Black buttercream Frosting

How to make black buttercream frosting

Black buttercream frosting or buttercream is one of the most “difficult” colors to achieve, or at least that is the thought behind it. You would have to add tons of black food coloring to your buttercream recipe, which in return would end up showing in your skin after eating it.

In my personal opinion cakes decorated with black buttercream look amazing and more so if gold touches are used as accents.

Many years ago, I was asked to make a donkey kong cake. It was all black. To be honest, I was intimidated to make black buttercream, I was so worried about the amount of coloring I needed to use.  Tons of black food coloring went into getting a true black color. The end result was so pretty but, my hands were all stained. I swore never ever make a black buttercream cake again.

And I never did, until I read somewhere that you can use black cocoa powder to achieve the black color.

What happens is that the black cocoa will make a dark gray buttercream so adding just some black food coloring and letting it oxidize will make a true black buttercream.

How do I make black buttercream?

The ingredients to make black American buttercream are:

  1. Butter
  2. Crisco
  3. Powdered Sugar
  4. Vanilla Extract
  5. Black Cocoa
  6. Black Gel Food Coloring 
  7. Salt (optional)

From this list the key components are

  1. Black Cocoa Powder
  2. Gel Food Color
  3. Resting time.

As mentioned before, the black cocoa will be a great base to start with. The Gel Food Color in conguntion with the black cocoa will get you closer to a true black icing. 

Time is the one in charge of making the magic. You have to let it rest overnight to allow the color oxidize. Then you will have a true black buttercream.

So, if you are planning to frost a cake with black buttercream, the recommendation is to make the frosting at least the day before. If making a cake for Friday / Saturday I would make the buttercream on  Wednesday.

Can I leave the buttercream on top of the counter?

This is one of the advantages of making an ABC (American Buttercream). Due to the content of sugar, the use of shortening, and some butter, the life shelf of the buttercream is longer than if you use whipped cream.

The first night after I made the ABC I left it on top of the countertop, remixed it the following day to remove air bubbles, and frosted the cake. I think the room temperature ( about 72 F) of the first night might have played a role too in the darkening process.

After decorating the cake I ended up with some leftover buttercream which I stored in the fridge. The following day it got even darker and kind of shiny.

With that in mind, you can add a little less coloring and let it rest longer in case using food coloring is an issue for you. 

What does black buttercream taste like?

Since black cocoa is used in the recipe, you might be asking yourself does the buttercream taste like chocolate?

The answer is no.  The reason behind that is that in order for the cocoa to be black, it undergoes a process called dutching.

Dutching is the process where cocoa is treated with an alkalizing agent to remove the acidity, making it less bitter. The more the cocoa is dutched, the darker it turns and the less chocolate flavor.

Even on the back of the package, you can find a note letting you know the product is to be used as a coloring agent for baked goods. 

How to store Buttercream?

American Buttercream can be stored away in the fridge for about a week or a couple of days after a week. Just place it in the fridge and well-covered so it does not get any other flavors. I do use some saran wrap and then a freezer Ziploc bag.

My understanding is that pretty much anything that has sugar does not spoil that fast.

Ok, here are two explanations I found online “Microbes need available water to grow, and sugar reduces the availability of water to them. In addition, spread as a thin layer on cake, water evaporates (further reducing water availability).”

“It is called crenation. Basically, the sugar acts as a super-concentrated solution and pulls the fluid from the milk. When it does this, it also pulls fluid from any bacteria which may cause spoilage. Essentially, killing the bacteria through osmosis.”

If you are using only shortening, the shelf life increases and it can be stored pretty much until the “use before” date of the shortening.

So keeping it in the fridge for a couple of days over a week is fine. Just whip it before you use it.

I used this Black Buttercream to decorate this striped cake 

Black Buttercream Frosting

Black Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup Unsalted Butter
  • 1 cup Shortening
  • 1.5 lbs Powdered Sugar
  • ½ cup Black Cocoa
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp Almond Extract
  • 3 tsp Black Gel Food Color
  1. In a clean mixing bowl, cream the butter and shortening until well combined and there are no chunks of shortening.

  2. Add the powdered sugar and black cocoa gradually and slowly until combined.

  3. Add the vanilla extract, almond extract and the food coloring until well mixed.

  4. Add extra sugar if it is too soft for you or add a little milk if it is too stiff for you.

  5. Let it rest overnight so the color gets darker.

  6. Whip again before use to remove any air bubbles.

  7. Store it in the fridge in an air-tight container.