Cream Cheese Frosting
Cream cheese frosting is a tangy alternative to vanilla buttercream and will quickly become your new favorite frosting. It is thick, luscious, pipes beautifully, and you only need a few ingredients and about 5 minutes to make this recipe!
I believe there are two types of people in this world:
1. Those who actually like cake.
2. Those who eat cake because there is frosting involved.
I am squarely in camp #2. I am very much take-it-or-leave-it when it comes to ordinary cake, but throw on some amazing frosting, and I’ll happily dig in.
Cream cheese frosting can be so hit or miss, many times runny or too loose to pipe on cupcakes; other times cloyingly sweet from adding extra powdered sugar to get it to thicken and firm up.
This cream cheese frosting is neither of those and is the epitome of what a cream cheese frosting SHOULD be, but never quite achieves. It is thick, luscious, smooth, holds its shape beautifully when piped, and achieves perfect harmony between sweet and tangy.
Five Simple Ingredients!
- Unsalted butter – Using unsalted butter allows you to control the amount of salt by adding it separately.
- Powdered sugar – Dissolves easily in the butter and cream cheese for a smooth texture.
- Vanilla extract – Mellows out the bite of the cream cheese
- Salt – Always add salt to cream cheese buttercream frosting, as it helps cut the sweetness.
- Cream cheese – Use straight out of the refrigerator and cut into smaller pieces so it blends easier.
How to make cream cheese frosting
- Make sure your butter is at room temperature. It should be soft enough to press a finger into, but still firm enough to hold its shape.
- Cut the cream cheese into smaller pieces.
- Add the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low until everything is combined and smooth.
- Continue mixing on low for 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed to incorporate everything.
- Start adding the cream cheese one cube at a time while mixing on medium-low. Continue until all of the cream cheese has been added and the mixture has no lumps.
Recipe tips and tricks
I forgot to take my butter out to soften! Can I soften butter in the microwave?
Yes, but you have to do it very carefully. If the butter gets too soft, then the cream cheese frosting won’t whip up correctly.
Place the butter on a microwave-safe dish and microwave for 15 seconds at 30 percent power.
Repeat one or two more times as needed, but stop while the butter is still somewhat firm but pliable.
Can I make the cream cheese frosting recipe ahead of time?
Yes, you can make this cream cheese frosting recipe up to five days in advance! Store the frosting in an airtight container or sealed piping bags.
You can keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use. It will firm up in the chilled air, so let it come to room temperature before icing your cakes or cupcakes.
After you know how to make cream cheese frosting perfectly, make and freeze a large batch of it for convenience. Thaw it in the refrigerator, then beat with a rubber spatula briefly.
Does cream cheese buttercream frosting need to be refrigerated?
In general, yes, dairy products require refrigeration to stay fresh.
Frosted cakes or cupcakes should be safe on the counter for a few hours, or longer if your house stays cool.
If you’ll be eating your baked goods over the course of a few days, store them in the refrigerator.
You can eat them while still cold, or you can take out just what you’ll be eating and let it sit on the counter for about an hour to soften first.
Watch the Video for This Simple Frosting:
Where To Use Cream Cheese Frosting?
Start here (but the answer is on anything and everything! 😉):
- Hummingbird Cake
- Carrot Cake
- Banana-Chocolate Chip Snack Cake
- Red Velvet Poke Cake
- Chocolate Cupcakes
- Red Velvet Cupcakes
- Apple Cupcakes
- Pumpkin Cupcakes
If you make this recipe and love it, I would so appreciate it if you would take a moment to leave a rating below. Thank you so much!
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 16 ounces cream cheese, chilled and cut into 16 pieces
- Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt on low speed until smooth, then mix for an additional 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.
- Increase the speed to medium-low and add the cream cheese one piece at a time and mix until smooth, then mix for an additional 2 minutes.
- Butter: Unsalted butter + added salt is my preference, but you can use salted butter and omit the salt in the recipe.
- Cream Cheese: Be sure to use full-fat block-style cream cheese and now low-fat or spreadable cream cheese. Either of the latter will contribute to a runny frosting.
- Yield: This frosting recipe makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes, fill and frost an 8″ or 9″ cake, or generously frost a 9×13-inch cake.
- Storage: Cakes or cupcakes with cream cheese frosting can sit at room temperature for a few hours, but for any longer should be stored in the refrigerator. You can serve cold if you’d like, or allow to sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.
- Make-Ahead: You can make the cream cheese frosting and store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Allow to come to cool room temperature and then stir vigorously with a rubber spatula before spreading or piping.
- Freezer Option: The cream cheese frosting can be kept in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then proceed with using as instructed above for making ahead.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
[Photography by Dee of One Sarcastic Baker]
This is fantastic beyond words! Compared to most cream cheese frostings, which I frequently find to be a bit heavy, I enjoy that it is a little lighter and fluffier.
I just wanted to commend your methodology. Every other recipe reads like soften cream cheese, blend with butter, add powered sugar, vanilla and salt. Your method works better and creates a more stable product. So thank you for that. Aldo your carrot cake is bangin’
Omg made this for dad on father’s day and the cream cheese icing is to die for! I plan to adapt the frosting recipe to use on cinnamon coreball rolls as well. Much appreciation
Our new go to cream cheese frosting recipe! So delicious
hello, what if I cant find the firm cream cheese and just have spreadable? will it be to runny for this recipe? What can I do to make it more firm?
Delicious and not overly sweet. Perfect for my carrot cake.
This is absolutely delicious! I like that it’s a little lighter and fluffier than most cream cheese frostings, which I often find a bit heavy. I used it for Southern Living’s Hummingbird Cake and it was perfection!
Omg just made this for father’s day cake the cream cheese frosting is sooo delicious!! I’m gonna use the frosting recipe for cinnamon rolls too. Thank you
Not only am I a number 2 person, I also firmly believe cream cheese frosting is better than buttercream in almost every instance. Love this.
Best cream cheese frosting. Thank you for the recipe ❤️
So thrilled you loved it! You’re welcome, thank you for stopping back and sharing your feedback!
Hi Michelle – just wondering where you got those beautiful gold star sprinkles? I must own them!
Hi Jane, Those are Wilton brand and found at Michael’s!
This frosting sounds delicious! I do have a question though. Whenever I make my carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (not this recipe), my frosted cake slides to the left or right! I don’t care what time of year it is either. The cake is devine, but it is disheartening to have it slide like that every time I make it. This doesn’t happen with other cakes, just this one. Would you happen to know why this happens and how I can stop it from sliding? I will also add that this is one of the only frostings that I make from scratch and that I use butter in. I don’t make a lot of frostings for my other cakes because I don’t want them to slide either! If you happen to know what’s causing this, please email me at the given email address. I would SO appreciate the feedback! Thank you so much! Linda
That’s a great question and so glad to hear that I’m not the only one who encounters this problem (and I am a seasoned baker). I always assume I’ve used too much icing in between the layers. I’ll be waiting to see if Michelle has a reply.
Hi Linda, There could be a couple of reasons why your cakes are sliding:
(1) Are you leveling the tops? If you don’t level them or level them unevenly, that can cause your cake to slide a bit. And especially with carrot cakes, which can be bumpy on top, make sure the tops are flat and even.
(2) If you tend to frost heavily in the middle and not as much towards the outside, the layers can droop down a bit.
(3) Too much frosting COULD be an issue but typically that’s not it. However, a runny frosting could be the culprit, and cream cheese can sometimes get runny, especially if you use a low fat cream cheese or spreadable cream cheese instead of full-fat brick-style.
I hope that helps! :)
I am a lover of cream cheese frosting. I made a buttercream frosting for the first time this week and let’s just say I prefer cream cheese frosting. Do you really need 4 cups of sugar? I don’t like overly sweet. Will it affect the consistency of the frosting.
Hi Cheryl, Yes for the correct flavor and consistency, that is the amount of sugar that will give you the best results. It is definitely less sweet than a regular buttercream. I would not recommend reducing the sugar, as it will cause the frosting to be runnier.
I made this for some cups cakes and it is YUMMY! Gonna try and make a big batch and freeze for future using since I do a lot of baking.
Hi Barb, So glad you enjoyed it!! Freezing for later is a great idea.