Perfect Cream Cheese Frosting
Cream cheese frosting is a great alternative to other frostings. It’s easy to make, smooth, creamy, and delicious, and it goes well on all kinds of cakes and cupcakes.
In fact, I almost always prefer it to traditional buttercream because of the complexity and tang that it gets from the cream cheese.
The key ingredients in cream cheese frosting are full-fat cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.
Tip: Make sure that all of your ingredients are at room temperature. If the butter and cream cheese are too cold, the frosting will end up lumpy instead of smooth and creamy. (This applies to any desserts with cream cheese like cheesecakes or cream cheese cookies.)
How It’s Made
You’ll need an electric mixer to make this recipe. It doesn’t matter if it’s a stand mixer or a hand mixer.
Mix the room temperature cream cheese and room temperature butter until light and fluffy. This takes about three minutes at high speed.
Tip: For making cream cheese frosting, buy the blocks of cream cheese, not the whipped tubs. Also, always buy full-fat cream cheese – the frosting will be much better!
Add in powdered sugar a little bit at a time. If you add powdered sugar all at once, it will end up flying out of the bowl and you’ll end up with a giant mess!
If the powdered sugar is clumpy at all (some brands are more clumpy than others), sift it before adding it.
Also, you can add more powdered sugar as needed to make a stiffer frosting. The version I make for carrot cake is usually not as stiff because it’s spread onto the cake and doesn’t need to hold a shape. When I’m frosting cupcakes, I make mine stiff enough to form loose rosettes, but you can add more powdered sugar if you want a crisp design instead.
Cream cheese frosting is typically flavored with vanilla extract. It really doesn’t matter when you add the vanilla, but I usually add it last and give one final mix on medium-low speed.
Expert Tips and FAQs
I leave my cakes and cupcakes with cream cheese frosting out of the fridge. While I have never had problems with the frosting souring, and I have certainly never had any negative health effects, food safety professionals and the USDA recommend that you refrigerate it.
Cream cheese frosting can be frozen! Foods with a high fat content tend to survive freezing well. You can put a plastic bag of chocolate cream cheese frosting in the freezer for weeks or maybe even months. You will need to let it thaw and re-whip it a bit when it comes out, though, before you start piping.
Make sure that all of your ingredients are at room temperature. Cold butter and cream cheese will definitely cause lumps.
Simply add more powdered sugar to make a stiffer frosting. This version is spreadable and pipeable but won’t retain detailed designs.
- Chocolate cream cheese frosting
- Strawberry cream cheese frosting
- Lemon cream cheese frosting
- Cookies and cream frosting
- Cinnamon cream cheese frosting
- Sour cream frosting
- Carrot cake
- Date nut bread
- Carrot cake cupcakes
- Red velvet cupcakes
- Chocolate cupcakes
- Strawberry cupcakes
- Vanilla cupcakes
- Lemon cupcakes
- Oreo cupcakes
- Banana cupcakes
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 16 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Use an electric mixer to mix cream cheese and butter until creamy and light, about three minutes on high speed.
- Mix in powdered sugar one cup at a time. You can add more or less to get your desired consistency.
- Mix in vanilla until fully integrated.
- Spread or pipe onto cooled cake or cupcakes.
- This recipe frosts a two layer 8″ cake or 24 cupcakes.
- Always make sure that all ingredients are at room temperature before starting.
- Mix for several minutes to incorporate lots of air into the frosting and make it fluffy.
- You can add more or less powdered sugar to the recipe to give it a lighter or stiffer texture.
- The USDA considers frostings made with cream cheese to be unsafe if left unrefrigerated for more than a couple of hours, and there are a lot of food websites that echo this fear. If you have a weakened immune system, or just like to err on the side of caution, then by all means refrigerate your frosting until you are ready to serve. If you want to know what I do, though, I leave my cakes and cupcakes with cream cheese frosting out of the fridge. I have never had problems with the frosting souring, and I have certainly never had any negative health effects.
- Cream cheese frosting can be frozen! Foods with a high fat content tend to survive freezing well. You can put a plastic bag of cream cheese frosting in the freezer for weeks or maybe even months. You will need to let it thaw and re-whip it a bit when it comes out, though, before you start piping.
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