Glossy Chocolate Icing

If I could still eat chocolate, I’d make a batch of this and eat it with a spoon. Made with cocoa powder, this glossy chocolate icing is easy to prepare and makes a wonderful companion for a variety of treats. Today’s batch went onto these chocolate cupcakes with vanilla cream filling, pictured at left.

I’ve made this icing once before and it turned out a bit more drizzly then than it did today, but today’s consistency was much better for my cupcakes. Just be careful to work quickly, as it sets pretty fast. If you’re not able to spread it, add just a bit more milk to thin it slightly, about a half-teaspoon at a time. You can always add more if you need to, but remember that you can never take the liquid back out of an icing once it’s there.


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons milk


In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in cocoa powder, then remove from heat.

Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk and stir well until you reach a very smooth consistency; it will become glossy once it’s done. Use immediately, as it sets very fast! Makes enough for about 16 cupcakes.


Cocoa Frosting

vanilla with cocoa frostingRecently, I searched for a chocolate frosting that wasn’t buttercream, but rather a richer, more complex flavor. I found this recipe on the Hershey’s website and adapted it slightly to incorporate a greater amount of vanilla extract (as always) and a bit more powdered sugar for texture purposes.

This frosting smells delicious, very like a cup of hot cocoa. I paired it with vanilla cupcakes but I can see it as a good match for almond, white, chocolate, or strawberry cupcakes. It is very easy to pipe and has a smooth texture, so you can use star tips or plain tips, whatever your decorative sensibilities may be.

The recipe below yielded enough frosting for 12 miniature cupcakes and 11 regular-sized cupcakes, so I’d recommend increasing the ingredients by half to accommodate 24 cupcakes.


  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine melted butter and cocoa powder. Beat on low speed for about 1 minute, then increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more.

Add 1 cup powdered sugar and beat on low speed, then add about half of the milk, continuing to beat on low speed, until combined. Follow with another cup powdered sugar and remainder of milk, beating on low until combined. Add remaining powdered sugar, then vanilla, beating until frosting is creamy and spreadable, but not too thin. You may need to add just a bit more powdered sugar if your frosting is too thin to be piped easily through a piping bag.

Fit a piping bag with a medium star tip and pipe frosting onto cupcakes. Store in the refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before serving.

Chocolate Buttercream






Sometimes people tell me they don’t like frosting, that they really like the cake better. I’ve never understood this. I mean, what is cake if not a vehicle for frosting? Why would someone choose plain cake, without the accompanying combination of butter or shortening and powdered sugar and flavorings?

Because I prefer opposites in baking–in that yellow or white cake is, to my palate, most pleasing when paired with chocolate frosting–I believe this chocolate buttercream to be an excellent companion for yellow, white, or almond cakes or cupcakes. Chocolate fans will enjoy it with chocolate cake, too. This recipe yields more than enough for 24 cupcakes.


  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract


In a large bowl, sift together powdered sugar and cocoa powder; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter for about one minute. Add salt and beat for another 30 seconds.

Add powdered sugar and cocoa and beat on low speed to incorporate as much sugar into the butter as you can.  I cover my mixing bowl with a kitchen towel during this step to prevent a sugar storm.

Add three tablespoons milk and two teaspoons vanilla extract; beat for three minutes.

Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and add the final teaspoon vanilla extract, then beat for another minute.

Fudge Frosting

Every time I visit Annapolis, Maryland, I have to stop at Uncle Bob’s Fudge Kitchen.  Uncle Bob’s is a classic tourist shop, crammed to the rafters with magnets, key chains, mugs, Naval Academy t-shirts, Chesapeake Bay cookbooks, and “don’t bother me, I’m crabby” paraphernalia.  In the front are large windows, where trays of fudge, candy, and caramel apples the size of softballs issue their siren’s call to all who pass.

Uncle Bob’s peanut butter fudge is my true favorite, but their chocolate fudge is excellent as well – not too sweet, with a creamy texture.  This frosting reminds me a bit of that fudge; I first used it on a devil’s food cake about eleven years ago.  Mike took the cake to his office, and his colleagues proclaimed it worthy of the blue ribbon at the county fair.  To this day, that statement is among the highest praise I’ve ever received.

The recipe below yields enough to frost two 8-inch layers or one 9×13 sheet cake.


  • 4 ¾ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Combine powdered sugar and cocoa powder.

Add butter, boiling water, and vanilla.

Beat on low speed until ingredients are just combined, then increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute.