Best Chocolate Buttercream

I love this simple chocolate buttercream recipe and I use it all the time to top recipes like cupcakes, brownies, cakes, and cookies! It’s easy to make and uses real chocolate for a smooth and fudge-y flavor.

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A bowl of chocolate buttercream with a spoon and a closeup of the frosting with the words, "Chocolate Buttercream."

I use this chocolate buttercream recipe so often that I wanted it to have a home on my own website. It’s one of those recipes where you can find various iterations all over the internet, but I first learned the method from Deb at Smitten Kitchen.

When she posted her amazing “I want chocolate cake” in 2015 I was so surprised at how easy the frosting was. It’s really just a simple buttercream base with melted and cooled chocolate added in. I was under the assumption that chocolate buttercream was tricky to make. Not so!

A small white bowl filled with chocolate buttercream.

I’ve tried chocolate frosting recipes made with cocoa powder instead and they just aren’t the same. Of course, the quality of cocoa powder used makes a big difference too, but my preference will always be to use a bar of baking chocolate. The final flavor and light fluffy texture of this frosting are unbeatable in my opinion!

Don’t Do This! The ONE time I managed to mess up this frosting, guess what I did? I didn’t allow the chocolate to cool long enough. So long as you allow the chocolate to cool for 10-15 minutes you won’t have a problem (if you’ve doubled the recipe allow a little extra time). If it still feels hot to the touch, wait a bit longer!

My ingredients list is just tweaked a tiny bit from Deb’s (more chocolate), but I’ve written my method here and am including some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. Enjoy!

Ingredients You Will Need

Labeled ingredients for chocolate buttercream: sugar, unsweetened chocolate, heavy cream, vanilla extract, and unsalted butter.
  • 2 ½ ounces unsweetened chocolate (I used Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate Bar)
  • 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar (also known as “powdered sugar”)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon cream or whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Squares of an unsweetened chocolate baking bar.

Can I Use Chocolate Chips Instead of Baking Chocolate?

Chocolate chips and baking chocolate are produced differently so they aren’t always interchangeable. In this case, I have tested this recipe using semi-sweet chocolate chips and it actually worked mostly fine (however, see my following notes)!

I used Kirkland Chocolate Chips from Costco, but I haven’t tested enough times with a large variety of chocolate chip brands to give you total confidence. The final result was definitely passable. HOWEVER, I still think the original is best and the chocolate-chip version was different in the following ways:

First, the frosting is quite a bit sweeter. You ought to cut the sugar down if you are going to attempt using chocolate chips. This may affect the final texture–a little less light/fluffy.

If using semi-sweet chocolate chips, try reducing the confectioners’ sugar to 1 cup (maybe even 3/4) and use 2.5 ounces of semi sweet chips in place of the unsweetened baking chocolate.

Second, the chocolate flavor is much lighter. It’s almost a milk chocolate taste. Not bad at all, but not the same as the original recipe which is quite chocolatey.

I actually plan to work on developing this idea further since I think it’s a pretty common problem to want to make a quick chocolate frosting and not have a bar of baking chocolate on hand. So I’ll report back!

How to Make the Chocolate Frosting

This frosting really couldn’t be easier! It’s basically creaming the butter and sugar for a vanilla buttercream and then adding in melted and cooled chocolate. You could certainly experiment with adding different types of chocolate and flavoring to the basic recipe.

Step by step images of how to make chocolate buttercream with butter, sugar, and melted chocolate.

Melt: Use the microwave to melt the chocolate slowly (stirring frequently) and set aside to cool for 10-15 minutes.

Cream: Meanwhile, cream the butter and then add confectioners’ sugar in small amounts, beating it until completely combined and very fluffy.

Add Chocolate: Add the chocolate, cream, and vanilla extract and beat until combined and fluffy, another minute.

How Much Frosting Does the Recipe Make?

This recipe makes about 1.5 cups of chocolate buttercream. That’s enough for 12 cupcakes, an 8″x8″ cake or these delicious giant Peanut Butter Bar Cookies (yum).

Store the Frosting

Store the frosting in the fridge. To re-whip, remove from fridge and allow to come to room temp for about 30-60 minutes until it’s soft enough to whip and then use your hand mixer to beat it until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Can I Freeze the Frosting?

I haven’t had any problems freezing the frosting when it’s already applied to cake, cookies, etc. If I was going to prepare the frosting and freeze to use later I would just be sure to give it plenty of time to thaw in the fridge and then allow it to soften for a bit at room temperature before re-whipping it.

More Dessert Recipes

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A bowl of chocolate buttercream with beaters.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

This simple chocolate buttercream is quick and easy to make and uses real chocolate. It's so good on top of cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and more!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 2 mins
Course Condiments, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 24 tablespoons
Calories 80 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 ½ ounces unsweetened baking chocolate (see notes)
  • 1 ½ cups confectioners' sugar (use 1 ¾ cups sugar for a sweeter frosting)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter room temp, 4 ounces
  • 1 tablespoon cream or whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
 

  • In a small bowl, slowly melt the unsweetened chocolate in the microwave until totally melted (use short intervals, about 20-30 seconds and stir in between). Set aside to cool for 10-15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, add the butter to a large bowl and use a hand mixer to beat it until creamy, about a minute or two. Add the confectioner's sugar in small amounts, beating it until completely combined and very fluffy. About 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the melted & cooled chocolate, cream, and vanilla extract and beat until combined and fluffy, another minute. Adjust texture with small amounts of cream or milk as needed.
  • I store the frosting (and desserts frosted with it) in the fridge and allow to come to room temp for a few minutes before eating.

Notes

How much frosting does this make?
This recipe makes about 1.5 cups of frosting. Perfect for 12 cupcakes or an 8″x8″ cake.
Nutrition Facts
Chocolate Fudge Frosting
Amount per Serving
Calories
80
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
6
g
9
%
Saturated Fat
 
3
g
19
%
Trans Fat
 
1
g
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
2
g
Cholesterol
 
11
mg
4
%
Sodium
 
31
mg
1
%
Potassium
 
26
mg
1
%
Carbohydrates
 
8
g
3
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
Sugar
 
7
g
8
%
Protein
 
1
g
2
%
Vitamin A
 
126
IU
3
%
Vitamin C
 
1
mg
1
%
Calcium
 
5
mg
1
%
Iron
 
1
mg
6
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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