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Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

My American buttercream is my most popular recipe, so it’s about time I share the chocolate version of it. And let me tell you, this chocolate buttercream frosting recipe is just as good, if not better!!

While I feel comfortable swapping in ingredients to make different flavors using this base recipe, I realize that you might want to know the recipe for different flavors.

This frosting starts with my American buttercream recipe as a base, then mixes in the perfect amount of unsweetened cocoa powder and melted chocolate to make the best chocolate frosting.

image of chocolate buttercream

This frosting is definitely on the sweet side, but the intensity of the cocoa powder and the richness of the melted chocolate help balance out its flavor.

You could also add the same amount of cocoa powder and melted chocolate to a batch of a my Swiss meringue frosting or try my chocolate Russian buttercream to create a less sweet chocolate frosting.

What Can I Frost with this Chocolate Buttercream Frosting?

The sky’s the limit when it comes to using this frosting. Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, macarons, you name it!!

I’ve used it to frost my chocolate layer cake, chocolate cupcakes, chocolate macarons, and even my buttercream cookies!

image of a triple chocolate cake slice that's filled with milk chocolate buttercream and dark chocolate ganache

Chocolate Frosting Troubleshooting

While this recipe is pretty straight forward, sometimes people do run into issues making this chocolate frosting. The hardest part is getting the consistency of your buttercream just right.

There are few different factors that influence the consistency of your frosting.

It’s a delicate balance between the temperature of your kitchen, the brand of butter you use, the temperature of your butter, and the amount of heavy cream you use.

The easiest way to see if your frosting is the right consistency is the spatula test! I check the consistency of every batch of frosting I make using this test.

It confirms that your frosting is stiff enough to hold its shape, but spreadable enough for you to easily frost your cake or pipe onto cupcakes. 

image of a mini chocolate cake made with 3-inch cake layers

To test your frosting, firmly press a rubber spatula into your frosting and pull directly up. Turn the spatula right side up, and look at the frosting on the tip.

The frosting should form a somewhat soft peak that has a little curl on the end. It’s stiff enough to hold up that curl, but soft enough to create that little curl.

image of vanilla bean buttercream frosting being tested for the right consistency
Testing the consistency of a batch of my buttercream frosting using the spatula test.

That little curl is a great visual cue to know that your frosting is just the right consistency. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of this test with my chocolate buttercream, but hopefully the picture above using my vanilla buttercream helps you visualize what we’re looking for.

If the frosting is too stiff and sticks straight up, I suggest adding in more heavy cream (1 Tbsp at a time).

If it’s too thin and doesn’t form a little peak at all, try adding a bit more powdered sugar (1/4 cup at a time). You can also chill it in the fridge in 10-minute intervals.

After each adjustment, be sure to retest the frosting with your spatula before making any additional changes.

Paddle Attachment vs. Whisk Attachment

Now that we’ve covered troubleshooting, the last thing to discuss is our equipment.

Either a paddle or whisk attachment can be used to make this frosting with a stand mixer, or you can use a hand mixer.

I like to use my paddle attachment when making frosting for a cake, to minimize the amount of air that is incorporated into the frosting. This makes silky smooth frosting, which is easier to smooth onto cakes.

I use my whisk attachment when making frosting for cupcakes, which I like to be light and fluffy!

I like to incorporate air into frosting for cupcakes, because I usually pipe massive swirls onto each cupcake.

These are just my personal preferences though, and you can use whatever attachment or mixer you have. They’ll all get the job done!

image of silky smooth, decadent dark chocolate buttercream

Make this Chocolate Buttercream in Advance

This chocolate buttercream recipe can be made in advance. I highly recommend making it ahead of time if possible.

Not only does it give the frosting time to develop more flavor, it also makes the decoration of a cake or cupcakes less stressful and more fun.

This frosting keeps in the fridge for up to a month or in the freezer for 3 months if stored in an airtight container.

When you’re ready to use the chilled buttercream, remove it from the fridge a few hours in advance (or overnight) and allow it to come to room temperature.

Give it a good stir with a rubber spatula or an electric mixer to get rid of any air bubbles that may have formed. Once the buttercream is smooth again, it’s ready to use!

Substitutions & Swaps: Chocolate Buttercream

Below are some great swaps and substitutions for the chocolate buttercream in this recipe.

  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. Just be sure to omit the salt that this frosting recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place!
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – If you can’t find unsweetened cocoa powder or don’t have any on hand, you can use additional powdered sugar in its place.
  • Heavy Cream – Whole milk or alternative milk (soy, almond, oat) can also be used to make the frosting.
  • Chocolate Chips – You can use chocolate chips, baking chocolate, or good-quality chocolate bars to melt and add into the frosting. I like to use dark chocolate, but you can also use milk or semi-sweet chocolate if you have a strong preference.
image of a chocolate drip cake made with moist chocolate cake layers and chocolate buttercream

Tips for Making Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

  • Make sure your butter is at room temperature before making your frosting.
  • As long as your powdered sugar contains cornstarch (most brands in the US do) there’s no need to sift you powdered sugar.
  • Use heavy cream or heavy whipping cream and not normal milk! You need the higher fat percentage for the frosting to have the right consistency.
  • If you are making frosting for a cake, 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.
  • I usually make 1 1/2 batches of frosting to fill and frost a seven or eight inch cake.
image of rainbow sprinkles being added to a chocolate drip cake

Let Me Know What You Think

If you try this chocolate frosting recipe, I’d love to hear what you think! Please leave a rating below, and a comment to let me know your thoughts.

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 6 cups

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

image of chocolate buttercream

This chocolate buttercream frosting recipe only uses seven ingredients! It's so easy to make and delicious you'll never buy frosting again!!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

Ingredients

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups (or 4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (434g)
  • 1 cup sifted, unsweetened baking cocoa (80g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)
  • 1/2 tsp fine table salt (3g)
  • 5 cups powdered sugar (625g)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, room temperature (180g)
  • 1 1/3 cups milk chocolate chips, melted and cooled (230g)

Recommended Tools

  • Electric hand mixer or stand mixer
  • Rubber Spatula

Instructions

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

  1. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment until smooth. 
  2. Add in the sifted cocoa powder, vanilla extract and salt, and mix on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  3. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar. Half way through, add in the heavy cream to make the frosting easier to mix. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
  4. Mix in the cooled, melted chocolate on a low speed until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the desired consistency is reached.
  5. To make the frosting extra smooth, stir by hand with a rubber spatula for a couple minutes. Push the frosting back and forth to work out any extra air that was incorporated while the frosting was being mixed. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent crusting and set aside.
  6. Repeat step 5 and stir the frosting by hand again right before you use it. Sometimes as frosting sits it develops air bubbles. Giving it a good stir helps make sure it stays silky smooth before you add it to your cake or cupcakes.

Notes

Yield

This recipe makes about 6 cups of frosting. If needed, this recipe can be doubled or tripled. A double batch will fit/can be made in a 5 qt Kitchen Aid Mixing bowl.

I usually make 1 batch of frosting to stack and frost a seven or eight inch layer cake.

Tips for Making Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

  • Make sure your butter is at room temperature before making your frosting.
  • As long as your powdered sugar contains cornstarch (most brands in the US do) there's no need to sift you powdered sugar.
  • Use heavy cream or heavy whipping cream and not normal milk! You need the higher fat percentage for the frosting to have the right consistency.
  • If you are making frosting for a cake, 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.
  • I usually make 1 1/2 batches of frosting to fill and frost a seven or eight inch layer cake.

Making this Chocolate Buttercream Frosting in Advance and Storage Tips

  • Make your chocolate frosting ahead of time or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.
  • This frosting can also be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months! Just be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to make it nice and smooth again.
  • A frosted cake can last in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for a month. The buttercream locks in the moisture and keeps the cake fresh and delicious!

Nutrition Information

Yield

6 cups

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 686Total Fat 25gSaturated Fat 15gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 7gCholesterol 49mgSodium 263mgCarbohydrates 115gFiber 1gSugar 110gProtein 4g

Heather M

Tuesday 6th of July 2021

This is an amazing chocolate frosting! Thank you so much for the recipe, tips, and info!

Megan

Thursday 5th of November 2020

How would you go about making this a maroon color?

Krystal r beno

Thursday 23rd of April 2020

Hi. I making my son a monster jam cake. And I need black icing would this be a good one if so how much black gel should I use or what other butter cream recipes should I use

Chelsweets

Friday 8th of May 2020

Hi Krystal,

So sorry for the delayed response! I share all my tips and tricks for making black frosting here: https://chelsweets.com/2017/10/10/how-to-make-black-frosting/

Krystal b

Wednesday 22nd of April 2020

I making my son a monster cake and one of the icing I doing needs to be black. Is this a good recipe for that or what buttercream would you use to make black icing?

Chelsweets

Thursday 23rd of April 2020

Hi Krystal,

I'd recommend just using my black buttercream recipe, here's the link: https://chelsweets.com/2017/10/10/how-to-make-black-frosting/

Kayla

Wednesday 15th of April 2020

I tried this recipe and mine turned out a way lighter color. I'm wondering if I mixed it too much.

Chelsweets

Thursday 23rd of April 2020

Hi Kayla,

if you whip it up a lot it will get lighter in color! If you want it to be darker, you can add in more cocoa powder or use a dark cocoa powder <3

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