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Easy Chocolate Frosting (Chocolate Buttercream)

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This easy homemade chocolate frosting recipe is the BEST when you want something simple and reliable. Our classic chocolate buttercream works beautifully for piping decorations, or simply frosting your favorite cake!

gluten-free chocolate buttercream frosting on gluten-free chocolate cupcakes

A classic chocolate buttercream is one of my all-time favorite frosting recipes!

This delicious frosting is my go-to recipe for all kinds of things, from Chocolate Zucchini Cake, to birthday cakes, to layer cakes, sheet cake, cupcakes, and all kinds of tasty treats!

Whether you want to add a homemade touch to a box mix cake (such a great hack!), or you’re finishing a cake or cupcakes made from scratch, this easy chocolate buttercream recipe is the perfect way to go.

I feel like this is the best chocolate frosting recipe for beginners & more advanced bakers. It’s simple to make, delicious to enjoy, and works beautifully whether you’re frosting a simple cake for the first time or piping swirls & decorations with a pastry bag for a fancy birthday cake or special occasion.

Here’s what you need to make chocolate frosting with cocoa powder…

ingredients for gluten-free american-style chocolate buttercream frosting
spreading chocolate buttercream frosting onto gluten-free chocolate zucchini cake

Simple Ingredients For Classic Chocolate Buttercream

​If you’re new to making buttercream, this is an American buttercream recipe (rather than a Swiss buttercream, ermine frosting, etc.). Thankfully it’s super easy & the ingredients are straightforward. No messing with melted chocolate, tempering egg yolks/egg whites, or any fancy techniques!

  • Room Temperature Butter. The first thing you’ll need is room temperature butter. The butter should be softened, but not greasy or melty (a sign it’s too warm). It should make a slight indent when gently pressed with your finger. If it’s too hard to indent, it’s too cold. If it’s shiny or your finger easily sinks into the butter, it’s too soft.
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder. I’m using plain unsweetened natural cocoa powder (like Hershey’s), but if you prefer a darker color or flavor, you can use Dutch-process cocoa powder (sometimes labeled dark cocoa powder). Don’t use pre-sweetened chocolate powder or hot cocoa mix. They won’t work here!
  • Powdered Sugar (aka Confectioners’ sugar/icing sugar) – For sweetness and texture.
  • Vanilla Extract. A kiss of vanilla adds the perfect flavor note to pair with the chocolate.
  • Kosher Salt. A little salt balances the flavors and elevates the notes of chocolate and vanilla. Don’t skip the pinch of salt!
  • Heavy Cream. The higher fat content and lower water content in heavy cream/heavy whipping cream gives this homemade chocolate buttercream a delicious, plush texture. If you only have milk on hand, aim for the highest fat percentage available, as low-fat milk or skim milk will give you a thinner, less luxurious buttercream.
  • Optional: Corn Syrup. This is the secret ingredient if you want glossy, shiny chocolate buttercream. (Think the chocolate cake from Matilda!) Just a little bit keeps this frosting looking gorgeous instead of drying matte.
making chocolate buttercream frosting step by step

How To Make Homemade Chocolate Frosting, Step By Step

  1. Start With The Butter. Add softened butter to the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl). Using the paddle attachment (or a handheld electric mixer), beat the butter on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, or until very smooth and light in texture. It should look significantly lighter in color & have increased in volume.
  2. Add Most Of Your Ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add cocoa powder, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream to the mixer.
  3. Mix on LOW first. On LOW speed, pulse the mixer a few times so the powdered sugar and cocoa doesn’t poof out the sides of the bowl. (You can also add the dry ingredients in small amounts if you prefer to avoid messes)
  4. Increase The Speed. Once it’s just mixed together, add 1-2 tablespoons more of cream, along with the corn syrup. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium and mix for another 1-2 minutes, or until the buttercream is light and smooth. Ideally, you want it smooth and light without a lot of extra air bubbles.
  5. Finish The Frosting. Use a flexible spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and press out any extra air bubbles, for best results At this point, the frosting should have a smooth, creamy texture and be easy to spread or pipe. It should hold its shape on a spatula if you rotate it around (which means it will hold its shape when piped.)
  6. Spread with an offset spatula or pipe frosting with a piping bag and piping tip on your favorite cakes, as desired. Chill cake afterward to keep fresh.
freshly mixed chocolate buttercream frosting in a glass mixing bowl

Get The Texture Just Right!

Now that you know the basic method for this easy chocolate frosting recipe, let’s talk about problem solving. Even with carefully measured ingredients, there will still be a LOT of variability kitchen to kitchen, and baker to baker. The temperature of the kitchen or ingredients, humidity, high altitude, the strength of your mixer, and more can all have an impact on how loose or stiff your frosting is. So let’s talk about what you’re looking for & how to fix it if it’s not quite right.

Ideal Texture For Chocolate Buttercream

Ideally, for the right consistency, your frosting should be soft enough to swirl, spread, or pipe, but should also hold its shape when moved around on a spatula (this indicates it can hold its shape when piped). So, what if your frosting isn’t quite there? Let’s troubleshoot:

Help! My Frosting Is Too Soft

If your chocolate buttercream is too soft and doesn’t hold its shape, you can firm it up a few different ways.

  • If your ingredients or environment are simply too warm, you can pop the frosting in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up then try again.
  • You can add powdered sugar or cocoa powder 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach the right texture.

Help! My Frosting Is Too Hard

Alternatively, if your chocolate frosting is too stiff to spread or pipe easily, here’s how to troubleshoot:

  • Add liquid 1 teaspoon at a time until the frosting is loose enough to spread or pipe.

Why Does My Frosting Have Too Many Bubbles?

Making buttercream is a balancing act between incorporating enough air into the frosting to give it a light, fluffy texture and not getting so much air that you end up with a ton of bubbles. If your buttercream is full of bubbles, you can solve this in a few ways:

  • Use A Spatula. My go-to is to use a flexible spatula to fold and press out the bubbles. Stir through the frosting and use the wide part of the spatula to press downward or toward the sides of the bowl to press out the extra air bubbles.
  • Gently Melt A Tiny Bit Of The Frosting. Or, you can pull out a TINY bit of the frosting (like 1-2 tablespoons TOPS) and gently microwave it for 5-10 seconds. It’ll almost instantly get melty (you just want it melty NOT liquid!). Let it cool slightly, then stir it into the frosting. It’ll smooth things out a bit and give your creamy chocolate frosting a richer color, too!)
gluten-free vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, colorful sprinkles, and colorful striped birthday candles

FAQ + Tips And Tricks For The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

What Kind Of Cocoa Powder Do You Use For Chocolate Buttercream? Since it’s not being leavened (aka reacting with baking soda/baking powder in a recipe), you can use either natural cocoa powder (like Hershey’s) or Dutch-processed cocoa powder (sometimes labeled dark cocoa powder or alkalized cocoa powder). I usually choose natural cocoa powder because it has a more classic chocolate taste & rich chocolate flavor, but if your cake is darker or you prefer a darker chocolate taste, feel free to use dark cocoa powder.

How To Make Your Chocolate Frosting Glossy. If you’re going for a luscious, shiny look, add 1-2 Tablespoons corn syrup (or glucose syrup) to your chocolate frosting. It won’t go matte and will give your cake an ultra plush, sumptuous look. I add this along with the heavy cream.

Make Ahead Tips. Can you make chocolate buttercream in advance? YES! You can refrigerate chocolate buttercream in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

Can You Freeze Buttercream Frosting? Yes! Store buttercream in an airtight container in the freezer and freeze it for up to 2 months. Let the frozen frosting thaw in the refrigerator, then let the frosting come to room temperature and mix it again before using for the best texture. (This is a great option for leftover frosting, too, though I usually spread mine on gluten-free graham crackers!)

Is Chocolate Buttercream Gluten-Free? This chocolate buttercream recipe is 100% gluten-free, so it’s a great recipe to serve your gluten-free friends! All of the ingredients are naturally gluten-free. Just watch out for cross-contamination–use fresh packages of ingredients that haven’t come in contact with gluten or wheat flour.

🌟 Leave a star rating below when you try our Chocolate Buttercream Frosting recipe & let us know what you served it with! We can’t wait to hear what you think!

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gluten-free chocolate buttercream frosting on gluten-free chocolate cupcakes

Easy Chocolate Frosting (Chocolate Buttercream)


  • Author: Emily Dixon, Sweets & Thank You
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 3 cups frosting 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

This is the perfect chocolate buttercream frosting recipe for your favorite cakes & cupcakes! Don’t miss our tips below for getting it just right.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup (2 sticks/16 Tablespoons) Butter, softened*
  • 3/4 cup (65 grams) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (I prefer natural cocoa powder)**
  • 3 1/2 cups (420 grams) Powdered Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt (use less if using salted butter or fine table salt)
  • 35 Tablespoons Heavy Cream, room temperature***
  • Optional: 1-2 Tablespoons corn syrup (for glossiness)

Instructions

  1. Start With The Butter. Add softened butter to the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl). Using the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), beat the butter on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, or until very smooth and light in texture. (It should look significantly lighter in color & have increased in volume.)
  2. Add Most Of Your Ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add cocoa powder, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream to the mixer.
  3. Mix on LOW first. On LOW speed, pulse the mixer a few times so the powdered sugar and cocoa doesn’t poof out the sides of the bowl. (You can also add the dry ingredients in small amounts if you prefer to avoid messes)
  4. Increase The Speed. Once it’s just mixed together, add 1-2 tablespoons more of cream, along with the corn syrup. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium and mix for another 1-2 minutes, or until the buttercream is light and smooth. Ideally, you want it smooth and light without a lot of extra air bubbles.
  5. Finish The Frosting. Use a flexible spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and press out any extra air bubbles, if you can. At this point, the frosting should be smooth and easy to spread or pipe. It should hold its shape on a spatula if you rotate it around (which means it will hold its shape when piped.)
  6. Troubleshooting. If the frosting is too thick or stiff to pipe or spread easily, add more cream 1 teaspoon at a time, until you reach your desired texture. If the frosting is too thin, add more powdered sugar or cocoa powder 1 Tablespoon at a time until you reach the correct texture. If the frosting warms up too much and starts to melt, chill in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes or until it’s set again.
  7. Spread or pipe frosting on cake as desired. Chill cake afterward to keep fresh.

Storage & Make Ahead Tips. Frosting can be made in advance and chilled in an airtight container in the fridge up to 2 weeks or frozen up to 1 month. Thaw frozen frosting in the refrigerator and bring chilled frosting to room temperature and mix thoroughly before using.

Notes

  1. Butter should be softened, but not shiny or melty (a sign it’s too warm). It should make a slight indent when gently pressed with your finger. If it’s too hard to indent, it’s too cold. If it’s shiny or your finger easily sinks into the butter, it’s too soft. You can use salted or unsalted butter here. If using salted butter, you may want to reduce the salt in the recipe.
  2. Cocoa Powder. You can use either natural cocoa (like Hershey’s) or Dutch-processed cocoa powder (dark cocoa) for this frosting recipe. I prefer natural cocoa.
  3. Milk. I recommend using heavy cream when possible for the best flavor and texture. If all you have is milk, use the highest percentage you have. (i.e. whole milk > 2% > skim milk)
  4. Yield. This recipe makes enough frosting for 12-18 cupcakes, a 9×13 cake, or a basic 2-layer cake. If you want to frost a 2-3 layer cake generously (including a border or decorations), I recommend making 1.5x or even 2x the recipe so you have plenty of frosting to work with.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Frosting
  • Method: No Cook
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: easy chocolate frosting, classic chocolate buttercream, chocolate buttercream frosting recipe

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