How to Make Black Icing {Buttercream Frosting}


Easy black icing that’s not gray and doesn’t stain teeth, homemade with simple ingredients. This deep, dark buttercream frosting is rich, creamy and made with black cocoa powder. It’s perfect for piping.

Black frosting is notorious for tasting weird, which is so disappointing. It makes such a statement and is so useful when decorating cakes, especially for Halloween. However, I have found a way to help hide that black metallic taste, and the answer is black cocoa powder. It helps to deepen the color from gray to black, and camouflage the unwanted taste with chocolate. All the baking world rejoiced! Well, at least I did. It can be just as hard to develop a true red frosting as it is a black one, so let me also help you there with this fool-proof How to Make Red Frosting {Red Velvet} recipe.

Easy Homemade Black Icing in Glass Bowl on White Background

How to make easy homemade black icing recipe from scratch that’s not gray?

  1. Mix ingredients– Including butter and shortening, then cocoa powder and vanilla extract, then powdered sugar and heavy cream one at a time.
  2. Add black food coloring– Mix until evenly distributed.
  3. Transfer icing– About 1/2 cup to a bowl.
  4. Add more black coloring– Until the color is deeper.
  5. Heat– In the microwave until runny, and mix.
  6. Combine frostings– Until the black color is evenly distributed.
  7. Cover and chill– For 2-5 days.
  8. Bring to room temperature– Pipe onto cakes and cupcakes.

Key ingredients for black buttercream frosting

  • Butter– Use room temperature and unsalted butter for best results.
  • Shortening– For stability.
  • Powdered sugar– This is where all of the sweetness is developed.
  • Black gel coloring– To create a deep, truly black frosting.
  • Black cocoa powder– To mask the metallic flavor of black food coloring with chocolate, and deepen the dark color.
Ingredients for Icing in Glass Bowls on White Background

Other black food coloring options

  • Activated charcoal– I didn’t like the flavor it added.
  • Black powdered food coloring– This works well too, but you need to add a lot to achieve the correct shade.
  • Squid ink powdered food coloring– I found it a little salty. You need to use a lot, but it does work well.

How to make chocolate frosting black? 

It’s actually easier to do this than to start with a pure white buttercream because the starting base is already dark and brown. You can make it even darker and a true black by mixing in 1-2 tbsp of black cocoa powder and a few squirts of black gel food coloring. Then, let it rest for 2-3 days in the fridge to allow the color to develop even further. 

What is black cocoa powder? Is it the same as natural cocoa and Dutch processed cocoa?

No, they are not the same thing. I used the brand, The Cocoa Trader Black Dutched Cocoa powder. It’s the darkest powder I could found. Some black cocoa brands have a super dark brown color but not this one. This is as dark and black as it gets. 

  • Black cocoa powder– Has been heavily alkalized, so it won’t react with baking soda, and is the darkest in color.
  • Natural cocoa– This is light brown in color, commonly used in baking, and has a milder chocolate flavor.
  • Dutch processed cocoa– Has a dark brown-reddish in color, rich flavor, and is treated with an alkaline solution to remove its acidity.

Why does my frosting taste bad and bitter? How to fix this? 

Since we are using black cocoa powder, there won’t be the need to add that much food coloring and that automatically reduces the bitterness. To mask any remaining bitterness, add some more high quality extracts.

Easy Homemade Black Buttercream Piped on White Base

Tips and techniques

Use black gel food coloring– Don’t even bother with liquid food coloring. It’s not as concentrated and doesn’t provide the intense color that we want.

How to fix thin, runny icing? This often means you have too much liquid in the icing. Make sure to add the heavy cream 1 tbsp at a time, and instead of more at once. You can also add more powdered sugar to thicken the icing, but this will also make it sweeter. A third option is chilling the icing if it is just too warm, and that is causing the runny texture. Make sure to work in a cool kitchen to help prevent this.

How to fix thick icing? The icing is either too cold and needs to be brought to room temperature again to be pipeable, or it may need more liquid. Mix in 1 tbsp of heavy cream and stir to see if this makes it a little more workable. If not, add another Tbsp of heavy cream and mix again, until the desired consistency is obtained.

Add other extracts– Such as almond, coffee, bourbon, or even maple.

Check the icing next day and see if it has darkened to your preference– If it still hasn’t, you can heat a little in the microwave, mix and chill again. You can also add some more black cocoa powder or a little more black food coloring. 

Butter must be room temperature– Because if it is too warm or melted, the icing will separate, be grainy, and too liquidy to pipe. If it is too cold, it will not blend properly with the other ingredients, and will be chunky instead of smooth.

Use unsalted butter– To prevent the icing from becoming too salty.

Use both, shortening and butter– Because butter adds flavor and richness and shortening adds stability. You need both.

This icing needs to be made 2-5 days in advance– Because this allows the color to develop. Do not skip this step. The more time you can give it, the better.

Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time– Because this helps to keep the powdered sugar from “exploding” or “poofing” (Yes, that’s a technical term… that I made up 😉 powder all over your kitchen when too much is added at one time. It also allows you to control the sweetness and texture of the icing.

How much icing does this recipe make? It yields about 5 cups, which will ice 24 cupcakes or one 8×3 inch round cake.

Easy Black Frosting With Black Cocoa Powder in Glass Bowl

Storage of homemade frosting

Refrigerate– In a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.

Freeze– In a freezer safe container for up to 1 month. Thaw to room temperature and pipe/ice away.

More cake decorating tips

Easy Homemade Black Icing in Glass Bowl on White Background
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Easy Homemade Black Icing (Buttercream Frosting)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Easy black icing that's not gray and doesn't stain teeth, homemade with simple ingredients. This deep, dark buttercream frosting is rich, creamy and made with black cocoa powder. It's perfect for piping.
Yield: 5 Cups


  • 1 cup Butter, Unsalted, Room temperature
  • 1 cup Shortening
  • 1/2 cup Black cocoa powder, My favorite is The Cocoa Trader Black Dutched Cocoa Powder but I also like Anthony's Organic Black Cocoa Powder
  • 2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 7-8 cups Powdered sugar
  • 1/4-1/3 cup Heavy cream, Or milk, More or less depending on the consistency you want
  • Black gel food coloring , I prefer the Americolor brand


  • Add butter and shortening in a large mixing bowl and mix until smooth.
  • Add black cocoa powder and vanilla extract and mix until just combined.
  • Add powdered sugar (1/2 cup at a time), while continuing to mix.
  • Add heavy cream (1 tbsp at a time), while continuing to mix until you reach the desired consistency. 
  • Add a generous amount of black food coloring (1-2 deep squirts) and mix until evenly distributed. The frosting will mostly likely be looking dark gray.
  • Spoon out 1/2 cup icing and transfer to a bowl. Add 1 more squirt of black coloring until the color is deeper.
  • Heat in microwave for about 15 seconds or until frosting is runny.
  • Mix with a spoon and you will notice this runny icing is black now.
  • Add this runny frosting into the original bowl of icing and mix until the black color is evenly distributed.
  • Cover and chill in fridge for 2-3 days but preferably 5 days to allow the shade to truly deepen and develop further. This is a crucial step and cannot be skipped.
  • When you are ready to use this icing, remove bowl from fridge and let it come to room temperature.
  • Then, fill a piping bag and start piping your cakes and cupcakes.


  • Read all my tips above.
  • Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 
  • This icing is enough to frost 24 cupcakes and one 8×3 round cake.


Calories: 1387kcal, Carbohydrates: 168g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 82g, Saturated Fat: 36g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 13g, Monounsaturated Fat: 28g, Trans Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 111mg, Sodium: 300mg, Potassium: 28mg, Sugar: 165g, Vitamin A: 1309IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 21mg, Iron: 1mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Calories: 1387
Author: Abeer Rizvi

4 comments on “How to Make Black Icing {Buttercream Frosting}”

  1. Just perfect! Mine came out velvety smooth and perfect for my son’s cake!5 stars

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