Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

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Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is deeply chocolate, rich, luscious, and smooth. This American-style buttercream is an indulgent treat and perfect topping for this Chocolate Cake Recipe, this Banana Chocolate Chip Cake, or these Cake Mix Cupcakes!

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

As a chocolate lover through and through, I can’t get enough of this frosting — I could eat it by the spoonful! And if I’m honest, I do just that every time I make it.

What to expect with this recipe: This chocolate buttercream is for the chocolate fanatic — it’s deeply dark chocolate and very rich. This isn’t a frosting with a subtle chocolate flavor — it’s all chocolate!

This is an American-style buttercream which is typically considered the easiest and quickest buttercream to make. American buttercream frosting is known for its super-sweet flavor, slightly gritty consistency, and contains butter, powdered sugar, and milk or cream. This frosting is true to this style — it is very sweet!

How to use this frosting

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is a great recipe to have whenever you’re looking for a stellar way to jazz up cookies, cakes, or cupcakes. It’s tasty on brownies, peanut butter bars, or blondies. And beyond that, there are many other ways to get creative and use leftover frosting (or an excuse to make more of it!).

  • Graham cracker sandwiches. Something about graham crackers and frosting is magical! We love smearing lots of this frosting between two graham crackers.
  • Melt it. Need a quick hot fudge for your brownie-ice cream sundae? Melt a little bit of this frosting and drizzle it on top!
  • Cookie sandwiches. Make  Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies or Chocolate Cookies and spread lots of chocolate frosting in between.
  • Top donut holes. If you’ve got some plain donut holes, jazz them up with frosting on top. (Chocolate Fondue shouldn’t get all the fun!)
  • Use as a dip or spread. Have some fun snacks begging for frosting? Think Teddy Grahams, pretzels, marshmallows, vanilla wafers, or cereal! Add some frosting and let the fun begin!

Image of the cocoa powder used in this frosting

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • Dutch-process cocoa powder. The “secret” to the best Chocolate Buttercream with cocoa powder Frosting (IMO) is using Dutch-process cocoa powder. The Dutching process offers a much more robust and intense chocolate flavor. While regular cocoa powder works, we find the frosting to be overall less flavorful and less intensely chocolate. Here’s my all-time favorite Dutch-process cocoa powder (affiliate link) — it is unbelievably good! Hershey’s® “Special Dark” cocoa powder (pictured above) is a Dutch-process cocoa powder that is also delicious in this frosting and readily found at most grocery stores.
  • Unsalted butter. The better the quality of butter used, the better the flavor will be. Avoid margarine of any type — it doesn’t work the same.
  • Powdered sugar. For an ultra-smooth frosting, sift the powdered sugar before adding it in. (Confession: I usually don’t bother!)
  • Heavy whipping cream. While a lot of buttercream frostings use milk, we find heavy cream totally worth it for texture, silky smoothness, and flavor. I don’t recommend using milk in this particular recipe.
  • Fine sea salt and vanilla. Both are flavor enhancers. The salt intensifies the flavors and balances the sweetness — if you find the frosting to be too sweet, a small dash of salt is often the perfect fix. 


Frosting quantities can vary depending on the exact ingredients used. If you find the Chocolate Buttercream too thick, add a dash more of heavy cream. Not thick enough? A touch more powdered sugar. These two ingredients can be played with a bit until the frosting reaches your perfect consistency.

How To Make Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  1. Preparation: Start with room temperature butter for easier mixing.
  2. Beat Butter: Cream the butter until smooth.
  3. Incorporate Dry Ingredients: Gradually add powdered sugar and cocoa powder, mixing slowly at first then increasing speed, scraping the bowl sides.
  4. Add Liquids: Mix in heavy cream, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt until combined.
  5. Finish Mixing: Whip at high speed until the frosting lightens and becomes creamy, adjusting with more powdered sugar or cream if needed.
  6. Adjust Flavor: Taste and add more salt if too sweet.

Process shots-- using room-temperature butter; creaming the butter; adding powdered sugar and cocoa powder; beating to incorporate.


  • Use room-temperature (not melted, not softened) butter: For this frosting to whip together nice and smoothly, we want the perfect temperature butter. For best results, leave the butter out at room temperature an hour before using. To speed up the process of getting room-temperature butter, use this great hack.
  • While hand mixers will work, I’ve always had the best results making this frosting in a stand mixer with a whisk or paddle attachment.
  • Scrape the sides of the bowl frequently with a spatula to ensure an even mix and dispersion of ingredients.

Process shots-- the heavy cream, vanilla, and salt being added and beaten together

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting FAQs

1How do you make chocolate buttercream frosting from scratch?

This buttercream frosting can be ready in 3 simple steps:

  1. Beat the butter until nice and creamy
  2. Add in the cocoa powder & powdered sugar
  3. Add remaining ingredients and beat until light & fluffy!

2What's the difference between buttercream icing and frosting?

Frosting is thick, fluffy, and typically used to coat the outside or inner layers of a cake or cupcake. Frosting usually has a butter-sweet taste and is good for adding color, texture, and sweetness to baked goods.

Icing is much thinner, glossier, and is typically used as a glaze. Icing has a sugary (almost sickly sweet) taste and is best for adding smoothness and shine to baked goods.

3Does chocolate buttercream frosting need to be refrigerated?

If using immediately, no refrigeration is needed; otherwise, refrigerate. Transfer all frosting from the mixer to an air-tight container and store in the fridge for up to 1 week. For use, let it soften at room temperature for 30-60 minutes until spreadable.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

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Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

5 from 1 vote
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is deeply chocolate, rich, luscious, and smooth. An indulgent treat and the perfect topping for so many different treats!
Print Recipe

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

5 from 1 vote
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is deeply chocolate, rich, luscious, and smooth. An indulgent treat and the perfect topping for so many different treats!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, Vegetarian
Keyword chocolate buttercream, chocolate buttercream frosting
Prep Time 20 minutes
Set out butter in advance to come to room temperature 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 3 cups -- enough for about 20 cupcakes or to frost a 9x13-inch pan
Chelsea Lords
Calories 1252kcal


  • 1-1/4 cups (20 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder Note 1
  • 3-5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/16 teaspoon (tiny pinch) fine sea salt


  • BEAT BUTTER: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until nice and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • OTHER INGREDIENTS: Add in 3 cups of powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Mix on low until just incorporated. It will be very thick! Again, scrape down the sides. Add in the heavy cream, vanilla, and salt. Mix again on low until incorporated.
  • FINISHING: Once incorporated, increase the speed to high and beat for 30 seconds up to 1 minute. The frosting will slightly lighten in color and become very creamy. If the frosting is too thin, add a touch more powdered sugar (add only 1/4 cup at a time until consistency is reached) and if the frosting is too thick add a touch more heavy cream (1 tablespoon at a time until consistency is reached). Taste the frosting and adjust to personal preference adding a dash more salt if it is too sweet. Use immediately.
  • STORAGE: Use a spatula to scoop all the frosting from the mixer bowl into an air-tight container. Place in the fridge and store for up to 1 week. When ready to use, let the frosting stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes to an hour to soften to spreadable consistency.


Recipe Notes

Note 1: Cocoa: The "secret" to the best, deeply chocolate and super-rich chocolate buttercream frosting (IMO) is using Dutch-process cocoa powder. The Dutching process offers a much more robust and intense chocolate flavor. Hershey’s “Special Dark” cocoa powder is a Dutch-process cocoa powder readily found at most grocery stores. If you do not like a deeper, darker chocolate flavor, use natural (unsweetened) cocoa powder instead. We do find the flavor to be less robust with this cocoa powder.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 1252kcal | Carbohydrates: 271g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 63mg | Sodium: 74mg | Potassium: 924mg | Fiber: 20g | Sugar: 233g | Vitamin A: 713IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 93mg | Iron: 8mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.


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