A Black Buttercream Recipe That Won’t Stain Your Teeth

black buttercream recipe by sugar and sparrow
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Spooky season is here and with it, lots of black buttercream cakes. I’m no stranger to the trend and before now I’ve stuck with a method of making my Favorite Chocolate Buttercream recipe and adding a few Tbsp of AmeriColor Super Black. Since this food color gel is tasteless, the black buttercream still tastes like chocolate buttercream but there is one little problem: it stains teeth temporarily (among other things). So I thought I’d do a little research and experimenting to see if I could create a black buttercream recipe that not only tastes great, it uses as little food coloring as possible to get a nice deep color. 

black buttercream recipe black cocoa powder

First, I ordered some black cocoa powder. It’s cocoa powder that has been heavily Dutched, aka alkalized. It helps provide a rich black color, so I swapped the cocoa powder in my Chocolate Buttercream recipe with it to see if it would be all it took. The results: a really dark brown buttercream that tasted a bit bitter, almost like a dark chocolate buttercream. I still needed to use about ½ tsp of AmeriColor Super Black to get it looking right, and it passed the “no teeth stain” test, but I really wanted to make it taste amazing. If flavor isn’t an option (or if you’re a fan of dark chocolate unlike myself), this route is definitely worth a try! 

black cocoa powder vs black food coloring

Since I wanted to get that perfect balance of chocolate flavor, deep black color, and perfect consistency without using too much food coloring, I tried again. This time, I used a mix of half black cocoa powder and half regular (Hershey’s) cocoa powder. The results were again a dark brown color, and this time I had to use about ¾ tsp AmeriColor Super Black. BUT all that to say, this one is the winning black buttercream recipe in my eyes – it passes the “no teeth stain” test, has the perfect black color, and tastes just like my Favorite Chocolate Buttercream recipe. It’s the one I’ll put below. 

Halloween sprinkles cake

3 Key Elements for Black Buttercream Success

If you’ve ever tried to turn a big batch of vanilla buttercream black using only food coloring, you know that it takes a lot of coloring. So much that it can not only ruin the flavor and consistency of your buttercream, it’s costly and isn’t really fun to eat because everyone is left with a black mouth. Instead, going from a deep brown color (aka chocolate buttercream) to black is much easier and takes a lot less coloring. Before you get to buttercream making, here are three key things to keep in mind for black buttercream success: 

  1. Start with a chocolate buttercream recipe. It’s much easier to go from brown buttercream to black than it is to go from white to black. By adding cocoa powder into the mix, you save yourself a lot of food color gel (and stress!). I prefer using half black cocoa powder + half regular cocoa powder in my recipe below. You can certainly substitute the regular cocoa powder in the recipe with all black cocoa to use even less food color gel, but the taste will be more like a dark chocolate as opposed to a milk chocolate buttercream.  
  2. Use a concentrated black color gel. I swear by AmeriColor Super Black because it’s so concentrated that you truly don’t have to use a whole lot to get a rich black color. It’s also formulated in such a way that it won’t affect the flavor or consistency of your buttercream. 
  3. Give it 24 hours to deepen in color. It may look like wet concrete when you first mix it up, but time is magic with this stuff. Give it at least 24 hours to deepen in color and you’ll be blown away at how dark it gets. This is definitely worth making ahead. 
how to make black frosting

Here’s a quick video that shows you how to whip this black buttercream recipe up.

PS: If you’re into recipe and cake decorating videos like this one, be sure to follow along on my YouTube channel! You’ll find my entire Cake Basics series in video format there, plus tons of recipes and cake decorating tutorials as well. Hit the subscribe button so you never miss a new one! Without further ado, here’s the recipe:

black buttercream recipe by sugar and sparrow
5 from 3 votes

Black Buttercream Recipe

A pitch black buttercream that checks all the boxes: decadent chocolate flavor, perfect consistency, and won't stain your teeth!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings 3 Cups


  • 1 Cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 Cups (420g) powdered sugar
  • 1/4 Cup (30g) black cocoa powder
  • 1/4 Cup (20g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbsp whole milk, room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp AmeriColor Super Black or other black food color gel


  1. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, whip the butter on medium speed until creamy and light in color, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and paddle, then add the powdered sugar, cocoa powders, milk, vanilla extract, and salt. Turn the mixer to low until all ingredients start to come together.

  2. Add the black food color gel, increase the speed to medium and beat for two full minutes. The color will resemble wet concrete at first, but will darken as time goes on.

  3. Place the buttercream in an airtight container and allow the color to deepen for 24 hours or more.

Recipe Notes

Make Ahead Tips: this buttercream can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day. Alternatively, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to use it, bring it back to room temperature and rewhip with your stand mixer to bring back to frosting consistency. 

Did you make this black buttercream recipe? I want to know how it went! Let me know in the comments below and feel free to tag @sugarandsparrowco on Instagram and show me. I love to see what you create!


  1. What if I don’t want to do cocoa powder/chocolate based black frosting and want vanilla frosting but black?

    Coloured the frosting using brown gel dark enough and use black gel after that?

    • Hi Kalum! The only way I’ve found that to work is if I’m only coloring a tiny bit of vanilla buttercream (vs. a whole batch). It’s pretty essential to start with a chocolate buttercream, but if you want to try dying the buttercream brown first before dying it black you can feel free to give it a shot! I think it will take a lot of food coloring if you’re trying to dye a whole batch of buttercream though.

  2. Yolani Negron Rivera

    I live in a hot/hummid area with no central A/C. Shall I store the frosting in tje refrigerator while the color is getting darker?

  3. Hi Whitney
    A two part question. Do you first sift the icing sugar and then measure it out? Or do you measure it out and then sift into the creamed butter. Also I have AmeriColor Black Diamond do you think that would work. Thank you!

    • Hi Lynn! I don’t sift my powdered sugar unless there are large lumps in it (it’s never made a huge difference for me!) but if you want to sift the powdered sugar I would sift it prior to measuring. I’ve never heard of Black Diamond but if it’s a concentrated black food color gel it should work!

  4. Pamela Andrews

    5 stars
    Wow and Wow! I can’t say it enough! This was amazing! I have tried so many black buttercream and they did not deliver. Your black was so simple, fast and so black! Thank you so much for your recipes. Now I just need a red!

  5. If I don’t wait the 24 hours to put on the cake will it be ok and deepen while on the cake?

    • Hi Alisha! Yes – it will totally deepen in color over the 24 hours while on the cake. Hope that helps!

  6. 5 stars
    I’ve used this recipe once on a half Dr. Who, half Star Wars groom’s cake and it came out great! Not bitter at all. I’m starting a black and gold snare drum cake today and of course I came right back to this page. You are my go-to for all things cake decorating. So thankful for you!

  7. Sarojini Jacintha Jayawardene

    5 stars
    I used this recipe to make a black and gold cake for my birthday and it turned out perfect. When I posted this cake on ‘World of Buttercream Cakes’ site, there were many comments on how I achieved the black buttercream and I recommended your recipe on Sugar & Sparrow website to those people. Perfect recipe for black buttercream.

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