cocoa buttercream frosting

Cocoa Buttercream Frosting

This recipe isn’t new, it’s in the post for Mom’s Chocolate Cake, but I think it deserves a page of its own. After reviewing several years of posts, I’ve decided to do some updating and refreshing. In the early years, I produced a lot of my favorite recipes, but the pictures are abysmal, and, in many instances, the ingredients lists need to be simplified. Also, as is the case here, there are frostings, sauces, dressings, etc. that I doubled up with other recipes that need to stand alone. 

It was Ella and Hailey’s thirteenth birthday on Saturday, so I made Double Chocolate Cupcakes and used this frosting recipe. In the past, I’ve used it for giant cupcakes, sheet cakes, and countless layer cakes. It will always be my go-to chocolate frosting with the classic combination of butter, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar I love most.

The key to making buttercream frosting fluffy and easy to work with is in the mixing. The longer you can incorporate air into the frosting, the more delightfully voluminous it will be. If you have a stand mixer, it’s going to be your friend and make life easier. If you don’t, a hand-held electric mixer will do the job; you won’t be able to multi-task, but your arm will get a better workout. Either way, make sure your butter is soft, follow the instructions, and never be tempted by that sad can of frosting again.


Cocoa Buttercream Frosting

(makes enough for a double 8-inch layer cake or 24 cupcakes)

1 1/2 cup butter, *softened

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup milk, divided

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

6 cups powdered sugar, divided

*Tip: The best way to soften butter is to leave it at room temp for an hour or so before using. If you need to do it quickly, as I often do, the defrost setting on your microwave should work well. Since all microwaves are a little different, I can give you a precise time. I check it every 10 seconds or less until it’s squishy to the touch, but not melted.


Combine butter, cocoa, salt, 2 tablespoons of the milk, vanilla, and 3 cups of the powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.

cocoa buttercream frosting

Beat well with electric beaters or stand mixer fitted with wire whisk until thoroughly combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

A little at a time, add the remaining 3 cups of powdered sugar alternately with remaining 2 tablespoons of milk until fully incorporated. The frosting should be quite thick at this point, continue to beat well until it becomes fluffier and spreadable. Add a little more milk if you need to.
cocoa buttercream frosting

Frost to your heart’s delight!