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Chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate buttercream and chocolate sprinkles

Here we go! This is my favorite chocolate buttercream recipe. I’m tempted to call it a “basic” chocolate buttercream, but it’s anything but– it’s incredibly CREAMY, silky, smooth, and rich. Like a decadent brownie in frosting form. Melts in your mouth and is unbelievable on chocolate cupcakes.

Chocolate buttercream in a bowl

Even though it’s a wonderfully creamy chocolate buttercream, it holds its shape beautifully– just as Swiss meringue buttercream does. This is simply perfect for piping even the most intricate and fancy designs.

What Tastes Best with Chocolate Buttercream?

I’ve made this chocolate buttercream more times than I can count, but I love it with:

  1. Cookies and Cream Cupcakes
  2. Yellow Cupcakes
  3. Coconut Cupcakes
  4. Pumpkin Cupcakes
  5. Banana Cupcakes
  6. Chocolate Cupcakes
  7. If you scale it up, you can use it to frost a layered cake, like I do with my chocolate cake and yellow cake

Dive into this chocolate decadence!

chocolate cupcakes in a cupcake pan topped with chocolate buttercream and chocolate sprinkles

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Chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate buttercream and chocolate sprinkles

Favorite Chocolate Buttercream

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 2.5 cups 1x
  • Category: Frosting
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


This is my favorite chocolate buttercream recipe. It’s incredibly rich, creamy, silky, smooth, and easy to work with for decorating cakes and cupcakes!


  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 and 1/2 cups (420g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup (41g) unsweetened natural or dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3 Tablespoons (45ml) heavy cream or milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  1. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy – about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, heavy cream, salt, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 1 full minute. Add 1/4 cup more confectioners’ sugar or cocoa powder if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Taste. Beat in another pinch of salt if desired.
  2. Use immediately or cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting on medium speed for a few seconds so it’s creamy again. After thawing or refrigerating, beating in a splash of heavy cream or milk will help thin the frosting out again, if needed.


  1. Quantity: This recipe is enough to frost 12-16 cupcakes or a thin layer on a 9×13 inch quarter sheet cake. Follow these ratios for a 2 layer cake and these ratios for a 3 or 4 layer cake.

Keywords: favorite chocolate buttercream

And here is my favorite vanilla buttercream recipe!

vanilla buttercream in a glass bowl with wooden spoon

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. My granddaughter and I made this to frost chocolate cupcakes (your chocolate cupcake recipe). She and her sisters (10 to 15) then took turns piping the frosting (like in the cupcakes recipe video). Everyone had a good time. The recipe is easy to follow and seemingly foolproof. We’ll make this again.

  2. I am astonished at the thought but I don’t think I’ve ever made chocolate buttercream before. So good! I had some Dutch process cocoa lingering in my cabinet and used that. So good! Now I’m curious what the difference in taste is compared to regular cocoa. Going to have to make another cake, I guess! So good!

  3. I made this to use on a gluten free chocolate cupcake. It was perfect. I used Hersheys special dark chocolate cocoa powder. I followed the recipe exactly. I didn’t need to add more cream or sugar. This will replace my “go to” chocolate frosting recipe. Thank you

  4. Not too sweet, creamy and stiff enough for piping. I did get air bubbles when trying to frost the cakes, but I was able to get them out with repeat smoothing. Would hand whip next time to try to prevent bubbles

    1. I had grand plans to make a cake for my daughter’s 5th birthday and I had a disaster of a first go using a ganache instead of buttercream, thank goodness I found this recipe, so easy and amazingly delicious! Thank you!!

  5. Just made this. Turned out grainy and lacked shine or silkiness. Not sure what I did wrong. Very disappointed. Not blaming the recipe because I love Sally’s recipes normally. Just will have to keep looking for something that works. I am a very proficient baker but don’t work with chocolate that often. Have to figure it out.

    1. Hi Laura, how strange. Sometimes frosting texture can depend on the brand of confectioners sugar you are using. If you find yours is gritty try sifting the sugar after measuring it next time. That should help!

    2. Did you accidentally put a drop of water in it? I’ve had chocolate mixtures ‘seize’ before when I accidentally put water in it. They turn grainy and stiff. Only way to rescue it is to add more liquid

      1. Yup, the best chocolate frosting I have ever had! Followed recipe to a T. Wouldn’t change a thing. Excited to have my guest enjoy it for my daughter’s birthday party!

  6. Could we sub half of the butter for hi ratio shortening? I need stability in this heat.

    1. Hi Kasey, yes, you can substitute half of the butter with shortening for a “crustier” buttercream.

  7. Hi there – thank you so much for your recipes. I love baking everything on your site.
    I have a question; I want to make the yellow cupcake recipe in 3 6inch pans.

    I would like to use this as the frosting.
    Is the frosting recipe for cupcakes enough for the cake I am making or should I make one of the other portions at the end of the recipe? Thank you for any help!

    1. Hi Becky, this recipe yields about 2.5 cups of chocolate buttercream, so we would recommend 1.5x the recipe for a 3 layer, 6 inch cake. Or if you plan on doing substantial decorating/frosting, you could even double it. Hope you enjoy it!

  8. I love this recipe! I use it every time I bake a chocolate cake or cupcakes. Sometimes I add a little more heavy cream and some peanut butter! Everyone goes crazy for my cakes now!! Thank you Sally!!

  9. This is amazing? How far in advance can I make it?

    1. You can store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. See the recipe instructions for details.

  10. Can I make this orange chocolate flavoured? Do you have a chocolate orange buttercream recipe? And could I use this frosting for the chocolate peanut butter cake instead of the on frosting under the ganache?

    1. Hi Justine, we can’t see why not! You can try adding a touch of orange extract/orange juice and even some orange zest for flavor. Amount will depend on how prominent you want the taste — we’d start small, taste, and adjust as needed. You can use this frosting on the chocolate peanut butter cake instead of the peanut butter frosting, yes.

  11. Perfect chocolate buttercream recipe – just the right consistency for piping and covering a cake. It also tastes great.

  12. This is my first time making a real frosting. (I usually make whipped topping) I was a little apprehensive, but it turned out beautifully! I sifted all the dry ingredients per your response to someone’s comment about graininess. I ended up adding 2 extra tablespoons of heavy cream in total, after all the initial ingredients. Patience is definitely key. Will make again. 🙂

  13. I made exactly as said and it was too thin. I keep adding confectioners sugar but it never would thicken up. I am at high attitude. I don’t know if that makes a difference or not. I put in fridge hoping it will thicken as it gets colder. We shall see. Taste great though.

  14. This is my second time using this recipe, and both times for German Chocolate cake. I had a recipe very close to it if not exactly the same. Anyway since I lost that recipe I have felt lost making chocolate buttercream. I adore this frosting. I added a bit more salt as I have a salty palate and I noticed that the Milk Bar frostings all have much more salt than one would expect and are amazing. Also Paula Dean says she always adds a bit more salt. I also added a bit of high ratio shortening (probably 2 or 3 tablespoons) for the emulsifiers and creaminess it adds. I still used a full cup/two sticks of butter though. I also added the cocoa to the whipped butter before the sugar. The first time I made it earlier the 45ml of cream was plenty but now the weather is dry and I needed more. The changes are minor and more about my quirks than anything else but I adore this recipe and give you all the credit. If I had a site I wouldn’t change a thing because not everyone keep high ratio shortening in their pantry or has a salty palette. Next time I might heat the cream and dissolve the cocoa in it to see if it releases the chocolate flavor more. It might not make a difference. Anyway, thank you. I love your recipes.

  15. Gorgeous recipe . How is it best to store the iced cupcakes ? In the fridge or at room temperature? Thanks

    1. Hi Joan, some cupcake recipes may have different storing instructions, but in general, you can store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days and in the refrigerator up to 5.

  16. We used Hersheys cocoa powder (unsweetened) and it was a little bitter…. Guessing that is a cocoa problem…. And recommends on cocoa brands?

    We added more sugar, vanilla and cream and seemed to offset most of the bitter- still a great recipe.. just looking for advice!

    1. Hi Mary Ellen, I use Hershey’s brand unsweetened as well (not the Special Dark one). I guess it’s a matter of personal taste. If you want it sweeter, go ahead and add more confectioners’ sugar like you did!

  17. I made this to top brownies for a party using Dutch process cocoa. Everyone loved it – couldn’t stop raving about it!

  18. Hi!

    I loved the frosting, although I did find it a bit too sweet and not chocolate-y enough. Is there a way to reduce the amount of sugar without changing the consistency and make it more chocolate-y?

    1. Hi Aurelia! You can try swapping some of the powdered sugar for more cocoa powder – let us know how it goes!

  19. Well, bummer. I couldn’t read the recipe because ads were covering most of it – Incoildnonly see the first few letters on a li e.

    I x-ed out and sent feedback to Google ads that they stomped on my buttercream buzz!
    (This was on mobile – headed to my laptop now to find the recipe. It sounds delicious!)

    1. Hi Molly, thank you for reporting it. Ads should never cover the content on my website; they are filled between the content. We will look into this issue today. Sorry for the trouble and thank you again!