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.

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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!

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24 thoughts on “How to Make Black Buttercream Frosting”

  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!

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