How to Make Black Buttercream Frosting

With Halloween just around the corner, I’ve been using black frosting on quite a few of my baking projects! This has led to a bunch of questions about how I get my frosting such a deep shade of black, so I’m sharing my secrets to making super black buttercream frosting! I start off using my classic american buttercream as a base, and then add my two secret ingredients: black cocoa, and gel food coloring.

I only recently discovered black cocoa, and I’m obsessed. Black cocoa has a slightly higher pH than dutch-processed cocoa (8 vs.7), and is much less acidic than natural baking cocoa (5-6). The best comparison is to think of the bittersweet, chocolaty taste of an Oreo cookie! It has a beautiful dark color, which helps build the perfect chocolaty base for this black frosting,

In terms of food coloring, gel food coloring is a must. It’s much more concentrated than liquid food coloring, so you can add less and still get the dark color you’re after! Liquid food coloring can also throw of the consistency of your frosting if you add too much. I always use the Americolor brand, which I purchase in big bottles from Amazon! A full tutorial showing how to make this frosting can be seen below:

When using this to frost my favorite vanilla layer cake recipe (which is amazing and bakes flat!!), which can be used to make four 7 inch or 8 inch cake layers, I usually make 1.5 – 2 batches, depending on how I’m decorating the cake.

Chocolate Black Buttercream Ingredients: 

  • 4 sticks or 2 cups (434 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 cups (907 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp (3 grams) salt
  • 3 Tbsp. (45 grams) heavy cream
  • 3 tsp (12 grams) vanilla
  • 1/2 cup black cocoa
  • black gel food coloring


Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream. Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on medium low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. If the frosting is too thick, add in cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time). Once full mixed, add in black cocoa. Slowly incorporate, then add in a couple squirts of gel food coloring.

MVI_0498_Moment (2)

NOTE: To get super dark frosting, I highly recommend making it in advance and letting it sit overnight. The color will deepen with time (this is true of other colors as well!)

And that’s all there is too it!

MVI_8583_Moment (2)


48 thoughts on “How to Make Black Buttercream Frosting

    1. Does the black cocoa have a strong taste? I’m looking to make a black cream cheese frosting without using a ton of gel food coloring. I’m wondering if adding 1/2 cup (maybe even 1/4 as I only need .5-1 batch of frosting) of the black cocoa to help with the color might really affect the taste? What are your thoughts? Thanks!

      1. it tastes like an oreo cookie, and definitely is chocolatey! I think it would taste good with cream frosting though!!

    2. Hi Chelsweets,
      I made the Black frosting yesterday and put it in a bowl in the frig and it didn’t get any darker. It isn’t as dark as your frosting in the red bowl(pictured above). Maybe I need more black gel, seems like I added a lot, but I’ll add more. Should I have let it sit out on the counter instead of the frig?????

      1. Yah I’d recommend letting it sit at room temp, but it sounds like you make just need to add a bit more coloring :/

  1. Thank you for these tips! Is there a particular brand of black cocoa that you use or recommend? Where can it be purchased?

  2. Thank you SO much!! I am just starting my baking business and just do it out of the home right now. I have been having such a hard time trying to figure out black frosting. Your videos are very inspiring and I have been able to use techniques that I’ve learned from watching your stuff!!

    1. You can do either! really depends on when you need the frosting. If I make frosting the night before and plan to decorate a cake first thing in the morning, I’ll leave it out overnight. However, if I won’t be using the frosting for a while, and will have to let it thaw the following day, or in a few days, I will refrigerate it.

  3. I bought the black cocoa(from your link) and used black gel color, followed the recipe exactly and made it yesterday morning and its still gray. 🙁

  4. How many cups of frosting does this recipe make? If I have one cup of buttercream frosting (not from this recipe) how much of the cocoa should I put in to get it black?

    1. It depends on how much air you incorporate into the frosting, but for me it usually makes about 5 cups! I’ve never made a single cup of frosting, but I would say you should add about a tablespoon!

      1. Thank you! I also followed your suggestion of leaving it overnight, and it turned a wonderful black! I’m actually making the Nightmare before Christmas cake!

  5. Hey Chels! Big fan of yours! I was wondering. I’m from the Netherlands and it’s really difficult to purchase black cocoa. So I thought. Isn’t it easier to (if you want your cake all black) cover it with black mirror glaze?

    1. You could pour a black glaze over a cake, yes! It’s just a bit more work to make a mirror glaze as well! I’d still recommend using a dark frosting underneath the glaze though!

  6. Hi, been following you on Instagram for a while and love your cakes. I am making a “mustache” cake, so I needed to make this black buttercream. I wanted to ask if the amount of cups of sugar is right on the recipe. Seems like a lot. 8 cups is 4lbs, and that turned out to be a lot. I couldn’t even put all of it in my blender, and I had to add a lot of heavy cream because it was way too thick.
    Let me know. Thank you!

    1. 8 cups of powdered sugar is actually 2 lbs! it is normally thick, but if you added 4 lbs of powdered sugar that is twice as much as you should’ve added!

  7. Does he black cocoa make this frosting chocolate flavored? What do you recommend for vanilla black frosting?
    Thank you! 💜

    1. it does! I honestly don’t make vanilla frosting that is black, because it takes LOADS of food coloring, and I just can’t handle how black it makes everyone’s mouth! but if someone really wants it, just be very heavy handed with the black gel food coloring. I use americolor, which I think works best!

  8. Hi Chels,huge fan of yours. Was wondering if you can use regular cocoa powder like extra brute cocoa barry?

  9. You mentioned using a butter from Whole Foods that is more white in color, I forgot the name of it. I hate it when the frosting is a cream color when you want white.

    1. it is much better about that than vanilla black buttercream! it still will color your tongue a little bit, but it’s not bad at all!

  10. Hi Chelsea! First off, love your blog and IG tips. Now….my question is, if I were to use already made white frosting. Can I add the black cocoa powder to that and it would work? I ordered a lot of vanilla buttercream from a cakeshop…..what do u recommend?

    1. Thanks Erica! it can vary based on the base frosting you’re using, but it should work just the same! I’ve never used premade frosting before, but at the end of the day it’s all just fat of some type (butter or shortening or both) and lots of powdered sugar. So I think you should be good!!

Let me know what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.