The perfect chocolate buttercream frosting is a near heavenly experience: creamy and light, with deep chocolatey flavor, and none of that cloying over-done sweetness that you get with a storebought frosting. It should be versatile, and delicious enough to eat off a spoon, and it’s a recipe that every cook should have in their back pocket.
There are two keys to making the best chocolate buttercream: whipping air into your ingredients, and using good quality cocoa powder. You want to start by beating the butter with an electric mixer until it becomes creamy and the color lightens a bit. After you gradually add powdered sugar and a little cream, you’ll want to whip it for a few additional minutes to incorporate air into the frosting. This gives you frosting that’s a wonderful light and fluffy texture.
The cream helps to cut through that sugary-grittiness that you can get sometimes and it keeps the frosting from being too sweet. Don’t get us wrong, frosting should be sweet, but it shouldn’t overpower whatever it’s going to be topping. And this frosting is the perfect topping for cakes, cookies, cupcakes… even brownies. It’s a good companion to many baked goods, but if we’re being honest, it’s pretty darn irresistible right out of the bowl.
Like all basic frostings, you get out of it what you put into it. (Or in other words, the quality of your ingredients is pretty important.) The better cocoa powder you can spring for, the deeper the chocolate flavor of your frosting will be. Same goes for butter. The flavor here is largely coming from those two ingredients and while a frosting will still be totally tasty with budget options, it’ll really be something special if the ingredients going into it are too.
15 minutes to prepare 2 layer cake or 24 cupcakes
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 4-5 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream, plus more as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl, whip the butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light in color and creamy, about 5 minutes.
- Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add vanilla extract, salt, cocoa powder, and mix until combined.
- Add 2 more cups powdered sugar and mix on low until incorporated, then add cream and continue mixing until combined.
- Increase mixer speed to high and beat until frosting is fluffy and light, 3-5 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if a thicker consistency is desired or more cream if you need a thinner consistency. Spread on cupcakes, cake, or just a spoon, and enjoy!