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Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting is a glossy chocolate frosting with only three ingredients! This easy frosting is slightly tangy, with a deep, pure chocolate flavor. You’ll love it on cakes and cupcakes!
As a frosting fanatic, few things can make or break a cake for me the way frosting can. When the frosting is good, I can forgive a cake for a lot of sins. Who cares if it’s a bit dense or dry if it’s topped with a perfectly flavored, gloriously silky Swiss meringue buttercream?
Alternately, even the most delicious cake suffers when it’s topped with bad frosting. There are so many ways frosting can go wrong: too crumbly or stiff, too crunchy, or painfully sweet, or too greasy…it’s a frosting minefield out there!
In the interest of saving the world from bad frosting, I’m going to be sharing more of my favorite frosting recipes over the next few months. This Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting is a great one to start with–it’s easy, it’s made with just three simple ingredients, and most importantly, it tastes great!
So what will you need for making Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting? Just chocolate (duh), sour cream (duh), and vanilla extract. The vanilla is technically optional, and you can swap it with another extract or omit it altogether. You can also add a pinch of salt if you’d like!
Choosing A Chocolate for Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
One of the most common questions I get when it comes to chocolate is, “What chocolate should I use?” You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but the truth is, there’s not one right answer. We all have different access to different brands/ingredients. We all have different budgets. And we all have different taste buds! All of these things will impact what the “right” chocolate is for you.
That being said, I have a few tips for choosing chocolate when the recipe doesn’t specify a brand:
- Avoid chocolate chips unless specified. Chocolate chips typically have a lower percentage of cocoa butter than other chocolates–this helps them keep their shape during baking. (Some brands also have other stabilizers added, and some even have replaced the cocoa butter with another fat entirely!) Less cocoa butter impacts both the texture of the melted chocolate and the flavor. I always default to using chopped chocolate bars unless the recipe specifically says chocolate chips are okay. Plus–real talk–chocolate chips are usually the worst-tasting chocolate out there.
- Don’t use milk chocolate unless the recipe calls for it. Milk chocolate contains milk solids, and it tends to be much softer and sweeter than dark chocolate. Swapping milk for dark can impact the taste and texture of the finished recipe.
- Go for a mid-range dark chocolate. “Dark chocolate” just means chocolate without milk solids, and it can be anything from 50% cocoa solids to 80% or even 90%. If the recipe you’re following doesn’t specify how dark the chocolate should be, I’d recommend looking for a mid-range dark, something in the 55-65% cocoa percent range. This is a good balance between not too sweet and not too bitter.
- Buy in bulk and don’t break the bank. You don’t have to spend $40 and buy the fanciest French chocolate at the store. My go-to chocolate is usually the Pound Plus bars from Trader Joe’s. They’re 54% cocoa, taste good on their own, temper well, and are about $5/lb! For special occasions and recipes I’ll splurge on something nicer, but honestly, as long as you love the taste of the chocolate you’re using, you’re golden.
You’ll want to finely chop the chocolate for this recipe. Some people like to use a serrated knife to saw at the chocolate, but I prefer to use a large sharp chef’s knife.
I start at one corner and cut across at a diagonal angle, keeping the pieces small and uniform. If some sections get too big, I’ll go over the big pieces again at the end. It’s important for the pieces to be the same size, so they melt evenly and consistently.
Choosing The Right Sour Cream for Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Fortunately, the question of what sour cream to use is much simpler than choosing a type of chocolate! I always recommend using full-fat dairy unless the recipe otherwise specifies. Low-fat and non-fat versions often have stabilizers or other additives that can impact the texture of the final recipe. We’re already making an indulgent dessert, no need to try and save a few calories with non-fat dairy when it could cause your frosting to be grainy or break!
Also, try to have your sour cream at room temperature if possible. A little cooler is okay, but straight from the fridge should be avoided. Dairy mixes much better in recipes when it’s not super cold, so measure it out and let it sit on the counter while you prep other things before using.
The only equipment you’ll need to make this recipe is a microwave! You can either combine the ingredients first, and melt them all together, or melt the chocolate first, then whisk the sour cream and vanilla in afterwards. Either way will work and give you the same end result.
When the frosting is first melted and mixed, it will be pretty loose and fluid, and won’t hold it’s shape very well if you try to frost with it right away.
Let the frosting cool at room temperature, stirring or whisking occasionally, and you’ll see it thicken before your eyes. It will still retain its beautiful glossy sheen, but it will start to hold peaks and take on more of a typical frosting texture. Once it reaches this stage, it’s ready to use! Use it right away for the best results.
If you want to make the frosting in advance, press a layer of cling wrap on top, and store it at room temperature for several hours, or in the refrigerator for up to a week. It is very hard when cold, so you’ll need to gently reheat it in the microwave, whisking well, and then stir as it comes back to frosting consistency.
Once it cools completely, the frosting does get much firmer. It’s best paired with sturdy cakes and cupcakes, because a really light and fluffy cake won’t be able to stand up to a thick, dense frosting. It would also be amazing as a topping on fudgy chocolate brownies.
Because different chocolate and sour creams have different fat percentages, you might find that this frosting needs a little tweaking to get the perfect consistency for you! If it seems too thick as it cools, you can reheat it briefly and stir in more sour cream–try 1/4 cup at a time, tasting and stirring as you go. It’s pretty flexible, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
This Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting is lovely to work with–it spreads easily and can hold up well between the layers of a layer cake. I love the way it looks–that shine! that gloss!–and I also love that while it looks like a standard ganache, the use of sour cream instead of cream gives it a lovely tangy flavor. If you like chocolate cheesecake, chocolate buttermilk cake, or any other tangy chocolate dessert, you will be a sucker for this frosting!
Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
- Place the chopped chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring after every 30 seconds to prevent scorching. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.
- Add the sour cream and vanilla extract to the chocolate, and whisk well. The frosting will be on the thinner side at first, but as it cools, it will thicken nicely.
- Whisk occasionally as it cools to room temperature. Once it has thickened to the texture of buttercream, pipe it on cupcakes or frost your cake. If it becomes too thick to easily spread, reheat it in short bursts in the microwave until you have a workable consistency.
- If you want to make the frosting in advance, press a layer of cling wrap on top, and store it at room temperature for several hours, or in the refrigerator for up to a week. It is very hard when cold, so you'll need to gently reheat it in the microwave, whisking well, and then stir as it comes back to frosting consistency.