupcake with a gorgeous chocolate frosting

This recipe has been updated in 2019

I am a firm believer that a chocolate frosting can never be too chocolaty. I think that’s why my husband fell in love with me. HA! Kidding. Kind of.

When we first met, we made a chocolate cake together. I helped him bake it and make the frosting. He wanted the classic Hershey cake with Hershey frosting. 

When we were making the frosting, he kept telling me to put more and more cocoa powder. I kept saying MORE? Really? His reply was always yes, never follow the recipe on the container. The man is serious about his chocolate frosting. Ever since, he is in charge of my chocolate frosting quality control. 

A vintage cupcake pan with chocolate cupcakes topped with a gorgeous dark chocolate frosting

This is the BEST Chocolate frosting recipe! It’s a homemade chocolate buttercream frosting made with cocoa powder. It’s the perfect chocolate frosting for piping cupcakes and for decorating cakes.

It’s super creamy and whipped to perfection. It’s not overly heavy or too sweet. The cocoa powder balances our the sweetness without being too bitter.

The rule of thumb for my butter based frosting recipes is for every 1 stick (or ½ cup) of butter, I use 2 cups of powdered sugar (or dry ingredients).

So, for this chocolate frosting, it’s 3 sticks (1 ½ cups of butter) and 5 cups of powdered sugar and 1 cup of cocoa powder.

A gorgeous chocolate cupcake topped with a fluffy chocolate frosting

This recipe starts with cold butter…it’s not a mistake 

Just like my vanilla frosting, this frosting also starts with cold butter. Cold butter allows you to control the consistency of the frosting and often produces a stiffer frosting that is great for piping!

Don’t rush this crucial step!

Since your butter is cold, it naturally needs more time to be broken down as you incorporate more air into it.

  • First cut your butter into 1 tablespoons size pieces, it’s easier to work with. 
  • As you beat the butter, you are essentially softening it. This will take several minutes, and you’ll need to scrape down your bowl several times during this process.
  • Start on a medium-low speed to break the butter apart and then gradually increase the speed. 

How do you know you’re ready? The butter has grown in volume and turned lighter in color. It’s would be easily spreadable if you were to spread it on a piece of toast.

An overhead view of a mixing bowl with whipped butter for this frosting recipe

Alternating the dry ingredients and wet ingredients

When I make chocolate frostings, I always add the cocoa power right after the butter. I usually like to sift my cocoa powder because most cocoa powder is somewhat clumpy right from the container. I want it to be well incorporated into the frosting and prevent it from being grainy.

Next, we’re adding the powdered sugar. I usually do this 1-2 cups at a time. If you do it all at once, it will not only take a lot longer, it will also be more difficult to get it all incorporated properly. Make sure you start your mixer at a LOW speed until it starts to incorporate, otherwise you’ll get powered sugar EVERYWHERE.

Not that I’ve done that or anything… 

It’s important to add the liquid ingredients with every couple cups of powdered sugar. Liquid ingredients might be extracts and heavy whipping cream or milk. As your frosting gets thicker, the liquid helps smooth it back out. 

My preference is always heavy whipping cream. It naturally helps whip the frosting the more that you beat it. It also helps make it super creamy and cuts the sweetness. If you don’t have heavy whipping cream, milk is the next best substitute.

A spatula filled chocolate chocolate frosting sitting overtop of a glass mixing bowl

How to make homemade chocolate frosting

 If you’re looking for a quick, in-depth guide, be sure to read through my tips for how to make buttercream frosting. I will do a quick recap of the steps needed to make my Best Chocolate Frosting.

  • Start with cold butter! Cut butter into pieces, about 1 tablespoon in size
  • Using the paddle attachment, whip butter for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Start on a low speed and gradually increase. 
  • Next, add the sifted cocoa powder into mixing bowl. Make sure all that cocoa powder is well incorporated until you move onto the next steps.
  • Finally, we’re alternating the powdered sugar with the liquid ingredients. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated into butter. Then add the vanilla extract and beat these for a couple minutes until it’s well combined.
  • Repeat these steps using the remaining powdered sugar and heavy cream.
  • One all the ingredients have been added, increase speed to medium-high and beat for another 3-5 minutes to whip additional air into the frosting.

A fluffy chocolate cupcake topped with creamy chocolate frosting

Commonly asked questions about chocolate frosting

Can I make this frosting ahead of time?

Yes! This frosting can be made in advanced and stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Any longer than that I would recommend refrigerating. Allow the frosting to come to room temperature for attempting to use it.

If you need to make it more than 7 days in advance, you can freeze it in an airtight bag. Gradually thaw, first in the refrigerator and then on the counter.

Even though you are making your frosting ahead of time, you need to remix and rewhip your frosting before piping. You frosting will be stiff and heavy once it’s thawed. Rewhipping will help incorporate air into the frosting again and make it perfect for piping.  

An overhead view of a glass bowl filled with chocolate frosting and a vintage napkin laid out next to it

Do I need to refrigerate my frosted cupcakes? 

If you live in a hot and humid environment, you should probably refrigerate your frosting and allow it come to room temperature before serving.

Otherwise I leave my frosted cupcakes in an airtight container for 2-3 days without a problem.

If you need to prepare the frosting ahead of time, you can refrigerate it up to 7 days, and then allow it come to room temperature and rewhip before using. 

A spatula filled chocolate chocolate frosting sitting overtop of a glass mixing bowl

What type of cocoa powder can I use?

For my chocolate frosting recipes, I use both a sweetened and unsweetened cocoa powder as well as Dutch processed cocoa power.

Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder is my go-to. It’s a sweetened cocoa powder that helps get that darker, ultra-chocolate looking frosting. In these photos, it’s the dark of the two. 

For unsweetened or Dutch processed cocoa powders, I use both Hershey’s and also Rodelle Baking Cocoa.

Hershey’s Natural Unsweetend Cocoa Powder  is the most common one found in the grocery stores. In these photos, it’s the lighter, more milk chocolate looking frosting. This one will be just a tad bit more bitter than the other two. 

If you’re looking for a premium product, Rodelle is my favorite. The Rodelle baking cocoa has one of the highest levels of cocoa butter on the market. It’s has the richest chocolate flavor without being too sweet. 

A white rimmed plate with three different types of cocoa power

Can I make this frosting with a handheld mixer?

The short answer is yes, anything is possible. However, it will be difficult for you to make large batches of frosting, simply because the powder of a handheld mixer is not the same as a stand mixer.

You will likely need to spend even more time whipping the butter both in the beginning and throughout when adding the powdered sugar to get the same texture and consistency you’d get with a stand mixer. 

A large piping bag piping chocolate frosting onto a chocolate cupcake

The Best Chocolate Frosting photos of chocolate frosting piped on a cupcake

You will love my recipe for the Best Chocolate Frosting! There’s so many ways you can use it.

A vintage cupcake pan with 6 chocolate cupcakes that are frosted with chocolate frosting.

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A vintage cupcake pan with chocolate cupcakes topped with a silky milk chocolate frosting

The Best Chocolate Frosting

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 miniutes
  • Yield: 4 1/2 Cups enough for 24 cupcakes

Description

This is the BEST Chocolate frosting recipe! It’s a homemade chocolate buttercream frosting made with cocoa powder. It’s the perfect chocolate frosting for piping cupcakes and for decorating cakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (345g) (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cold 
  • 1 cup (111g) cocoa powder
  • 5 cups (650g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (59ml) heavy whipping cream (or milk)

Instructions

  1. Cut butter into pieces, 1 tablespoon size. Using the paddle attachment, whip butter for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat until butter looks light in color and has more volume.
  2. Sift the cocoa powder into mixing bowl. Turn the mixer on slow speed and beat until cocoa power is mixed into butter.
  3. Add 2 cups powdered sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated into butter and add the vanilla.
  4. Continuing adding the  additional powdered sugar, 2 cup at a time and alternating with the heavy whipping cream and beat on low speed until sugar is incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for minute before adding more powdered sugar.
  5. After all the powdered sugar has been added, increase speed to medium-high and beat for another 2 minutes to whip additional air into the frosting.

Notes

Nutrition Information:
1 cupcakes worth
213
24.6g
12.4g
7.7g
27.1g
1.3g
.9g
31.9mg
  • Category: Frosting
  • Method: No-Bake
  • Cuisine: American
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66 Responses
  1. Mary Brady

    I’ve baked for decades. I have many of my keeper recipes some are my own and some have been shared by others to me.
    I decided to try this “best chocolate frosting” recipe of yours and I have to admit it truly is the best and is titled correctly! This recipe is easy and is second to none! Totally number one on my go list

  2. Mallory

    Hi, just wondering if we can use room temperature butter instead of cold so there is less beating time, because all I have is a hand mixer and my arms get tired super easily. So I would love to have less time to beat buttercream and more time to EAT buttercream🙂

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Mallory- yes. If you are using a hand mixer, I recommend using room temperature butter, but it doesn’t need to be too soft or your frosting will be too thin and you’ll have to add additional powered sugar for a thicker frosting

    2. Linda

      Desperate times take desperate measures… You won’t believe that I made this in my blend tec small blending jar! quarantine has forced some serious creativity in this kitchen. But the cool thing is it worked! Now it wasn’t as firm and as perfect as the original recipe, but was smooth creamy and absolutely delicious on a midweek gluten-free vanilla cupcake! Definitely making this recipe again—the right way someday, saving it and sharing it!

  3. emily

    I just made this and am so disappointed 🙁 I used less sugar (3 1/2 cups) as I don’t like things too sweet and unsweetened cocoa powder and it’s soooo sweet. I’ve added some whipped cream to try and balance out the flavour but it’s still really sweet. There is no cocoa powder in the shops atm and it was my pregnancy craving so I’m really sad but also mildly buzzing from licking the whisk. I think this is a good recipe if you like super sweet things. The texture is really nice though.

  4. Kimberly

    Hands down the best chocolate frosting recipe I have made and I have made a lot! I used ghirardelli cocoa and followed the recipe exactly! I have now found my go to chocolate frosting!

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