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BEST Chocolate Buttercream

This buttercream is decadently chocolatey because it’s made with two different kinds of chocolate: melted chocolate and cocoa powder. It’s easy to make, stores well, and can be used for all sorts of frosting and decorating techniques!

This recipe makes 6 cups of buttercream, which is enough buttercream to fill and frost an 8″, 9″ or 10″ cake. If you halve the recipe you’ll have enough buttercream to fill and frost a 6″ cake.


1/3 cup (35g or 1 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup (60ml) hot water
3/4 cup (175g or 6oz) semisweet chocolate
2 1/2 cups (565g or 20oz or 5x4oz sticks) unsalted butter*
907g or 32oz (about 7 cups) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

*If you use salted butter, omit the salt in the recipe


Mix cocoa powder with hot water and stir until all of the cocoa powder has dissolved, to make a thin paste almost the consistency of melted chocolate. Leave it to cool.

cocoa powder mixture for best chocolate buttercream recipe tutorial

In a small microwave-proof bowl, measure out chocolate. You can use chocolate chips or chop up a bar of chocolate into roughly the same sized pieces so they melt at the same speed. Melt the chocolate in the microwave at 50% power for 1 minute and stir it until it’s smooth.

chocolate chips for best chocolate buttercream recipe

After stirring it, if there are still pieces of solid chocolate in it, melt it for another 30 seconds. When it’s smooth, leave it to cool.

melted chocolate for best chocolate buttercream recipe tutorial

Make a batch of my 4 Minute Buttercream by mixing butter and powdered sugar in a mixer at the lowest speed setting until it’s smooth. The butter must be at room temperature and I like to add the sugar a quarter at a time, mixing for 1 minute before adding the next quarter, so that the sugar doesn’t spray out of the mixer when you turn it on. Add vanilla and salt and mix for a few more seconds to incorporate.

Add the cocoa powder mixture and melted chocolate to the buttercream and stir everything together.

stirring chocolate into buttercream for best chocolate buttercream frosting recipe tutorial

The buttercream should be silky smooth and easily spreadable. If it’s too stiff and it pulls off the cake when you try to spread it on, add milk or cream a tablespoon at a time until it’s the right consistency. I have a very detailed tutorial on my 4 Minute Buttercream with tips on how to check the consistency.

consistency of best chocolate buttercream frosting recipe tutorial

You can use this chocolate buttercream to frost a cake and I’ll give you some fun variations on frosting techniques with this chocolate buttercream in a moment.

frosting cake with best chocolate buttercream recipe frosting recipe tutorial

This chocolate buttercream also pipes well so you can use it with a 1M piping tip to pipe swirls or ruffles onto cakes or cupcakes to add texture and height to a cake like this:

piping ruffles with best chocolate buttercream frosting recipe tutorial

I love piping filling when I make mini cakes, using textured designs to add detail to the filling to make pretty naked cakes that don’t need frosting:

pipe petal flower onto mini cake with best chocolate buttercream frosting recipe tutorial

You can pipe borders with this chocolate buttercream using a star tip like a 1M tip or an open star tip like a 4B tip:

pipe buttercream border onto cake with best chocolate buttercream frosting recipe tutorial

It even works for buttercream carving and I have an entire online course on Buttercream Cake Carving.

buttercream carving on carved buttercream cake with best chocolate buttercream frosting recipe tutorial

Brown buttercream might sound like a boring base for cake decorating but you can jazz it up by creating an ombre or watercolor effect. For a watercolor effect, don’t mix the chocolate into the buttercream completely. Mix the cocoa powder and water mixture in first, to give the frosting a pale brown colour, and then pour the melted chocolate into the bowl but only stir it a few times to create a marbled look.

marbled chocolate frosting for best chocolate buttercream frosting recipe tutorial

Spread the frosting onto your cake and you’ll notice lots of different shades of brown in the frosting.

smooth watercolour chocolate frosting onto cake for best chocolate buttercream frosting recipe tutorial

When you scrape the cake with a frosting smoother you’ll take away the texture on the frosting and when the frosting is smooth, the watercolor effect will be even more dramatic!

best chocolate buttercream frosting recipe tutorial

To change the shade of brown of your frosting, play around with the amount of chocolate you add to the buttercream. Divide your buttercream between bowls and add different amounts of melted chocolate and the cocoa powder mixture to each bowl.

different shades of best chocolate buttercream to frost a cake

You can use these different shades of brown to vary the colours of chocolate buttercream filling between cake layers, or create a pretty ombre design on a cake!

ombre chocolate buttercream filling in cake with best chocolate buttercream frosting recipe tutorial

For ombre frosting, spread different shades of chocolate buttercream in layers around the sides of the cake so that the colour gets lighter or darker as you go up or down the cake. The bands of colour don’t have to be neat with a straight division between each colour. By overlapping the colours you’ll blend the shades of brown together, creating a more gradual gradient from light to dark brown.

After each time you scrape around the cake with a frosting smoother, wipe the buttercream off your frosting smoother and use it to fill in any air pockets around the cake. By using this mix of colours four your touch-ups, you’ll create less distinct divisions between the colours so that they blend together even more gradually.

You can smooth the frosting with a frosting smoother or add texture with a textured cake comb like this pleated one, and the chocolate buttercream makes a cake that’s beautiful as well as delicious!

I store frosted cakes in the fridge until 2-4 hours before serving. To store just the chocolate buttercream, cover the bowl tightly with cling film or put the buttercream in an airtight container and leave it at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a month.

how to store best chocolate buttercream frosting recipe tutorial

Take chocolate buttercream out of the fridge or freezer a few hours before you use it so that it can warm up to room temperature. Then stir it to get rid of any air bubbles. If there are any cold lumps of buttercream, leave it out for another hour and then stir it again. When it comes to room temperature, previously chilled chocolate buttercream will behave exactly the same way as freshly made buttercream!

pleated ombre chocolate cake

Another option for chocolate frosting is chocolate ganache and I have a detailed tutorial on 4 Ways To Use Ganache.

If you’re looking for more information on how to make, troubleshoot, colour, store, and decorate with buttercream, check out my online course on The Basics of Buttercream.

I’d love to see the cakes you make with this chocolate buttercream frosting! Please tag @britishgirlbakes in your photos on instagram so I can see your creations!

Here’s the video version of this tutorial:

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9 comments on “BEST Chocolate Buttercream”

  1. When making the buttercream can you use 1/2 butter and 1/2 vegetable shortening to make a crisper finish in a hot humid country (Australia). Or will the melted chocolate do the same thing.

    1. Yes, you can! The melted chocolate won't stabilise the buttercream in the same way the shortening does so for humid climates that's the best option.

  2. It all went well until I added the melted chocolate.It formed hundreds of hard little chocolate lumps, so the whole batch was ruined. Where did I go wrong?

    1. It sounds like the chocolate overheated and seized while melting. If you melt it at a lower temperature for less time it should be smooth without any lumps

  3. Hi Emily,

    I love your vanilla buttercream frosting recipe, and have used it many times! Thank you for sharing!!

    In your chocolate buttercream recipe listed above, the recipe calls for unsweetened cocoa powder. Is the cocoa Dutch-processed or natural cocoa that hasn’t been alkalized as with Dutch- processed?

    Or, can either type of cocoa be used because it isn’t baked?

    Thank you in advance.

    Jacquelyn Scholtz
    (from the South-West Coast of British Columbia)

    1. Hi Jacquelyn! You're right - any kind of unsweetened cocoa powder will work. I've used black cocoa powder for this recipe too, to reduce the amount of black gel necessary, and that works as well!

    1. You can add cocoa powder mixed with water, so that it dissolves into a thick liquid. This way it won't cause flecks of colour in the buttercream - it will make a smooth brown colour.

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