This easy chocolate buttercream is decadent, smooth and creamy. It has a rich chocolate flavour that pairs perfectly with chocolate cakes, cupcakes or cookies!
Forget lengthy ingredients lists and hard work! This chocolate frosting only takes 10 minutes and needs only FOUR ingredients.
Ingredients in Chocolate Buttercream
This recipe requires:
- Salted butter
- Icing sugar / powdered sugar
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
Salted butter: butter is the base of your buttercream (surprise, surprise!) and the most important ingredient. If you are going to splurge on any high-quality ingredients, make it your butter! I use salted butter to cut through the sweetness of the buttercream and enhance the chocolate flavour.
Your butter needs to be soft but not melted. In most situations, this means leaving your butter out on the counter for an hour. If your house is very hot, it may only take 20 minutes (or less) for the butter to become soft.
What if my house is very cold? If your house is cold and the butter stays firm at room temperature, you will need to use your microwave. Chop the butter into small cubes and microwave at 50% power for 15-20 seconds. Microwave in further 10 seconds bursts until butter is soft enough to poke a hole in but NOT melted.
I accidentally melted my butter, what can I do? Don’t fear. Place your butter in the fridge for 30 minutes or until it becomes solid, then leave out at room temperature to soften again.
Using unsalted butter: unsalted butter won’t cut through the sweetness of your buttercream so you may notice the finished result is more sweet. It will still taste delicious.
Icing sugar / powdered sugar: this very fine form of sugar ensures your buttercream is smooth without a grainy texture.
To make your own icing sugar / powdered sugar: blend regular white granulated sugar in a high-speed blender or NutriBullet until very fine and powdered. Done!
Do I need to sift my icing sugar / powdered sugar? This will depend on the strength of your electric mixer. If you are using an electric stand mixer then you DON’T need to sift your icing sugar. If you are using a less powerful hand-held electric mixer, stick mixer, or a whisk, then you DO need to sift your icing sugar.
Pure icing sugar vs icing sugar mixture: for Australian and New Zealand readers, you will have the choice of purchasing pure icing sugar or icing sugar mixture. Icing sugar mixture contains additional corn-starch to prevent clumping. You can use EITHER, however I like to use pure icing sugar.
Unsweetened cocoa powder: do NOT use hot cocoa powder or sweetened cocoa powder. You want a brand of unsweetened cocoa powder which is suitable for baking.
Avoid Dutch-Processed ‘Cacao Powder.’ This cocoa powder is more bitter and absorbs more moisture than traditional cocoa powder. You can distinguish it by its very dark brown-red colour. It is NOT suitable for this recipe.
Milk: I use whole dairy milk. You can use plant-based milks or water instead, if you like.
Top Tips & FAQs
How do I get really smooth buttercream?
Use the right type of sugar. Make sure you are using powdered sugar (pure icing sugar) instead of regular granulated white sugar. This will easily incorporate into the butter and give you a grain-free buttercream.
Use butter which is soft but not melted. Butter which is soft will easily incorporate into the sugar and other ingredients. It will also allow your mixture to capture air and become fluffy. If your butter is melted, the mixture will become a liquid mess!
Beat your buttercream mixture for longer than you think. If your buttercream is still lumpy after mixing, it is likely that not all the sugar has incorporated into the butter. Scrape down the bowl and continue to mix on high speed for another couple of minutes to incorporate remaining sugar.
Why did my buttercream split?
Your butter is too hot or too cold. If your butter is too hot then it may curdle the milk or it may not properly incorporate the remaining ingredients. On the other hand, if your butter is too cold then it also will not blend properly with the other ingredients. You want butter which is soft to touch but without any visible melted areas.
The ambient temperature is too hot or cold. This will cause the same problems as having too hot or too cold butter. Unfortunately, it may be tougher to fix the situation unless you can control the climate in your kitchen.
If your kitchen is too hot, first try cooling the room down using a fan or air-conditioner. Otherwise, try decreasing the total time that you work with the buttercream mixture. The longer it stands out in the hot air, the quicker the mixture will melt. If the buttercream begins to split, place in the fridge for 15 minutes then continue to beat until the mixture comes together.
If your kitchen is too cold, you should also attempt to increase the ambient temperature using a heater. Otherwise, work quickly with the ingredients to ensure the butter is still soft while you are whipping the mixture. If your butter solidifies before you have a chance to incorporate it into the remaining ingredients, you can try running a hair dryer (yes, really!) around the edge of the bowl to soften the mixture again and continue beating.
You overbeat the buttercream. While it is good to beat the lumps out of the buttercream, you should stop the beating process as soon as you are happy with the taste and texture. Overbeating the buttercream, especially in a warm environment, can cause the mixture to split.
How do I fix split buttercream?
Place the entire bowl in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until firm around the edges. Scrape down the bowl and beat on low-medium speed until mixture begins to come together again. Beat on high speed to finish.
How do I make vanilla buttercream?
Find my vanilla buttercream frosting recipe here.
The buttercream will last 1 week after being used to frost cakes/cupcakes.
To make ahead of time: prepare the buttercream then cover the bowl tightly with clingwrap. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days. Allow to come to room temperature for 4 hours then beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes to keep the frosting fluffy. Use as normal.
- 250 g (9 oz / 1 cup) salted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups icing sugar / powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 tbsp milk, plus more as needed
- Add butter and sugar to the large bowl of an electric mixer (or using a hand mixer). Beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes until pale and fluffy.
- Add cocoa powder and milk. Beat on very low speed for 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed, until fluffy and well combined.
- If the frosting is too stiff, beat in 1 tsp of milk at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
- Use to frost cupcakes, cakes or cookies. The buttercream will set firm in the refrigerator.
- The buttercream will last 1 week after being used to frost cakes/cupcakes.
- To make ahead of time: prepare the buttercream then cover the bowl tightly with clingwrap. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days. Allow to come to room temperature for 4 hours then beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes to keep the frosting fluffy. Use as normal.
Substitutions & Tips
- Salted vs unsalted butter: you can use unsalted butter if you like. I prefer salted to cut through the sweetness and bring out the chocolate flavour.
- To make your own icing sugar / powdered sugar: blend regular granulated sugar in a powerful blender or nutribullet until it becomes a fine powder.
- Cocoa powder: do NOT use hot cocoa powder. I use Hershey's (US) or Nestle (AUS/UK) brand unsweetened cocoa powder. Avoid Dutch-processed 'cacao powder.'
- Milk: you can use an equal amount dairy-free milk or water if you wish.
Nutrition Information:Serving Size: 1/12th of Recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 249Total Fat: 17.5gSaturated Fat: 11.6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 4.5mgCarbohydrates: 23.6gFiber: 0.7gSugar: 21.7gProtein: 0.9g