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Basic Chocolate Cake Icing

Basic Chocolate Cake Icing

chocolate icing in bowl with spoon pinit
cake iced with chocolate icing with empty bowl in top right corner

If you are looking for a quick and easy chocolate frosting (we call it icing back home in New Zealand) you have come to the right place! This basic chocolate icing is so easy to put together and is perfect on cakes or doughnuts.

Sift, sift, sift

The key to smooth icing or frosting is to sift the dry ingredients. Both powdered sugar and cocoa powder have a tendency to lump together. Sifting these ingredients before mixing with the liquids will remove these lumps allowing for a smoother finished product.

sifted powdered sugar and cocoa in mixing bowl

Chocolate icing consistency

This icing is best applied using an offset spatula. The icing should be soft enough to be easily moved with the spatula, but not so soft that is runs off the surface of the cake. The icing should have a smooth shiny texture when properly mixed. You should be able to easily move in around the bowl while it maintains its shape.

Chelsey from Chelsweets has a spatula test she uses for her buttercream which works great for this recipe also using the mixing spoon. The icing should form a small peak on the end of the spoon with a slight curve that resembles a crashing wave. If the icing is too stiff it won’t produce that small wave shape, it will simply stick straight up. If it is too soft the wave will crash and not hold its shape.

The consistency of the icing can change quickly when being made. This is why I recommend adding the water one tablespoon at a time after the butter, vanilla and first four tablespoons of water have been added.

chocolate icing in bowl with spoon

Applying the icing

As mentioned above, this icing is best spread onto the cake with an offset spatula. If you do not have an offset spatula a flat dinner knife will also work. I always used a flat dinner knife to apply icing as a kid as we did not have a spatula. Just be sure the knife you use does not have a serrated edge.

This icing will harden with time so you will want to work reasonably quickly. Keep a glass of warm water nearby to help spread the icing if it becomes too stiff. Simply dip the spatula or knife in the water and smooth over the stiff icing on the cake.

This basic chocolate icing pairs perfectly with my great grandma’s chocolate cake. Let me know if you try it!

chocolate icing Pinterest banner

Basic Chocolate Cake Icing

Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 5 min Total Time 5 mins


This basic chocolate icing is quick and easy to put together and perfect on cakes or doughnuts.



    1. Sift powdered sugar and cocoa into a large bowl
    2. Add melted butter, vanilla and 4 tablespoons of hot water and stir to combine
    3. Add additional hot water as needed to reach desired consistency
Keywords: Icing, Chocolate Icing, Frosting, Basic Icing

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