Dark Chocolate Buttercream

Recipe By Tessa Arias
November 16th, 2017
4 from 1 vote
4 from 1 vote

My Dark Chocolate Buttercream recipe is ultra rich, silky, and smooth with intense chocolate flavor and just the perfect amount of sweetness. Amazing on any cake or cupcake!

Prep Time: 15 minutes

This post is sponsored by Ghirardelli. All opinions provided are my own. Thanks for supporting me in working with brands I love, to bring you new posts!

There are two things I know the Handle the Heat community loves: dark chocolate and buttercream.

So it was only natural I finally paired the two together to make a super fudgy and flavorful icing that will elevate any cake to a whole new gourmet level.

I know you love buttercream because any post I publish on the topic always gets rave reviews. I also recently learned that you love dark chocolate, thanks to a poll from my Facebook community.

I was delighted to see so many dark chocolate lovers in the group. As someone who’s completely obsessed with chocolate, there’s nothing more satisfying to me than dark chocolate.

My Dark Chocolate Buttercream recipe is ultra rich, silky, and smooth with intense chocolate flavor and just the perfect amount of sweetness. Amazing on any cake or cupcake!

Although a couple squares of dark chocolate are my favorite afternoon pick-me-up, I also love to incorporate the stuff in my baking. The one comment I see over and over again on any of my buttercream recipes goes a little something like this, “Finally! A buttercream that isn’t WAY too sugary and sweet!

That makes me so happy. That’s also why I think you’ll LOVE this Dark Chocolate Buttercream recipe. It’s got chocolate in two forms: a little Ghirardelli cocoa powder and a generous amount of melted Ghirardelli Intense Dark 86% Cacao Midnight Reverie chocolate bars.

This’s what creates a powerful punch of premium chocolate flavor without feeling overly sweet. The 86% Cacao bars have a luxuriously deep, full bodied flavor that really elevates this buttercream. The chocolate has hints of dark cherries and dried plums. It’s absolute chocolate perfection. The scent of this buttercream alone is enough to get your mouth watering. It was a test of willpower just for us to photograph!

Dark Chocolate Frosting - not too sweet!

The recipe makes enough to frost about a dozen cupcakes. If you need enough buttercream for a layer cake, then just double the recipe.

For the smoothest silkiest texture, be sure to sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder before using.

Whenever I’m indulging in or baking with chocolate, it’s super important to me to source the highest quality that I can easily find.

That’s why I’ve been partnering up with Ghirardelli this year. They’re my go-to brand for all things chocolate, and I was so excited when they agreed to work with me. With over 160 years of chocolate-making experience you really can’t go wrong with any of their premium chocolates, from baking ingredients to sweet treats.

However, I’m particularly keen on their Intense Dark line of chocolate bars. I don’t know about you, but I love a little variety. There are so many unique and fun flavors in this lineup, from Sea Salt Soiree to Hazelnut Heaven, Raspberry Radiance to Cherry Tango. Then of course there’s the varying dark chocolate intensities: 60% Cacao, 72% Cacao, and the ultra-dark 86% Cacao which is what we use in this Dark Chocolate Buttercream.

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate

Basically whatever you’re in the mood to indulge in, you’ll find it. Whether you just need a tasty snack, or you’re hosting and want to serve your guests something special alongside food or wine.

When I take a bite of dark chocolate I’m sent to my happy place. It’s relaxing and joyful of course, but it also activates all of your senses. From the rich taste, to the smooth melt-in-your-mouth texture, even the snap of that first bite and the intense aroma… What could be better?

Actually, I can think of one thing: knowing that your treat is sourced ethically and sustainably. Working alongside Ghirardelli this year has shown me that they’re not only committed to quality, but also a bean to bar approach where they control each step in the chocolate making process.

From traceability and monitoring, to responsibly sourcing cocoa beans, Ghirardelli is dedicated to improving the lives and working conditions of cocoa farmers. That means you can feel good with each bite on multiple levels. There’s something about working with a company that has stood the test of time due to their level of care, attention, and craftsmanship that has been incredibly inspiring to me.

My Dark Chocolate Buttercream Icing recipe is ultra rich, silky, and smooth with intense chocolate flavor and just the perfect amount of sweetness. Amazing on any cake or cupcake!

If anything, I hope this inspires you to truly enjoy the next piece of chocolate you taste. Take a moment to really savor it. I also hope you’ll give this dark chocolate buttercream recipe a try very soon. If you do, be sure to take a picture and tag myself @handletheheat and @ghirardelli on Instagram so we can see and share!

4 from 1 vote

How to make
Dark Chocolate Buttercream

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
My Dark Chocolate Buttercream recipe is ultra rich, silky, and smooth with intense chocolate flavor and just the perfect amount of sweetness. Amazing on any cake or cupcake!


  • 3 (270 grams) Ghirardelli Intense Dark 86% Cacao Midnight Reverie Bars
  • 3 cups (375 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  1. Finely chop the Ghirardelli Intense Dark chocolate bars. Gently melt the chocolate using a double boiler, or microwaving in 30-second bursts, stirring between bursts, until melted. Once smooth, allow the chocolate to cool completely.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the sugar, cocoa powder, and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase the speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the salt, vanilla, and cooled melted chocolate and beat on medium for 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy.


  1. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to a week or 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.

Recipe Notes

This makes enough buttercream to frost about 12 to 15 cupcakes. Double this recipe to frost a 8 or 9-inch two layer cake.
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. #
    Victoria — November 16, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    This recipe sounds rich & delicious! Perfect for any chocolate lover! Thanks for sharing!

  2. #
    Erica Lea | Buttered Side Up — November 30, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Um…yes. You definitely had my mouth watering just looking at these photos! That’s awesome that Ghirardelli is committed to ethically sourcing their chocolate – I didn’t realize that!

  3. #
    tessa_i_love_you — January 5, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    yeh, it definitely sounds great, but isn’t the cooling time a bit long? Sre there any alternatives?

  4. #
    Jennifer — April 17, 2018 at 7:13 pm

    I found this buttercream to be very dry. I ended up adding 2 tbls. of milk to make it spreadable on my cupcakes.

  5. #
    Ann — September 8, 2018 at 7:58 am

    Hi Tessa,

    I’ve made chocolate frostings that include melted chocolate and found the frosting set and became quite hard, like I could literally pick it off in one piece with a fork.

    What type of texture should I get with this recipe?


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