A Better Chocolate Buttercream

November 9, 2008

I have to admit I am not usually a huge fan of buttercream frostings, even when they are dairy. I tend to prefer things like ganache and cream cheese frostings which pack more flavor with less sweetness. However, some kinds of cakes really do need the sweet fluffiness of a good buttercream icing. When that is the case nothing else will do. I have experimented on and off for years trying to come up with a parve buttercream worth eating. Since buttercream is primarily butter and sugar, substituting margarine tends to create a strange greasy mouthfeel that makes me not want to eat more than a bite, if even that. Shortening is even worse (think of what the big colored roses on cheap bakery cakes tastes like).

My general policy when it comes to parve desserts is that if I can’t make it taste good, make something else instead, and for many years I simply avoided making any parve buttercreams, using glazes or ganache or even fondant instead.
Well, my frosting repertoire has just expanded. I managed to make a delicious parve chocolate buttercream with a smooth, fluffy texture, rich chocolate flavor and no strange greasy aftertaste. I cannot even express how excited I am! Now that I figured out chocolate, other flavors are close behind.

I used the buttercream on banana cupcakes for shabbat, and people related to it just like real buttercream! The people who remove a good part of the frosting from their Magnolia cupcakes because it is too much did the same with mine, and the people who can’t get enough of the sweet goodness devoured every bite.


Chocolate Buttercream Icing

  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1 oz solid vegetable shortening
  • 5 oz toffuti cream cheese
  • 3/4 lb 10X confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 oz good quality cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoons chocolate liqueur
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon meringue powder
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled


  1. Cream butter, shortening, and cream cheese together for 3 minutes. Stop and scrape the bowl. Cream for an additional 60 seconds.
  2. Sift the sugar and cocoa powder together. Beat sugar mixture 1 cup at a time into the margarine mixture.
  3. Add the liqueur, vanilla and meringue powder.
  4. Beat for a minute or two making sure the ingredients are throughly incorporated.
  5. Add the melted chocolate and beat until combined

Note: This is a half recipe, which is about 1 qt of frosting. If making a layer cake, double the recipe.

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  1. It is just slightly more than 2 3/4 cups, so I would use 2 level cups and a slightly heaping 3/4 cups. Icing sugar is another name for confectioners sugar, the difference is regional. Enjoy!

  2. have you tried freezing this buttercream? and do you think I could pipe a basketweave from this frosting? if so, how long do you think the frosted cake could last in the fridge?
    Thanks so much! I was about to make a margarine-cream and I’m really glad you’ve created something more tasty!

    • I have frozen the frosting. It is ok, but needs to completely thawed and re beaten well with the mixer before using it. (If it is already on the cake it will just be a bit denser after freezing). I haven’t tried making a basket weave with this frosting but it is pretty stiff so it should work fine. Make sure to use the meringue powder in the recipe because it helps stiffen and stabilize the frosting. Let me know how it goes!

    • At the time I posted this recipe the Godiva original chocolate liquor was hekshered parve. I have been using that same bottle (I don’t use all that much) since then so did not realize that they have since discontinued the parve one, and are only making dairy ones. Sorry about that. Do you know of a parve chocolate liquor that you like? I will make a note on the recipe.

  3. Shoshana, what margarine do you use? Fleishman’s unsalted sticks have transfats, so I’d like to avoid it if I can. Thanks!

    • I generally use earth balance buttery sticks which don’t have transfats. I also sometimes use the earth balance whipped buttery spread, but you have to measure by weight not volume because of the added air. I haven’t made this buttercream in a while so I don’t remember if I used fleishmans since it might have been before I stopped cooking with transfats. The earth balance is salted so a slight saltiness may come through. I will try to test it over the weekend to see how it comes out.

  4. Thanks, Shoshana. I will pick up the EB buttery sticks. I wish the “butter” wasn’t salted, though. I always measure by weight, so if I go with the whipped EB in the tub, I’ll be sure to have the right amount. If you get to test the frosting, please post. Again, thanks so much for the recipe and your reply.

    • When you use the Earth Balance buttery stick in a frosting recipe, can the frosted cupcake sit in a container at room temperature for a day or 2? Or does it need to be refrigerated?

  5. Thank you very much for this recipe! I have dreaded making the buttercream frosting with margarine each time I do it. This recipe is much, much better. I made this yesterday and found it a bit “grainy” though. Any suggestions or updates since the original post?

    • If the frosting is grainy I would let it stand at room temperature and beat it a little bit longer to smooth it out. I have never really had a problem with graininess with this recipe, so I am not sure exactly what the problem might have been. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

    • I have been trying on and off for many years. It is hard to make something as simple as buttercream taste delicious without using butter. The swiss meringue versions are better than the butter/sugar versions when made parve, but I don’t have a perfect recipe yet. I am getting close, so hopefully soon.

      • Have you tried shortening with butter extract? Margarine has more water than shortening or butter so the other ingredients may need to be adjusted. Or half pArve margarine and half butter extract with shortening

        I’d like to try it but I’m in middle of selling our home

        • I checked McCormick imitation butter flavoring in the market. I’m pretty sure it’s OU and no designation of dairy. I just checked the website for ingredients; Ingredients: Water, Propylene Glycol, Artificial Flavor, And Fd&C Yellow 5.

          I’m taking the Wilton Course 2 right now, have taken 1 and 3. So I have tried different recipes. I just don’t have time to experiment right now. Hope you can, and will let me know.

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