Old-Fashioned Chocolate Frosting

CATEGORIES: Cakes and Cupcakes, Sara

I’m pretty sure something biological happened to me about the same time I became a mother.  At least that’s when I remember it happening.  That was the point when I realized I couldn’t live without chocolate.   I found myself thinking about chocolate, craving chocolate, scouring my pantry for spare chocolate chips that may have fallen out of a bag at some point and landed in some random corner.  And I wouldn’t by any means call myself a chocolate snob (because I’m pretty sure anyone who makes that proclamation wouldn’t be on their hands and knees in the pantry looking for old chocolate chips)  but I do have an appreciation for quality chocolate.  And I don’t like it overloaded with sugar- the darker the better in my book.  I even love bittersweet chocolate.  But when it comes down to it, if it’s got chocolate in it- I’m down.  So needless to say, a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting pretty much rocks my world.

Everyone in  my opinion needs a great, basic, go-to chocolate cake recipe.  And while there’s a time and a place for boxed cake mixes, everyone needs a good homemade, from scratch recipe.  I’ve used this Hershey’s recipe quite a bit over the years, and I still love it.  But several years ago I bought the “Best Recipes” issue of Cook’s Illustrated, partially because this cake was on the cover.  I finally had a great excuse to make it last month and I wish I would have done it years ago.  It’s definitely one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever tasted.

I started going through the pictures for this cake and realized the post would quickly turn into a novel, so I’m splitting it into two installments.  Frosting today, cake on Wednesday!  Don’t be turned off by the number of steps here.  I almost was and I’m so glad I stuck with the recipe and made this frosting.  It’s more labor intensive than beating some butter, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder together but it’s sooo worth it.

Start by melting some chocolate.  The glass bowl you see in the pictures is sitting on top of a pan of simmering water.

After the chocolate is melted, set the bowl aside and dump out the water that was in the pan.  Now you’ve already got a warm pan for the next step (butter melting).  Remember that when you read the recipe and it tells you to use 2 pans.  I’m all about one less dish to  have sitting in my sink for days wash.

To the melted butter, you’ll add a little corn syrup, vanilla, and granulated sugar.

As soon as it’s all melted together and the sugar is dissolved, add it to a large bowl along with…

the chocolate.  The beautiful, glorious, melted chocolate.  And no I did not stick my finger in that as it was pouring down like a chocolate waterfall just begging for someone to stick their finger in it…

And also some heavy cream.  You know, for good measure.

You’ll stir this all together and have sort of a chocolate sauce consistency. Place your bowl in a bowl of ice to bring the temperature down, and just keep stirring until the mixture starts hardening against the side of the bowl.  Then you can pop the paddle attachment on your mixer and start whipping.  Magically it turns thick and fluffy.

I was actually super impatient when I made this and didn’t wait for it to cool enough that the mixture was sticking to the sides of the bowl.  So my whipped frosting was reeealy soft.  I just popped it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes and it was perfect.

The flavor is so perfect.  It’s sweet, but not too sweet, so the great chocolate flavor really shines through.

and when combined with the chocolate cake, it’s perfection.

I should also note that the texture is so light and soft, and whippy, that this frosting would probably be best for slathering- like smeared all over a cake, or just plopped on top of cupcakes, as opposed to piping.  If you’re looking for a good chocolate icing for piping- try this one!



  1. Awesome! Just the other day, I made a chocolate cake and I was looking for a recipe for chocolate frosting that uses melted chocolate chips and of course, couldn’t find one. I knew I could count on you! 😉

    1. I just read somewhere not to use chocolate chips, cause it is different from semi sweet chocolate. I am guessing it is in the form of bars. So I need to go back to the store to look for it.

      1. I know I’m way late but going to post anyway… The reason for “no chocolate chips” is they can have a wax like coating to keep them from sticking together. That being said, I have often used chocolate chips and *I’ve* never had a problem. I don’t cook gourmet stuff but in something like frosting it should be fine. The concern would be with chocolate that needs tempering (truffles, chocolate coated anything when you want a snap when you bite into it) and even then, my husband has made chocolates and had no problems with the chips.

  2. It looks like this originally came from the March 2006 issue of Cook’s Illustrated. With your recommendation, I believe I will give it a try. thanks!

  3. I’m more of a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. This recipe makes me want to make one, NOW! I’m also a huge fan of Cooks Illustrated.

      1. So girls, in this same recipe book, on the very next page, is a recipe for their ultimate yellow cake with “no fail chocolate frosting”. I literally spend HOURS staring at both recipes trying to decide which to make. The yellow one is totally next on my list!

        1. Sounds like the perfect cake!

          No lie, yellow cake with chocolate frosting is such a tradition in my family, it’s what my sister and her husband had for their wedding cake. Best cake ever!

  4. This looks great and I will definitely be trying it out, but I’ve got a question for you. I recently whipped up a red velvet cake and cream cheese frosting (of course!) i assembled my layers with frosting between each. By the time the cake reached its final destination it was leaning to right! The layers were sliding because of the frosting! The layers were completely cooled. . .any tips on preventing this? Maybe a way to make stiffer frosting. . .

  5. This looks amazing! I have yet to find a chocolate frosting recipe that I love. I absolutely know what you mean about searching for chocolate chips in corners of the pantry. There was a blue M&M lodged under our computer desk for a while and I have to admit I thought about eating it often. But don’t worry. I just threw it away. I think . . .

  6. Yummeroos! I think I should make this and dip graham crackers in it! Or apple slices? or, or or maybe strawberries .. forget the cake! LOL 🙂 can’t wait to try this (but I don’t have a paddle attachment for my mixer, what can be used in place of one)

    1. No joke, this would be SO good for dipping stuff into. Graham crackers all the way! When I was a kid my Mom would always make graham cracker chocolate frosting sandwiches for treats. So good! Do you have the whisk attachment? I’m sure that would work fine.

      1. My mom did the same thing- graham crackers and chocolate frosting. I failed my own children as I did not give them that “gourmet” treat as often as my mom did for me!
        I’m just wondering how in the world did you refrain from sticking your finger in the chocolate waterfall? The only way I resisted while reading this post is because my finger couldn’t go through the monitor. You have mighty willpower, Sara!

  7. This looks so yummy! But here’s my question: whats the difference in taste/texture between this recipe, and the other chocolate frosting you have on the site (I use that one ALL the time, and everyone LOVES it).

    1. Good question Stacia. I haven’t made that other one in a long time so I think I’d have to see them side by side to make a really good comparison. But I would say this one (in terms of texture) is lighter, more billowy, more whippy? Lol Totally a word! Because it has cream in it, the flavor is very luxurious. I’d say this one is better for smearing on a cake or cupcake whereas the other would be better for piping.

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