Favorite Chocolate Buttercream Recipe

One of my friends described this chocolate buttercream perfectly: it’s the kind you have to put in the sink and cover with water so you don’t eat the whole bowl. I think she’s totally right, because time and time again I find myself eating this stuff by the spoonful. I’m a huge fan of all things chocolate, so it doesn’t surprise my that this is my favorite buttercream of all. Yes, those are strong words, but this is how I feel.

chocolate buttercream recipe by sugar and sparrow

The funny thing is there isn’t anything fancy about the process of making this buttercream or the ingredients involved, but the end result is amazingly tasty! It’s a simple American buttercream with cocoa powder added. I always opt for Hershey’s natural unsweetened cocoa powder for this one, but any unsweetened cocoa powder will do just fine. One thing to note about this recipe is that as soon as you finish whipping it up, the color looks like a light brown at first, but then ends up looking darker as the cocoa powder starts to saturate it. The end result is something more like the medium brown below.

one bowl chocolate cake recipe
chocolate cupcakes by sugar and sparrow
how to frost a sheet cake

You can pair this chocolate buttercream with just about any cake flavor that goes well with chocolate. My all-time favorite cake combination is pairing this chocolate buttercream with this chocolate cake recipe. I am pretty biased because I’m a huge fan of all things chocolate, but trust me on this one – it’s perfect! But beware, whatever cake you top it with, you’re gonna want to eat the extra by the spoonful. Consider yourself warned!

4.6 from 5 votes
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Chocolate Buttercream Recipe

A decadent chocolate buttercream that's so easy to whip up, but yields amazingly tasty results. Pair it with chocolate cake for the ultimate chocolate-lover's dessert. 

Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings 3 Cups

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 Cups (420g) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 Cup (40g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbsp whole milk, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  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 powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, salt, and vanilla extract. Turn the mixer to low until all ingredients start to come together, then increase the speed to medium and beat for two full minutes.

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. 

61 Comments

  1. marie-anne

    3 stars
    nice consistency but insanely sweet. I usually use Italian buttercream so that might be why.

    • Hi Marie-Anne! Yes, American buttercream is the sweetest of all buttercreams, so if you’re used to Italian buttercream it’s going to seem really sweet. You can try decreasing the amount of powdered sugar by 1/2 cup and adding a little more salt to balance things out if you want to try again!

  2. Jenny Carpentier

    Is 2 cups of buttercream is enough to cream the whole cake? If no, how much do you use for a 6in cake like your picture? Thanks! ☺️

    • Hi Jenny! To frost a 6 inch cake, I double this recipe. That will be enough to fill and frost the cake 🙂

    • Judy Freiman

      What did you use the decorate the cake after frosting it? It looks beautiful and I want to try this!

  3. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for sharing, your cakes are gorgeous and the perfect inspiration!

  4. Happy to have just found your site. Lots I see that I’d like to make!

  5. If I want to make a colored frosting do I just leave out the chocolate? Would I need to replace it with something else?

  6. When making cake flour from all purpose flour do you substitute 2 tablespoons of flour with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch for every cup of flour .

  7. Hi, I’m wanting to cover a cake with chocolate buttercream then doing colourful drip. In you vanilla buttercream you provide options for consistency. Is this a good consistency for covering cakes?

    • Hi Becks! It is a great consistency for covering cakes. I use it for this all the time! And you can always add up to a Tbsp extra milk to thin it out if you prefer a thinner consistency.

  8. Hi I’m looking to make this cake for my sister’s 16th birthday as a surprise! I’ll be making this on Thursday. I just wondered is this recipe enough for the 3 tiered cake that you have linked it with? Just want to make sure that I have everything ready for the big day!

    • Yay, Shannon! To make enough for a triple layer cake (like the chocolate cake recipe linked to this post), I always double this recipe to have enough for filling and frosting. Enjoy!

  9. If i wanted it to be less sweet is it okay to leave half the powdered sugar?

    • Hi Kaiya! The powdered sugar is what builds the frosting consistency, so if you half the frosting, it may end up being too runny to pipe or frost. Instead, I would recommend reducing the powdered sugar by 1/2 Cup and counteracting the sweetness with salt.

  10. Amber Weber

    Love your other recipes! I’m making the chocolate buttercream for the first time and would like to know if I can sub heavy cream for whole milk? Or 1% milk for the whole milk? Or will this change the consistency?

    • Hi Amber! You can use heavy cream or 1% milk as a substitute for the whole milk. It may be a little thicker with the heavy cream, but shouldn’t affect the consistency enough to throw anything off!

  11. Hi,
    It’s baking! I bought some Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa, not seeing that it says Dutched on it. Is that okay to use for the frosting, I still have some regular?
    Thanks for the great instructions and video!

    • Hi Eileen! You can use Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa for the frosting if you want, it will take on the dark cocoa flavor but will work just fine!

  12. Lorena Zanforlin

    Hi! Would you sift the icing sugar like in your vanilla buttercream? And the cocoa powder? Thanks!

    • Hi Lorena! I don’t usually sift the icing sugar or cocoa powder, only because I’m lazy haha! You totally can, but in my experience it hasn’t really made enough of a difference to go the extra mile.

  13. 5 stars
    The BEST chocolate icing. I used the recipes for the icing and the chocolate cake for my four year old’s birthday, and she loved it (I’ve never seen her actually eat cake until this one)!

    • Yay, Mallory! So happy to hear that this recipe was a hit!! Thanks for taking the time to let me know and happy birthday to your girl!

    • You totally can use any dairy-free milk in place of the whole milk. To make it completely dairy free you’ll need to also substitute the butter in this recipe with dairy-free butter. I recommend Earth Balance sticks for that. Hope that helps!

  14. I want to make this frosting for your 6inch chocolate cake…is this the right amount including a crumb coat… I am a novice baker but I strive to become better. I now have a cake turntable and bench scrapers…

    • Hi Kathy! I would double the recipe if you plan on filling the cake with this buttercream as well as crumb coat and frost it. If you’re just crumb coating and frosting, one batch will be just fine.

  15. Made this yesterday and it was soooooo good!! I used chocolate milk instead of regular milk which turned out great!

  16. Hi Whitney,
    I just wanted to know if I have to make the chocolate cake in 2- 8″ pans, should I double the frosting recipe to fill , crumb coat and frosting the cake..

    • Hi Anita! Yes – you’ll want to double this recipe for filling, crumb coating, and frosting a double layer 8 inch cake. Enjoy!

      • Anita Jim

        Hi Whitney…I did try out the cake and the frosting and ohh my….words are not enough to describe the taste….everyone I gave loved it and they wanted not only 2nd helpings but literally they ended up finishing the whole cake…thank you so much for such a delicious cake recipe and frosting

  17. Hi, I’m making the chocolate cake, 3 layer 6”… to crumb coat, frost, and piping should I double the buttercream recipe?

    • Hi Kathy! If you’re not using the buttercream as filling and not doing a ton of piping, you could make this recipe as-is. If you’re going to be doing a lot of piping I would make 1.5x the recipe just to be on the safe side. Enjoy!

  18. I’d like to use this buttercream to make your galaxy cake, do you think it would darken enough with black food coloring gel?

    Also, for that same galaxy cake would 1.5x the buttercream recipe be enough frosting? Thanks!

    • Hi Mina! Yes, it absolutely will darken to black. This is actually my go-to buttercream for making black! And as far as amount, you don’t need a lot of black for the design but if you’re planning on frosting the cake with this chocolate buttercream as well (and creating the galaxy design on top of that) then I would make just one batch. You can make 1/2 batch if you just need it for the black. Hope that helps!

  19. Made this buttercream recipe with your perfect one bowl chocolate cake for my sons construction themed 3rd birthday party. What a hit! So delicious and everyone raves about the flavor. I’m impressed because it was so easy and I already had all the ingredients on hand(love when that happens!)
    My ONLY issue was that I could not get the buttercream to be perfectly smooth on my cake and it almost had a two tone kind of look when it was on (wish I could attach a picture) it didn’t matter for this party since it was supposed to look like dirt anyways but I’m going to have give it another try

    • So happy you loved this recipe, Kailyn! I’m not sure why it turned out two toned, it should have been uniform in color. Usually this recipe starts out a lighter color and then darkens as the cocoa powder intensifies the hue over time, but it should all happen at the same rate. My only recommendations would be to make sure everything is thoroughly mixed and when frosting the cake make sure your icing scraper isn’t wet or too warm. Either of those things can cause the color to warp as you smooth the cake. And speaking of smooth cakes, here’s a guide I wrote to help you with the smoothness: https://sugarandsparrow.com/smooth-buttercream-cake-tutorial/

  20. Hi. I tried your vanilla buttercream cream and it didn’t melt.
    Is this stable chocolate buttercream?

    • Hi Shae! I’m so happy you tried my stable vanilla buttercream recipe and it was a success! This chocolate buttercream recipe isn’t heat stable as-is (it’s all butter based) but you could substitute half of the butter in this recipe with high ratio shortening and add 1 Tbsp meringue powder to make it heat stable. Hope that helps!

  21. Hi. What consistency is this icing? I have made your buttercream recipe before for both piping and icing. I plan to make a sloth cake for my grandson’s first birthday and I want to pipe with the fur/grass tip. I would rather make a chocolate icing than a brown tinted icing.

    • Hi May! This is a medium consistency buttercream that is great for piping. It would be perfect for the fur tip! Such a great idea to use chocolate buttercream vs. tinting a vanilla buttercream brown. Enjoy!

  22. 5 stars
    I was planning to bake cupcakes with a chocolate buttercream frosting so I immediately came to this site to find the recipe. I loved this recipe. So easy to follow. Yes it’s sweet but why would anyone want a chocolate buttercream frosting that isn’t sweet?
    Great recipe. This will be my go to when I need to make chocolate buttercream.

  23. Hi Whitney, I am making a chocolate #4 Ninja themed cake for my grandson. First time making my own frosting. Using Americolor super red. Now in your recipe you say that a thinner consistency is best if I want that finished look but I don’t see where you tell us how to make it a thinner consistency. I wanted to do some piping in black but you said it may stain their teeth. I don’t want to make parents angry.

    Also, I wanted a more fudgy and less sweet filling but can’t find one that is not so complicated! Should I just use a canned one? And if so, do you know any hacks to make the filling taste more homemade? I need it for this weekend! Help!

  24. Edith B.

    5 stars
    I had three goals for my adult life.

    Establish a fulfilling career, meet a man I could spend my life with, and find the perfect chocolate frosting recipe.

    Finally, I can cross the most important of these three off the list.

    This is a silky smooth frosting that is reminiscent of your favorite backyard birthday cake from childhood. It has a je ne sais quois that only a genuine classic can.

    The one mistake I made in preparation was putting it together three days in advance of making my cake. It held up just fine in the fridge—but I couldn’t stop myself from eating it out of the bowl over the days it was in there—so ended up having to make more in order to have enough to cover my cake, haha.

    Stop searching, you’ve found *the* chocolate frosting recipe. I used it for the body of the cake, the filling, and the flourishes.

    Even the guests who don’t bake asked for the recipe! Another win from Whitney.

    • Edith! You are so kind! I’m so happy this recipe was such a hit 🙂 thank you for the rave review!!

    • Hi Kathy! If you’re filling and frosting/decorating the cake with this buttercream, I would double the recipe. Enjoy!

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