Skip to Content

How to make brown frosting?

How to make brown frosting?

Brown frosting is a versatile decorating staple that can be used to top cakes, cupcakes, cookies and more. Its rich chocolatey flavor pairs well with many desserts. While you can buy pre-made brown frosting at the grocery store, making it from scratch allows you to control the ingredients and customize the color and flavor.

When developing a brown frosting recipe, there are a few key considerations. The main aspects of the frosting to focus on are the texture, flavor, and achieving the desired shade of brown. Read on for tips, tricks and step-by-step instructions for how to make perfect brown frosting at home.

Types of Brown Frosting

There are a few main types of brown frosting to choose from:

Chocolate Frosting

Chocolate is the most common base for brown frosting. Pure chocolate provides great flavor and a deep, dark color. Common types include:

– Fudge frosting: Made with melted chocolate and butter for an ultra rich, decadent texture

– Ganache: Whipped cream folded into melted chocolate creates a silky smooth frosting

– Buttercream: Cocoa powder is combined with butter, powdered sugar and milk or cream

Caramel Frosting

For a more caramel flavored frosting, brown sugar can be used in place of some or all of the regular granulated sugar. Adding a splash of cream, milk or condensed milk enhances the caramel notes.

Mocha Frosting

By adding a teaspoon or two of instant coffee or espresso powder, the chocolate flavor becomes more complex and sophisticated. This works with any chocolate-based frosting.

How to Make Brown Frosting

While there are many recipes to choose from, here is a simple step-by-step guide for how to make classic chocolate buttercream frosting:


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk, cream or more as needed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt


  1. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for 1 minute until completely smooth and creamy.
  2. Add the cocoa powder and mix on low speed until combined.
  3. Gradually add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Make sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  4. Pour in 1/3 cup of the milk and the vanilla and salt. Beat on medium-high speed for 3 full minutes. Taste and add more milk as needed to reach the desired consistency and sweetness. The frosting should be light and fluffy.
  5. If the frosting is too soft, chill it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then beat again before using. If it is too stiff, mix in more milk a tablespoon at a time.
  6. Use the frosting right away or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Let it come to room temperature before using.


  • For best results, allow all ingredients to come to room temperature before making the frosting.
  • Sift the cocoa powder after measuring to remove any lumps.
  • Add the milk slowly to prevent the frosting from becoming too thin.
  • If your frosting gets too warm and liquidy while mixing, chill it before adding more powdered sugar.
  • For deeper color, use Dutch process cocoa powder. For a more reddish hue, try natural cocoa powder.
  • Stir in 1-2 Tbsp peanut butter for a peanut butter brown frosting.

Achieving the Perfect Shade of Brown

When aiming for a specific shade of brown frosting, there are a few tricks to getting the color just right:

Adjust the Cocoa Powder

Use more or less cocoa powder to control the depth of color. For a very dark chocolate brown, use up to 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder. For a lighter milk chocolate color, start with 1/3 cup and increase from there.

Amount of Cocoa Powder Resulting Color
1/3 cup Light brown
1/2 cup Medium brown
2/3 cup Dark brown
1 cup Very dark brown

Add Additional Food Coloring

Liquid or gel food coloring allows you to fine tune the brown shade. Add drops of chocolate or chestnut brown coloring until satisfied with the tone. Black food coloring can also darken the frosting.

Try Natural Colorants

For a more natural brown color, try adding a teaspoon of instant coffee, caramel extract or cocoa nibs. Molasses, maple syrup or brown sugar will impart a deeper color and flavor as well.

Adjust Confectioners’ Sugar

Using brown sugar in place of the regular powdered sugar creates a more tan, caramel-like brown color for buttercreams and whipped frostings. Or, you can sift in brown sugar along with the powdered sugar.

Brown Frosting Uses & Ideas

From cakes to cookies and more, brown frosting can be used in many delicious ways:

  • Frost chocolate, spice or carrot cake layers
  • Fill and frost chocolate cupcakes
  • Top brownies for extra richness
  • Coat the tops of snickerdoodles or chocolate crinkle cookies
  • Pipe designs on peanut butter cookies
  • Spread between layers of German chocolate cake
  • Fill cream puffs or whoopie pies
  • Dip fresh fruit for an indulgent chocolate fondue
  • Swirl into coffee drinks like mochas

With the simple recipe and tips above, you can create restaurant-quality brown frosting at home. Adjust the ingredients to match your desired texture, flavor and shade of brown. Get creative with homemade brown frosting on your favorite cakes and treats!


Brown frosting is a versatile and flavorful topping for desserts. By following the step-by-step instructions and adjusting cocoa powder, coloring and other ingredients, you can achieve the perfect light, medium or dark brown frosting for any application. Use chocolate buttercream, caramel or mocha variations. With the proper technique, your homemade brown frosting will look and taste just as delicious as any bakery!