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Basic Powdered Sugar Chocolate Icing Recipe

Basic powdered sugar chocolate icing is such an easy recipe to make, and it turns out so sweet and decadent. The perfect icing recipe is great for cakes, cookies, and cupcakes. The simple glaze hits the spot for that sweet tooth, and it’s a favorite way to top a dessert.

Making Chocolate Icing

Pouring chocolate icing on a brownie cake.

This is honestly one of the fastest and easiest recipes for icing. It takes about five minutes to complete, and if it turns out to be too runny or too thick, it’s super easy to fix. The first time I made the confectioner’s sugar icing, I was impressed with how easy it was to make and that it only required a few ingredients.

Chocolate icing in a glass bowl.

What Is The Difference Between Frosting And Icing?

Frosting is typically more fluffy and holds the shape better when added to cakes or cupcakes. Homemade buttercream is a good example of a fluffy frosting, and you usually add it to treats with a piping bag. Icing is more glossy and thinner than frosting. It can be used on cupcakes but will look a little different than frosting because it is thinner. You can also use icing on cookies, and it’s perfect for drizzling over cakes or other desserts.

Brownie cake with chocolate icing.

Powdered Sugar Icing Ingredient Checklist

  • 1-1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2-3 Tablespoons warm water (or milk or heavy whipping cream)

Full recipe with measurements and instructions listed at the bottom of the post in the printable recipe card.

How To Make The Icing

  1. Add the powdered sugar, unsweetened cocoa, vanilla extract, melted butter, and warm water to a glass bowl and mix until creamy.
  2. Pour over cakes, cookies, or cupcakes.

Step By Step Instructions

Powdered sugar in a large glass bowl.

Start by adding the powdered sugar, or confectioners sugar, to a large bowl.

Unsweetened cocoa and powdered sugar in a glass bowl.

Next, add the unsweetened cocoa to the large mixing bowl. If you don’t want chocolate, you can easily leave the unsweetened cocoa out of the recipe. You can drizzle it over cinnamon rolls. It is the perfect icing and a wonderful treat.

Pouring vanilla extract over unsweetened cocoa and powdered sugar in a glass bowl.

Pour the vanilla extract into the bowl.

Pouring melted butter in a bowl with icing ingredients.

Next, pour the melted butter into the bowl.

Pouring water into a bowl with icing ingredients.

And lastly, pour the water into the bowl. You can use either water or a little milk for this icing recipe. If you’d like to make it even richer, you can add heavy cream to the recipe instead of water. Coconut milk or almond milk is another option, as well. You don’t need a large container because it’s a small amount of milk that is added.

Chocolate icing in a glass bowl.

Mix everything together well with an electric mixer, and pour over your dessert.

What If My Icing Is Too Thick Or Too Runny?

If your icing is too thick, add one teaspoon of water to the bowl and mix. And, if it’s still too thick, add more water, one teaspoon at a time. If it’s too runny and you want a thicker consistency, add one teaspoon of powdered sugar at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.

I like to be able to pour the icing over the cake, so I like mine a little thinner. For this recipe, the icing will not completely cover a bundt cake, so if that’s what you’d like to do, you will need to double the recipe.

Chocolate Brownie Cake on a cake pedestal.

Tips for Making Basic Powdered Sugar Chocolate Icing

  1. Choose the Right Chocolate: Use good quality dark chocolate or Dutch-process cocoa for a richer flavor. This will give your frosting a strong chocolate flavor, perfect for chocolate cupcakes or a chocolate cake recipe.
  2. Mixing Consistency: Start mixing on low speed in your stand mixer to incorporate dry ingredients like powdered sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder with the wet ingredients. Gradually increase to medium speed for a creamy frosting. This helps to prevent the dry ingredients from flying out of the bowl (speaking from experience).
  3. Adding Flavor: Vanilla extract or a pinch of salt can enhance the flavor of your frosting. You can also add a small amount of instant coffee to give it more depth of flavor. These can be your secret ingredients for the best chocolate icing recipe.
  4. Storing the Frosting: If you have leftover frosting, store it in an airtight container. It can be kept at cool room temperature for a day or refrigerated for longer storage.
  5. Using Leftover Frosting: Leftover frosting can be used for graham cracker sandwiches or chocolate chip cookies.
  6. Experiment and Personalize: Don’t hesitate to add your favorite ways of tweaking the easy chocolate icing recipe – maybe a splash of espresso for a deeper flavor or a bit of cinnamon for warmth.

Different Flavored Icing

The great thing about this homemade chocolate frosting recipe is that you can make chocolate, lemon, orange, or just about any flavor. You just change out one or two items to make a different flavor. Here are some of the items you can use to make different powdered sugar icings:

  • Lemon juice
  • Orange juice
  • Vanilla extract
  • Peppermint extract
  • Almond extract

You can also add different colors to the icing with food coloring.

The easy icing recipe is wonderfully versatile and perfect on baked goods such as coffee cake, bundt cake, sheet cake, quick bread, or some of the items listed below. And don’t be afraid to try it on a vanilla cake or cinnamon. Try something different!

Recipes That You Can Use Homemade Chocolate Icing

Chocolate icing on brownie cake.

Is Chocolate Icing Gluten Free?

This chocolate icing is gluten-free. The recipe is made with just a few simple ingredients, none of which contain gluten.

Can I Make White Chocolate Icing?

Yes, you can make white chocolate icing. The recipe usually features melted white chocolate, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, heavy cream, and a few other ingredients.

Does Chocolate Icing Need to Be Refrigerated?

No, you do not need to refrigerate this chocolate icing. You can leave it at room temperature.

Easy Chocolate Icing Recipe

Be sure to get the recipe below for the easy powdered sugar glaze recipe. It’s great for covering so many desserts and the best way to make a good cake taste great!

Chocolate icing in a glass bowl.

Easy Chocolate Icing Recipe

Yield: 1.25 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Chocolate icing is one of the easiest recipes to make and it turns out so luscious and succulent. The icing is perfect for cakes, cookies, and cupcakes.


  • 1-1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2-3 Tablespoons warm water (or milk or heavy whipping cream)


  1. Add the powdered sugar, cocoa, vanilla extract, butter, and water to a large bowl and mix well.
  2. Pour the icing over a dessert.


If the powdered sugar icing recipe is too runny, add more powdered sugar. If the recipe is too thick, add a small amount of liquid at a time, such as water or milk.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 200Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 6mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 0gSugar: 43gProtein: 0g

Nutrition is approximate.

Did you make this recipe?

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Grab some more delicious recipes at Julia’s Simply Southern and South Your Mouth.


Wednesday 28th of February 2024

Made this tonight for my family as a late valentine's for my loves. I drizzled it over a strawberry bundt cake. It's like a chocolate covered strawberry. So good.

Julie Pollitt

Thursday 29th of February 2024

Oh yum! That sounds wonderful!


Wednesday 14th of June 2023

Wow! I was looking for a quick icing and THIS is it! So easy and delicious! I poured it over a 9x13 chocolate cake, poked holes into it, first.

This recipe has been hand written into my recipe book as my Go-To chocolate icing. Thank you SO much!

Julie Pollitt

Thursday 15th of June 2023

Hi Gabrielle, I love to hear this! Thank you so much for sharing!


Sunday 19th of February 2023

I used black cocoa. This was delicious and perfect for being in a pinch. I'm going to use this going forward for my little six inch cakes.

Julie Pollitt

Monday 20th of February 2023

I've never tried black cocoa. I will have to try that. Thanks and glad you liked it!

Joe Miller

Saturday 19th of March 2022

I think this icing is better than what ya buy at the supermarket,super sweet,not to thick,not to thin,awesome!

Julie Pollitt

Saturday 19th of March 2022

Thanks so much, Joe!

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