The Best Mocha Buttercream Frosting Recipe

This delectable mocha frosting recipe combines the perfect combination of chocolate and just a hint of coffee flavor to create an irresistible topping for chocolate cake or your favorite dessert. 

Up close view of homemade mocha frosting in a large mixing bowl with a paddle beater

In just a few easy steps, you'll learn how to create a smooth and creamy chocolate coffee buttercream that pairs perfectly with various baked goods including this easy mocha cake recipe from a cake mix and these chocolate coffee cupcakes.

Moreover, the ingredients you'll need are most likely already in your pantry, making it convenient and cost-effective. This versatile frosting is sure to become a staple in your kitchen with its delightful combination of flavors.

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Essential Ingredients for Mocha Buttercream Frosting

Cocoa Powder

overhead view of a bowl of cocoa powder

To create a delicious mocha frosting, the base of your recipe will require cocoa powder. Opt for unsweetened cocoa powder to maintain control over the frosting's sweetness.

Coffee and Instant Espresso

overhead view of a wooden spoon filled with instant espresso powder

The mocha flavor in your frosting comes from either using instant coffee granules or instant espresso powder, as both will provide a delicious coffee flavor. The amount used can be adjusted based on how strong of a coffee taste you desire, but it's important to dissolve the coffee or espresso in warm water or milk before adding it to the mix.

Butter and Sugar

sticks of softened butter on a white plate

For a rich and creamy texture, unsalted butter is an essential ingredient in your mocha frosting recipe. Room temperature butter will ensure your frosting is easy to mix and spread. Confectioners' sugar, also known as powdered sugar, is the perfect sweetener for frosting due to its fine texture. It easily incorporates with the other ingredients and helps to create a smooth and even consistency.

Vanilla Extract and Salt

Vanilla extract enhances the flavors of both the chocolate and coffee. Adding a small amount of vanilla extract to your frosting will help to balance the various flavors, while also giving a pleasant aroma. Lastly, a tiny pinch of salt is necessary to counteract the sweetness of your frosting. Salt helps to intensify the flavors, making your mocha frosting even more irresistible.

Here's a brief overview of the ingredients you'll need for a tasty mocha frosting:

  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Instant coffee granules or instant espresso powder
  • Unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • Confectioners' sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt

Use the right equipment like a mixer with a paddle attachment, and a large bowl to ensure a consistent and well-mixed frosting. The balance of these ingredients will create a smooth, creamy, and delightful mocha frosting that will elevate your baked goods to a new level of deliciousness.

Preparation Steps

Mixing the Dry Ingredients

First, prepare your mixing bowl by adding the necessary dry ingredients for your mocha frosting. Combine cocoa powder and confectioners' sugar in medium bowl and whisk them together, ensuring that there are no lumps. This step is essential for making the perfect frosting, as a smooth base ensures even distribution of flavors. You can also sift these two ingredients to ensure there are no lumps. 

Combining Butter and Sugar

Next, it's time to incorporate the butter into your dry mixture. In order to make it easier to cream butter you'll want to ensure that it is at room temperature and not straight out of the fridge but don't let it soften too much! Using a hand mixer, electric mixer, or stand mixer, gradually mix the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stop the electric beater and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and bottom of the bowl as needed. 

Adding Coffee and Vanilla

Now, dissolve your coffee granules in the vanilla extract. Add to the butter mixture in the medium bowl. Mix the ingredients at medium speed until they are fully combined and the mocha flavor has infused throughout the frosting.

Achieving the Desired Consistency

Once all the ingredients are well combined, adjust the consistency of the frosting to your preference. You may need to add a little more confectioners' sugar if your frosting appears too thin or some additional milk if it seems too thick. Using a mixer, whisk until you reach the desired consistency, ensuring that the frosting is easily spreadable. 

Mocha Frosting Variations

Mocha Frosting with Heavy Cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon instant cappuccino powder  {you can use espresso or even decaffeinated coffee powder} -  I like to use a coffee grinder or blender to ground the instant coffee into a powder so that it dissolves better but that's not a necessary step. 

Get complete recipe including measurements and nutritional information for Mocha Whipped Cream Frosting here.

You may also like this 3-ingredient recipe for Mocha Frosting and if you're a coffee lover, be sure to try this McDonald's Copycat Mocha Frappe recipe.

Decaf Coffee Alternative

If you're trying to avoid caffeine, you can easily achieve the same delicious mocha flavor in your frosting by substituting decaf instant coffee or decaf brewed coffee. This will keep the coffee flavor intact while eliminating the caffeine content for those who prefer or need a caffeine-free dessert.

Coffee Flavor Enhancements

To bring out an even bolder coffee flavor in your mocha frosting, consider incorporating some of the following enhancements:

  • Replace part of the milk or cream with a strong brewed coffee.
  • Mix in a coffee-flavored liqueur like Kahlúa or Tia Maria along with your coffee liquid.
  • Add a pinch of ground cinnamon or nutmeg for additional depth and complexity in taste.

As you create your mocha frosting, feel free to experiment with the various ingredients and techniques to achieve a unique and delectable result for your cakes, cupcakes, and brownies.

Usage Ideas and Serving Sizes

Frosting Cakes and Cupcakes

Mocha frosting is delicious on a variety of desserts, especially chocolate cakes and cupcakes. To make the frosting, you'll need cocoa powder, salted butter, powdered sugar, hot water, and a few other ingredients. When frosting cakes, it's important to let the cake cool completely to room temperature before applying the mocha frosting. For cupcakes, it's best to use a piping bag and tip for a professional look. Bolder flavor can be achieved by using dark chocolate cocoa powder and a strong coffee concentrate.

As a Filling for Cookies and Brownies

Your homemade cookies and brownies can be elevated by using mocha frosting as a filling. Simply spread a layer of the frosting between two cookies or on top of a brownie square. Make sure the cookies and brownies have cooled completely before spreading the frosting. Utilize your creativity by trying different cookie and brownie combinations, such as chocolate chip cookies with mocha frosting or mocha brownies filled with a layer of the frosting.

Important Tips for Piping on Cakes

When piping mocha frosting on cakes, it's important to consider the following expert tips:

  • Temperature: Ensure that both the cake and frosting are at the correct temperature. Cooled cake will hold the frosting better, while frosting at room temperature is easier to work with.
  • Consistency: The frosting should have a smooth, pipeable consistency. If it's too thick, add a small amount of hot water and mix until the desired consistency is achieved. If it's too thin, add more powdered sugar.
  • Piping Bag: Use the right piping bag and tip sizes for the design you want to create. Smaller tips are great for intricate designs, while larger tips are more suitable for bold decorations.
  • Practice: Get comfortable with your piping technique by practicing on a piece of parchment paper before working on the actual cake.

By following these tips, you can create beautiful and delicious mocha frosting decorations on your cakes and cupcakes, enhancing the presentation and taste.

📖 Recipe

Mocha Buttercream Frosting

A fluffy texture and a harmonious balance of rich chocolate and bold coffee flavors. Ideal for cakes, cupcakes, or any dessert that could use a fancy touch, this Mocha Buttercream Frosting is a treat worth savoring.
Print Recipe Save Recipe
Prep Time:10 minutes
Resting Time:15 minutes
Total Time:25 minutes


  • Electric mixer


  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 2 tablespoon instant coffee *can substitute instant espresso
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Mix together instant coffee and vanilla until instant coffee is dissolved completely. Set aside for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.
    2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 tablespoon instant coffee
  • Cream softened butter and slowly add coffee mixture on medium speed until thoroughly combined.
    1 cup unsalted butter
  • Scrape the butter mixture down from the sides of the bowl using a spatula and slowly add powdered sugar and unsweetened cocoa scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
    4 cups powdered sugar, ⅛ cup cocoa powder
  • If the mixture seems too stiff add a little bit of whole milk blending after each addition until the desired consistency is achieved.

As with any of my recipes, calorie counts and nutritional information varies greatly depending on which products you choose to use when cooking this dish.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 298kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 0.4g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 49mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 39g | Vitamin A: 473IU | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 0.2mg
Servings: 12
Calories: 298kcal
Author: Mary Beth
Cost: 4.00

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the ingredients?

For a basic mocha frosting, you'll need butter, cocoa powder, confectioners' sugar, instant coffee or espresso powder, and vanilla extract. You can find different variations of this recipe, but these are the primary ingredients.

How to thicken frosting?

If your mocha frosting is too thin, you can gradually add more confectioners' sugar until you achieve the desired consistency. Be sure to mix in the sugar slowly and evenly to avoid lumps. Alternatively, you can refrigerate your frosting for a short time to help it thicken up.

Why add vinegar?

Vinegar is not a commonly-used ingredient in mocha frosting recipes. However, in some cake and frosting recipes, a small amount of vinegar helps combine the ingredients or improve the texture. For mocha frosting, this might not be necessary, so always refer to your chosen recipe.

Icing vs frosting?

While both icing and frosting are used to decorate baked goods, they differ in consistency. Icing is generally thinner and closer to a glaze, while frosting is thicker and creamier. Mocha frosting falls into the frosting category, with a thick spreadable consistency, perfect for decorating cakes and cupcakes.

Instant coffee use?

Instant coffee or espresso powder is typically used in mocha frosting to provide the coffee flavor. It is ideal because it dissolves easily in hot water and mixes well with the other ingredients. To add depth to the coffee flavor, you can experiment with different types or brands of instant coffee.

Any butter alternatives?

If you prefer not to use butter, you can substitute it with vegan butter, shortening, or margarine, keeping in mind that this may alter the flavor and texture. Make sure to read labels and choose an alternative that works well for your dietary preferences and the consistency you want in your mocha frosting.

Signature Block - with photo of Mary Beth, your homemaking coach, and a pink stand mixer

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