Super-Simple Chocolate Frosting

Recipe by Susan Reid

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


Prevent your screen from going dark as you follow along.
  1. Sift or sieve the cocoa, 1 1/2 cups (170g) confectioners' sugar and espresso powder 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 (227g) 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. Store frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 6 months. Bring to cool room temperature before spreading or piping.

Tips from our Bakers

  • To make the frosting stiffer, add an additional 1 cup (113g) 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.