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!

Chocolate cupcakes topped with cream cheese frosting.

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.

Ingredients for cream cheese frosting prepped with text labels.

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.
Cream cheese frosting in a mixing bowl.

How to make cream cheese frosting

  1. 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.
  2. Cut the cream cheese into smaller pieces.
  3. Add the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low until everything is combined and smooth.
  4. Continue mixing on low for 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed to incorporate everything.
  5. 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.
Cream cheese frosting in a mixing bowl.

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:

Cream cheese frosting completely mixed.

Where To Use Cream Cheese Frosting?

Start here (but the answer is on anything and everything! 😉):

Cream Cheese Frosting piped onto wax paper.

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

Cream cheese frosting is a tangy alternative to vanilla buttercream. You only need a few ingredients and about 5 minutes to make this recipe!
4.88 (16 ratings)


  • 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.
Adapted from Cook’s Country.
Calories: 211kcal, Carbohydrates: 21g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Cholesterol: 41mg, Sodium: 111mg, Potassium: 28mg, Sugar: 20g, Vitamin A: 490IU, Calcium: 21mg, Iron: 1mg

Did you make this recipe?

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[Photography by Dee of One Sarcastic Baker]