This chocolate French buttercream is silky smooth, ultra-light, and subtly sweet. My simple and foolproof version requires no double boiler or finicky sugar syrup!
Why you’ll love this recipe:
If you haven’t tried chocolate French buttercream yet, you’re in for a treat! Unlike American-style buttercream, French buttercream is made with egg yolks, which gives it a custard-like taste and texture. It’s subtly sweet but ultra-rich and silky smooth.
- No thermometer, double boiler, or hot sugar syrup to deal with.
- Ready-to-pipe in 15 minutes
- Decadent chocolatey taste
Typically French buttercream calls for a finicky hot sugar syrup that’s beat into the egg yolks, but I found an easy shortcut with impressive results.
This no-fuss buttercream tastes like a stable version of chocolate pastry cream! Its melt-in-your-mouth texture is perfect for macarons, cupcakes, or even layer cakes.
Key Ingredient Notes:
- Egg yolks – Egg yolks create a frosting that’s richer than American buttercream and silky smooth.
- Granulated sugar – French buttercream utilizes sugar instead of powdered sugar, but don’t worry, the frosting won’t be grainy! The sugar dissolves as you beat it with the egg yolks and creates a frosting that’s less sweet, but super smooth.
- Unsalted butter – Butter, and plenty of it, provides a melt-in-your-mouth texture that’s stable enough to pipe.
- Chocolate – Try milk, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate, with milk chocolate tasting the sweetest and dark chocolate the most intense.
We’ve tested this recipe with both cocoa powder and chocolate.
And we loved the buttercream with melted chocolate over cocoa powder for its intense chocolate flavor.
How to make this recipe:
Chocolate French buttercream is simple to make! Here’s step-by-step instructions with photos to guide you through it.
- Use an electric hand mixer or an immersion blender with the whisk attachment to mix the yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy. The sugar will dissolve into the yolks and the mixture will double in volume.
- Stir in the milk.
- Scrape the egg yolk mixture into a small saucepan and turn the burner on low heat. Stirring frequently, cook until the mixture thickens and resembles pudding, about 5 to 10 minutes.
It’s best to use a large bowl with high sides, so the mixture doesn’t spray everywhere!
- Pour the mixture into a clean bowl and let it cool slightly. If it’s hot, it will melt your butter!
- Stir in the butter in three additions, mixing well after each addition. I use a silicone spatula since it’s flexible and easy to scrape the bowl with.
- Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second increments at 50% power until melted and smooth. Set the chocolate aside to cool.
- Add the melted chocolate to the yolk mixture and mix until smooth.
Don’t add piping hot chocolate to the yolk mixture or it will melt the butter!
Tips for Success:
- Butter temperature is important! Cold butter will leave small butter lumps, and melted butter will turn into soup! Ideally, the butter should be soft and leave an easy dent when pressed.
- For a light and airy texture, whip the finished frosting with a hand mixer. The frosting will lighten in color and texture. I prefer it whipped for cakes and cupcakes, but unwhipped for filling macarons.
- If the chocolate buttercream is too loose to pipe, pop it into the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up. Don’t refrigerate it too long, or it will be too firm to spread.
French buttercream is customizable, just like American style buttercream. If you don’t like chocolate, leave it out and try one of these delicious variations instead.
- Extracts: Try a few drops of almond, coconut, maple, coffee, or amaretto extract. Remember, less is more. If you like it stronger, you can always add more, but you can’t take it out.
- Colors: It’s best to use gel food coloring, since regular food coloring is thin and loosens the buttercream. Find gel food colorings at your local craft store or on Amazon.
- Flavors: Try adding caramel sauce, peanut butter, matcha powder, or raspberry sauce to the buttercream.
- Transfer the buttercream to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Let the buttercream sit at room temperature for 20 minutes until it’s thick but spreadable.
- French buttercream freezes well too! Place it in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months.
- Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring it to room temperature. Whip with a hand mixer if necessary.
American style buttercream is made by whipping butter with powdered sugar to create a sweet, thick, and pipeable frosting. French buttercream resembles a thick custard or pastry cream due to its use of egg yolks. Egg yolks are whipped with sugar until pale and fluffy, then mixed with softened butter.
Yes, since it is made with both egg yolks and butter, it needs to be refrigerated. If it’s left at room temperature for too long, it will melt and lose its shape.
Your butter was too soft! Either you softened it too much, or you didn’t allow the egg yolk mixture to cool properly before you added the butter, causing it to melt. Simply place the buttercream in the fridge for 30 minutes to let the butter firm up.
The butter wasn’t soft enough, so it didn’t fully incorporate. To fix this, let the buttercream sit at room temperature to soften, then stir it again. If that doesn’t work, you can warm it over a double boiler. Just be careful not to melt it!
Chocolate French Buttercream
- 2 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 3 ½ tablespoons milk
- ½ cup (115g) unsalted butter softened Note 1
- 3 tablespoons (40g) semi-sweet chocolate chips Note 2
- Using an electric hand mixer or immersion blender, whisk yolks and sugar until the mixture is pale and the sugar is mostly dissolved. Stir in the milk. (TIP: It's best to use a bowl with high sides, so it doesn't spray out everywhere.)
- Transfer the egg yolk mixture into a small saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring frequently. Continue to cook until it’s thick like a pudding, 5-10 minutes. Pour the mixture into a clean bowl and cool slightly.
- Stir in the butter in three batches, mixing well after each addition. I use a silicone spatula for this step.
- Melt the chocolate chips according to the package directions. (I melt it in a microwave in 30-second increments at 50% power.) Let it cool slightly.
- Add melted chocolate and mix until smooth.
Tips & Notes:
– Transfer the buttercream to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Let the buttercream sit at room temperature for 20 minutes until it’s thick but spreadable.
– French buttercream freezes well too! Place it in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months.
– Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring it to room temperature. Whip with a hand mixer if necessary.
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