Isn’t it difficult to know which recipe to pick when so many say they are the “best chocolate buttercream frosting?” Any recipe that claims to be the best doesn’t actually have to be the best, so how do you know which one to choose?
Honestly, sometimes it’s just a matter of preference. But there is also another element to something being the best. That extra element involves high quality ingredients, balance of flavors, and an amazingly creamy texture that make even an average cake better than average.
Most Popular Types of Buttercream Frosting
There are many types of buttercream frosting, so let’s break them down and what they are best used for.
- American Buttercream Frosting– consists of butter, powdered sugar, flavoring, milk or heavy cream, and sometimes a pinch of salt. Best used for cut out sugar cookies and cakes that won’t easily fall apart. (not for angel food cake) Can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge for one week or frozen for 2 months.
- Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting – One of the most popular types of buttercream. Swiss meringue buttercream consists of egg whites, sugar, salt, and TONS of butter. The buttercream starts with mixing the sugar, salt, and egg whites in a mixer bowl placed over a double boiler. The mixture needs to be whisks continuously until the temperature reaches 161 degrees F, and then the bowl goes directly onto a stand mixer so the sugar can be whipped to stiff peaks.
- The butter is then added a little at a time until fully incorporated. We made this frosting among others in culinary school. It is very buttery, but also really tasty.
- Italian Meringue Buttercream Frosting – consists of butter, sugar, water, egg whites, and flavoring. This buttercream frosting requires the sugar and water to be cooked and then added to whipped egg whites. The butter and flavoring get whipped in once the sugar/egg mixture is fluffy and cool.
- French Buttercream Frosting – consists of butter, sugar, egg yolks, water, and flavoring. French buttercream frosting starts with cooking the sugar and water until the temperature reaches 240 degrees. The egg yolks mix in a stand mixer until thick and foamy, and then the sugar syrup goes slowly into the whipped eggs while being whipped. Once the mixture cools, softened butter gets added to the mixture to make French buttercream. This type of buttercream is often used for Macarons and other delicate desserts.
Tips for Making the Best Chocolate Buttercream
- Use Dutch process cocoa powder. Dutch process cocoa powder undergoes a process to neutralize the acidity, leaving you with a purer chocolate that is rich and flavorful. The color and flavor are better, giving your chocolate buttercream frosting extra oomph.
- Use softened butter, but not mushy butter. Butter that is too warm creates a heavier and looser frosting that is harder to work with for piping.
- If you can make a finger mark in the stick of butter by gently pressing, then it is just right. If your finger sinks into the butter easily, then it is too warm. Return the butter to the fridge for 10-15 minutes and test again for firmness.
- Cream the butter first in the mixer to get it really smooth. Add powdered sugar next to create a nice butter cream. Then add the cocoa powder, 1-2 Tbs milk, vanilla, and salt.
- Make sure to mix on low speed when mixing in dry ingredients. Once they absorb into the butter, turn the mixer up to get a nice fluffy frosting.
- If icing is too stiff, add milk 1 Tbs at a time. 1 Tbs of milk goes a long way, so do not add too much at once. Otherwise, the frosting will need more powdered sugar to stiffen it back up, but the texture will change and will not be as good.
Buttercream Frosting Consistency Explained
- Stiff Peaks Consistency: Best used for details and piping shapes. Icing should not be too stiff though, or it will not create a smooth look. If the icing is too stiff, it looks dry and almost crumbly. Use a stiff or medium/stiff consistency for piping flowers or details that are really fine.
- Medium Peaks: Medium is the best consistency for frosting a cake and for detail work that doesn’t need to be quite as sharp. Use medium consistency icing for piping shells, stars, boarders, beads, etc.
- Soft Peaks: A soft consistency is best for crumb coating a cake.
The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Dessert
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cup cocoa powder, Dutch process preferred
- 6 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup Milk, plus a 3-4 extra tablespoons to thin icing if necessary
- 2 tsp vanilla
- Pinch of salt
- Makes enough for 1 double layer 9 inch cake or a 9×13 cake
- Cream butter in mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on high for 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar 2 cups at a time, and mix on low speed until sugar is absorbed. You can add 1 Tbs of milk each of the 3 times the powdered sugar goes in the bowl.
- Add vanilla, pinch of salt, and cocoa powder and mix on low speed, adding 1-2 more tablespoons of milk.
- Once ingredients are combined, mix on medium speed for a couple of minutes and continue adding milk until the icing is smooth and creamy. At the very end, turn the mixer down to low and mix to make the frosting super creamy and to get rid of some air bubbles. Frosting needs at least 1/2 a cup of milk, but may need a few tablespoons more.
- Icing consistency depends on the purpose of the frosting. For piping, icing should be a little stiffer, closer to stiff peaks. For frosting a cake, the frosting should be more like medium peaks. For crumb coat, use softer frosting, as it will spread very easily. You will need less frosting if it spreads easily for crumb coating.
This is a Baker Street Society original recipe.
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