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The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

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This is the best Chocolate frosting recipe! It’s a homemade, rich chocolate buttercream made with cocoa powder. It’s perfect for piping and decorating cakes and cupcakes. The best part is, you don’t have to wait for the butter to come to room temperature.

A chocolate cupcake decorated with chocolate frosting

Easy Chocolate Buttercream

This is the just the best chocolate frosting recipe! It’s a simple homemade buttercream made with cocoa powder. It’s super creamy and whipped to perfection. It’s not too heavy or too sweet and the cocoa powder balances out the sweetness without being bitter.

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. Ever since we met, he’s been in charge of chocolate frosting quality control and this one passes the test!

My Secret for Perfect Buttercream

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 perfect for piping yet easy enough to spread.

Since the butter is cold, the mixer is doing all the work to soften the butter for you. You’ll need to beat the butter for several minutes before adding any of the dry ingredients. Don’t rush this crucial step!

Additionally, you’ll beat the frosting for a couple minutes each time you add some powdered sugar. This makes for an ultra light and smooth frosting.

a vintage cupcake pan with a frosted chocolate cupcake

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Unsalted butter– cold and straight from the refrigerator
  • Cocoa powder– sifted for the smoothest consistency as cocoa powder tends to be clumpy
  • Powdered sugar– up to you if you want to sift this, I usually don’t.
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Heavy whipping cream– makes the frosting extra fluffy. You can use milk if you don’t have heavy cream

What type of cocoa powder can I use?

I’ve made this recipe with several types of cocoa powder: unsweetened, sweetened and dutch processed. Any of them will work great, the results are just a little different, especially in the color of the frosting.

  • 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.
  • Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder  is the most common one found in the grocery stores. It makes a lighter, more milk chocolate looking frosting. This one will be just a tad bit more bitter than the other two in my opinion.
  • For Dutch processed cocoa powders, my favorite is Rodelle Baking Cocoa. It has the richest chocolate flavor.
a white plate with 3 different cocoa powders

Let’s Make Chocolate Frosting

Beat the butter: Cut the cold butter into 1 tablespoon size pieces and whip it with the paddle attachment for 5-7 minutes at a medium to high speed. It should be really fluffy and spreadable at this stage.

Add the cocoa powder: Add the sifted cocoa powder into mixing bowl and mix until all the cocoa powder is well incorporated. Don’t forget to scrap down the bowl.

Alternate adding the powdered sugar and liquid: When adding the powdered sugar, I recommend adding 2 cups at a time and mix on low speed until incorporated.

When adding the powdered sugar, add part of the liquid ingredients (vanilla first and then heavy cream). With each addition of powdered sugar, adding some liquid will help the sugar to incorporate easier.

Once the powdered sugar starts to incorporate, increase the speed to medium-high and beat for a couple of minutes before adding the next batch.

Whip the finished buttercream: One all the ingredients have been added, increase speed to medium-high and beat for another 2-4 minutes to whip additional air into the frosting.

A stand mixer blade of chocolate frosting over a glass mixing bowl

Ways to Use Chocolate Buttercream

Can I Make This in Advance?

Yes, this frosting can be made in advanced. I can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for 7 days. 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 rewhip the frosting before piping, especially if it’s been in the refrigerator or freezer. Your 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.  

A piping bag with chocolate frosting piping a cupcake

How to Store Frosted Cupcakes

Generally I store my finished cupcakes at room temperature in an airtight container for a couple of days. However, if you live in a hot and humid environment, you should refrigerate your frosting and allow it come to room temperature before serving.

Can I Use a Handheld Mixer?

Anything is possible! However, it will be difficult for you to make large batches of frosting, simply because the power of a handheld mixer is not as strong as a stand mixer.

Instead of cold butter, I recommend starting with colder-than-room-temperature butter. Leave it on the counter for about 20 minutes. You will 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 vintage cupcake tray with frosted chocolate cupcakes
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A close up of a chocolate cupcake decorated with chocolate frosting

Easy Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • 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 consistency for piping and decorating cupcakes and cakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (345g) unsalted butter, cold 
  • 1 cup (111g) cocoa powder, sifted
  • 5 cups (650g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) pure 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 incorporated. 
  3. Add 2 cups powdered sugar and the vanilla extract and mix on low speed until incorporated. Beat for an additional 2 minutes. 
  4. Continue 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 2 minutes 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

  • How much frosting does this recipe make? As is, this recipe makes enough for 24 cupcakes or for a 9×13-inch cake. 
  • Storing frosting: Store in an airtight container on the counter for 48 hours or in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. If refrigerating, allow the frosting to come to room temperature, then rewhip in the mixer for a couple of minutes prior to using it. 
Nutrition Information:
1
213
24.6g
12.4g
7.7g
27.1g
1.3g
.9g
31.9mg
  • Category: Frosting
  • Method: Mixer
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: chocolate icing, cupcake frosting, cake frosting

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76 Responses
  1. Anne

    I’ve made this a number of times for family events, and it’s been a big success- I even had a acquaintance ask me to make a chocolate cake for an event she was having after she tasted it!
    I use Ghirardelli cocoa powder, added 2 tsp of espresso powder, a sprinkle of salt, and swapped out a half cup of butter for a half cup of crisco to help with stability in the heat. Truly a go-to recipe, thank you!

  2. Alisa Mason

    I made this frosting to go on top of the yellow cake recipe and it was delicious! The instructions were easy to follow and I was able to easily pipe the frosting for decoration. A true win for me was that my husband liked it. I love all the recipes I’ve tried from Julianne. She is pure genius in her creations!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      2-3 días a temperatura ambiente, si vive en un ambiente cálido o húmedo, entonces debe refrigerarse. Sirve a temperatura ambiente.

  3. Bill

    If you don’t like your frosting that sweet I just reduce the confectioners sugar. I’ve done as little as 2 1/2 cups but also cut back on the butter.. it doesn’t make as much but I don’t mind having the frosting in between the layers and on top.

  4. 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

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. Jade

    Definitely only worth tackling to me if you have a stand mixer. Couple comments:
    1. Don’t skip the several mins of mixing in between adding the dry ingredients. Just don’t.
    2. If you’re making two 9 inch cakes into a layered cake you have more than enough frosting, so don’t feel the need to skimp on the middle later.
    3. It’s so so so so easy to spread. I frost like a toddler with a sharp knife and it came out very well. I did a crumb coat but honestly didn’t need to do a crumb coat.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Jade! thank you so much for your detailed notes and comments. I am so glad to hear that this was successful for you!

  9. Valerie

    It sound great and the comments are positive so I do want to try this one. Question though – you mention the various cocoa you like to use, your fav Hershey’s Dark (sweetened) as well as the unsweetened Hershey’s. Which do you use for this frosting recipe?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      I used both actually, you can see the lighter more “milk chocolate” looking one is regular Hershey’s and the dark more rich looking one if the special dark.

  10. Joshua

    Absolutely loved this recipe I saw that it was really thick and I did mix it for quite some time and while it did soften up it only did a little and not enough so I slowly added more whipping cream to the mix until it was at the consistency I preferred. It was fluffy and perfect one of the best chocolate frostings I’ve ever made.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Joshua- I am SO glad to hear this! You did exactly the right thing to add additional cream to make it thinner and fluffier

  11. Rose M Contario

    I made this just now, followed the recipe except used whole milk and regular unsweetened Hershey’s cocoa powder. My came out almost bland tasting? But super fluffy and creamy. I’m so disappointed! Do I add more sugar?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Rose. If you want a sweeter frosting, then yes, you’d add more sugar. If you want a deeper chocolate flavor, then you can add more cocoa powder. Add additional milk or cream as needed to thin the frosting out.

  12. Kimberly Button

    Love this recipe! The frosting is creamy and very chocolatey (is that a word?)!
    Which KitchenAid do you recommend? I’ve had a Bosch mixer for 40-some years and now it’s time to replace it but there’s so many and I really want to get the right one – heavy duty, can do breads as well as cakes & frostings. Thanks for your help!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Kimberly! I have two, I have the standard 5 quart tilt head which is great for almost all my recipes. The only thing I can’t do with it is make large batches of frosting. I also have the 6 quart with the level to lift up and down. This mixer is great too and the one I use primarily, but where I think it falls short is that it’s hard to make smaller batches of things because the mixer is so big. I don’t make a ton of breads, but I have used both mixers for breads.

  13. JoAnn

    Hi, Julianne. I always return to your site for baking recipes. They are the best! Will this make enough to frost a 9 x 13 cake?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Thank you JoAnn! Yes, you probably need to scale it down if you’re just frosting the top of the cake. 2 sticks of butter will be just fine!

  14. Megan

    Delicious! Only issue I had was it was thick and not pipeable. Add more whipping cream? Whip longer? I did use canola oil instead of vegetable oil (it’s all I had) ??

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Megan, I am not sure what you are referring to in regards to the oil? Yes more whipping cream and but probably more time in the mixer as well. You can always throw it back in your mixing and keep whipping as well

      1. Megan

        Oops the oil was in the vale not the frosting! ? thank you! My kids devoured your vanill cake with this frosting!

  15. Megan

    I made this tonight and it tastes delicious, only thing is mine is very thick and hard to pipe. More whipping cream?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Megan, yes more whipping cream and but probably more time in the mixer as well. You can always throw it back in your mixing and keep whipping as well

  16. Robin Gilbert

    Your recipes are absolutely fabulous. I have done a few of them, with so MANY compliments. Just wondering if you have any tips for me…I only have a hand mixer, along with osteo-arthritis. The cold butter thing takes me forever & hurts my hands. Any ideas? I can’t afford the Kitchen Aid mixer.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Robin, thank you for your comment. I would be sure to cut the butter into cubes, about 1 tablespoon in size and microwave for 10 seconds to soften it a little bit. The other thing I would try is doing only half the recipe at a time, but I don’t think that would cut down on your mixing time. The recipe is intended to be more stiff. If you’re not worries about that, you could start with a butter softened to room temperature and this would surely cut down on your mixing time. Wishing you the best and if you have more question, feel free to reach out!

  17. Vi

    Just made this frosting, but I forgot and I put the cocoa powder after the powdered sugar . The icing is kinda crunchy is there any way I can fix it?
    Also I used 3 tbs of whipping cream
    is that ok?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Vi, yes it’s okay that you use 3 tbsp of heavy cream. Did you happen to let the frosting sit over night? Sometimes I find the cocoa powder is slower to dissolve.

  18. Sara

    This is the best chocolate frosting! Not too sweet, but plenty of chocolate flavor. I love not having to worry about bringing butter up to room temperature. This is definitely my go to chocolate frosting!

  19. Pollyanna

    I feel as if I’m the only one who slowly adds powdered sugar and typically not all of it. Since changing my diet my sweet tooth has become…well not so sweet. I find so many snacks I once enjoyed far too sweet. But I make my own and it’s all good 😀

  20. Danielle Adler

    Hello.

    Can I make the vanilla frosting and at the end take half and mix it with coco powder? Because I want to make both chocolate and vanilla frosting

    Thanks
    Danielle

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Danielle, you can split this yes, but I’d do it before adding the last two cups of powdered sugar. You’ll want the consistency to be about the same with each one. So you’ll substitute some of the powdered sugar for cocoa powder and adjust the liquid accordingly. I also suggest to sift your cocoa powder or put it through a sieve prior to adding to the frosting

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi there, You can, but your frosting probably won’t be as stiff. If you decrease the amount of powdered sugar, you should decrease some of the liquid as well

  21. Stephie

    Can you tell me which tip number you used to do the chocolate or white cupcakes? Not sure if the same tip was used for both but they look so professional I’d like to try and make some for a few guests. Hopefully they’ll think I bought them.
    Thanks

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Tennille,

      The other thing I do is make the frosting the night before and refrigerate just the frosting. But it needs at least a half hour on the counter before piping since the frosting will become quite firm in the fridge. I’ve also been knowing to bring my piping bag full of frosting with me and from them right before I serve. It is a little complicated but with the heat it is my best option.

  22. Tennille

    If i refrigerate the frosted cupcakes will it ruin them, it’s so humid where I live I don’t want to leave them out for a night!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Tennille, usually I will make the cupcakes the night before and make the frosting the day of. Does this work for you?

  23. Catherine

    This looks delicious! Does this need to be refrigerated say if you want to frost cupcakes the night before a party?

  24. holly waterfall

    This is just perfection! Making frosting is definitely not my strong point, so I will definitely be referring to this week’s posts in the future!

  25. Heather @ Shard of Lavender

    This looks like the perfect chocolate frosting. I’m loving all of your frosting posts this week… With bff’s like vanilla and chocolate frosting, life is so much sweeter!

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