Easy Chocolate Buttercream Frosting – Better than the Can

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Homemade chocolate buttercream frosting comes together easily and tastes so much better than the canned variety. Make this recipe and taste the difference!

chocolate frosted cupcake with candle

As a child, I was always more into pie than cake. Lemon Meringue, especially. It wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I realized it wasn’t really cake’s fault.

It was the fault of the frosting. More specifically, canned frosting. Or worse, that greasy stuff the grocery store used back in the 80s.

Homemade Buttercream, however, that is where it’s at. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. At least not until 2010, when, in an effort to save money and eat more healthfully, I perfected homemade frosting.

I may have been a little late to the party. But that’s okay. Still tastes amazing.

chocolate buttercream on mixer paddle

I’ve shared with you my Homemade Buttercream Frosting which is pretty awesome. But what if someone in the house wants chocolate though? Do what I do: I stick to my old standby, but mix in 1/2 cup of cocoa.

Oh my! Heaven on a spoon. This stuff tastes amazingly amazing.

Ingredients needed for this easy chocolate buttercream frosting:

  • Butter (make sure it’s softened to room temperature)
  • Powdered (or confectioner’s) sugar
  • Cocoa powder
  • Milk or half and half
  • Vanilla extract (or you can switch things up and use mint extract)

step by step photos to help you make buttercream

How to make this chocolate buttercream:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add three cups sugar, the cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon milk, and the vanilla extract.
  2. Beat until combined and fluffy.
  3. Adjust with more sugar or milk, depending on what consistency you’re looking for.

This chocolate buttercream comes together very easily — and it’s so much tastier than what comes in a can! Plus, it’s real food.

How much frosting does this make?

This recipe frosts about 18 cupcakes. For a nine-inch, two-layer cake, make 1 1/2 batches for generous coverage. A single batch will frost a naked cake.

Alternatively, you can make a single batch and a separate filling for between the layers. That’s what my daughter and I did for this layer cake. We smooshed some cream cheese frosting and jam in the middle.

cake on pedastal with chocolate buttercream

Does buttercream frosting need to be refrigerated?

There is a little bit of milk in this frosting recipe but it will be fine at room temperature for a few days. Any longer and it should be refrigerated. 

How long does chocolate buttercream last? 

It can last in your refrigerator for about 1 week. But it can also be frozen up to 3 months. When ready to use, just thaw in your refrigerator and then re-whip back to its original consistency.

How to make this good and cheap:

Here are some of the strategies you can use to make this recipe more economical:

  • Stock up on ingredients when they are on sale. When I find regular kitchen staples on sale, I buy a lot. I’m currently using a price book to track prices and that’s saving me money. For this recipe, keeping an eye on the price of butter and sugar is important.
  • Buying in bulk – I buy my butter in big ginormous packs at Costco. It offers the best unit price in my neighborhood. If you don’t go through butter very fast, just freeze it, packaging and all. Thaw in the fridge or on the counter when you’re ready to use it.

cake with chocolate buttercream on cake stand

How I make this recipe easy:

This recipe really couldn’t be easier than it is, but having the right kitchen tools can really make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable. Over time, I’ve honed my collection so that they are perfect for my needs.

Want to make your cakes pretty?

I’m a self-taught cake decorator. I never took a class (obviously), but through trial and error have figured out how to make it work. My kids are thrilled with the themed birthday cakes I’ve made over the years.

Here are some tools and ingredients that I’ve found helpful:

chocolate cake on white pedastal with red checked cloth

If you prepare this recipe, be sure to take a picture and hashtag it #GOODCHEAPEATS. I can't wait to see what you cook up!
4 from 2 votes
Easy Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Prep Time
10 mins
Total Time
10 mins
Butter, cocoa powder, and sugar easily combine into a delicious chocolate buttercream frosting.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chocolate buttercream, frosting
Servings: 18 cupcakes
Calories: 175 kcal
Author: Jessica Fisher
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1-2 Tablespoons milk or half and half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract you can use mint extract, too, if you'd rather
  1. In large mixing bowl, beat butter until fluffy. Add three cups sugar, cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon milk, and vanilla extract.
  2. Beat until combined and fluffy.
  3. Adjust with more sugar or milk, depending on what consistency you're looking for.
Recipe Notes
  • Storage: There is a little bit of milk in this frosting recipe but it will be fine at room temperature for a few days. Any longer and it should be refrigerated. 
  • Make Ahead: It can last in your refrigerator for about 1 week. But it can also be frozen up to 3 months. When ready to use, just thaw in your refrigerator and then re-whip back to its original consistency.
Nutrition Facts
Easy Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Amount Per Serving
Calories 175 Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Fat 11g17%
Saturated Fat 7g44%
Cholesterol 27mg9%
Sodium 91mg4%
Potassium 39mg1%
Carbohydrates 21g7%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 20g22%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 315IU6%
Calcium 7mg1%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting | Good Cheap Eats - This is THE BEST RECIPE EVER!

chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream and a candle in it

chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Kathy says

    Yum! Looks so good! I love making my own frosting. I have gotten to the point where I think the stuff out of the can tastes funny.

  2. This and your buttercream frosting are exactly what I grew up on. We always made our frosting and flavored it. I don’t even know if canned frosting existed when I was a kid as I never had it til I grew up.

    This is SO much better than canned.

  3. cwaltz says

    Yummy! They need some Lego Friends on top though. 😉 (You can decorate cupcakes with “goodies” too. As a matter of fact, each year the birthday budget included a $10 decorating budget that could be a simple as a gift card or as elaborate as finding favorite characters and interests. Kids whose birthday it wasn’t were tasked with decorating)

    I miss my second child. She was my baking fiend. The third is kind of like my first(also all grown) and would just as soon not have to cook at all. My “baby”(he’s 14) loves cooking but he rushes so unlike my second more detail oriented kiddo I have to make sure I’ve got time to ensure he follows ALL the steps when we decide to bake.

  4. Palmolivejoy says

    Would this frost a whole cake? Like a two layer cake from a 9 inch circular pan? Would I need to double up the recipe for that?

    • If you want enough to do swirls and that kind of stuff, yes, I’d make more.

      • Matti says

        Question: Can I frost a Buche de Noel cake with this?

        • Yep. Make a double batch if you’re going to use it for filling. Have you seen my recipe?

      • Barb says

        How much would you make to frost a 9 x 13″ cake? Is your original recipe enough for a 9 x 13″?

  5. Dori says

    Hi – this is the best chocolate buttercream frosting, and SO easy to make. Thanks! One thing I will do next time is SIFT the confectioners sugar before mixing, to avoid the lumps.

  6. Anglwngss says

    This is now bookmarked. I halved the recipe and it covered 12 cupcakes with some frosting leftover. This is delicious and so SO easy to make!

    • Glad you like it! Did you pipe your frosting or spread it? I find that the amount of cupcakes it covers varies depending on the method of frosting.

      • Anglwngss says

        I spread it was a fancy butter knife (the kind with the L-bend). I’m just a beginner froster-er, haven’t quite learned to pipe it yet! Lol. It’s delicious no matter the method! 🙂

        • Thanks. It’s helpful for me to know how far the frosting will stretch. Someone got a little upset once when I didn’t know how many it would frost. 🙂

          • Anglwngss says

            Lol. I completely understand!

  7. Natalie says

    Thank u Jessica. ..Your tip n recipe has helped me alot

  8. ASheree says

    I have an allergy to vanilla. Do I need that for the frosting?

    • Nope. You could omit it or use a different flavored extract like mint, coffee, or orange.

  9. Crystabel says

    How many cupcakes will these cover if I use the piping method?

    • I think I made 18 this way?

      • Cara says

        Hi I’m just wondering do you have to use coca powder for this recipe? Could you use melted chocolate? If so how much melted chocolate would you add?

        • I’ve never used anything but cocoa powder, so I can’t give you a good answer. I know there are recipes out there that use melted chocolate, but that’s not a method I’m familiar with. Sorry I can’t be more help.

      • Crystabel says

        May I know if you used salted.or unsalted and how is is one cup in grams?

        • Crystabel says

          Salted or unsalted butter?

          • Crystabel says

            How much is one cup in grams

          • Whatever you have. I’ve used both. I have no idea how many grams in a cup, but google will tell you. 🙂

    • Anne says

      I just piped 24, although I didn’t make a very thick layer, just circular swirls. Tastes great! Thanks for the simple recipe!

  10. Rebecca says

    I really don’t want to make a frosting with melted chocolate, this is the closest recipe that I’ve found that my Mom made[back in the day…] Thanks!!!

  11. Colleen says

    Does this frosting keep in the refrigerator overnight? Thanks for posting!

    • I have stored leftovers in the fridge, but it gets really hard. You’ll need to allow it to warm/soften before it will be spreadable again.

      • Colleen says

        Thank you! I’m bringing it to school tomorrow so I wanted it to keep overnight. I’ll plan on leaving it out for a while before spreading it on the cupcakes.

  12. Michelle says

    That awkward moment when you realize the recipe called for 3 to 4 cups of powered sugar, NOT 3/4 cup powered sugar. Derp.

  13. Grace says

    I was so close to saying this recipe was bad but… I forgot to add the powdered sugar. And it’s SOOOOO good!

    • Oh my! I did that once with chocolate cream cheese frosting once. It was horrible. Glad you added the sugar so I can save face. LOL! 🙂

  14. Dawn says

    I’m fairly new at making home made frostings. I’m pleased to say that this came out tasting very good. Because my son likes orange, I added orange extract and a teaspoon of orange zest to the recipe for his birthday cake. I just have a question. The frosting color came out looking like milk chocolate. I would have preferred a darker color. For future reference, what would I need to do to make the frosting more of a dark chocolate color?


    • I’m going to guess that it may have to do with the cocoa powder. My sister buys the dark cocoa powder and that makes a darker frosting.

      • Dawn says

        Ahh! I’ll make sure to pick that up next time. Thanks!

  15. Shay shay says

    Hi I loved the recipie. What cakes would you suggest using this with and can you use it as a filling?

    THANKS SO MUCH!!!:) just really hyper(sugar rush!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

  16. Sherol says

    Can u use this to decorate roses? Will the shape hold? Trying to make a rose cake with not as much sugar.

    • You mean to pipe roses? I think if it’s cold enough and has enough sugar, it should be fine. But, a hot day is a hard call.

  17. Karen says

    Can I use water instead of milk?

  18. Can I use chocolate frosting on a cookies?

  19. Julie says

    Can you use skim milk?

  20. Kathy S says

    I had to make frosting on the fly after I found the can I bought had been “taste tested” in the store. It was the best thing that could’ve happened though! The recipe is perfect. I sifted my sugar & cocoa too. I found I made the most delicious tasting stuff I’ve had since I was a kid. I’ll never use stkore bought ever gain THANKS!

  21. Robin says

    Delicious!!! Just the right combination of ingredients. I could have eaten the whole bowl of it by itself. What cake!? LOL! Definitely going in with favorite recipes.

  22. SLibby says

    hello, did you use sweetened or unsweetened cocoa powder? All I have is unsweetened, or I have hot chocolate mix. Just wondering what you think? Thank you!

  23. jodi says

    can I substitute water for milk when making frosting?

  24. Jacqui says

    This turned out delicious. I have used it a few times and this last modified it a bit. I added orange zest and instead of milk I added orange juice. It tasted just like a chocolate orange!

  25. Chloe says

    I used this recipe to pipe frost 16 cupcakes. It covered them but bare minimum, using 3C of powder sugar. Any more sugar and I think the frosting might have been ruined as it was quite dry and gummy even with the addition of 3T of milk.
    I would also suggest sifting the powder sugar as it was lumpy. Mix by hand first before using electric mixer as it makes a huge sugar dust cloud that even with a deep bowl, bursts up and outwards.
    I used Hershey’s Cocoa Powder and real vanilla extract but even still the taste was off and I don’t know why. I will use this recipe again just to make sure it wasn’t beginner’s error. I think I’ll try a darker cocoa as suggested above with a raspberry extract or keep the same cocoa and use a maple extract with candied bacon. 😀

  26. Deb says

    Can you store a frosted cake with this frosting at room temperature, or does it have to be refrigerated?

    • Depends on how long and how hot it is. I don’t recommend it for the middle of summer, but just as it’s okay to have butter at room temperature for a time, this will be fine for a few hours.

      • Deb says

        Thanks for the reply! Is this different than regular buttercream frostings then? I’ve read that those can be kept at room temperature for several days.

        • Well, room temperature in summer is different than room temp in winter. You know? I’ve read conflicting information about how long buttercream is good sitting out. I’ve never tested it past a day in a cooler kitchen.

  27. Ritu says

    Hey Jessica…how much do we need for 72 cupcakes?

    • With fancy tops? Probably 4x the recipe. But, it’s easy to make more in the same bowl, so I’d underestimate and then make another batch if you need more.

  28. Kenny says

    Can this frosting be kept at room temperature for a day or to?


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