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Learn how to make the best American Chocolate Buttercream Frosting! I’ve been making this frosting for years – it’s silky and whipped and chocolatey and goes so good with so many recipes. Never buy store bought chocolate frosting again once you have this one – it’s THAT GOOD!

cupcake with chocolate frosting close up

Why You’ll Love My Recipe

Making this chocolate buttercream frosting recipe is so easy it’s worth the time for the amazing fluffy texture and rich chocolate flavor – canned frosting cannot compete.

This perfect chocolate buttercream icing recipe has been my go-to for years! It’s perfect on my chocolate cake recipe, on chocolate cupcakes, or on ANY cake or cupcake recipe you feel like making. It pipes great, has rich flavor, is whipped and silky smooth with simple ingredients – plus it’s done in just MINUTES!

ingredients in frosting on counter.


  • Softened unsalted butter: Use a good quality butter, unsalted, so you can control the salt. Be sure to start with softened butter. If you only have salted butter, you can reduce the added salt.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder: You can use regular unsweetened cocoa or dark, or even dutch process cocoa.
  • Powdered sugar: Also called icing sugar or confectioners’ sugar.
  • Salt: Sounds weird but needed to counter the sweetness. An extra pinch of salt can help cut the sweetness if you add too much sugar.
  • Vanilla extract: Only use PURE vanilla
  • Heavy whipping cream: This is my secret to the best whipped chocolate frosting ever! It makes it nice and fluffy.

Substitutions & Variations

In place of heavy whipping cream you can also use milk (whole milk, 2%, nonfat), half and half, or any non-dairy milk (such as almond milk). While you can make substitutions, please use heavy whipping cream for best results.

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. The less fat the milk has the less creamy your frosting will be!

Can you make a vegan chocolate buttercream? You can use vegan butter sticks (i.e. Earth’s Balance) – not the tub kind of butter – and nondairy milk.

How to Make Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

sifter sifting cocoa into powdered sugar in a glass bowl.

1. Sift the cocoa powder into the powdered sugar. Do you have to sift the cocoa? Yes – sifting is an important part of making this frosting recipe. Cocoa is lumpy out of the container and sifting will ensure your finished frosting is smooth and silky.

hand pouring milk into mixer with cocoa.

2. I beat my butter until smooth and then add in the cocoa mixture. The mixture will be clumpy and dry, like you can see. This is when I add the heavy whipping cream, a tablespoon at a time, and run the mixer on high speed until the frosting comes together and is the perfect texture.

chocolate frosting on paddle attachment

How much frosting does this make?

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

  • One 9×13” cake
  • One 9” 2-layer cake
  • 24 cupcakes

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

Expert Tips

  • Make sure your butter is perfectly softened – it should be soft but not melty (your finger should slightly indent into the stick but not easily push into it). See visuals for how to soften butter.
  • You can use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, which is my preference for making any frosting recipe. It’s stronger and faster and the frosting becoming smooth before you add the cream.
  • You can also do this with a hand mixer in a large bowl. Your frosting will look crumbly before adding the cream, so don’t be worried. Once you add the liquid it will come together fluffy and smooth.
  • Always start with the smallest amount of cream and work your way up adding more after mixing a bit until you get the consistency you want.
unwrapped cupcake with chocolate frosting and chocolate sauce drizzled over top.

Storage & Make Ahead

  • Store frosting in an airtight container in the fridge.
  • Freeze in an airtight container – we love freezing leftover frosting!
  • You can make this easy chocolate buttercream frosting ahead of time. Just leave at room temperature for several hours to thaw and/or soften. You may need to add a little extra cream to smooth it out.

Common Questions

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!

Do you have to sift cocoa powder for frosting?

Sifting the cocoa powder is important for a smooth and silky frosting. Cocoa is often clumpy out of the container so I recommend sifting.

Can I double the recipe?

It’s easy to double or triple this recipe – or cut it in half – depending on how much you need.

cupcake with chocolate frosting close up

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Recipe

5 from 15 votes
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!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Yield 16 servings
Serving Size 1 serving


  • ½ cup (40g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 ½ cups (396g) powdered sugar
  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter softened
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons (30-45ml) heavy whipping cream
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  • Sift the cocoa powder into the powdered sugar and whisk them together, adding the salt. You don't need to sift the powdered sugar.
  • Beat butter with a hand or a stand mixer until smooth, then add the cocoa mixture a bit at a time, mixing until it's crumbly (see note). Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream and beat on medium high speed until the frosting is smooth and fluffy and the desired consistency.
  • 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).
  • 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. Also how fast your frosting comes together depends on how soft your butter is.
  • 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. You can also use Vegan Butter Sticks with nondairy milk to make vegan frosting.
In step 2, a hand mixer will yield a very dry crumbly mixture before you add the cream. A stand mixer will mix it a bit more.
Make sure your butter is perfectly softened – it should be soft but not melty (your finger should slightly indent into the stick but not easily push into it).

Recipe Nutrition

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

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Dorothy Kern

Welcome to Crazy for Crust, where I share recipes that are sometimes crazy, often with a crust, and always served with a slice of life.

5 from 15 votes (13 ratings without comment)

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