Favorite Chocolate Buttercream

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
  • 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.

And here is my favorite vanilla buttercream recipe!

vanilla buttercream in a glass bowl with wooden spoon


  1. Paula Fitch says:

    I am ADDICTED to Sallys Baking Addiction!

    Question…can I substitute shortening for the butter?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Paula, we don’t recommend replacing all of the butter with shortening, but you can use half butter and half shortening (so 1/2 cup of each) for a crusting buttercream. Enjoy!

  2. Christine Peters says:

    Sorry – it must be the European in me but I thought it was way too sweet. I’ll try to make it again but will cut the sugar in half 🙂

  3. Delicious!!! One question…does the cake or cupcakes need to be refrigerated with this frosting? Or is refrigeration just needed if wanting to store extra frosting?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Suzanne! The frosting (on a cake or cupcakes) is OK at room temperature for 1-2 days, but should be refrigerated after that. Use your best judgement here — during particularly hot months, it should be stored in the fridge right after serving.

  4. Classic buttercream frosting and delighted to use cocoa; I think cocoa gives a richer flavor than any other kind of chocolate.

    Easy to use and deliciously, decadent rich.

  5. Far too much cocoa powder and salt. Not nice. I regret making this.

  6. Jazmine Carrillo says:

    I absolutely LOVE this recipe! I did put 1/4 cup of dutch-processed and 1/4 of unsweetened natural cocoa powder instead of 1/2 of either and it came out great 🙂 Next on my list is trying your Whipped Chocolate Ganache!

  7. Hi Sally
    I love your frosting recipes and use them all the time. Question: I know buttercream is supposed to remain soft, why does mine always have a crunchy, hardened effect after frosting the cupcakes. They still taste yummy but am I doing something wrong? Thx

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi S., after some time, it is normal for buttercream to start “hardening” just a bit, especially if stored in the fridge. Is it just the outside edges that are hardened, or is all the buttercream hard?

  8. Turned Out Awesome…Great Recipe…5 Stars*****

  9. So I started, and it worked beautifully tasted REALLY GOOD, and looked awesome, then I scooped it into the piping bag only to realize it wasn’t creamy enough.
    So I had to throw away the piping bag after scooping out the frosting, and that was sad .
    BUT then I added cream and it worked better, I mean, I’m no expert at piping , but this was much better than my attempt with your Swiss buttercream (very badly done on my part and I’m quite sure it was operators error)
    So yeah I filled the cupcakes with whipped chocolate ganache (they were chocolate cupcakes with chocolate filling and chocolate frosting! Talk about a chocolate overload!!!) and then piped the frosting on top.
    It was much easier to pipe than a lot of the frostings I’ve made before and I can’t wait to make it again!!
    Thanks so much Sally and Team!!!
    Y’all are the best and I can’t wait for you next recipe!!!!

  10. Hi, is it possible to use melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder?
    Thanks in advance 🙂

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Auriane, that would take a bit of recipe testing to use here, but there are numerous chocolate frosting recipes that use melted chocolate (a baking bar, not chips) that you can search for! We’ve tasted this one before and it’s great: https://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/quick-chocolate-buttercream-frosting.html

  11. I measured everything by weight rather than cups, and I used half dutch-processed cocoa and half natural cocoa. Turned out amazing, with a smooth texture and not-overwhelming sweetness. I also used 1.5x the salt, because I love salt to counterbalance the sugar. Decadent and pipes super well!

  12. Hi there! Before I make this recipe, does the buttercream come out creamier and softer if I use an electric mixer (which I have), or can you mix everything by hand and will come out the same way? Thanks so much! (Making this recipe tomorrow so please reply!!)

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sandra! The buttercream will be much easier to bring together with an electric mixer. Hope you love it!

  13. Ohhhhh My Gosh, for the first time I have tried this chocolate buttercream , it was a success, and all my guests loved it. Thank you for the goodness. I can’t wait to try more of recipes.

  14. Delicious frosting! Mine came out pretty stiff…I had to add a little more cream than the recipe called for. It was perfect for piping through Russian tips. Only complaint is that if you’re frosting cupcakes and like a high pile of frosting, it definitely frosts less then 12 cupcakes.

  15. melinda b marashi says:

    Can I use this recipe for a chocolate two layer wedding cake? Should I use your chocolate buttercream recipe to frost or would a ganache be better? My daughter and fiance want a two layer cake, not tiered.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Melinda! Our Triple Chocolate Cake would be perfect for a two layer wedding cake – you can follow the chocolate buttercream proportions included with that recipe. Happy baking!

  16. not good. Not rich and delicious. Used on velvet cake.

  17. The frosting is almost liquid I added more cocoa powder I added more condensed sugar I added some more butter because I read on another site that that might thicken it up it doesn’t taste bad but it doesn’t hold its form at all.

  18. It started out ok. I creamed my butter and added the rest of the ingredients. I then followed the directions of “mixing on a low speed” with my hand mixer. Before the ingredients were even mixed, it was a thick mess that ended up burning the motor in my hand mixer 🙂 I had not given up yet and used a whisk, in which the thick monstrosity got stuck in as well. I continued mixing with a fork after that. The texture began to look more and more promising after time. I tasted it. IT TASTED LIKE IT WAS ONLY CONFECTIONERS SUGAR. Horrible.

  19. Hello Sally! I am very sorry if this question is dumb. I’m not a super experienced baker and I am learning but I still don’t get some things. In the ingredients, when it says, “Heavy cream or milk,” does that mean “heavy cream or heavy milk” or “heavy cream or milk?” Also, is the recipe any better with heavy cream versus milk or the same? I guess what I’m asking is if using milk will change the outcome at all? I am making this in two days so a quick response would be appreciated. Thank you in advance! <3

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Olivia! Heavy cream OR milk (not heavy milk) would work just fine! Heavy cream leads to a thicker, silkier frosting, but both will produce a delicious buttercream. Hope it’s a hit!

      1. Thank you so much! Also, how much do you recommend multiplying the recipe for a two layer 9″ cake with slightly extra thick layers?

      2. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Olivia, we recommend following these ratios for a two layer cake. Enjoy!

  20. This recipe turned out delicious! I did pair it with your chocolate cupcakes! The consistency of the buttercream was fluffy and one of the best recipes I have tried by far! Keep up the good work Sally!

  21. Joanne Pereira says:

    Hey Sally! Buttercream is usually very sweet because of all the icing sugar used. Can I use this recipe even I don’t like it very sweet?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Joanne, you can add an additional pinch of salt to try cutting the sweetness in this frosting. Or, for a less sweet option, you might enjoy our Swiss meringue buttercream instead.

  22. Hi Sally,

    I am looking for chocolate icing to put on rice crispie squares. I tried this combination at a local caterer’s store and it was amazing. Would your icing be too soft?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Janet, this buttercream would be delicious on top of rice krispie squares. Enjoy!

  23. I want to use this icing on a chocolate slice that is going to be frozen. The icing I have been using has a lot less butter and is very hard when it defrosts. Would this recipe be suitable to use?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Helen, we don’t find this buttercream to be hard after it defrosts, but it may be slightly less fluffy. Let us know if you give it a try!

  24. Way to much sugar can’t fix it no matter how much heavy cream you add

  25. Used this for my son’s birthday cake. He LOVED it. He says that this is the best chocolate icing he has tasted because it is not too sweet, so definitely a keeper. Thank you!
    PS For the cake, I used the recipe listed under your chocolate cakepop recipe, we like things medium sweet in our house so this is a perfect one for us. The buttercream was the perfect base for camping theme fondant decorations. Thank you!

  26. Absolutely delicious – made it for a birthday party and it was a huge success! Making my second batch today – this recipe is definitely a keeper.

  27. Rebecca S Stillwell says:

    Just made this icing and it’s wonderful! I didn’t have unsalted butter, so I skipped adding any salt. Will definately use this recipe again.

  28. A Troubled Baker says:

    Hi Sally,

    I want to make this but I don’t seem to have unsalted butter, do you think I can use salted butter, and then take the 1/8 teaspoon of salt out?

    A troubled baker

    Btw- I LOVE your recipes so much! If I’m looking for a recipe I come here first, ALWAYS!

    1. `That should work!!!

  29. I used this on your Death by Chocolate cupcakes for a COVID outdoor adult birthday party last March. There were zero left :-0 DEVOURED!!!
    I’ve been meaning to post and thank you for another wonderful recipe. Yours are always my go to for special occasions, and always a hit, no matter what the recipe is!!
    My family and friends now think I’m an exceptional baker, hah! I always say it’s the recipe!!

  30. Lena Poitevint says:

    The best chocolate icing I have ever made just remember to start off with one cup of powdered sugar and then add a half a cup more until you get your desired consistency

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