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This buttercream truly lives up to the name ‘Best Ever Chocolate Buttercream Frosting’.
If we’re being honest, American buttercream often leaves a lot to be desired. It’s typically cloyingly sweet and sugary, with a discernible grittiness from the powdered sugar.
Compared to the ultra-smooth silkiness of Swiss Meringue Buttercream or Italian Meringue Buttercream, American buttercream usually just pales in comparison.
Although nothing will quite compare to Swiss or Italian Meringue Buttercream … I think I’ve discovered the next best option.
It’s an American-style buttercream that uses one simple technique and two secret ingredients to get that rich, smooth, creamy, velvety, silky texture and strong chocolate flavor, without nearly as much work.
I have to give credit to the amazing Stella Parks for her genius that is this buttercream recipe.
Learn the secrets to this Best Ever Best Ever Chocolate Buttercream Frosting below, and learn all my best tips and tricks in the pink tip box below!
How to Make the BEST Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
The Secrets to the Best Ever Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- Ganache: Add a small amount of cooled (but not chilled) chocolate ganache to the buttercream. This magic combo of heavy cream + melted chocolate lends intense fudgy richness to the American buttercream texture and a huge dose of chocolate flavor.
- High Fat Cocoa Powder + Organic Powdered Sugar: More on these magical ingredients, and where to find them, below.
Why Add Chocolate Ganache to Buttercream?
In some of my chocolate buttercream recipes, I simply add cocoa powder. In others, I’ll also add some melted chocolate. But thanks to Stella Parks, I now know the best way to get chocolate flavor AND fudgy texture is by adding in ganache! A small amount, just enough to pack a punch without making the buttercream too dense.
There are two keys to adding ganache to your buttercream:
- Avoid using chocolate chips. Instead, chop up a bar of your favorite semi-sweet baking chocolate. Chocolate chips have emulsifiers and stabilizers that maintain that chip shape even after being exposed to heat, so they simply don’t melt down as smooth and creamy.
- The ganache needs to be at just the right temperature before adding to the frosting. What’s the right temp? Room temp, about 75°F. It should be thick but still somewhat pourable. Too hot and it’ll melt the butter. Too cold and it’ll harden.
The Best Powdered Sugar for Buttercream is ORGANIC
- Organic powdered sugar is made with tapioca starch to prevent caking. Organic powdered sugar is perfect for any instance you want the sugar to dissolve smoothly (which means it would be awful for using as a decorative garnish).
- Conventional powdered sugar is made with cornstarch to prevent caking.
- Tapioca starch is not only sweeter than cornstarch, but it dissolves better into buttercream. Less chalky gritness.
- Whatever you do, DON’T SKIP SIFTING! Especially if using organic powdered sugar, which gets ultra clumpy.
Where to buy organic powdered sugar?
Trader Joe’s sells it under its own name. The brand Wholesome is the other most widely available option here in the US. Use their store locator to find where they stock near you. Alternatively, buy it on Amazon here.
Do I HAVE to use organic powdered sugar?
No – but it’s these little things that add up to take your baking from good to WOW. If you’re using conventional powdered sugar, just make sure it’s finely ground 10x (not 6x which is for decorating).
HIGH-FAT Dutch Process Cocoa is MAGIC!
Most cocoa powder you find at the grocery store is starchy. For a fun test, the next time you’re at the store turn all the cocoa powder containers around to compare their nutrition facts. You’ll see the amount of fat will vary by brand. High-fat cocoa powder has between 22-24% fat, whereas most grocery store brands have half that amount. This means they’re literally more drying. If you ever have a problem with dry chocolate cake, cupcakes, or brownies, take a peek at your cocoa powder’s fat percentage.
Why Dutch process? Because its acidity has been neutralized and tends to be of high quality since it’s a specialty product. This matters that much more when it’s going into a raw preparation like buttercream. Learn more about Natural vs. Dutch Processed Cocoa Powders here.
Where to buy high-fat Dutch process cocoa?
I know you’re probably thinking that just finding Dutch process cocoa is challenging enough. Here are some options for getting your hands on this magical cocoa:
Be Sure Your Butter is at the Right Temperature!
When making any kind of American buttercream, you want to be sure your butter is at a COOL room temperature. It should not be so warm that it looks and feels oily and greasy because guess what… that’s exactly how the buttercream will turn out. Which also makes it more difficult to work with on cakes & cupcakes.
Why does my buttercream taste like BUTTER?
Well… because there’s a ton of butter in it haha! It’s in the name after all. But if you notice this in an unpleasant way, try switching brands of butter. Also, always use unsalted butter in buttercream. Not only does this allow you to control the amount of salt, but unsalted is generally fresher because salt acts as a preservative in salted butter, giving it a longer shelf life. Learn more about Salted vs. Unsalted Butter here.
How Long Should I Beat My Buttercream?
- It’s so important to use your mixer correctly. Below, the image on the left shows barely beaten frosting, and the image on the right shows frosting beaten for several minutes.
- The longer you beat your buttercream, the more air you’ll whip into it, and the lighter and smoother it’ll be.
- For my mixer, the total beating time is about 5 minutes. That doesn’t include stopping to scrape down the sides sides and bottom of the bowl and your paddle attachment. The exact timing will depend on your mixer.
- You’re looking more for visual indicators. The final buttercream should be lighter in color than when you started. It should look and taste smooth and creamy and be easy to spread.
Can You Freeze Buttercream?
Yes! Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let come to room temperature and re-whip in the stand mixer until light and fluffy again. Add a tablespoon or 2 of powdered sugar if it needs to thicken.
How to Store Buttercream
Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to a week. Let come to room temperature and re-whip in the stand mixer until light and fluffy again. Add a tablespoon or 2 of powdered sugar if it needs to thicken.
Ways to use this Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
More Buttercream Recipes & Tips:
cold heavy cream
(113 grams) finely chopped semisweet chocolate
(don't use chocolate chips)
sticks (340 grams) unsalted butter,
at a cool room temperature
(250 grams) organic powdered sugar,
(85 grams) high-fat Dutch cocoa powder,
fine sea salt
In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let stand for a few minutes before stirring until smooth. Set aside and cool to approximately 75°F or until thickened but still pourable.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter, powdered sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and salt. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase the speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes, or until very well blended, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
Reduce speed to medium-low and add the cooled chocolate ganache mixture. Continue beating until the frosting has lightened in color and texture, about 2 minutes more, scraping down the bowl as needed.
This recipe makes enough frosting for a two layer 8-inch cake or to generously frost 12 cupcakes. Recipe from the amazing Stella Parks via Serious Eats.
This post was originally published in 2020 and has been updated with additional tips and recommendations. Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.