Black 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 on social media, including:

  • Why does my black frosting look grey??
  • How can I make black buttercream that doesn’t turn my mouth black?
  • Is there a way to make black frosting without loads of food coloring?
  • How do you get you black buttercream such a deep shade?
  • What’s the best way to make super black buttercream that actually tastes good?
  • Which type and brand food coloring is best to use for black frosting?
  • What’s your trick for making such black frosting??

To make our lives easier, I’m sharing my secrets to making super black buttercream frosting here!

I start off using my classic American buttercream as a base, which is insanely easy to make.

Next, I add my two secret ingredients: black cocoa, and gel food coloring.

The finishing touch to my black frosting recipe is the magic of time!!

That last line sounds hoaky, I know. As I typed it I couldn’t help but chuckle!! But I swear, letting this frosting sit is a sure fire way to deepen its color.

Piping black buttercream onto a halloween cupcake

Secret Ingredient #1: Black Cocoa

Turning white buttercream black is incredibly hard. Starting off with a naturally deeper colored frosting base makes it about a million times easier.

How do I like to naturally color my buttercream before adding in the gel food coloring?! Black cocoa, my friends.

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’s absolutely delicious.

It has a beautiful dark color, which helps build the perfect chocolaty base for this black frosting.

image of sprinkle fault line cake, frosted with black buttercream

Secret Ingredient #2: Black Gel Food Coloring

Next comes the necessary evil, some food coloring. But I’m not talking about generic, black liquid food coloring.

Liquid food coloring can also throw off the consistency of your frosting if you add too much.

When it comes to coloring frosting, gel food coloring is a must. Especially when you’re after super vibrant or deep shades, like black.

Gel food coloring is much more concentrated than liquid food coloring, so you can add less and still get the dark color you’re after!

I always use the Americolor brand, which I purchase in big bottles from Amazon.

When combining this small amount of black gel food coloring with my black cocoa buttercream, the result it amazing.

You get a frosting that is a wonderfully deep shade of black, that tastes like Oreos and chocolate. 

Sushi Roll cake frosted with black american buttercream

Final Tip For Making Black Frosting: Make It In Advance

My final trick to making black frosting is to make it ahead of time. Yes, time is my biggest secret!!

If you make the frosting a couple days (or more) in advance, the color of the frosting will get darker over time! I swear it’s magic.

This buttercream can be made over a week in advance, and stored in the fridge until it needs to be used.

I take the frosting out a few hours before I need it, to allow it to come to room temperature. 

Once it’s thawed, it always is a darker color than when I initially made it.

MVI_0498_Moment (2)

I have one important piece of advice around making frosting in advance.

As buttercream sits and/or thaws, it usually gets tons of tiny air bubbles in it! Don’t worry, you’ll be able to make your buttercream smooth again. All you need to do is give the frosting a really good stir with a rubber spatula.

Work the frosting slowly from side to side. Focus on spreading it across the sides of your bowl for a few minutes.

It’s definitely an arm workout. But after working the frosting around the bowl and pushing out the excess air, you’ll be left with silky smooth frosting.

How Much Frosting Do I Need For A Cake? Or Cupcakes?

When using this to frost my vanilla layer cake recipe, I usually make 1.5 batches of  black buttercream to cover a 7-inch or 8-inch layer cake.

However, this can vary based on how I’m decorating the cake, and the size of my cake layers.

If you were to use one batch of frosting to pipe buttercream swirls on top of cupcakes, it frosts about three dozen (36) cupcakes.

Again, this cake also drastically vary if you’re making massive frosting swirls, or simply piping buttercream rosettes on top of each cupcake.

Galaxy themed cake frosted with black buttercream

Share Your Creations With Me!

If you try this black frosting recipe, please tag me @chelsweets. Also use the #chelsweets so that I can see your amazing creations!

Nothing makes me happier than when I get emails or DMs with photos of your amazing cakes. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your triumphs, or questions <3

Yield: 12 cups

Black Buttercream Frosting

Black Buttercream Frosting

Struggle to make truly black frosting?? Learn my tips for making the deepest black buttercream, with a simple recipe that comes together in minutes.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (452 grams)
  • 7 cups powdered sugar (907 grams) - or a 2 lb bag
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (or whipping cream) (75 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4 grams)
  • 1/2 cup black cocoa powder or dark cocoa powder, sifted (50 grams)
  • 1 tsp black gel food coloring


  1. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Mix in the vanilla and salt on a low speed
  2. Add in the sifted black cocoa or dark baking cocoa into the butter, and mix on a low speed until fully incorporated.
  3. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.
  4. Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. 
  5. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 Tbsp at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
  6. Add in a generous squirt of black gel food coloring (roughly 1 tsp) once the frosting is fully made, and mix by hand with a rubber spatula until the frosting is evenly colored.
  7. To allow the shade to deepen, place in sealed piping bags or an airtight container. Leave out overnight at room temperature, or place in the fridge for several days.


If you are making frosting for a cake, it is important to mix the buttercream on the lowest speed at the end of the process for a couple minutes, to get out any extra air that might have be incorporated during the mixing process.

You can also stir the frosting in a bowl with a rubber spatula, pushing it from side to side, to get rid of any air bubbles.This will make it easier to get super smooth sides on your cake!

If you have any questions about making buttercream in advance, please read this post on how long buttercream lasts and how to store it.

Nutrition Information


10 cups

Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 714 Total Fat 40g Saturated Fat 25g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 13g Cholesterol 106mg Sodium 125mg Carbohydrates 91g Fiber 1g Sugar 86g Protein 2g

87 thoughts on “Black 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 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.

  2. 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. 🙁

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

    1. Sounds like you may need to give it a good stir with a rubber spatula! After stirring for a couple minutes, it should return to being silky smooth 🙂

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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!!

  9. Thank you for this tutorial! I have never been able to figure out black frosting. And it seriously tastes so good. You were right about the Oreo flavor. Someone else commented that their frosting turned out gray, I also had that problem at first. But I did use Wilton food coloring (which according to everyone I talked to, is not nearly as good as the Americolor you suggested). I ended up adding about twice as much food coloring so now I’m waiting to see if it turns dark enough (I can already tell that the color is darkening some). This is definitely my new favorite frosting recipe!!

    1. Aw i’m so happy to hear that Lisa!! It will definitely darken over time, so if possible try to let it rest for a few days 🙂

  10. Hi. Apart from the color, will I have a bitter taste after eating it? Recently I tried Ameri color super red gel for an Icing. After piping over a cupcake, I tasted it and omg, the Icing was bitter 🙁 Because of this, I’m so afraid to try deeper shades. Hope you’ll be able to share with me, what am I doing wrong. Thanks so much in advance and congratulations on your wedding.

  11. Hi
    I made the frosting but didn’t realize I could let it set out overnight and I now need it. How long does it need to sit and what can I do to help it along? Thanks

    1. It depends on the type of container it’s in! If it’s in a deep bowl, it can take longer! if it’s in a shallow container, it can warm up more quickly. It also depends how much frosting is in the container. You can try popping it in the microwave for small intervals and stirring between! You can also try breaking it up into smaller pieces and placing it in a shallow container. Hope that helps!

  12. Hi Chelsey. I am trying to find the post regarding your Jack Skellington cake, but can’t find it anywhere. Is it not on your blog anymore?

  13. Hilda, puedes comprar la misma crema que compraba para crema batida. No sé si la palabra corecta es crema espesa. Estoy usando Google translata para la palabra. Lo siento si mi español es mala— no la uso mucha!

  14. I learned from Liz Merek that if you put a small drop of violet food coloring in the icing, it will turn it more white; get rid of the yellow. Kinda like when you use purple shampoo for gray hair. ?

    1. yup, you are totally right! yellow and purple are opposites on the color wheel. I don’t usually have to do that because of the butter I use, but you can if your buttercream has a yellowish hue <3

  15. Can I use your chocolate buttercream recipe and just use the black cocoa power and coloring to get black frosting. I love the chocolate buttercream but need a black frosting?

    1. Hi Bree,

      This should be enough to frost a single sheet cake that size, but you should double it if you plan to fill/ stack two sheet cakes on top of one another, or if you plan to frost the sides. Hope that helps!!

  16. Hi! Love this recipe, but I only need a small batch (just enough for your vanilla cupcake recipe). Do you have a small batch frosting recipe and if so how should I incorporate the black cocoa?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Ali,

      The only small batch frosting recipe I have is shared with my cupcake recipes (it’s a half batch). You can add 1/4 cup of black cocoa, and a couple squirts of black gel food coloring to that recipe, and add in a couple extra Tbsp of heavy cream to get the consistency right. Hope that helps!

  17. Hi Chelsweets!

    I followed your recipe exactly and mine is pretty gray at the moment, and nowhere near black. I don’t have confidence that it will be black in the morning, as I am leaving it on the counter. I didn’t use Wincrest, the brand you recommended, but used another brand of dark cocoa from a bakery shop here in my area. It is completely black cocoa and says 100% cocoa on the back. And it also doesn’t taste anything like Oreos. So mad, I’ve probably wasted all that butter. Any ideas? I also always use americolor.

    1. If it seems too light/grey, I’d recommend adding more gel food coloring! That’s your best bet if you only have one night for it to deepen in color. Hope that helps!!

  18. What if I wanted to make one of my cake layers black? Do I have to start with chocolate cake batter or just add black gel to the vanilla cake batter?

    1. Hi Susan! I let my frosting sit out overnight, which really deepens the color! My kitchen also gets pretty warm when I’m baking, and I think that’s why it looks the way it does. Hope that helps!! <3

Let me know what you think!