Super-Simple Chocolate Frosting

A great chocolate frosting should taste intensely of chocolate, be easy to put together, spread smoothly over a tender cake without tearing it, and hold its shape when piped through a pastry bag. This frosting has all of those characteristics. We made it with both natural and Dutch-process cocoa, and the natural cocoa was the hands-down winner for flavor.

25 mins
40 mins
4 1/2 cups, enough to frost 2 dozen cupcakes, or fill/frost an 8" or 9" layer cake
Super-Simple Chocolate Frosting


  1. Sift or sieve the cocoa, 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar and espresso powder, if you're using it, into a bowl.

  2. Bring the cream to a simmer on the stove or in the microwave, and whisk into the cocoa mixture.

  3. At first the mixture will look grainy; continue whisking for a minute.

  4. You'll see the lumps disappear as the sugar dissolves and the cocoa hydrates. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

  5. Place the butter, salt, and 2 cups sifted or sieved confectioners' sugar in a large mixing bowl.

  6. Beat until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla.

  7. With the mixer running on low speed, add the cocoa mixture a spoonful at a time until it's all incorporated. Scrape the bowl, then beat at medium speed for one minute more. Use to frost cake as needed.

  8. Yield: 4 1/2 cups, enough to frost 2 dozen cupcakes, or fill/frost an 8" or 9" layer cake.

Tips from our Bakers

  • To make the frosting stiffer, add 1 more cup of sifted confectioners' sugar.
  • Never frost a warm cake: the frosting will sink in, or the cake will tear.
  • Chilling or freezing cakes or layers for 30 to 45 minutes before frosting will make the job go much easier. See our online class cake decorating class for pointers.