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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

79 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. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      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.

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Thanks Bill. Yes if you reduce the powdered sugar by that much, definitely a good idea to reduce the butter

  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. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      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.

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