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If you think plain cream cheese frosting is the best, wait until you try chocolate cream cheese frosting! It’s silky, undeniably creamy, and the flavor is absolutely delicious.

chocolate cream cheese frosting in a glass bowl and on a whisk attachment

If we think regular cream cheese frosting is the best, we’re definitely backwards. Because this chocolate cream cheese frosting is, in fact, the best in the biz.

  • it’s silky smooth
  • and pipe-able with your favorite piping tips
  • it’s rich and easily spreads
  • and creamier than any chocolate frosting you’ve had before
  • you’ll want to eat it with a spoon!!

Tip for piping cream cheese frosting: Refrigerate the frosting inside the piping bag for at least 30 minutes prior to piping. Cream cheese frosting holds its shape much better when it’s piped cold.

chocolate cream cheese frosting in a glass bowl

Unlike most frostings, chocolate cream cheese frosting is not overly sweet. Rather, its sweet and tangy flavors are perfectly balanced and it tastes much better than buttercream on even the sweetest of cakes!

What Tastes Best with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting?

Besides zebra cake, you’ll also love it with:

overhead image of cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting and sprinkles on a marble cake stand

If you’re in the mood for vanilla, here is my plain cream cheese frosting recipe.

Success Tip: Avoid Runny Cream Cheese Frosting

Make sure you’re using a block of cream cheese, not cream cheese spread. Cream cheese is sold in 8 ounce blocks– and you’ll need 1 and 1/2 blocks of the full-fat stuff. I’ve gotten many questions about cream cheese frosting being too runny and the #1 reason is because bakers have accidentally been using the spread instead of the block.

There’s a HUGE difference!

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chocolate cream cheese frosting in a glass bowl and on a whisk attachment

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 45 cups 1x
  • Category: Frosting
  • Method: Beating
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Chocolate cream cheese frosting is silky, undeniably creamy, and absolutely delicious.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 12 ounces (335g) full fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature*
  • 3/4 cup (175g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 and 1/2 cups (420g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2/3 cup (55g) unsweetened natural or dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 12 Tablespoons milk or heavy cream
  • pinch salt

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese for 1 minute on high speed until completely smooth and creamy. Beat in the butter until combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, 1 Tablespoon milk, and salt and beat on medium-high speed until combined and creamy. Add 1 more Tablespoon of milk to slightly thin out, if desired. Taste, then add another pinch of salt if desired.
  2. Cover and store leftover frosting for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting for a few seconds so it’s creamy again.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Cover and store leftover frosting for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting for a few seconds so it’s creamy again.
  2. Cream Cheese: Make sure you’re using the blocks of cream cheese, not cream cheese spread. They’re typically sold in 8 ounce blocks, so you’ll need 1 and 1/2 blocks.
  3. Tip for Piping Cream Cheese Frosting: Refrigerate the frosting inside the piping bag for at least 30 minutes prior to piping. Cream cheese frosting holds its shape much better when it’s piped cold.
  4. This recipe is enough to frost 18-24 cupcakes, one 9×13-inch sheet cake, or one 3 layer cake.

Keywords: chocolate cream cheese frosting

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Seriously the best icing. Has a really rich flavor without being too sweet. Thank you!

    1. I just made this frosting for the first time and it was the best chocolate frosting I have ever made! So creamy, and spreadable. I made a three layer 9” chocolate cake and it was just the right amount.
      The only chocolate frosting I will ever make.
      I was a little Leary about the cream cheese… but Omg!!! Sooo good.

  2. Excellent chocolate frosting. The batch was a little too big for me, so the next time I cut it down to 2/3rds of the recipe. Wonderful flavor and perfect consistency.

  3. Amazing frosting! Thank you for sharing! I just made it for my son’s birthday cake and it was a huge hit.

  4. An absolutely perfect icing. I’m not sure I’ll ever make chocolate icing without cream cheese again. This was the smoothest icing ever, and I loved the rich flavour. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  5. Hello! Is it possible to replace some of the powdered sugar with more cocoa? How might that affect the consistency? I’m going for a darker chocolate, less sweet frosting. Thanks!

    1. Hi Anne, Definitely! Simply replace an equal amount of the sugar with the extra cocoa powder and the consistency shouldn’t change. Enjoy!

  6. I want to know how I can reduce this to make frosting for cupcakes. Yielding 12 so I just need enough frosting for that. Also, does this go well with chocolate ganache drizzle?

    1. Hi Hira! The recipe as written will make enough to frost 18-24 cupcakes, so you could halve it or reduce it by 1/3. It would go great with a ganache drizzle, enjoy!

    1. Hi Ruth, we wouldn’t recommend it — it would add too much liquid to the frosting making it very hard to pipe or spread on the cake. You could try replacing some of the confectioners’ sugar with freeze dried strawberry powder, but the strawberry taste still might be a bit diluted under the chocolate flavor. If you give anything a try, we’d love to know how it goes for you.

  7. Hello,
    I was wondering after putting the icing in the cake . Should it be refrigerated until all consumed because of the cream cheese?

    1. Hi Jasmine! After decorating anything with cream cheese frosting, it’s fine for 1 day at room temperature. After that, we would refrigerate it. But, use your best judgment and whatever you are comfortable with- we’ve never had any problems leaving frosted desserts at room temperature for a day. We would refrigerate leftovers after that. Enjoy!

  8. I don’t like a lot of icing on my cake, with the extra frosted, I put it in between gram crackers like a sandwich so good

    1. I learned to do that when I was a kid when my mom would make them for us with leftover frosting she made. They were one of my favorite treats and I still love them!

    1. Philadelphia Cream Cheese is acceptable and if you like a milder cream cheese flavor, Philly is the best.

  9. Hi, Sally. This is my favourite frosting. I love it! But I can’t find block cream cheese where a live (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). Do you have any tip to try do avoid a runny cream?I thought about increase the amount of sugar but I don’t want a too sweet frosting. Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi Claudia! A few options for you…as you mention, adding more confectioners’ sugar will help thicken the frosting. You could also play around with slightly reducing the milk / heavy cream just a bit (although you don’t want to eliminate it completely). You can also try subbing some of the cream cheese with more butter — the cream cheese flavor may not be as pronounced but will still be there, and the butter will help thicken it some more. Placing the frosting into the fridge before using will also help make it easier to decorate your cake / cupcakes. Hope these tips are helpful for next time!

      1. Thanks a lot, Lexi! I will try these suggestions. Best, Claudia

    2. Same here Claudia, but this frosting wasn’t runny at all! I think it’s because of the cocoa. With normal cream cheese frosting I add the cream cheese at the end, and instead of mixing it in I use a rubber spatula. I’ve never had frosting soup since 🙂
      But because the cocoa/sugar didn’t dissolve in the butter, I mixed in half of the cream cheese. Because it stayed thick I also mixed in the other halve. And it was perfect! (no need for milk)
      What helps for normal frosting is to look for cream cheese with a high percentage of fat, and to get as much liquid out of it as possible. If you want to mix it instead of folding it in at the end, put the cream cheese in a cheesecloth (or something similar) for about half an hour. That will leave you with much firmer cream cheese. Hope this helps! 

      1. Thanks a lot, Tina! I have tried increasing the butter and reducing the milk. It worked well. I will try now with your tips! Best!

      2. @Claudia
        I just made another batch by mixing the butter for about 1.5 minute, added the cream cheese for about 30 seconds and then added the rest. Perfect frosting again! Next time I’ll cream butter and cream cheese together.
        What I forgot to mention: make sure you have powdered sugar that contains cornstarch (or something similar) because that absorbs liquid. 
        I make my own powdered sugar and add about 2 tbsp on 2 cups/400 grams of sugar (which is 2 tbsp on 3.3 cups of powdered sugar).
        More butter definitively works better than more sugar, I’ve seen recipes with three times as much butter so I guess that still tastes good. But if it’s too soupy the best solution seems to be to add cold heavy cream and mix that with the frosting until it becomes firm. I haven’t tried that myself yet, but since I read about that solution I always have heavy cream on hand when making cream cheese icing 🙂

    3. Not sure if you have marscapone or ricotta cheeses in Rio, but if you do, you can replace the cream cheese with one of those, but I would drain the whey out using cheesecloth and a fine mesh strainer first.

    1. Hi Irene, this frosting should be okay to sit out for a few hours at a wedding. For longevity, we recommend keeping the cake + frosting refrigerated as long as possible before putting on display, and keeping it out of direct sunlight / heat. Hope this helps!

  10. Hi Sally- how many cups of frosting does it take to frost a 9 inch 3 layer cake between the layers and on the outside? Just wanting approximate values if I want to use other frostings. Thank you!

    1. Hi Mary, this recipe yields about 4-5 cups of frosting, which is the perfect amount for a 9 inch, 3 layer cake.

  11. Thank Goodness! I found a recipe that doesn’t require a truck load of sugar. Going to use this recipe to top a Chocolate Mayonnaise Sheet Cake. This will be perfect! Thanks!

  12. I want to bake a 4 layer cake for our 4th year wedding anniversary. I want something really nice and special. Can I use this chocolate cream cheese on the chocolate and red velvet cakes then a Swiss meringue to layer the 2 vanilla cakes?

    1. Hi Safiya, definitely. That combination sounds delicious!

  13. Hi!
    I want to use this frosting for a 3 layer 8 inch cake. Is this frosting stable enough when stacking the layers? Or should I just stick with 2 layers.

    1. Hi Jessica, you can absolutely use this frosting for stacking a three layer cake.

  14. Yummy, thanks. Cut sweetness by adding some liqueur or coffee granules 🙂

  15. Instead of using cocoa…could Starbucks Double Chocolate Cocoa Mix be used? The muffins I will be making have the Starbucks cocoa mix in the recipe. Or what frosting would you suggest be best for Hot Cocoa Muffins?

    1. Hi Michelle, that should work fine, but the frosting may be a little sweeter with the added sugars from the cocoa mix. You can try adjusting the confectioners’ sugar if you’d like, but the less you use the thinner the frosting will be. Let us know how it goes!

    1. You don’t have to, but it is helpful if you’re looking for a smooth coat of frosting on the exterior!

  16. I made the icing ahead of time. Should I take it out of the fridge ahead of time to ice the cake?

    1. HI Janet, It should be fine right out of the fridge, but you may need to beat the frosting for a few seconds so it’s creamy again.

  17. Huge success! I followed the instructions as described and the results were amazing! Beautifully piping on cupcakes.

  18. Hey, Sally I just tried this recipe for a chocolate cake and it was delicious! I had extra and my cake was 2 layers. Overall, would highly recommend it!

  19. Hi Sally… I was asked to add chocolate cupcakes to a dessert table. Will this frosting hold up in warm weater (approx 76*) for a couple hours, out of direct sun? Thanks so much, LOVE all the recipes I’ve made from your site.

    1. Hi Francesca, the cupcakes *should* be ok, but cream cheese frosting really is best kept in cooler temperatures. But, use your best judgment and whatever you are comfortable with!

  20. This has become my go-to favorite cupcake frosting recipe. Buttercream always comes out too sweet, but this has the perfect balance. Not too sweet with a strong chocolate flavor. Seriously, just perfect!

  21. Hi Sally, I haven’t made this cream before and I was wondering if the cocoa tastes like chocolate, I’m still worried about the effectiveness of the cocoa, so I was thinking of putting some chocolate ganache instead. What do you advise me? I’m in a difficult situation.

    1. Hi Alexandra, we haven’t tried incorporating ganache into this frosting before, but it certainly has a distinct chocolate taste when using cocoa powder. It would take some recipe testing to correctly incorporate ganache, since the consistency is much different than cocoa powder.

  22. Easy recipe with terrific results. Frosted Sally’s “Favorite White Cake” with it and it was a hit at our family’s Mother’s Day gathering. I’ll make this again.

  23. Great recipe. Have you ever played with a strawberry cream cheese frosting? I trust you with bringing strawberry flavors to the table. I think your lemon cupcakes with a strawberry cream cheese buttercream would be amazing.

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