Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How to Make Chocolate Buttercream Frosting without Butter or Cream by Cleo Coyle

This "buttercream" frosting has no butter or cream, yet it tastes like a chocolate fudge dream. So what's the mystery ingredient to this frosting? It's one that vegans and vegetarians may have guessed by now...avocado.

If you've never used avocado as a substitute for butter in baking, I can tell you that it's a lot of fun to play with. This week, I'm doing frosting, but stay tuned because I'll be sharing more recipes with avocado taking the place of butter (and, yes, there will be a beautiful spring-green recipe in time for St. Patrick's Day). Until then...

Here are a few reasons to consider
replacing the butter in your
chocolate frosting with avocados*...

1. Less calories: Avocados will lighten up your frosting by reducing calories. 2 tablespoons of avocado flesh is 50 calories compared to 200 calories for the same amount of butter. 

2. Less fat: 3.5 oz. serving of butter contains 81 g of fat while the same serving of avocado contains 14.66 g of fat.

3. Better fat: Avocados will replace unhealthy animal fat with healthy vegetable fat. Avocados contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. This kind of fat can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and maintain HDL (good) cholesterol, while decreasing belly fat. 

4. Better for you: You'll find 20 essential nutrients in avocados, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid.

*Source of nutritional info: California Avocado Commission 

Finally, my Coffeehouse Mystery readers may recognize this recipe from my culinary mystery A Brew to a Kill, in which my amateur sleuth employs a dietitian to help her lighten up some of the items on her coffeehouse menu. Does the dietitian die? You'll have to read the book to find out.

As for the brownies in my photos today, I shared that bonus recipe last week. If you missed it, you can download it now by clicking here for the printable PDF.  

To see more of my recipes from A Brew to a Kill, click here. And now for today's recipe...

Cleo Coyle, who likes to play
with her food, is author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Cleo Coyle's
Chocolate Fudge
Avocado Frosting

To download this recipe in a PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here.

For every 1 cup of frosting, you will need...


1/2 cup mashed Haas (aka Hass) avocado (1 medium or 2 small)
1/2 cup natural, unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar (aka confectioners' sugar)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Directions:  Cut, pit, and scoop the flesh out of a ripe avocado. 

NOTE #1 on the avocado's ripeness : The avocado should not be over-ripe. Do not use avocado flesh that is brown, bruised, or mottled. Conversely, do not use flesh that is under-ripe and hard. For tips on choosing a perfectly ripe avocado with soft, green flesh, watch the video below. For tips on quickly ripening an avocado (or a banana) that is still too green and hard, click here



Need some additional tips on properly
cutting open, pitting, and slicing an avocado?
click here.

Mash the avocado with a fork or puree it in a blender or food processor until the flesh is completely smooth and without even small chunks or lumps. It's important to be sure you've pureed it well. You'll need 1/2 cup of this so measure it out. If it comes up short, your avocado was too small and you'll need to process another. 

Place the 1/2 cup avocado, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, and pinch of salt into a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the ingredients. 

At first, the mixture will seem very dry and powdery but continue beating the ingredients. DO NOT ADD LIQUID. As you beat the mixture, the avocado will penetrate and moisten the dry ingredients until, almost magically, a silky smooth chocolate frosting forms. 

NOTE #2: If you live in a very dry climate, and the frosting is too dry after a reasonable amount of beating, then add a very small amount of liquid (1 teaspoon at a time). What liquid you use is your choice--try milk or coffee or you can add a touch more vanilla and even complement the vanilla by using another extract such as almond, hazelnut or rum.

Avocado Frosting FAQs...

* Q. Will I taste avocado? 

A. No. This is a delicious, chocolate fudge frosting that closely resembles chocolate buttercream in flavor and texture. If you properly puree the avocado making sure there are absolutely no clumps or lumps and follow the recipe directions, you will not taste avocado.

* Q. Can I use another kind of avocado? 

A. I would not. I use Haas (aka Hass) avocados because they are richer and creamer than Florida avocados. I'd stick with Haas/Hass.

Q. How much frosting will I need for my cakes, cupcakes, brownies?

A. This recipe will make 1 cup of icing, which will frost...

     - 1 pan of brownies, including my Black Bean Brownies
       (those are the brownies you see in my photos today) or 

     - 12 cupcakes or 

     - the top of a 13 x 9-inch sheet cake.

To frost a 2-layer cake, I would double or even triple this recipe (because I hate to get stuck with less frosting than I need).

Q. Can I make a glaze instead of a frosting?

A. Yes! And here's how I do it...


First, let me assure you that the buttercream version of this recipe produces a thick, smooth icing, like a typical chocolate frosting (as in my photo above)...



For a looser chocolate glaze (like the one in my photo below), simply add more liquid to the frosting until you get the consistency you like. Start with 1 tablespoon of milk or coffee or rum or a liqueur (e.g. Kahlua, Amaretto, a chocolate liqueur). Add more if needed to reach the glazing consistency you like, and...

May you eat
(and read) with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

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  1. This looks like a good recipe, I've tried pudding with avocados but never frosting. I make black bean brownies regularly so this will be a fun variation!

    1. Thanks, Lee, I think this frosting goes very well with the Black Bean Brownies. I hope you enjoy it, too.

      Substituting ingredients in recipes is almost always a tricky business, and that's true of swapping in avocados for butter, but I'm looking forward to experimenting, and sharing what I think works (and what doesn't). So stay tuned and keep cooking and eating with joy...

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  2. Wow, Cleo, you are full of cooking mysteries! I would have a hard time proceeding to make the avocado into frosting, because it looked so good on its own--I'd be diving for the chips and Tabasco sauce!

    1. LOL - very good point. Hard to beat a freshly made guacamole with tortilla chips and a nice cold beer!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. Wow, I'm amazed. i have never heard of using avocado for frosting (as a replacement for cream and butter). I'm amazed!!! My recipe tomorrow won't be nearly as healthy, but aw, what the heck. Eat Cleo's one day and Avery's (totally decadent, promise) the next.

    Cleo, can we use this frosting on the black bean brownies? :) Again, wow!


    Avery / Daryl

    1. Well, you know... health food has its place. And for me that place would be to balance out my love of decadent, indulgent dishes! All that translates to a big drool - my mouth is watering for your recipe, Avery/Daryl. Bring it on!

      (And, yes, for sure - this frosting pairs very well with the Black Bean Brownies!)

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. Brilliant, as usual. Avocado is amazing stuff. It makes a fine ice cream, too.

    1. Aw, thanks, Libby - and I'm having fun reading your suggestions on facebook about possible variations for the black bean brownie (more on FB)...

      As for today's recipe, I'm *still* playing with small tweaks to see what might make it even better. As a cook yourself, you know it's fun to play with recipes, varying them a bit here and there each time you make them. When I get it just right, I'll likely publish it in a future CM. So stay tuned, and...

      Eat with joy!
      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. This recipe appeals to me on so many levels, I can't wait to make some! I can tell by looking it's going to be a winner, and I predict I will be using it quite a lot.

    Healthy today, decadent tomorrow - what a wonderfully well-balanced group of cooks we have here!

    1. This is a great group of cooks (and writers), isn't it? Can't you just see us opening a restaurant? Or running a magazine? Soon we'll have our own network and take over the world...!! (Okay, maybe not, but we do have fun on this blog, don't we?)

      Seriously, I hope you enjoy the recipe. As I mentioned to Libby above, I'm still tweaking it here and there. I think a splash more vanilla would make it even better so I upped the amount to 1 full teaspoon and added a pinch of salt, as well. Writing recipes for a large audience can be tricky (because there are so many palates out there to please), but I think this is a good starter recipe that can be tweaked (a splash of milk here, a little more cocoa there, a squeeze of lemon, bit of coffee or rum, etc).

      Thanks again for dropping by the Kitchen, Laine. I always enjoy seeing you here!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  6. I'm with Avery -- completely amazed. This is one ingredient I *never* would have imagined in a frosting. Wow!

    ~ Krista

    1. Vegetarians and vegans have some great ideas. This is definitely one of them--as long as the local produce guy cooperates, and gives you some nice avocados to buy. Frankly, I think the best use of this recipe is to fool friends and family. "Go ahead, try to guess what's in the frosting!" :)

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  7. All I can say is: Wow! If I wasn't in my PJ's (and if it wasn't minus 24) I'd race to the store to get avocados. We usually have lots and now here's another reason to keep them. I'll try this tomorrow.

    Thank you, Cleo!

    1. LOL on the weather report, MJ, and I'm with you! A few hours ago, I put my coat on, stuck my head out the door, saw my breath create a fog cloud big enough to set the scene of a noir film and decided against a stroll to the store.

      Here's to staying warm and cozy...

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  8. It looks yummy in the picture and I bet it’ll be good when I make it too.

    1. Thank you, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. It's a fun little culinary experiment--especially when you test your friends and family and ask if they can guess the "secret" ingredient. :)

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  9. Does the frosting need to be refrigerated?

    1. Yes, refrigeration is a good idea. Of course, it will taste best the first or second day, but I've kept it for up to a week in a plastic container in the refrigerator.

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter