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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 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 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

Use Cold Butter: 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.

Properly Beating the Butter : 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!

Beating the Finished Frosting: Additionally, you’ll beat the frosting for a couple of 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

  1. 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.

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

3. Alternate adding the powdered sugar and liquid: When adding the powdered sugar, I recommend adding 2 cups at a time and mix at 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.

5. Whip the finished buttercream: Once 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 advance. It 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 re-whip 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 to 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

Frequently Asked Questions About Buttercream

Do I need to refrigerate chocolate frosting?

If you live in a hot or humid environment, then you need to refrigerate the frosting. Otherwise, it can sit at room temperature for 2 days.

Do I really have to sift the cocoa?

I do recommend this because cocoa powder is often very clumpy, and this will help it to better incorporate into the butter.

Do I have to sift the powdered sugar?

Most times I do not because I spent so much time whipping the frosting. But if the powdered sugar is really clumpy to start, then I recommend sifting it.

This frosting is too sweet, how do I adjust?

Try adding 1/8 teaspoon salt, or if the frosting is not too thin, add an additional teaspoon or two of heavy cream or milk.

What is the difference between frosting and icing?

Frosting is made using butter and powdered sugar, and traditionally icing is made using powdered sugar and a liquid such as water or milk. Frosting is much thicker and pipeable whereas icing is much thinner and pourable.

Print
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. 
  • Do I have to sift the powdered sugar? If the powdered sugar is really clumpy to start, then I recommend sifting the powdered sugar. Or if you find that your frosting is typically grainy, then yes I would.  Since I spend so much time actually beating the frosting, I rarely sift my powdered sugar. 
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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Leave a Comment

Recipe rating

81 Responses
  1. 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!

  2. 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. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      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!

  3. 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. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      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.

  4. 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. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      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

  5. 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. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      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.

  6. 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. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      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.

  7. 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. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      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!

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