This easy chocolate buttercream frosting is silky chocolate perfection! Made with cocoa powder, this not-too-sweet frosting is perfect for any cake or cupcake!
This chocolate buttercream frosting is simple but tasty. The most common chocolate buttercream frostings are a mixture of butter, powdered sugar, and either cocoa powder or melted chocolate.
This easy version uses cocoa powder rather than melted chocolate. It takes just 5 basic ingredients and about 5 minutes to make the frosting.
And, most importantly, it tastes great! The frosting is rich and creamy without being too sweet. It pipes well, and the frosting pairs beautifully with yellow, chocolate, or white cake.
If you haven’t tried making homemade frosting, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how easy it is.
Ingredient tips and substitutions
Butter: I prefer the flavor of salted butter to unsalted butter + salt in this recipe. However, you can use unsalted butter along with a couple pinches of salt.
Be sure to have your butter at the right temperature. Room temperature means the butter should be about 72 F. The butter should give a little when pressed but should hold its shape overall. The butter shouldn’t be soft and melty.
Dry ingredients: if your powdered sugar and/or cocoa powder are lumpy, sift them before adding them into the butter. It will help them incorporate more easily into the butter.
Cocoa powder: I’ve used unsweetened cocoa powder and Dutch-processed cocoa powder. Both have worked well.
Heavy cream: Using heavy cream will give you a slightly lighter, fluffier frosting. However, milk or half-and-half will also work. However, the more fat your dairy has, the richer your frosting will be.
How to make chocolate buttercream frosting
Step 1: Begin by beating the butter in a large mixing bowl on medium until the butter is pale, about 3-4 minutes. This helps the butter to be nice and soft without getting melty.
Step 2: Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and milk or cream. Beat on low until the cocoa powder and sugar are incorporated. If you start mixing on medium or high, the dry ingredients can fly out of your mixing bowl.
Step 3: Adjust the consistency of your frosting by adding additional powdered sugar to make the frosting thicker or more milk/cream to make the frosting thinner (picture on right).
Temperature matters! Be sure to have your butter at the right temperature. Room temperature means the butter should be about 72 F. The butter should give a little when pressed but should hold its shape overall. The butter shouldn’t be soft and melty.
Beat the butter! Beating the butter before adding in the powdered sugar helps the dry ingredients to better incorporate into the butter.
Sift! If your powdered sugar and/or cocoa powder are lumpy, sift them before adding them into the butter. It will help them incorporate more easily into the butter.
Cream = fluffier frosting! Using heavy cream will give you a fluffier frosting that is slightly lighter both in color and texture (like the photo directly below). However, milk or half-and-half will also work.
How much frosting does this recipe make?
Cupcakes: This recipe yields enough frosting to lightly frost 24 cupcakes or to generously frost 12 cupcakes.
Cake: This recipe will yield enough frosting to lightly frost a 9” 2-layer cake. To have enough frosting to pipe, increase the recipe and make 1.5 times the recipe. To generously frost the cake and pipe, double the recipe.
Do I need to refrigerate this frosting?
I recommend storing any unused frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I also recommend storing items frosted with this buttercream in the refrigerator.
How long does buttercream keep?
This frosting will keep for up to 4 days. I recommend storing the frosting, covered, in the fridge.
More frosting recipes!
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Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- 1 cup salted butter at room temperature
- 3 ½-4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2-3 tablespoons whole milk, half-and-half, or cream
- With an electric mixer (either hand or stand), beat butter until pale, about 3-4 minutes on medium.
- Scrape down the bowl.
- Add 3½ cups powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of milk.
- Mix on low until powdered sugar and cocoa powder are incorporated.
- If the frosting is too dry, add another tablespoon of milk. If the frosting is too wet, add powdered sugar 2 tablespoons at a time until it reaches a spreadable consistency.
- Butter: You can use unsalted butter along with a couple pinches of salt.
Also, be sure to have your butter at the right temperature. Room temperature means the butter should be about 72 F. The butter should give a little when pressed but should hold its shape overall. The butter shouldn’t be soft and melty.
- Dry ingredients: if your powdered sugar and/or cocoa powder are lumpy, sift them before adding them into the butter. It will help them incorporate more easily into the butter.
- Cocoa powder: I’ve used unsweetened cocoa powder and Dutch-processed cocoa powder. Both have worked well.
- Heavy cream: Using heavy cream will give you a slightly lighter, fluffier frosting. However, milk or half-and-half will also work.
- Nutrition facts have been estimated.
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Recipe originally published 9/23/13. Updated with additional photos and tips 5/8/21.
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Comments & Reviews
Susan V says
A whole 1/2 cup of cocoa powder sounded like a lot. But NOPE! It actually has flavor. I had a lady tell me that she beat her frosting for 7 minutes. It made this so smooth. Delicious!
I had about a 1/2 cup of frosting left, maybe on purpose, and it was hard to keep from just eating it then and there! Thanks!!!
Thank you! I’m glad you liked the frosting!
Albeit late, I have just made this cake today and it is perfect. The best part for me is there is no need to flour or “gunk” the pan and I had no problem removing the cake, this cake remained whole. There was no “fuss’ and no muss”. As with all your recipes I have tried, this one is most definitely a “keeper”. Thanks for sharing!
This recipe is PHENOMENAL!!! I searched and searched for the best Chocolate Buttercream for several years now and I’ve found it! I’ve made this recipe three times and I have used both salted and unsalted butter. I prefer the unsalted butter, and then I can add in kosher salt to my liking. Make sure to beat the butter for at least four minutes… It’s so simple and so incredible!!
Thank you! I’m so glad that you like it!
Hi! I’ve actually tried out three of your recipes and so far they’ve been fantastic. However, I found this icing a bit too sweet for my personal liking. Can I add in less powdered sugar the next time I make it? Or will that result in an icing that’s “too wet?” I’m not sure if there would be a better way to go about this.
I’ve made the frosting with more cocoa powder, and that cuts some of the sweetness. If you add more cocoa powder, you’ll need more milk or cream to get the proper consistency.
If I want to make a smaller batch, would I beat the butter for a less amount of time before adding the other ingredients?
I don’t have a time for you, but if you beat the butter until it is soft, you should be ok!
This is the best frosting of any kind I’ve ever made. Family and friends ask for the recipe. It’s so creamy and just the right amount of richness. Do you have a vanilla butter cream that’s just as good? Everyone I’ve made taste like powdered sugar and no creamy.
Thank you so much!! I have two vanilla frostings that you might like. The first is the vanilla version of this recipe. The secret to creamy frosting in the vanilla version is using heavy cream in place of milk. The second recipe is an old-fashioned vanilla frosting that’s made with granulated sugar. It’s light and fluffy but isn’t as sweet as traditional buttercream.
Linda M says
This icing is absolutely amazing! It was super easy to make and so delicious. I was worried about it being too sweet. It was not too sweet. It was perfect. Make this icing you won’t be disappointed!
Thank you so much!!
Thank you for sharing this recipe.
Please could you convert cups into grams? I’m from the UK and I’ve no idea what 1 cup butter is!
(Tablespoons are fine – thank goodness that’s universal, haha!)
Hi! Of course! I’ve been going back through my older recipes and adding the metric units but hadn’t gotten to this one yet. If you click on “metric” just underneath the ingredients, it will show you the weights for the ingredients.
Thank you so much! Can’t wait to make this :)
Any time! Hope you enjoy it!
I’ve made this twice and it is DELICIOUS. Can this frosting be frozen?
Thank you! Yes, you can freeze this frosting on a cake or on cupcakes.
DELICIOUS. I made 1 1/2 times the recipe to fill and generously frost 2 two. 9 “ layers. Tweaked by usin half salted and half unsalted butter.
Thank you! I’m so glad that you liked it! =)
What size tip did you use to frost?
I used a 1M tip for the top picture.
What brand of cocoa powder should I use if I want the icing to be a darker brown? I’m wanting to make “football” cupcakes today!
Hershey’s special dark cocoa should work well.
Hands down the best chocolate buttercream frosting I’ve ever made and eaten!! The recipe was so simple and easy to follow, the texture and the flavour of the butter cream was great and it wasn’t too overbearingly sweet. Well done Kate for making such a great recipe, I will definitely be using this recipe again!!
Thank you so much! I’m so glad that you liked the frosting! Thanks for commenting!
Val Elmergreen says
Does this make enough to fill and frost a 2 layer (8” pans)
For a 2 layer cake, I make a batch and a half (1.5x) so that I can have plenty.
Saskia Moekiran says
Edith Medley says
SO simple and tastes exquisite!! Also easy to double as well as “halve”!!! Our new family favorite! Thank you!
Thank you so much! I’m so glad that you liked the frosting. =) Thanks for commenting!
Joanna Smith says
Perfect! The best chocolate buttercream icing! I used heavy whipping cream instead of milk! LOVED IT! Pipes beautifully!
Thank you! So glad you like the frosting! I like using whipping cream, too; it makes the frosting extra light and fluffy. =) Thanks for commenting!
Does this need be refrigerated after icing the cake.
I refrigerate it because I feel safer chilling it, but I’ve read varying articles about the need to chill butter, and I’m not completely sure whether it absolutely has to be refrigerated or not.
Laura Merchant says
Tried the chocolate for the big guys b-day brownies. First he was impressed that I made from scratch-and then he tasted….. quite happy based on the ummmm-ummmmm. Thank you very much. I will tell you that I did add a pinch of salt-it was a tip my mom gave me years ago. I don’t know why, but it does make a difference and just adds to the taste. Thank again.
I’m so glad that it was a hit! Yes! That little bit of salt adds balance. =) Thanks for commenting!
Hi. Looks delicious. If I use melted chocolat, how should I proceed?
Thanks! Without testing it, I’m not sure what changes you will need to make if you use melted chocolate.