If you love traditional cakes and you love to eat vegan food, then you may have found yourself wondering whether a classic vegan chocolate frosting is possible. The answer: yes! This vegan chocolate frosting recipe is a rich, sweet, buttercream with chocolate flavor. It’s easy to make, and it’s perfect for cakes and cupcakes.
I often mention favorite foods in passing, only to be asked “but wait, how is that vegan?”
This is especially true when I mention vegan desserts, including vegan cakes, puddings, and pies.
One thing that’s lost in translation here is the existence of products that make it easy to veganize traditional recipes.
For example, plant milks and vegan butter bring so much possibility to vegan baking.
The notion of vegan butter is new to many non-vegans. Folks don’t necessarily have vegan butter brands on their radars.
Non-vegans might not know that there are actually a growing number of store-bought vegan butters nowadays. And these butters have many of the same properties and capabilities of dairy butter.
Buttercream frosting may be the ultimate example of a food that’s now easy to make vegan. This is true because vegan butter exists and is perfect for creating creamy, rich swirls of frosting.
My favorite vegan chocolate frosting is a vegan buttercream frosting, specifically. I create it with the same ingredients that’s in traditional buttercream frosting: powdered sugar, (vegan) butter, and a little milk.
I add cocoa powder to give the frosting just the right amount of chocolate flavor, as well as a hint of vanilla to deepen flavor.
The chocolate frosting is truly delicious, and it’s about time I shared it.
How to make vegan chocolate buttercream frosting
Making buttercream frosting usually involves beating butter and powdered sugar together in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer.
Making vegan buttercream frosting works very similarly. The only real difference is the butter, which is vegan butter, rather than dairy butter.
This isn’t the only way to make vegan frosting for cake or cupcakes. I’ve made vegan frostings that used coconut and cashews as bases.
There’s even a vegan chocolate cake in The Vegan Week that uses melted chocolate and sweet potato purée as a frosting base! It’s inspired by a recipe of Genevieve Ko’s, and it’s really good.
The Vegan Week
Embrace the joy of eating homemade food every day with the hearty and wholesome recipes in The Vegan Week.
Whether you have three, two, or even just one hour of time to spare, The Vegan Week will show you how to batch cook varied, colorful, and comforting dishes over the weekend.
I like these unusual, somewhat more wholesome vegan frosting recipes.
But sometimes a sweet, super buttery frosting is what one wants. And for those moments, this frosting is it.
Here’s what goes into making it.
Step 1: cream vegan butter
Step one in making the vegan chocolate frosting is to beat vegan butter until it’s light and creamy.
I use a stand mixer to do this, on medium speed. You can also use a handheld, electric mixer for this step.
When the butter looks somewhat “whipped” and light, it’s time to add sugar.
Step 2: add sugar and flavorings
In step two, you’ll add powdered sugar, along with any other flavorings, to the frosting-in-progress.
Flavoring could be an extract, like peppermint or lemon extract. It could be ground up, freeze-dried fruit.
In the case of this vegan chocolate frosting, the flavorings are cocoa powder and a little vanilla extract.
Important note about the sugar here: it needs to be powdered, or confectioners sugar. And, while I don’t usually bother sifting ingredients when I bake, it’s important to sift the powdered sugar before adding it to the chocolate frosting.
Un-sifted powdered sugar can have lots of little clumps, which result in a clumpy frosting.
In addition to the sugar and flavorings, you’ll add 2-4 tablespoons of non-dairy milk to the frosting. This helps to keep the texture light and easily spreadable/swirlable.
I recommend starting with 2 tablespoons and adding more only if the buttercream is too dense for your liking.
Once you add the powdered sugar, you’ll continue beating the frosting for 2-3 more minutes, or until it’s rich, yet light and fluffy.
Step 3: use or store
At this point, you can frost whatever vegan cake or cupcake you’re waiting to decorate.
You can also store the frosting in the fridge for up to 4 days.
The best vegan butter for frosting
So, if this vegan buttercream hinges on the use of vegan butter, what’s the best butter brand to try?
There are a lot of vegan butters that I like. For frosting, however, I’ve found Earth Balance to be the best choice. Its texture seems the most sturdy: with some other brands, the butter softens and melts too easily at room temperature to hold its own.
Other vegan butters that I’ve tried, and had success with, in frosting: Fora Foods (incredible, but hard to source), Miyoko’s Creamery, and Om Sweet Home (a small company, local to me).
For more a very detailed review of multiple vegan butter brands, you can check out this post. It’s from 2021, and new brands are always emerging, but it’s a good place to start!
When it comes to baking, there is actually a science to choosing the right cocoa powder. (It has to do with acids and bases!)
For this recipe, any type of cocoa powder is fine. But I recommend unsweetened cocoa powder, so that there’s a nice balance between bitter cocoa and powdered sugar.
How to store vegan chocolate frosting
Storing the chocolate is simple enough: transfer it to an airtight container and cover the top gently with a layer of Saran Wrap. Cover the container and transfer to the fridge for up to 5 days.
What about frosting cake or cupcakes with frosting that’s been in the fridge for a few days?
I’ve found that it’s best to let the frosting come to room temperature before frosting anything with it.
If your frosting has lost a little of its fluffy quality, then I recommend re-beating it briefly in a stand mixer or with an electric mixer for optimal texture.
Can I freeze buttercream frosting?
Yes, you sure can.
I think that freshly made frosting has the lightest, creamiest consistency. However, I’ve frozen and defrosted this vegan chocolate frosting many times with good results.
The frosting can be frozen for up to six weeks. It should be defrosted in the fridge overnight, then brought to room temperature before application.
What size cake will the frosting cover?
This frosting is enough to cover the top and sides of an 8-inch/20cm or 9-inch/23cm round cake or 12 cupcakes.
One half batch is enough to lightly frost an 8-inch/20cm square cake (top only).
What to do with vegan chocolate frosting
Quite simply, you can use this vegan chocolate frosting however you’d use regular chocolate frosting.
For me, that’s usually for cakes or cupcakes. But I also love a frosted soft sugar cookie, and there’s nothing wrong with a frosted brownie, either.
Tomorrow, I’ll share another cake that pairs with this frosting perfectly.
For today, here’s the chocolate buttercream recipe.
- 8 tablespoons room temperature vegan butter (112g; 1 stick)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (300g)
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder (20g)
- 2-3 tablespoons plain soy, oat, cashew, or almond milk
Add the butter and vanilla to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
While the butter and vanilla are mixing, shift together the powdered sugar and cocoa powder.
Add the sugar and cocoa to the bowl of the stand mixer, along with 2 tablespoons of the non-dairy milk. Turn the mixer on and leave it on low until the sugar is fully incorporated, about 1 minute. Raise the speed to high and continue mixing until the frosting is very light, smooth and creamy (3-4 min). Add additional plant milk by the teaspoon if the frosting is overly thick. The consistency should be rich, but smooth and spreadable.
Use the frosting to immediately frost a cake or cupcakes, or store it for up to 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Allow the frosting to come to room temperature before using it.
One half batch is enough to lightly frost an 8-inch/20cm square cake (top only).
Sending you into the start of the week with sweet, rich, chocolatey swirls.