I have long, long been a fan of chocolate buttercream made with just butter, sugar, and cocoa. It’s still a fabulous combination but every so often I find a need to, hmm, shall we say, ‘elevate’ my buttercream game. My trials with this began with a vanilla mascarpone buttercream but I was really bummed out by the texture and the taste. I then tried it as a browned butter mascarpone but the thing about browned butter is that it’s so intense, it just takes over. Again, I wasn’t into it. Determined to find a way to make this work, I made it with some cocoa and… magic. It’s creamy, it’s dreamy and I want to smother it on everything.
We all know and love chocolate cream cheese buttercream, so the texture this recipe produces won’t be too much of a surprise. However, mascarpone doesn’t have the tanginess of cream cheese and instead it adds something more subtle, and almost malty in the background. The best way I can think to describe the taste is that it’s like a chocolate soft-serve ice cream, but way more intensely chocolate. It is absolutely wonderful and spreads like a beauty on any cake. I could eat it off the spoon… and ok, I often do!
When I posted the first image from this post on instagram, a number of people were curious about the color - why was it so dark? The answer is in the cocoa. In the cake batter I use dutch-process cocoa which produces a very dark cake; you don’t need anything else to get that color. In the buttercream I used a bit of black cocoa - but not too much as I find it interferes with the rich cocoa taste I am after. Here’s a couple of side by side photos so you can see the difference in color they produce. The nice thing is that in keeping the black to a small amount, you’ll get the the dark color but you’ll still retain the wonderful chocolate taste that comes from dutch-process cocoa.
On the left, all dutch process cocoa (this is my favorite). On the right a mix of dutch and black cocoa. The color difference is huge. And if you don’t want to use black cocoa at all but want that deep color, just use black food coloring.
Notes on making this buttercream:
You can take the mascarpone out with the butter to soften but it’s not necessary.
Use organic powdered sugar. Look, I know it’s a drag because it needs to be sifted and because it’s expensive.. but it makes a HUGE difference in taste!
Need a source for black cocoa? Here’s the one I use via KAF.
My recipe produces a very creamy, soft buttercream. If you want it thicker, use more powdered sugar.
For the cake you see in the first photo, I used this recipe via King Arthur Flour, but just the cake part. I LOVE this chocolate cake because it is soft, tender, intensely chocolatey and guys, you don’t even need a mixer for it! Just a whisk ;-)
For a very dark buttercream, substitute 1/4 cup of the dutch process cocoa with black cocoa. Don’t want to use black? Add some black food coloring.
Chocolate Mascarpone Buttercream
2 sticks unsalted butter (8oz), softened just so
8 oz mascarpone cheese
2 1/2 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
⅓ plus 1/4 cup dutch process cocoa, sifted
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk
In a bowl or a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter for a good 5 minutes until very light and fluffy.
Add vanilla and salt, beat to combine.
Add mascarpone and beat for another 2-3 minutes, until well incorporated. It will look grainy and strange - don’t fret.
Sift in the powdered sugar and cocoa straight in or into another bowl then add and beat, scraping down and ensuring all the butter at the bottom is incorporated. Beat for about 3 minutes. The buttercream will be dark at first but after beating will turn a shade or two lighter.
Add milk and beat or stir just to combine.
If not using immediately, place in an airtight container in the fridge. When ready to use, allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour.