Perfect Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Even though I love my vanilla frosting and chocolate buttercream, my absolute favorite frosting is this chocolate cream cheese frosting. It’s smooth, creamy, slightly tangy, and so chocolaty! It pipes perfectly and goes well with just about any flavor of cupcake or cake.
With only five ingredients, it’s also super easy to make!
Chocolate cream cheese frosting has just five ingredients: cream cheese, butter, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and kosher salt.
How It’s Made
Before starting, it is extremely important that all of your ingredients are at room temperature. If your cream cheese is still cold, it won’t mix into the rest of the ingredients well and your frosting will be clumpy rather than smooth.
The first step is to mix the butter with an electric mixer until light and airy. This should take about 3 minutes at high speed on a stand mixer.
Next, add cream cheese and mix until thoroughly combined.
Mix in the powdered sugar. Be sure to start the mixer on low speed so that the powdered sugar doesn’t go flying across the room!
Finally, mix in the cocoa powder and kosher salt.
The cocoa powder that you choose makes a tremendous difference in the taste and look of this frosting. Appearance-wise, if you choose a really dark cocoa powder, like Hershey’s Special Dark, the frosting will be much darker than a regular cocoa powder. The best cocoa powder to use entirely depends on your tastes and to whom you are serving your baked goods.
Expert Tips and FAQs
Choosing a Cocoa Powder
Some of the more expensive cocoa powders that I prefer (like Askinosie chocolate single-origin cocoa powder, Cacao Berry Extra Brute [paid link], Sharffen Berger’s natural cocoa powder [paid link] and Penzey’s Cocoa Powders) do not taste anything like Hershey’s or Nestlé’s. They have a much more complex flavor. The flavor is so different that my mother-in-law thought that there was some mystery ingredient in the frosting to account for the different taste.
To help you understand which cocoa powder to pick, I like to talk about Evite’s cookie taste test.
The blog author, Eva, talks about an experiment where she served three different types of Toll House chocolate chip cookies:
- Homemade with high end ingredients (like real vanilla extract)
- Homemade with cheap ingredients (like imitation vanilla extract)
- A store bought log of dough
Surprisingly to me, and perhaps to other ingredient snobs, the author found that “there was no clear favorite, and very few people guessed correctly. The people who were used to the log seemed to like it best. Those who tended to eat high-end ingredients favored the expensive cookies.” The conclusion of the post was that you need to know your audience.
The same principle applies to choosing the cocoa powder.
Tip: Know your audience and pick the cocoa flavor profile they prefer.
Best Desserts for this Frosting
You can never go wrong piping it onto chocolate cupcakes. That cupcake recipe has been EXTENSIVELY tested and you’ll see when you read the comments that hundreds of people rave about them.
Buy blocks of cream cheese, not tubs with the whipped version. Also, always buy full-fat cream cheese – the frosting will taste so much better!
Start with room temperature ingredients. Cream cheese that’s too cold won’t integrate well into the frosting.
Make sure that you mix the butter for several minutes to incorporate lots of air and make it fluffy.
You can adjust the stiffness of the frosting by adding less or more powdered sugar to the recipe.
The USDA considers frostings made with cream cheese to be unsafe if left unrefrigerated for more than a couple of hours, and there are a lot of food websites that echo this fear. If you have a weakened immune system, or like to err on the side of caution, then refrigerate your frosting until you are ready to serve.
I personally leave my cupcakes with cream cheese frosting out of the fridge. I have never had problems with the frosting souring, and I have certainly never had any health effects.
Yes! Foods with a high fat content tend to survive freezing well. You can put a plastic bag of chocolate cream cheese frosting in the freezer for weeks or maybe even months. Allow it to come to room temperature and re-whip it a bit before you start piping it.
Some brands of cream cheese are more susceptible to becoming gummy than others. Make sure you add cream cheese to the aerated butter and mix only until just combined. Overwhipping the cream cheese can definitely make things worse.
- My favorite frostings
- Chocolate ganache
- Chocolate whipped cream
- Raspberry lemon cream cheese frosting from Call Me PMc
Perfect Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 3 cups sifted powdered sugar You can decrease this amount if you don’t care about it being as stiff for piping.
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/4 teaspoon of table salt if you make that substitution
- Mix butter until smooth and creamy – about 3 minutes using a stand mixer on high speed.
- Add cream cheese and mix until completely combined.
- Mix in powdered sugar, one cup at a time.
- Mix in cocoa powder and kosher salt until fully combined.
- Spread or pipe on cakes and cupcakes.
- Double this recipe if you like very high frosting swirls on your cupcakes.
- Always make sure that all ingredients are at room temperature before starting.
- Mix for several minutes to incorporate lots of air into the frosting and make it fluffy.
- You can add more or less powdered sugar to the recipe to give it lighter or stiffer texture.
- The USDA considers frostings made with cream cheese to be unsafe if left unrefrigerated for more than a couple of hours, and there are a lot of food websites that echo this fear. If you have a weakened immune system, or just like to err on the side of caution, then by all means refrigerate your frosting until you are ready to serve.If you want to know what I do, though, I leave my cupcakes with cream cheese frosting out of the fridge. I have never had problems with the frosting souring, and I have certainly never had any health effects.
- Cream cheese frosting can be frozen! Foods with a high fat content tend to survive freezing well. You can put a plastic bag of chocolate cream cheese frosting in the freezer for weeks or maybe even months. You will need to let it thaw and re-whip it a bit when it comes out, though, before you start piping.
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