Ever wondered how to make black buttercream or frosting? I’m happy to report it’s easier than you may think. Thanks to black cocoa powder and a bit of food color, this recipe is simple to make. And if you like the taste of an Oreo cookie, you’ll probably appreciate the flavor of this rich frosting even more; black cocoa powder is a key ingredient in Oreos! Despite this buttercream’s dark shade, it also won’t stain your teeth or give you a black mouth, due to a few tips and tricks below to achieve a more naturally dark frosting. This buttercream is especially fun to decorate black cupcakes or cakes.
Ingredients for this Black Buttercream with Food Coloring
To create this buttercream, I used my vanilla buttercream base recipe. Below are the key ingredients for taking that white buttercream and changing it into the dark color of frosting you see here.
- Room temperature unsalted butter – Butter contributes flavor and texture here. By mixing butter and sugar with a hand mixer or paddle attachment, you incorporate air into the buttercream. This makes a soft, fluffy frosting.
- Vanilla extract – The extract from your local grocery store is perfectly fine for this frosting recipe. I can never taste a huge difference between pricier extracts and more basic ones.
- Powdered sugar – Unlike granulated sugar, powdered sugar is finely ground. When incorporated into frosting, it dissolves easily and combines well with the other ingredients. It also provides sweetness but lacks the grittiness that comes with granulated sugar.
- Black cocoa powder – Black cocoa powder, as The Best Cake Recipes put it in this article, “is ultra-dutch processed, meaning it is treated with an alkaline solution to reduce acidity.” In other words, it’s less bitter. This makes its flavor and chemical properties different from the brown type of cocoa powder you’ll typically find in grocery stores. I order Wincrest’s black cocoa powder online and used it in this recipe.
- Heavy cream – You can definitely use milk as a replacement in this recipe if you don’t have heavy cream. But I recommend heavy cream because it is thicker and makes the black buttercream richer.
- Black gel food coloring – To achieve a true black frosting, we get a little bit of coloring from black food gel. It helps intensify the color. I have had success with Wilton’s liquid food coloring, but here I used Chef Master. I’ve heard great things about Americolor, too. Any of these (or another brand) should work just fine.
Steps for Making this Black Buttercream Recipe
Combine your unsalted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, heavy cream, both cocoa powders, and salt. Mix on a low speed for about 1 minute before increasing to medium-high speed for 2-3 more minutes. Stop your mixer and scrape down the sides of your bowl toward the center so everything combines evenly.
Add your food dye before mixing on medium speed for another 1-2 minutes. Frosting’s color will deepen to a light black, almost charcoal, color.
To further darken buttercream, take approximately 1/4 cup (or 50 grams) at a time of your frosting. Heat it in a microwavable bowl for five seconds on medium power. Add this melted frosting back into your main bowl and turn the mixer on again to combine.
Continue to heat small amounts of frosting at a time and add it back to your bowl until you’ve achieved a deep black color. I do this twice and then let it rest overnight on my counter, at room temperature.
When you’re ready to use it, the frosting will likely feel very thick. Cocoa is a drying agent, and so your buttercream will almost certainly need more moisture. Pour in a few tablespoons of heavy cream or milk at a time, whipping your frosting by hand, until it has a spreadable consistency.
Then place frosting into piping bag fitted with tip of choice and decorate cupcake tops!
Let Heat Help You Make the Perfect Black Cocoa Buttercream
Did you know your black buttercream will darken when heated? Higher temperatures activate color in food gel.
For best best results, I microwave my black buttercream in small amounts for a few seconds at a time and add it back to my larger mixing bowl. Without that step, you’ll have a harder (and longer) journey of achieving black cocoa buttercream.
Below is the final version, after melting about half a cup of frosting in total and incorporating it back into my bowl. You may need to melt more or less, depending on the temperature of your kitchen and how much black food gel you’re comfortable adding.
Instead of Microwaving Buttercream, Rely on Time
Your frosting’s color will deepen with another secret ingredient: time. If you have an afternoon or evening to spare, cover your buttercream but leave it out at room temperature and watch it change in color. You’ll be amazed at what even a few hours can do!
You can also leave your buttercream in the refrigerator overnight. It’ll change colors there, too, though just a bit more slowly. Warmer temperature accelerates the process.
And if you’re short on time, you can always pursue the microwave method.
Troubleshooting this Black Frosting Recipe
With cocoa powder and black food gel, this recipe is super easy. But if you don’t have black food gel, FAQ Kitchen has a solution. They recommend mixing 3 parts blue food gel with 2.5 parts red and 1 part green. Do this in a separate bowl to create your desired shade before adding it to your larger mixing bowl.
I highly recommend making this recipe about 8 hours before you need the frosting to turn black. Doing this an evening before will really help make the frosting darken. If you don’t have that much time, read the tip below.
When you microwave frosting that has been dyed with food gel, the heat darkens your colors. This is a great hack so you don’t have to use tons of food gel.
Instead, heat a small amount of buttercream (about 1/4 cup) at a time. This simple step will shorten the process for creating a vibrant, dark shade. Also, because you are using heat to make the frosting instead of dumping tons of food gel into it, this black buttercream will not stain your teeth.
This buttercream is delicious, chocolatey, and far from bitter! People who notice a bitterness in their black frosting may have added too much food gel and are tasting that.
If your frosting isn’t black yet, give it more time to deepen in color. To speed up the process, heat small amounts in the microwave – that will make it so much darker!
Yes! Store it in an airtight container in the freezer. Thaw and then re-whip to use.
Using this Homemade Frosting Recipe
I’ve had a lot of fun exploring ways to use this delicious buttercream. I got out a piping bag to decorate a black cake, featuring this cute cat for a Halloween theme. This frosting is perfect for a spooky cake or cupcake idea!
It’s great for mixing with other colors on cupcakes like the ones here. If you want to decorate a cupcake using black buttercream and another color (or more), you can also read more about that on my blog. I have a guide for piping multicolored swirls on cakes and cupcakes.Print
Black Buttercream Recipe
This black buttercream recipe guides you through making a delicious and rich black frosting for your cakes and cupcakes!
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: About 6 cups 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Cuisine: American
- 2 and 1/2 sticks (283 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup (110 grams) black cocoa powder
- 2/3 cup (60 grams) natural cocoa powder
- 5 cups (650 grams) powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup (75 grams) heavy cream, room temperature
- 1 T vanilla extract
- About 6 drops of black food gel
- Pinch of salt (more or less to taste)
- Combine your unsalted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, heavy cream, both cocoa powders, and salt. Mix on a low speed for about 1 minute before increasing to medium-high speed for 2-3 more minutes. Stop your mixer and scrape down the sides of your bowl toward the center so everything combines evenly.
- Add your food dye before mixing on medium speed for another 1-2 minutes. Frosting’s color will deepen to a light black, almost charcoal, color.
- To further darken buttercream, take approximately 1/4 cup (or 50 grams) at a time of your frosting. Heat it in a microwavable bowl for five seconds on medium power. Add this melted frosting back into your main bowl and turn the mixer on again to combine. Continue to heat small amounts of frosting at a time and add it back to your bowl until you’ve achieved a deep black color. I do this twice and then let it rest overnight on my counter, at room temperature.
- Add a few tablespoons of heavy cream to your frosting right before you use it to help loosen and give it a smooth, spreadable texture. Put frosting into piping bag fitted with tip of choice and decorate!
- Heating the frosting in small increments activates the black food gel and deepens the color. Read the blog post above the recipe card for more tips on how to intensify the shade of your frosting using both time and heat – they’ll help your frosting become a nice, dark shade.
- When you’re ready to use the frosting, it will likely feel very thick. Cocoa is a drying agent, and so your buttercream will almost certainly need more moisture. Pour in a few tablespoons of heavy cream or milk at a time, whipping your frosting by hand, until it has a spreadable consistency. Then add it to your piping bag!
- This recipe creates about six cups of frosting, which comfortably fills and coats a three-layer, six-inch cake. Reduce or increase as needed.
Keywords: black buttercream recipe, black buttercream frosting recipe, black cocoa buttercream