Best Ever Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Recipe By Tessa Arias
February 20th, 2020
4.96 from 24 votes
4.96 from 24 votes

Best Ever Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is an easy American buttercream style recipe with two SECRET ingredients and one surprise technique to make the richest, creamiest, smoothest, and most chocolaty buttercream ever.

Yield: 3 cups

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook: 5 minutes

If we’re being honest, American buttercream leaves a lot to be desired.

It’s often cloyingly sweet and sugary with a discernible grittiness from the powdered sugar.

Compared to the ultra smooth silkiness of Swiss Meringue Buttercream, American buttercream usually just pales in comparison.

Mixing bowl with smooth chocolate buttercream frosting

But it’s SO much easier to make than Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMB).

Although nothing will quite measure up to SMB besides the real thing… 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 we all love in SMB without nearly as much work.

So are you just dying to know the secrets to get the Best Ever Chocolate Buttercream Frosting?

1. 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.

2. High Fat Cocoa Powder + Organic Powdered Sugar

Honestly, the most challenging part of this recipe will probably be locating these two more specialty ingredients. But once you do, you’re going to want to stock up.

I get into the “hows” and “whys” of this in the pink box below. But first I have to give credit to Stella Parks for her genius that is this buttercream recipe.

If you follow me on Instagram stories, you’ll know I had already fallen in love with high fat cocoa powder in cake & brownie baking. But using it in buttercream? AMAZING. Read below to find out why.

How to make the BEST Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Why you should add chocolate ganache to your buttercream:

Chocolate ganache in a saucepan
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.

1. Avoid using chocolate chips.

You want to chop up your favorite brand of semisweet baking chocolate here. Chocolate chips have emulsifiers and stabilizers that maintain that chip shape even after exposed to heat, so they simply don’t melt down as smooth and creamy.

2. 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

Okay, stick with me here.

Organic powdered sugar is made with tapioca starch to prevent caking. 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. So 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).

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 states. Use their store locator to find where they stock near you.

Do I HAVE to use organic powdered sugar?
Of course not, you can do whatever you want! 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!

High fat Dutch process cocoa powder in a bowl


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 fat percentage.

Why Dutch process? Because its acidity has been neutralized and tends to be of high quality since it’s a more expensive speciality product. This matters that much more when it’s going into a raw preparation like buttercream.

Where to buy high fat Dutch process cocoa?
Now I know you’re probably thinking just finding Dutch process cocoa is challenging enough. Here are some options for getting your hands on this magical cocoa:

Penzey’s Spice Shop
King Arthur Flour

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.

Use your mixer CORRECTLY

Collage: image on left shows barely beaten frosting and image on right shows frosting beaten for several minutes

The image on left shows barely beaten frosting and image on 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:

4.96 from 24 votes

How to make
Best Ever Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Yield: 3 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Best Ever Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is an easy American buttercream style recipe with two SECRET ingredients and one surprise technique to make the richest, creamiest, smoothest, and most chocolaty buttercream ever.


  • 1/2 cup cold heavy cream
  • 4 ounces (113 grams) finely chopped semisweet chocolate (don't use chocolate chips)
  • 3 sticks (340 grams) unsalted butter, at a cool room temperature
  • 2 cups (250 grams) organic powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup (85 grams) high-fat Dutch cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt


  1. 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.
  2. 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 bowl as needed.

  3. Reduce speed to medium-low and add the cooled chocolate cream mixture. Continue beating until the frosting has lightened in color and texture, about 2 minutes more, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

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.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: buttercream

Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

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Recipe Rating

  1. #
    Janet — February 20, 2020 at 10:27 am

    I’ve been baking for more years than I want to confess! And always thought my homemade icing was amazing…I made this exactly as you directed, and it is unbelievable! My family was dumbfounded and I will never go back to the old method again!

  2. #
    Chaya — February 20, 2020 at 10:49 am

    The recipe doesn’t say when to
    Add the vanilla or salt? Thanks!

  3. #
    Dawn Oberbrunner — February 20, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    Delicious, thanks so much!

  4. #
    Adriana — February 28, 2020 at 1:52 pm

    Just made this and it is perfect for when you’re too lazy to make SMBC. It was super easy to make and a great hybrid between American buttercream and SMBC. I used ghirardelli Dutch process cocoa powder and C&H powdered sugar since that’s what I had on hand. I definitely recommend this if you’re intimidated by making SMBC.

  5. #
    Debbie — March 4, 2020 at 9:25 pm

    This is a wonderful chocolate buttercream, thank you. I love the flavor, buttercream can be so overwhelmingly sweet, this was perfect.

    • #
      Tessa — March 9, 2020 at 3:31 pm

      So glad you enjoyed it!

  6. #
    Anastasia — March 6, 2020 at 9:44 pm

    Ive made many chocolate buttercream recipes over the years – THIS ONE IS BY FAR THE BEST! Made it for a birthday last week and so many people commented on the taste and silky texture. One problem, you literally could just make a batch and eat it on its own – you’ve been warned!!

  7. #
    Carolyn — March 15, 2020 at 8:08 am

    This is as luscious chocolate buttercream! Can you adjust the ganache recipe to make a vanilla version?

  8. #
    Hawabibi Desai — April 2, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    I made this today. I have to admit it was absolutely delicious and the best part was that it was so simple and easy to make. I will definitely be making this frosting again.

  9. #
    Lauren — April 17, 2020 at 9:51 am

    This was my first time attempting to make buttercream and it was perfect. I made this to go on the yellow cake recipe and it was the best buttercream I have ever had. Make sure to read all the great tips in the pink box before starting.

  10. #
    Victoria Daugherty — April 28, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    I made both this and the yellow cake. Both were amazing and I followed the directions exactly. I am usually a sweets person, so I was surprised that this frosting was not. It was unbelievably silky and smooth and the spreadability was spot on. Just not sweet to me. I guess I could either add another 1/2 cup of the Confectioner Powder or less of the Dutch Process Powder?
    The ingredients definitely make the difference. Thanks for the great recipe!

  11. #
    Kavya — April 29, 2020 at 3:32 am

    Hi Gemma, whatever frosting/buttercream/glaze I make does not turn out to be good.Can you tell me what can i do because i love decorating but they don’t taste good

  12. #
    Sally Ortega — April 30, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    This was seriously amazing. I made it for my 4yo son’s birthday cake and he was licking the beaters as I was taking them off the machine. Even I couldn’t believe how creaming and delicious it was. I’ve frozen the leftover buttercream and cake cut offs to make cake-pops on a rainy day. Have saved this recipe and will DEFINITELY make it again.

  13. #
    Carolyn — May 25, 2020 at 8:17 am

    The title of this recipe does not lie—it is truly the best chocolate buttercream I have ever had! I didn’t have high fat cocoa powder, and didn’t have time to get some in, so I used the Dutch processed cocoa that I had, and it still turned out amazing! (I otherwise followed the recipe exactly as written.) So much easier than swiss meringue buttercream, and just as creamy and light, if not more so. I will never use another chocolate buttercream recipe; I have found my go-to. Thanks, Tessa!

  14. #
    Amanda — May 25, 2020 at 11:35 am

    I’m planning on making this for a cake this week. The recipe calls for heavy cream… does that mean heavy whipping cream? Or something like half and half?

  15. #
    Lynn — May 25, 2020 at 10:04 pm

    The texture and look of the icing was great, but mine turned out somewhat bitter…is that what is expected?

  16. #
    Amanda — May 29, 2020 at 10:12 pm

    I made this for my brothers graduation cake on top of the yellow cake and this frosting is the perfect match for it. Definitely a staple for my cakes from now on!

  17. #
    Jen — July 29, 2020 at 8:56 am

    High fat cocoa has 22-24% fat? Is that correct?

  18. #
    Shery — August 16, 2020 at 6:28 pm

    I made this and I’m a total beginner. It’s amazing. Texture is light creamy. I’ll never go back to the canned stuff. I had to add the second cup after adding the ganache because I forgot it lol but I just kept beating and beating it as recommended and especially so to get any tiny powdered sugar beads out of there. It’s so worth it. Thank you!!!! I follow you on Instagram and finally got to make one of your recipes (plus have made chocolate chip cookies – on point).

  19. #
    Ruthann St Martin — August 23, 2020 at 7:56 am

    Not impressed with the flavor of this frosting at all! Yes, I used all of the high-end ingredients. Way too much butter flavor for me and not enough sweetness and chocolate came through all of that butter.

  20. #
    Lynn — August 24, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    It was deliciously silky and chocolatey but too soft and tasting more mousse like. Easy to make. How can I make it stiffer besides refrigerating it?

  21. #
    Lauren — September 28, 2020 at 10:09 am

    If I want to make white chocolate buttercream frosting- Im thinking all I would need to do is sub in finely chopped white chocolate and omit the cocoa powder. Anything else you’d recommend?

  22. #
    Lisa — October 28, 2020 at 4:18 pm

    Can I make ahead of time and freeze it. I have a little baby and it’s hard to do everything in one day.
    Can I put it in the fridge a day before I assemble to cake I am wanting to use this as a filling for my mudcake.
    Do I just need to whip it again before I use it?
    I am new to baking cakes and doing nice fillings.
    Any detailed instructions to can give for freezing and using will be much appreciated

    Thank you

  23. #
    HBG — November 11, 2020 at 5:14 am

    Is it possible to use food coloring on chocolate buttercream? If I wanted to lighten the brown with white food coloring, will it change the consistency of it because of the chocolate?

    • #
      Tessa — November 11, 2020 at 11:38 am

      Hmm I haven’t personally tested food coloring in this chocolate frosting recipe, but I’m thinking it should work! Let me know how it turns out.

  24. #
    shaz — November 18, 2020 at 6:07 am

    I havent tried this recipe yet but looking at all the positive comments i literally cant wait to make this luscious looking buttercream. you mentioned to add chocolate chip, can we use callebaut chocolate as they come in callets and not bars? thanks

  25. #
    shirley — December 18, 2020 at 8:02 pm

    This is the best chocolate frosting I’ve ever had! Can’t believe I made this! Thank-you for sharing. Will definitely be making this again. I used ghirardelli baking chocolate and dutch cocoa powder- came out silky and so delicious!

  26. #
    MELLINA OLSON — December 26, 2020 at 5:50 am

    Hi, can i use this buttercream under fondant?

  27. #
    Patti — February 15, 2021 at 8:07 am

    I’m the biggest cynic on this earth…I truly laughed at the use of organic confectioner sugar BUT I will admit when I’m wrong…This was the best buttercream frosting I’ve ever made (and I bake a great deal)
    I did make one change because who,efoods did not have premium semi sweet bats. I used a 70% cocoa, pure dark chocolate bar also organic and made in Madagascar. Thank you, this will be my go to chocolate buttercream frosting going forward.

    • #
      Tessa — February 15, 2021 at 3:04 pm

      Hooray! So glad you enjoyed!

  28. #
    Tina — February 20, 2021 at 6:02 pm

    OMG – BEST chocolate icing ever! Last year, I had a disaster for my husband’s birthday. He loves the chocolate cake from Costco, and someone posted the recipe, online. I have baked my entire life and this recipe was not edible. I promised him, this year it would be spectacular.

    I found a recipe online for the cake. I looked for different icing recipes and I loved how you went into so much detail.
    The icing turned out to be the most amazing chocolate icing I have ever made. Truly, the icing just melts in your mouth.

    The only issue I had was that there was icing all over the kitchen due to my husband sampling it!

    Thank U so much & I know I will be using this recipe, again!!!!

  29. #
    Tina — April 4, 2021 at 2:17 pm

    Best ever! Thanks so much for sharing!

    I made a cake for my husband’s birthday and used your recipe. For some reason (I think the bowl was too small) the chocolate ended up everywhere. We just found more icing on our fan yesterday and his birthday was mid February.

    Again, thank U for sharing!

    • #
      Tessa — April 5, 2021 at 10:24 am

      Oh my gosh, hahaha!! I’m so happy you all loved this recipe!

  30. #
    Pam R. — May 1, 2021 at 10:30 am

    I personally loved this frosting, but my husband prefers milk chocolate. If I wanted to use milk chocolate instead of the semi-sweet chocolate, would I still use the same amount of cocoa — to make it milk chocolate?

  31. #
    Cindy — May 4, 2021 at 8:24 am

    Fantastic! This will definitely be my go to for Chocolate buttercream! It is rich, creamy, smooth and silky – almost a mousse type consistency. I used good quality milk chocolate (I didn’t have semi-sweet) and it was terrific and the frosting piped really well. The only change I would make would be to make my ganache thicker – so use less heavy cream or more chocolate. The only downside was that I ran out of clean spoons because I kept eating it! Seriously yummy!

    • #
      Tessa — May 4, 2021 at 12:49 pm

      haha LOVE it! I’m so happy you’ve enjoyed this frosting recipe and that it’s now your go to!

  32. #
    Samantha Harrison — June 16, 2021 at 8:37 pm

    This is a very silky and smooth buttercream that, in my opinion, is very similar to SMBC but is easier to make! It is luscious and creamy. The organic powdered sugar and high fat cocoa powder make this a game-changer for chocolate icing. I paired this with Tessa’s Best Yellow Cake and it was a winner with my family and guests we had for dinner. Thank you Tessa for all the tips!

    • #
      Tessa — June 17, 2021 at 8:56 am

      Wonderful! I’m so pleased it was such a hit!

  33. #
    Mag — August 21, 2021 at 10:12 am

    This buttercream frosting is so tasty! I think it is the best buttercream recipe out there. It is so silky and not too sweet..kind of a cross between a swiss meringue buttercream and American buttercream. Thank you so much for this truly amazing recipe which I will be using forever.

    • #
      Emily — August 23, 2021 at 10:13 am

      So great to hear this, Mag! Thanks for the comment!

  34. #
    BRIANNA NEWSOM — August 29, 2021 at 1:17 pm

    So easy and so smooth and delicious and so CHOCOLATY! I love this recipe! Made it to top your BEST EVER Chocolate Cake!! SO GOOD!!

    • #
      Emily — August 30, 2021 at 9:37 am

      So happy you loved this buttercream, Brianna, especially on the Best Chocolate Cake, YUM!!

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