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Fluffy Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

(recipe, Tom Douglas)

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This fluffy, creamy chocolate frosting, with the pleasant tang of sour cream, is melt-in-your mouth delicious. Use it atop Buttery Cupcakes with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting. There's nothing difficult about making this frosting, but it's very important that the melted chocolate, butter, and sour cream all be at room temperature when you combine them. Melt the chocolate first, then remove it from the heat and set it aside to give it time to cool to room temperature. The butter should be soft and pliable, offering only a little resistance when pressed with a finger, but it should not be almost melting. The sour cream must be at room temperature when it is added to the butter-sugar mixture. You can let the sour cream sit out on the counter for a few hours to warm up, or you can carefully zap it for a few seconds at a time in the microwave, or you can put it in a small bowl placed in a larger bowl of hot tap water and stir it until it comes to room temperature. There's just enough salt so that you taste it a bit in the finished frosting, which we think complements the flavor of chocolate. But be sure to use kosher salt or a sea salt of the same texture, coarseness, and weight as kosher salt. Do not substitute table salt in this quantity. If you substitute table salt, cut the amount in half. This frosting should not be refrigerated before being used. Unlike buttercream, it can't be chilled firm and then beaten smooth again, because it will turn dull and grainy. The best strategy is to bake your cake or cupcakes first and allow them to cool to room temperature. Then, when you are ready to frost them, make the chocolate frosting. If you find that you are not quite ready to use it, just let it sit out at room temperature with a piece of plastic wrap on the surface.


    For frosting 12 cupcakes (makes about 2 1/2 cups)
    1. 4 oz. (113 g.) bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about ¾ cup)
    2. 2 oz. (60 g.) milk chocolate, chopped (about ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon)
    3. ½ cup (1 stick/4 oz./113 g.) unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1-inch dice
    4. ½ cup (2 oz./57 g.) powdered sugar, sifted (measure first, then sift)
    5. ½ cup (4 oz./113 g.) sour cream, at room temperature
    6. 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
    7. ½ tsp. kosher salt
    For frosting a 9-inch layer cake (makes about 5 cups)
    1. 8 oz. (230 g.) bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 1½ cups)
    2. 4 oz. (115 g.) milk chocolate, chopped (about ¾ cup)
    3. 1 cup (2 sticks/8 oz./230 g.) unsalted butter, softened
    4. 1 cup (5¼ oz./150 g.) powdered sugar, sifted (measure first, then sift)
    5. 1 cup (8 oz./230 g.) sour cream, at room temperature
    6. 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
    7. ¾ tsp. kosher salt


    1. Place both chocolates in a heatproof bowl that has been placed over a saucepan of simmering water over medium heat. (The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water.) Adjust the heat to keep the water barely at a simmer. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally with a rubber or silicone spatula. When the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool to room temperature.
    2. Put the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream on medium-high speed for 5 full minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle a few times during the process. After 5 minutes, the mixture should look very pale and white.
    3. Scrape the bowl and paddle down again and turn the mixer to medium-low speed, then add the room-temperature sour cream. After the sour cream has been incorporated, scrape down the bowl and paddle again and add the (cooled) melted chocolate, vanilla extract, and salt.
    4. Turn the mixer up to medium-high heat and beat for 1 more minute. The frosting is now ready to be used for your cake or cupcakes.


    For dark or bittersweet chocolate, use a chocolate that's about 70 percent cacao solids (though a chocolate with at least 60 percent solids, often called semisweet, will also work). A good-quality milk chocolate should have 35 to 40 percent cacao solids. Theo, a Seattle chocolate maker producing premium organic and fair-trade chocolate, is one of our favorites. The Dahlia Workshop bakers also use a French brand, Valrhona, for dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and cacao, as well as the fine Belgian brand Callebaut. Other excellent brands: Scharffen Berger and Guittard.