So, what’s the first thing I did to a classic, never-mess-with-this recipe? That’s right: I messed with it. Granted, it’s great right off the back of the Hershey’s cocoa box, but I wanted something extra. Something luxe.

I added instant espresso powder, which brings out the chocolate flavor. I also changed the proportion of the butter (adding more, of course) for a luscious consistency. Last, I added a pinch of salt because salt always rounds out flavor.

And I’ll admit, not all of this ends up on the cake. What can I say? A good cook knows rigorous quality control (read: eating spoonfuls of the stuff while frosting) is required. 😏

David Leite's handwritten signature of 'David.'
david caricature

Why Our Testers Loved This

The testers were delighted that this rich chocolate frosting “came together beautifully, complemented the Hershey’s chocolate cake, spread easily, and wasn’t overpowering.”

What You’ll Need to Make This

Ingredients for Hershey's chocolate frosting--powdered sugar, cocoa, butter, vanilla, milk, and espresso powder.
  • Butter–Use the best-quality butter you can get, but stick with unsalted for this recipe, please.
  • Instant espresso powder–Coffee enhances the depth of rich, chocolatey perfection in this frosting recipe, taking it up a notch. You can leave it out if you’re caffeine-averse, but I strongly feel that it adds just a little extra je ne sais quoi
  • Whole milk—Whole milk gives this chocolate frosting a perfect consistency. Pass on anything but whole. It won’t be as creamy.
  • Vanilla–Only the real stuff!

How to Make This Recipe

A person using a spatula to mix cocoa and melted butter; powdered sugar and milk being beaten into chocolate frosting.
  1. Combine the melted butter, cocoa, espresso powder, and salt in a bowl.
  2. Add the powdered sugar and milk in batches, beating with a hand mixer until the frosting reaches a smooth, spreadable consistency.
Vanilla being added to a bowl of chocolate frosting; a finished bowl of chocolate frosting.
  1. Stir in the vanilla.
  2. Mix until smooth and fluffy.

Common Questions

Can you freeze frosting?

Yep. Stash your frosting in a sealed container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using. If it isn’t as fluffy as you’d like, give it a quick whip with your hand mixer.

What’s the difference between icing and frosting?

Generally speaking, frosting is a thick, fluffy, spreadable topping, while icing has a thinner, glossier consistency and is often poured or piped over cakes and cupcakes. Icing tends to set in a smooth layer and may even drip a little, while frosting will hold its swoops and swirls after being applied. (If you can’t tell yet, I’m a swooper.)

Helpful Tips

  • Beat the frosting until it has a smooth, spreadable texture. Do not overbeat it, as this will create air pockets in the frosting.
  • This recipe is suitable for gluten-free diets.


Store the perfectly chocolate frosting in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

A bowl of chocolate frosting.

More Superb Frosting Recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

Chocolate frosting on a wire mixer whisk.

Hershey’s Chocolate Frosting

4.87 / 15 votes
Hershey's chocolate frosting has been a staple in American kitchens for decades now—and for good reason. It's creamy and so very chocolatey. Made with butter, cocoa, powdered sugar sugar, milk, and vanilla, it's the perfect addition to their quintessential chocolate cake.
David Leite
Servings12 servings
Calories297 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Total Time10 minutes


  • 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/3 cups Hershey’s Cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso
  • 3 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  • In a bowl, stir together the butter, cocoa, espresso powder, and salt.
    Cocoa, melted butter, and espresso powder in a bowl.
  • Add some of the confectioners’ sugar and then add some of the milk to the butter mixture, beating with a handheld electric mixer (see how handy it can be?!) after each addition. Continue to add the rest of the sugar and milk, alternating them, and beat until you achieve a thick but spreadable consistency.
    Powdered sugar and milk being beaten into a bowl of chocolate frosting with a handheld mixer.
  • If a thinner frosting is desired, add more milk, a little at a time, until you’ve achieved your ideal texture. Stir in the vanilla.
    Vanilla being added to a bowl of chocolate frosting.


  1. Don’t overbeat–Beat the frosting until it has a smooth, spreadable texture. Do not overbeat it, as this will create air pockets in the frosting.
  2. Storage–Store the chocolate frosting in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
  3. Dietary–This recipe is suitable for gluten-free diets.


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 297 kcalCarbohydrates: 40 gProtein: 2 gFat: 17 gSaturated Fat: 11 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 42 mgSodium: 11 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 34 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2013 David Leite. Photos © 2024 David Leite. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Hershey’s frosting is an excellent everyday type. It has a rich chocolate flavor due to the addition of espresso powder. I loved using my electric hand mixer rather than dragging out the big 7-quart mixer!

This Hershey’s chocolate frosting recipe comes together beautifully, complements the Hershey’s chocolate cake, spreads easily, and isn’t overpowering. The first time I made this cake, I took it to a small dinner gathering. After everyone had their cake, the room went silent, given everyone was blissfully sated.

This Hershey’s cocoa frosting was easy to work with and wasn’t overpowering. Sublime.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

Hungry For More?

Chocolate Muffins

Those of us who prefer a restrained sweetness and a more pronounced cocoa taste will adore these muffins. Nothing overtly sweet here. And we’re okay with that.

1 hr

Flourless Chocolate Cloud Cake

This lofty cake is so crammed full of chocolate and butter and air, there’s no room for flour–although we made sure to leave space for ample swoops of softly whipped cream.

1 hr 15 mins

4.87 from 15 votes (13 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I’ve used the Hershey’s chocolate frosting for over 20 years, with one change, I substitute sour cream for the milk. It adds a tanginess to the frosting my family and friends all like. This cake and frosting are my son’s favorite ?