Perfect Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
The search for the best chocolate buttercream frosting is over! This frosting is creamy, decadent and perfect for cakes, cookies or cupcakes!
I promised you the best chocolate frosting to go with that amazing chocolate cake, and here it is!
While a frosting recipe may not seem super complex, this chocolate buttercream took a bit of time, attention, and testing to get just right. It’s soft, creamy, rich, and perfect!
The First Secret for Perfect Frosting
Make sure to sift the cocoa powder.
I know this might be a somewhat annoying step, but it is really important. I tested this frosting many times without sifting and I was never able to avoid the itty bitty lumps of bitter cocoa powder.
So. Sift, please.
I don’t sift the powdered sugar because I haven’t seen a noticeable difference in doing so, but you definitely can sift the sugar if you’d like (and it’s probably a good idea if your powdered sugar is extra clumpy and lumpy).
At first, the frosting may look rather piece-meal, especially if using a handheld electric mixer, but with some mixing fortitude and milk, it’s going to come together in a creamy mess of frosting perfection.
The Second Secret for Perfect Frosting
Use milk instead of heavy cream.
This might seem backwards. Wouldn’t we want to add cream for a super creamy frosting? That’s a natural assumption. But I found that heavy cream gave the frosting a curdled/grainy texture.
Using milk means the frosting can be mixed for a longer amount of time (which makes for a super fluffy, creamy frosting!) without getting weird and greasy on us.
The Third Secret for Perfect Frosting
Press out air bubbles with a silicone spatula.
It’s very normal for air bubbles to form while frosting mixes and churns. Because we’re mixing this chocolate frosting for several minutes, you may notice tiny air bubbles in the frosting when it’s done.
To remove the air bubbles, take a large silicone spatula and fold the frosting over in large scoops while pressing through the frosting. Do this a couple of times until most of the air bubbles are gone.
A Frosting for Everything
This chocolate buttercream frosting is perfect for everything from cakes to cupcakes to cookies. It is super light and creamy with bold chocolate flavor.
Speaking of chocolate flavor, you can use either natural, unsweetened cocoa powder OR Dutch-process cocoa powder. The Dutch-process cocoa will lend a darker, richer flavor and color to the frosting. The frosting pictured in this post was made with natural, unsweetened cocoa powder (like Hershey’s).
And remember, there is no judging from the Mel camp if you whip up a batch of this next-level delicious frosting only to slather it on graham crackers and call it a day.
Perfect Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- 1 cup (227 g) butter, softened to room temperature (I use salted butter)
- 3 ¾ cups (428 g) powdered sugar
- ½ cup (43 g) natural, unsweetened or Dutch-process cocoa powder (see note)
- Pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons milk (preferably not skim)
- With a handheld electric mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle or whisk attachment, mix the softened butter until light and creamy, 1-2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add the powdered sugar. Sift the cocoa powder into the bowl.
- Add the salt, vanilla and 2 tablespoons of the milk.
- Mix on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the ingredients are mostly combined. The frosting may appear clumpy – it will smooth out with additional milk/cream and more mixing.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of the remaining milk, increase the speed to medium, and continue mixing for 1-2 minutes until the frosting is creamy and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add additional milk for softer frosting, or add more powdered sugar for thicker frosting.
- Press through the frosting with a silicone spatula to get rid of air bubbles, if needed. Use the frosting immediately (this is preferred), or store in the refrigerator, covered, for several days. If using out of the refrigerator, add 1-2 teaspoons milk and beat with a mixer until creamy.
44 Comments on “Perfect Chocolate Buttercream Frosting”
I’ve used and come back to this recipe a few times now. This time, I tried something different. I halved your “The best chocolate cake!” recipe and your “Best yellow cake!” recipe to make a marbled cake. I have yet to frost it, but it turned out beautifully and I know it’ll be perfect!! Your recipes always turn out great, and are super reliable. Thank you for sharing them!!
That sounds amazing!!
Is this frosting enough for your 9 in chocolate cake recipe?
If you’re adding frosting in between layers or doing any extra decorations, I’d recommend doubling.
What do I need to do to decorate with this frosting? Will it work if I add a little more powdered sugar to a portion of the frosting? I hope to make this tomorrow. Thank you.
It should work great to use for piping.
My kid’s and I made this last night for our Family Night treat and had Graham cracker sandwiches. We used regular Hershey’s cocoa and my kids said it tasted so good, like chocolate milk. Haha. It was so creamy, and we all loved it!
Yes it was perfect w/ 2 percent milk. The sifting chocolate worked great. Tastes wonderful.
Birthday cake finished and beautiful.
amazing! It turned out better than I thought it would
SUPERB!!! Mel, I never leave comments. NEVER! I just had to let you know this is the only recipe I will ever use now.
I cut the recipe in half because I made a 9 x 13″ white cake and didn’t need a lot of frosting. Everyone loved the cake. It was a hit. They went back for seconds.
I’m trying some of your other recipes, too. Thank you for sharing! Keep on posting. God bless.
Looks sooo delicious! Can you comment on the difference between this recipe and your whipped chocolate buttercream that you used in your great yellow cake experiment? Is one more chocolatey and better for chocolate vs yellow cake? Thanks for all you do!
Good question! The whipped chocolate buttercream (with the melted chocolate) is a bit more luxurious and chocolate-y tasting. Both are fantastic. I find that the whipped chocolate buttercream is great if the cake is frosted and eaten pretty quickly – but it does harden up a lot more than this new chocolate buttercream frosting if left to sit (or refrigerated).
I’ve been making the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa for years, but decided to try this after it went crazy on Instagram not too long ago. This frosting is SO SO good. Easy to make, perfectly sweet, wonderfully soft and fluffy, and overall delicious. From now on, this will be my go-to chocolate buttercream recipe.
Definitely a keeper! I had to double this recipe to fill, crumb coat and frost Mel’s yellow cake recipe. This frosting is delicious and Mel’s yellow cake baked up beautifully. So happy to have a successful result with a site I am new to. Can’t wait to try more recipes! Thank you Mel.
I’m so happy to hear this – thanks, Maria!
So soft and yummy! We had it on chocolate cake and made graham cracker cookies with rest and just ate it by the spoonful!
Thanks for letting me know, Jen! Graham crackers ALWAYS have my vote! 🙂
We love graham crackers and chocolate frosting. Since we don’t eat it all in one sitting, can I store the frosting in the fridge? And if so, for how long?
Yep! It’ll last for a week to 10 days. It’s pretty firm right out of the fridge but softens at room temp.
This frosting was over the top amazing! There wasn’t anything exceptional in the ingredients, but the method made all the difference in taste.
Thanks for the review, Karen!
I’m making it tomorrow. I will leave a Comment then.
Oh yum ! I give up all sweets and processed junk foods for Lent, so I have a few weeks left, but I can’t wait to try this frosting ! The Hershey chocolate cake recipe has never let me down so if it ain’t broke….but I’m always looking to improve my buttercreams !
I can’t wait to try this!
Mel, can you help me out? In a past post, you mention some sort of alternative to vanilla extract, and I think your son used it in cookies or something like that. I can’t find it and I can’t think of what search terms to use for this other vanilla thing! I want to try it out.
Oh yes! It’s the LorAnn Butter Vanilla Baking Emulsion (if you search on Amazon it’ll pull up!)
Well I came here yesterday for your pull-apart garlic bread recipe (birthday child requested), and since I was also making chocolate cake and frosting had to check out your “Best Evers”. How fun to see that both my cake and frosting recipes are basically exactly the same as yours! So while I haven’t officially followed this recipe, I’m giving it all the stars because I know it’s amazing. I paid attention to my ingredient amounts when I made my frosting yesterday, because usually I don’t measure, just dump things in until it’s right, and I think they’re about equal to yours. Thanks to you, I now have an actual recipe to point people to if they want it!! I don’t sift the cocoa powder, but I’ve never had an issue with lumps for some reason. I did appreciate your suggestion to press out the air bubbles, that really helped get a smoother frosting. Thank you!
Thanks for the comment, Rebekah! Sounds like a yummy week for you and your family!
Yum, yum, yum! Thank you for always sharing the best of the best with us, Mel! I’m so happy to have a deliciously creamy frosting that isn’t greasy or gritty or heavy-feeling.
Hello Mel! In Meridian, Idaho and just tried your cake and frosting yesterday… Yum! my fam was wondering what was going on with me making a cake in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon but it looked so simple I easily put it together! They loved the cake. I added instant decaf coffee granules to my warm water for a richer taste.
I’ve never used milk nor cream in any frosting. Instead I use water as I mix. Get the same results.
What fat percentage of milk would you recommend using? I usually use whole milk for stuff like this, but based on your comments about the cream I’m wondering if a skim or lower fat milk might be better?
I always use 1% or 2%. I think whole milk would be fine as well.
So excited to try this with your chocolate cake! Also frosting on graham crackers we can eat all day at our house!
I’m glad we aren’t the only ones!
If there is milk in the frosting, would you need to refrigerate the cake if you frost it the night before and serve the cake the next day?
Not necessarily. If the cake can be kept at cool room temperature, it’s fine to stay out for 12 hours or so. But if it’s warm at all, I’d suggest refrigerating and taking out a few hours before serving so the frosting can soften.
I am so excited to try this and the cake. Thanks for all your extra tips too- like pressing out the air bubbles and to use milk over cream. I so appreciate you!
Thanks, Katie. I appreciate YOU!
Graham cracker frosting sandwiches are one of my favorite childhood memories and I have definitely mixed up a batch of frosting for just that purpose. Birthday season for our family is coming up soon and I can’t wait to try this cake and frosting.
They are one of my favorite childhood memories, too! So, so nostalgic. Good luck with birthday season!!
You’ve done it, another answer to my culinary prayers! Your perfect chocolate cake recipe has always been our chosen birthday celebration, and now that I have your chocolate icing to mix it up with, I feel like no boundary stands in my cooking way!
Haha, I love this, Jessica! The sky is the limit! 🙂