Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Recipe

5 from 1 vote
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Learn how to make the best chocolate buttercream frosting! I’ve been making this frosting for years and am sharing all of my tips and tricks so you can make fluffy chocolate frosting from scratch that turns out perfectly every time.

No more guessing, no more stress – once you try this recipe you won’t need try any others. It’s a keeper!

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yellow cupcake with chocolate frosting

You can make the most wonderful cakes and cupcakes, but if the frosting doesn’t turn out right it’s so frustrating! I know, I’ve been there and so I can’t wait to share with you how to make the best chocolate frosting recipe for all of your desserts. 

I love buttercream frosting because it’s rich and perfect for frosting and piping. This chocolate buttercream icing recipe has been my go-to for years and I’ve learned a thing or two mostly by trial and error and making it over and over again. I know, tough job! 

Did you know that room temperature butter and even the kind of mixer you use can drastically change how your frosting turns out? Have you ever tried making a simple substitution only to have it go all wrong? 

Well, keep reading because I am sharing all of my insider tips for making the best chocolate buttercream. I’m not just sharing a recipe – I’m going to explain what and why things might go wrong so you can make the best frosting no matter the circumstances. 

What’s in Homemade Chocolate Buttercream?

Nothing fancy! In fact, you might already have the ingredients on hand:

  • Softened unsalted butter
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Powdered sugar
  • Salt
  • Vanilla extract
  • Heavy whipping cream

It’s All About the Butter!

You might be wondering if you can use salted butter, but I don’t recommend it. Different brands of butter have different amounts of salt which can really change the flavor of your frosting. 

Using unsalted butter allows you to control the amount of salt, which is a very good thing. Salt is what balances out the sweetness and also just enhances the overall flavor of the frosting so any adjustments in the amount can make a difference.

Now if you only have salted butter, you can swap it, but just omit any salt in the recipe.

One more thing about butter: be sure to start with softened butter. You know how much I love to geek out on this stuff so of course I have a whole post about how to soften butter. You should check it out for lots of tips including how to do it quickly!

BEST Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is my favorite easy all-purpose frosting. It’s a whipped chocolate frosting that’s homemade and goes great with yellow cake or chocolate cupcakes!

Substitutions for Heavy Whipping Cream

I’m a fan of heavy cream in frosting. We’re treating ourselves, right? The best most decadent frosting is made with heavy cream, but there have been times when I’ve needed frosting and don’t have any on hand. 

  • Whipping cream
  • Half and half
  • 2% milk
  • Nonfat milk

Here’s the rule: the less fat the dairy has the less of it you should use. So, for example, it’s not a one-to-one substitution for heavy cream and nonfat milk. You would need less of the nonfat milk.

Using a Hand Mixer versus a Stand Mixer

I’ve made this recipe using my electric hand mixer and with a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and both work equally well, but you may notice a difference while you’re making your chocolate frosting.

If you use a handheld mixer, your frosting will look crumbly and you might worry that it won’t come together in a smooth, creamy mixture. But, once you add the heavy cream it will come together, so don’t be worried if the texture doesn’t look right when you’re first mixing it.

glass with chocolate frosting piped inside

Room Temperature Matters

It might be obvious, but the temperature of your kitchen can impact how your frosting turns out. When it’s warm, the frosting comes together much quicker because the heat softens and warms up the ingredients. 

When it’s colder it can take a little longer for the ingredients to mix – sometimes I need to add a little more cream when I make it during the winter. This helps loosen things up so the texture is right.

How to Make Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

So, keep these tips in mind when you make your frosting! Making the frosting is easy – it’s knowing how to adjust the ingredients based on the conditions and tools you use in your own kitchen.

  • Beat the butter until smooth and then add coca powder and mix them together until smooth.
  • Add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mixing between each addition. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowls as you go.
  • Add the cream starting with 2 tablespoons and beat the mixture until it’s smooth, fluffy and thickened to your liking.
  • Depending on which kind of mixer you use and how warm it is in your kitchen you may need to add a little more cream. Add one teaspoon at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. I don’t usually need to add more than 3 teaspoons total.

When you add extra cream it’s always better to start with a little so you don’t thin your frosting too much. Remember: if you sub a different kind of dairy you will need to reduce the total amount depending on how much less fat it has.

yellow cupcake with chocolate frosting

How much frosting does this make?

The recipe, as written, will give you enough frosting for:

  • One 9×13” cake
  • One 9” layer cake
  • 24 cupcakes

If you plan to decorate with frosting, too, I recommend doubling the recipe.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you thin buttercream frosting?

If it’s too thick, add a small amount of cream to thin it. I recommend one teaspoon at a time.

Can I make chocolate frosting in advance?

Yes, you can! You can make it up to three days in advance and keep it in the refrigerator. Let it come to room temperature before using it and you may need to add a little more cream to thin it.

Can you freeze frosting? 

It freezes great! Store it in a freezer-safe container and it will keep well for up to a month. To defrost it, leave it in the refrigerator and, once thawed, let it come to room temperature before using it.

What do I do if my buttercream frosting is too sweet? 

Salt will balance the sweetness so add a small amount, mix it in, and then taste. Be careful not to add too much otherwise it will be too salty!

How do you make dark chocolate buttercream frosting?

Substitute the cocoa powder for either Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder or Dutch-process cocoa powder.

I hope this post has been helpful for you! Knowing these tips and tricks are a serious game-changer! Once you try my chocolate buttercream frosting recipe, you’ll never need to try any others – it’s seriously the best!

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Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Recipe

BEST Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is my favorite easy all-purpose frosting. It's a whipped chocolate frosting that's homemade and goes great with yellow cake or chocolate cupcakes!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Yield 16 servings
Serving Size 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Instructions

  • Beat butter with a hand or a stand mixer until smooth, then add the cocoa and mix until smooth. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing in between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • Add the salt and vanilla, mix until smooth.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream and beat on medium high speed until the frosting is smooth and fluffy and the desired consistency.
  • Note on mixing: if you’re using a hand mixer it’ll stay crumbly for quite some time; add the heavy whipping cream to help it come together.
  • If you feel like you need a little more to get to the consistency you like, you can add up to another 1 tablespoon, adding a teaspoon at a time. This differs each time you make it depending on what mixer you’re using or how hot it is (the buttercream comes together easier in summer, for example, when the kitchen is warmer).
  • Frost as desired; will frost one 9×13-inch cake or a 9-inch layer cake or 24 cupcakes. If you like extra frosting for decorating, make a double batch.
  • Store in refrigerator for up to 3 days and allow to come to room temperature before using; you may need to add some extra cream to thin it.
  • You can freeze the frosting too for up to a month. Just let it defrost in the refrigerator then at room temperature before using.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

In place of heavy whipping cream you can use whipping cream, half and half, milk, or nonfat milk but the less fat in the milk the thinner the frosting will be, so use less.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 217kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 33mg | Sodium: 40mg | Potassium: 44mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin A: 382IU | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword chocolate, frosting

BEST Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is my favorite easy all-purpose frosting. It’s a whipped chocolate frosting that’s homemade and goes great with yellow cake or chocolate cupcakes!

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