How to Make Black Buttercream Icing

August 4th, 2010 by Sandy Folsom

A common question we are asked is how to make black icing that really looks black and not gray. It can be challenging because adding too much icing color can impact the taste. Here’s what I tell my students:

To make a real black icing, take 2 cups of Wilton’s ready-to-use buttercream, add 1/2 cup good quality cocoa (Black Tie Affair Wedding Cakesift if it seems lumpy), 2 teaspoons of water, and 1 oz. Wilton black icing color.

You will achieve a true, deep rich black color which is so popular for wedding cakes today, such as details for stringwork or embroidery work. For example, the Black Tie Affair Cake is topped with black buttercream cornelli lace.

If you have added too much black color in the beginning and your buttercream seems to have somewhat of a bitter taste, I suggest adding either 2 tablespoons of cocoa or a flavoring such as cherry or orange, about 1 teaspoon, to 2 cups of icing.

Black coloring will not stain a glass or stainless bowl. It is possible it will stain a plastic bowl.

Other examples of fun projects using black buttercream include the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Cake or Ice Skate Cake. Both of these projects are decorated using the popular and easy star technique.

Sandy Folsom Sandy is the Director of the The Wilton School. Sandy has been teaching professional cake decorating classes for over 25 years, 18 of those with Wilton. Internationally, she has shared her expertise with well-known professionals and enthusiastic students in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Taiwan. Folsom had the opportunity to work side by side for 10 years with Wesley Wilton, the youngest son of Dewey McKinley Wilton, founder of Wilton Industries. Sandy's students describe her as "patient, fun and a great instructor."

78 Replies

  1. Carmelo says:

    EVERY forum I’m on I see this question. How do I make icing black? Great tip. I’m curious about the orange or cherry addition to it.

    • Sandy Folsom says:

      All of the suggestions I am reading are great and very helpful. Black is very popular. I see my students using all sorts of combinations, black/hot pink, black/white, black/burgundy. If you can’t or don’t want to use chocolate to begin with start with a deep blue or brown, then add 1 oz. of black gel color to 1 c. of buttercream. Use about 1/2 tsp. of cherry or orange flavoring to the buttercream if you are finding it to be bitter with all the black color. It definitely deepens as it sets, so I always make it at least 1 day in advance. Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers, especially since it was so difficult to achieve. Bring to room temperature and stir or gently remix to bring back to proper consistency. The bleeding of the black onto other colors is because too much condensation has formed. Place your cakes in a box if you are refrigerating.

      • Hilary says:

        Sandy how do you make the icing grey. it seems like its black or another color and no color scale in between

        • Nikki says:

          You can make the icing grey by just starting with white and adding a small amount of black icing color gel to the buttercream. Do this is small increments until the desired grey is achieved. Worked great for me when I made a cat cake for a friend. Wanted to go true black but I decided to do a grey tabby instead. :)

    • Monique says:

      Thank u so much ! This was so helpful. I could never get it black .

    • Dara says:

      Make sure the cocoa powder you use is a darker richer kind. I used a dutch chocolate powder and it still turned out gray. The addition of the cherry was a great idea because it makes a cherry chocolate flavor, yum! I used the add-in flavor packets you can get at the grocery store for icing in the baking section. Cheaper and tastes yummy

  2. Jessi says:

    The last time I made black icing, when I piped it around white eyes, they bled into one another and made red/pink. How do I keep that from happening?

    • Brooke says:

      this possibly happened because of too much moisture (you know as in being kept at room temperature or slightly higher). Buttercream is so tempermental, well I find it to be at least. I’ve never had this problem, but I always keep mine in the refrigerator.

  3. Mary Ann says:

    I always tell my customers to start with chocolate frosting and to never maker up more black frosting than you actually need. Also, black darkens as it sits, so don’t be in a hurry.

  4. Pertmuffins says:

    thank you so much for the tips. :)

  5. Jess says:

    Good tip if you want chocolate icing, but what if they want plain buttercream?

    • Brooke says:

      try tinting it a dark brown first. Black gel colors tend to have a bitter taste. Making the buttercream a chocolate buttercream gives it the brown tint naturally. Hope this helps!

      • Billie Lester says:

        When I need black buttercream that has NO cocoa in it, I mix red and green buttercream to achieve a nice deep brown, then add my black gel color to it. It gets much blacker as it sits.

  6. Esther says:

    Ur ar just lovely, Wilton

  7. Molly says:

    Is there any way to get true black icing (just enough for some of the details in decorating so it doesn’t have to be super tasty even) without using chocolate icing as a base? My mum has a chocolate allergy and I’m hoping to not have to try to avoid the black spots while cutting the cake. :)

    • Cakeangel624 says:

      There is a premade black frosting that you can purchase, too.

      • Molly says:

        I know, but I don’t like the consistency (or the flavor) of the premade decorator icing. That’s why I’ve been trying to figure out how to tint my own black without the chocolate. :) Maybe I’ll try doing the brown tint first next time as suggested above.

    • Oya Yansa says:

      Carob powder is not as dark as chocolate and is used as a substitution for chocolate, but I do not know if she could be allergic to it. You can usually find it at health food stores.

  8. Lesa says:

    I always use chocolate for black even when icing sugar cookies. For chocolate lovers it is a pleasant surprise! Love the idea of adding cherry or orange flavor too! Never thought of that! Gosh, I love Wilton!

  9. Airlda lubin says:

    thank for because went i use black it take so much thanks u so much

  10. Wendy says:

    I don’t care for Chocolate Icing (I know “what is she saying”) so I make a coffee flavored icing, it starts out mocha colored a shade lighter than cocoa, then a bit of black gel color, patience is the key here because it gets much darker as it sits, like red does.

    never had a problem with staining, and if the flavour is to strong, add a squirt of Wiltons butter flavouring…it mellows the flavour and give it a decadant taste.

  11. Jessica says:

    I love the look of the white butter cream frosted cake with black scrolling. How do you prevent the black butter cream from bleeding on the white butter cream??

  12. Charlene says:

    How do I make lavendar color a deep purple?

  13. [...] Decorating Tip! Having trouble making black buttercream icing for the Micky Mouse cake? Yes, me too! Black buttercream is one of those decorating issues I’ve always had trouble with myself, but I’ve got great news. Check out the Wilton Cake Blog where Sandy Folsom, Wilton School Director and cake decorating professional for over 25 years, explains How to Make Black Buttercream Icing! [...]

  14. Carol says:

    Thank you so much for this tip..!!…I have been decorating for 30 years and always struggled with making a true black icing…I am so glad I found Wilton on FB… :-D

  15. Wonderful suggestions. I have taken the Wilton cake decorating courses twice (not gumpaste as it was just offered) but I wish they would extend more on buttercream decorations. However, Duff of Charm City Cakes says everything should have fondant- to keep in freshness of cake. Fondant doesn’t taste good.

    • Tammi says:

      Cindy,

      I agree totally, fondant can be a real “yuck” when eating a beautiful cake. Plus, you take so much time to decorate, only to have people peel it off & toss it into the trash. Wilton fondant, though I love most of what they do, tastes horrible. I have found that Satin Ice fondant actually has a really pleasant taste. I will tell you, at least when I bought it, it was a bit pricey, but so is the other if it only ends up in the trash.

      Another option for covering cakes & getting that smooth finish is modeling chocolate. I’m not sure how much Duff uses it, but I know Buddy (Cake Boss) uses it quite a bit to cover cakes & for decorations. It tastes pretty much like a tootsie roll, so that’s another choice. Hope that helps!

      • Regina Lane says:

        Satin Ice is great, I use it all the time, it taste sooo much better than Wilton’s Brand. But you are right it can be costly so I only use it when I make wedding cakes (tiered cakes). So you can I use it regularly. When I have an order that a customer doesn’t want to pay for that type of fondant, I make my own by using marshmellow fondant. It taste really good. But I just found out that Wilton’s works really good on accent pieces because Satin Ice & Marshmellow fondant is to soft to hold up they fall right off. So it’s good for something. I only found that out AFTER 1 whole day wasted of trying to get something to stay on the side of the cake that wouldn’t. Thank you Wilton….Lol!

      • Tami says:

        Go to http://www.allrecipes.com and use their recipe for Rolled Buttercream Fondant. It is excellent, better than Wilton and not so hard, dry and hard to roll out.

    • Cathy says:

      It depends on the fondant. I make my own marshmallow fondant and it is delicious! There are also other premade fondants out there that taste better.

  16. Oya Yansa says:

    I made a Batman cake for a friend…without using chocolate icing…Don’t ever do this! The black buttercream was not attractive after people ate, because it colored their tongue and gums…would have been great for Halloween, if they all wanted to be ghouls! Will always start with chocolate icing.

  17. Carolyn says:

    Thanks for the tips – making black frosting and icing has always been a challenge!

  18. Chrisme says:

    All of these tips for black icing are wonderful. I have tried coloring cream cheese frosting black for Red Velvet cupcakes. A person who sampled the cupcakes said the black frosting tasted a little funny. I chalked that up to adding too much color. I see a lot of suggestions to add cocoa, but I wonder if that is a good idea for cream cheese frosting. Any ideas?

  19. Gina Casson says:

    I want half of my wedding cupcakes to be iced with black buttercream and the other half ivory. The girl who’s doing them says she will have to use melted chocolate to achieve the black I want which is going to be alot more expensive. Surely there is another way?

  20. Debbie says:

    I am looking for a butter cream iceing that you use butter in instead of Cisco. I remember making it out of a Wilton cook book of frosting that came with my first iceing kit. It wasn’t to sweet and it didn’t taste like powered sugar and crisco. Now don’t get me wrong I could eat a hole butter cream frosting cake but my daughter dosen’t like all that sweenest. Yet at the same time she dosen’t like it to taste like whipped cream. The best that I can remember it had about 8 sticks of butter or more. Maybe not that many I can’t remember.

    • misty griffin says:

      The recipe I use for real buttercream icing is
      2 sticks of (real) unsalted butter 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 3 or 4 cups of powdered sugar. Perfect every time. Add 1 to 2 tbsp milk if needed. I never need to though. Hope this helps. Happy baking! :)

  21. blanca mercado says:

    Hello! I decorated an elmo cake, looks very nice, but, I notice the icing (any color) except the white, looks kind of whitish, it was well mixed but looks like tiny little white bubbles, I could see it also at the disposable decorating bags, cold or warm icing there is still the white stuff, I hope you can undestand whath I am saying, thank you for your time, and have a nice day!!!

    • Gloria Pineda says:

      Maybe your icing is too soft, that is why you see those white parts, it looks like the shortening is separating from the color.

      • rara says:

        could it be butter?? was your butter completely softened before you mixed up the icing? could also be that the powdered sugar was not sifted?

  22. [...] Decorating Tip! Having trouble making black buttercream icing for the Micky Mouse cake? Yes, me too! Black buttercream is one of those decorating issues I’ve always had trouble with myself, but I’ve got great news. Check out the Wilton Cake Blog where Sandy Folsom, Wilton School Director and cake decorating professional for over 25 years, explains How to Make Black Buttercream Icing! [...]

  23. Terri says:

    Blanca- I think I know exactly what you’re talking about. I have made b.c. icing using store brand vegetable shortening for 15+ years to fill-in all of my character cakes. However, I have also noticed the white look you spoke of. I never had this problem until the trans fats were removed from the shortening. I have yet to find a solution. I freehand pictures in b.c. on my cakes, & when I smooth, then pat down the picture, it brings out a whitish look to all my colors also. Very frustrating! If anybody has this problem & found a solution, please post! Thanks!

    • To get the trans-fat and avoid the white-ness, use a hi-ratio shortening. This gives a much smoother texture and it will not be “grainy”. This cannot be found at the local grocery or hobby store (at least not in my area) but can be ordered online. CK has one that I have used as well as The Bakers Kitchen. An alternative would be to buy the grocery store brand shortening (check label to make sure it has trans-fat). I never buy Crisco any more. Be sure to mix at a slower speed for longer to throughly mix and avoid too many air pockets when spreading. I hope this helps! Good luck and happy baking :)

    • PinkPiranha says:

      If you can’t find high ratio shortening, try a food supplier. Unfortunately, it comes in a 50lb box, but if you make a lot of cakes, it will get used up surprisingly fast. High-ratio is usually the key to a lot of buttercream problems. Some smaller cake supply houses will repackage it in five pound buckets, but of course this includes an upcharge.

  24. uju arinze says:

    How do l make my fondant icing black without changing the consistency.

  25. Liz says:

    Great Tip! I’ll have to give it a try. I find myself making a lot (and I mean A LOT) of superhero cakes and it seems that there is always some black involved.

  26. Thanks so much for the tip,i think i’ll give it a trial but are you sure it’s gonna work?

  27. Maggie says:

    I saw on a wedding show that if you keep black icing or fondant in the dark, it will darken more. If you keep it out in the light, it will lighten.

  28. making black icing with cho. frosting is the easiest thing i have ever learned.

  29. [...] What might matter is the kind of food coloring. Most serious cake and cookie decorators prefer paste coloring, especially for difficult colors like black and red. Wilton.com, the cake decorating experts, have a good supply of paste colorings which they call Icing Colors. They also have a blog post with good tips for making and using black icing here: How to Make Black Buttercream Icing. [...]

  30. Carissa says:

    This is great! Thank you so much! Still wondering how to get white chocolate red instead of pink! Any suggestions?

  31. aubrey says:

    everytime i make black buttercream it stains everyones lips and teeth black! lol is there a way to get around that?

  32. Tere says:

    Me gusta mucho, todos lo que publican, desgraciadamente, hablo poc poco ingles, me gustaria si pudieran que pusieran algo en español, este pastel esta formidable y se ve delicioso, pero mas formidable seria que publicaran algo en español, vivo en Houston, Tx. Gracias

  33. Patricia says:

    I found years ago doing the race car cake that you use less color to tint chocolate black and you dont get a bad taste like some black coloring leaves. I also use chocolate for deep colors like forest green and deep maroon.

  34. Does the black buttercream stain dental work? I too have been asked to decorate with it, and I’ve given the warning that it might stain teeth and have other digestive implications. The last thing I want to do is have a client go to the ER thinking they have a bleeding ulcer. I’d like to hear your experience on this one. Thanks!

  35. [...] 3d Light PINK Cupcake Charm Toggle Bracelet with Colorful Crystals Silver ToneRocky Road CupcakesHow to Make Black Buttercream Icing .recentcomments a{display:inline !important;padding:0 !important;margin:0 [...]

  36. Warda says:

    heey!! i ve tried ur buttercream bt always dere r some sugar granules left despite ov using confectionary sugar nd beatng well!! wot 2 doo?

  37. peggy boyd says:

    Thank you!!!! This is the first time I have ever made black frosting and not dreaded doing so. I put this in my cake decorating box so I will never ever forget how to may black frosting.!!!!!!!!!!!

  38. Ayisha says:

    Thanks I will try that

  39. Hilary says:

    How do you make grey icing?

  40. Rose says:

    I followed the suggestions for making royal blue buttercream frosting with a bit of disaster so I’m hesitant to do black. All my guests ended up with blue teeth until they drank something. Will this happen with black??

  41. Sandy Folsom says:

    It is possible you will see some guests with black on their teeth. Just inform your guests it could happen. Sometimes knowing beforehand, you won’t think of it as a disaster. I know kids would probably just chuckle.

  42. Debi says:

    How do I make black cream cheese frosting?

  43. Judy says:

    how wilton icing colors to use for purple frosting for a wedding cake

  44. Sandy Folsom says:

    You will have to use the Wilton black color gel added to your cream cheese frosting recipe. It will take approximately 1 oz. of the gel to 1 c. of frosting to make black icing.

    In regards to the purple color, Wilton has a violet gel color. You may also need to use more than toothpick quantity which is what we usually call for when making pastels.

  45. Adri Writes says:

    […] turned to Google to see if anyone else had (and solved) this problem, and thanks be to God I found an alternative method that looks great and tastes delicious. The blog article I found was for buttercream, but I gave it […]

  46. Lindsey Haggerty says:

    Just wondering, do I have to use the Wilton ready to use buttercream? Or can I use the Wilton recipe that I always use??

    • Sandy Folsom says:

      The Wilton ready to use buttercream works very nicely because it is pure white. Just add your black gel coloring.

    • Sandy Folsom says:

      You do not have to use Wilton’s ready to use buttercream. The Wilton recipe works fine. If you are using a recipe that calls for butter, it will be more difficult to produce black because the buttercream is not white to begin with.

  47. […] turned to Google to see if anyone else had (and solved) this problem, and thanks be to God I found an alternative method that looks great and tastes delicious. The blog article I found was for buttercream, but I gave it […]

  48. Ferguson says:

    If I use real dark melted chocolate in the buttercream will it go as black as it would with cocoa powder? Which would be better to use please? I need it as black as possible…

    • Sandy Folsom says:

      It will make it dark. It may also change the consistency of the buttercream. I prefer the cocoa. It may also change the consiostency, but drier. You can then add a little liquid, such as water or milk.

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  50. Helen says:

    This will be perfect for making treats for Halloween!

  51. Helen says:

    Btw, does anyone know where to purchase Wilton baking products?

  52. Kathy Brice says:

    JoAnn Fabrics ,Michaels and Hobby Lobby all carry Wilton products.

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