Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting

This Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting is creamy, tangy, and it comes together in no time! It works well with many cake and cupcake recipes, and can be customized for more or less sweetness. You can also adjust for a thicker or thinner chocolate frosting consistency. While I’m typically a meringue buttercream loyalist, there’s something about the tang of a sour cream frosting that I absolutely love. You’ll have a hard time not eating it with a spoon!

Close up photo of a bowl of chocolate sour cream frosting with a spoon.

I love chocolate. Also, I love cake. Spend a little time hanging around this site and you’ll see countless examples, like my Chocolate Tart with Toasted Coconut and Sea Salt, or my Mini Dark Chocolate Chambord Bundt Cakes.

Even when chocolate isn’t the main attraction, it often steals the show. For example, this chocolate sour cream frosting would work amazingly well with my classic yellow cake recipe.

Because this isn’t my typical Italian meringue buttercream frosting, the results are most definitely sweeter. However! I like this better than a standard American buttercream, because the tanginess of the sour cream helps to temper the sweetness with a bit of acidity.

Ready to get started?

How to Make Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting

As with any recipe that has only a few ingredients, quality makes a difference. I almost always use Valrhona cocoa powder. If you do a side-by-side taste taste, there’s no denying that their products make a difference in recipe results.

Ingredients for chocolate frosting, including powdered sugar, butter, sour cream, chocolate, cocoa powder, and vanilla.

Valrhona doesn’t offer an unsweetened chocolate, so after doing a bit of research, I’ve settled on Guittard Unsweetened Chocolate Baking Bars. Since I started using exclusively Valrhona and Guittard chocolate products in my recipes, I can absolutely taste the difference in my desserts.

You do have to pay a bit more for premium chocolate, and if you don’t want to, that’s totally ok! This chocolate frosting will still turn out great either way. I simply want to make sure I’m giving you all of the information you need to get the best possible results.

Melting unsweetened chocolate and butter over a double boiler for chocolate frosting.

Melt Butter and Unsweetened Chocolate

Chocolate needs to be heated carefully to prevent it from seizing up, and the double boiler method is the best way to do this, even if you don’t have a double boiler. This method is the first step in many chocolate recipes, making it a simple yet great technique to master.

Simply place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl (preferably metal or glass/pyrex), and set it over a pot of gently simmering water. No more than 1-2 inches of water are necessary, because it’s just about creating some steam.

That steam will heat up the bottom of the bowl and slowly, gently melt the chocolate and butter together as you stir the ingredients together until smooth.

Whisking frosting ingredients together in a bowl.

Whisk in Cocoa Powder and Vanilla

You will want to sift the cocoa powder before whisking it into the chocolate to avoid lumps. I use a fine mesh strainer to get the job done. It’s such a great multipurpose kitchen tool.

Whisking confectioners' sugar into the other chocolate frosting ingredients.

Whisk in Sugar and Sour Cream

This is where you get to be a little picky (or not). Start by whisking in approximately half each of the confectioners’ sugar and sour cream. The mixture will be very thick at this point.

Moving forward, alternate between adding the two while whisking (or use an electric mixer for this part; I prefer doing it by hand). If you don’t rush, you can choose to control the thickness and sweetness of the frosting. I often don’t add all the sugar. But you can!

If you use less sugar and are planning to pipe cupcakes, just make sure the frosting is firm enough to hold a shape.

How Much Frosting Do I Need For Layer Cake?

It takes approximately 2 1/2 to 3 cups of frosting to generously fill and frost a two-layer 8 or 9-inch cake. For a three-layer cake, you’ll need around 3 1/2 to 4 cups of frosting.

Since this recipe yields 2 to 2 1/2 cups total, I recommend doubling or increasing it by half to make sure you have enough.

This recipe makes enough for my yellow sheet cake recipe, but you’ll see here that I did not use a thick layer of frosting. I found it to be the perfect balance.

How Much Frosting Do I Need For Cupcakes?

Some people go easy on frosting and others pile it very high, so this is always a tricky question. This recipe provides more than enough chocolate frosting for 12 cupcakes.

For 24 cupcakes, I recommend increasing the recipe by half, or doubling it if you like to go nuts with your frosting.

The finished sour cream chocolate frosting in a bowl with a whisk.

Love Chocolate? Check out these other chocolate recipes

Homemade Chocolate Frosting in a bowl with a spoon.
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Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting

5 from 5 votes
This Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting has a subtle tang that tastes amazing on a wide variety of cakes! It can be customized for more or less sweetness and a thicker or thinner consistency.
Course Condiments, Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword chocolate frosting
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 10 servings (approximation based on 10 slices of cake)
Calories 228


  • 4 ounces unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 10 ounces confectioners' sugar, sifted (approximately 2 cups)
  • 2/3 - 1 cup sour cream


  • Add the butter and chocolate to a large, heatproof bowl. Bring 1-2 inches of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Turn the heat down to low and set the bowl on top. Stir together with a spatula until the chocolate and butter have melted together and are smooth, then remove the bowl from the heat.
  • Once combined, pour into a large bowl and whisk in the cocoa powder and vanilla extract (Note: you can also use an electric mixer for the following steps). Whisk in about half of the sugar and sour cream. The frosting will be very thick at this point.
  • Keep whisking in additional sugar and sour cream until the desired texture and flavor is reached. I typically add most of the sour cream and not all of the sugar.
  • This frosting will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 week. It can be frozen for up to 3 months. Allow it to come to room temperature before using, and use a whisk, electric mixer, or stand mixer to fluff it back up prior to using.


Yields approximately 2 to 2 1/2 cups total (it will vary slightly depending on how much sour cream and sugar you use). That's enough for approximately 15-18 cupcakes or one sheet cake. I recommend doubling the recipe if you want to use it for a layer cake. 


Calories: 228kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 24mg | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 90mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 5.7% | Calcium: 1.2% | Iron: 7.7%

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About Jennifer Farley

Jennifer graduated from the Culinary Arts program at L’Academie de Cuisine, and has worked professionally as a line cook, pastry chef, and cooking instructor. Her cookbook, The Gourmet Kitchen, was published in 2016 by Simon & Schuster.

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