Classic Chocolate Frosting

classic chocolate frosting

As a baker, you don’t tend to hear a lot of complaints about cupcakes. What’s to complain about? Hi, I made you a tiny individualized cake! The only thing I sometimes hear – and agree with – is that the frosting is too sweet. There seems to be a bit of a rock and a hard place with frosting – you’re either doing a super-buttery Swiss or Italian meringue buttercream (which can be finicky and which some people don’t find sweet enough) or a classic American buttercream (butter + powdered sugar). That’s the too sweet one. Honestly, I love all frostings, but I don’t begrudge people who don’t love a big pile of American buttercream.

One of those people is my boyfriend. He’s very into the “classics,” but he lives with an adventurous cook and food blogger. So for every cheese pizza, he puts up with about ten of my experiments. Granted, I think most people, including him, would say that’s a good problem to have, but for his birthday he gets to pick his own full “classic” menu – and capping off this one was chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting, which was the perfect chance for me to make my absolute favorite chocolate frosting. I can’t believe I haven’t shared it on here yet – I actually went back through my archives to make sure I hadn’t.

As much as I love both Swiss and American buttercreams, getting the right flavor in each can be tough. Swiss buttercreams are somewhat finicky, so once you get the right consistency you’re somewhat limited in how much flavoring you can add before you end up breaking it down somehow. And American buttercreams are often so sugary it’s hard to pick up much flavor beneath the sweetness.

That’s why I love this frosting – the flavor absolutely shines. Two hits of chocolate – cocoa powder and melted semi-sweet chocolate – give this a richness that I’ve never been able to get in any other type of frosting. This is all chocolate all the time, and the icing on the cake (HAHAHA) is that it pipes beautifully. Don’t be skeptical of the flour – we’re going to cook out the taste and you won’t even know it’s there. And don’t be intimidated by the fact that we’re cooking it and the time it takes to chill. It’s totally worth it. I won’t be giving up my Swiss and American buttercreams anytime soon – I don’t believe in frosting monogamy – but this one might be my main squeeze for a while.

classic chocolate frosting

5.0 from 8 reviews
Classic Chocolate Frosting
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A classic cooked chocolate frosting that's bursting with chocolate flavor. Perfectly pipeable and not too sweet.
Category: Dessert
Yield: Enough frosting for one cake or 24 cupcakes
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  1. Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 30-second increments, stirring every 30 seconds, until chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar and milk. Whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, whisking frequently, until thickened. You're looking for a pudding-like consistency.
  3. Remove from heat and use a fine mesh strainer to strain the mixture into another bowl (use the back of a wooden spoon to press it through the strainer). Cool completely in refrigerator or freezer.
  4. In a mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Turn mixer off and add the cooled flour mixture. Beat until fluffy, about two minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the melted chocolate chips and beat until smooth and fluffy, about another two minutes.
If you have leftover frosting, store in refrigerator. Bring to room temperature and re-beat before using.

Source: Our Best Bites

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43 Responses to Classic Chocolate Frosting

  1. Hi,
    I’m trying this out and I have a question. I don’t mind the cooking or the cooling, it’s the straining through the fine mesh that’s getting to me. It doesn’t seem to be straining to well, since it’s a pudding like consistency. How important is this part?

    • Hi Jennifer – the straining is pretty important in order to work out any lumps from the flour. You have to kind of press it through the mesh since it’s so thick. I use the back of the wooden spoon I used to stir while it was cooking.

      ETA – I updated the recipe to include instructions to push it through the strainer with a spoon in case anyone else has this issue.

      • You don’t need the straining at all if you do it right. First, use corn starch instead of flower – 1/6 cup will do. Second, disove starch in a lil bit of COLD WATER. Third, add solution to the BOILING MILK AND WHOSK QUICKLY until it starts boiling again. Remove from the stove and whisk thru while it’s cooling. When it is ccol enough to put it in the fridge, cover it with cerene wrap to prevent forming a film on top. If you do this, you will end up with the smooth homogeneous cream that does not need straining. For the rest, follow the recipe. <3

  2. This looks just perfect! Thanks much for sharing! And I feel the same way about Swiss and American butter creams. Bookmarked for my next choc cake!

  3. I have a question….I made some Creme De Menth brownies…the icing is melted chocolate chips & butter…and I had to pour the warm glaze over the filling & refrigerate it until the chocolate hardens. Everything turned out fine, until I tried to cut the bars…the hardened chocolate broke up and I couldn’t cut it clean to make nice squares…also the chocolate can come off the filling….is there a way to cut these brownies so that this doesn’t happen? Do you have any tricks?

    Please reply. Thanks. Patricia

    • Hi there, Patricia – sounds like you were working with a ganache frosting. Next time I would pour the glaze, refrigerate to set, and then remove from the fridge and let warm up a bit at room temperature before slicing. That should let it soften enough to slice and not lift away from the filling. Also, unless it’s very warm in your house, it’ll set at room temp, but just take a little longer. However, this will prevent it setting up too firm.

  4. I made this last night and put it in the refrigerator. I decorated some cupcakes this morning and ate them as an after lunch birthday treat. This frosting is delicious. I really loved it.

  5. My butter was slightly warmer than room temperature and this looks like a weird ganache. It’s my hope that some time in the fridge will make it more like buttercream! :\

  6. I made this recipe but it was not thick enough to pipe with. Is it a pipable recipe or did I do something wrong? It came out delicious and creamy though.

    • Jen, it should be pipable – maybe your butter was too warm? If you try it again and this happens, try refrigerating it for a bit and then re-beating it.

  7. Very excellent recipe! I had been looking for a chocolate ermine frosting for quite some time, and this was perfect!

  8. I needed to toss together some cupcakes today because my Grandkids came for a surprise visit. I didn’t have enough powdered sugar for my usual chocolate buttercream so to the blogs I went. Well, I think I have a new ”go to” chocolate frosting. I love the less sweetness quality of it and the kids loved it too! At first read I thought it seemed a bit prep heavy with the sieve and all but not so and no powdered sugar mess. I am so pleased that it came up near the top of the search.

  9. This frosting was more work, but I’m so glad that I did it. It’s the best chocolate frosting I’ve ever had. Who would’ve known that not having powdered sugar would have been such a great accident. I did add a bit more chocolate chips(about an additional 1/4 cup). It was so light and fluffy, but still with great chocolate flavor. A winner!

    • Hi Ruth, I have not tried this with cake flour so I can’t vouch for the results. I would use all purpose – cake flour is more starchy and it may change the consistency of the frosting.

  10. Been looking for a not-too-sweet pipable chocolate frosting for ages. I think I just found the perfect recipe. Gonna try it out today. Fingers crossed!!!

    • OMG!!!!!!! The best frosting I have tasted ever!!!! Tasted just heavenly, piped out beautifully and sets amazingly… This is my new favourite!!!!

  11. Hi, wondering how you think this would hold up in warm weather. Looking to have this frosting at an outdoor summer birthday party. Thanks!

  12. Made this without realizing that I read the instructions wrong. Despite this it turned out amazing!!! I mixed all ingredients in a small pan, heated it and let it simmer for about 3 minutes while whisking the whole time. Thank you for sharing!

  13. This was great! Normally buttercream is too sweet, this was perfect. I’m wondering if you have a vanill recipe?

    Have you tried this with white chocolate chips?

    • Hi Yolanda! Vanilla frosting recipes can be found here, here (this one is cream cheese), and here. I have not tried this particular recipe with white chocolate chips and I’m not sure how well it would work as they melt and set up differently.