Favorite Cream Cheese Frosting

Learn how to make sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting with this easy recipe. This favorite frosting is creamy and thick, holds its shape when piped, and tastes incredible on carrot cake, spice cake, and so much more. You only need 5 ingredients, but make sure you use a block of cream cheese, not cream cheese spread.

Cream cheese frosting on carrot cake cupcake

Do you need that little something *extra* for your desserts?

And are you tired of vanilla buttercream all the time?

Cream cheese frosting is my #1 favorite frosting for cakes, cupcakes, quick breads, and more. In fact, it’s the most common frosting used in my kitchen. I use it on everything from pumpkin cake and carrot cake cupcakes to banana cake, red velvet cake, and more.

It’s smooth, creamy, and spreads onto baked goods with ease. Its flavor is the perfect balance of sweet and tangy and you only need 5 ingredients total!

Red velvet cake

This Perfect Cream Cheese Frosting:

  1. Isn’t as cloyingly sweet as buttercream
  2. Is smooth as silk
  3. Isn’t runny (thank goodness!)
  4. Has a tangy, yet sweet flavor
  5. Is my creamiest frosting ever
  6. Can be piped with piping tips!

How to Prevent Runny Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream cheese frosting will be thin and runny if you’re not careful about the type of cream cheese you use. Make sure you use an 8 ounce block of full fat cream cheese, not low fat cream cheese and not cream cheese spread sold in a tub. Save cream cheese spread for bagels and low fat cream cheese for cooking.

The #1 reason bakers end up with runny frosting is because they’re accidentally using cream cheese spread instead of a block. There’s a HUGE difference! For the best, thickest, and most successful frosting, use the blocks of real cream cheese.

Cream cheese frosting with stand mixer

Only 5 Ingredients

  • block cream cheese
  • butter
  • confectioners’ sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • salt

Bring the butter and cream cheese to room temperature before beginning.

Can This Cream Cheese Frosting be Piped?

Cream cheese frosting is difficult to pipe because it’s so creamy. However, I learned a little trick a few years ago and feel free to borrow it. Cream cheese frosting will hold its decorative piped shape if you refrigerate it prior to piping. Fit your piping bag with a piping tip, fill your bag with the frosting, then refrigerate it for 20-30 minutes before piping.

However, don’t expect it to be as sturdy as buttercream. Cream cheese isn’t super stable, so save intricate piped designs for vanilla buttercream. Instead, stick with a basic round tip.

Cream Cheese Frosting Flavors

Flavor spruces everything up, so feel free to have fun with this recipe. A dash of cinnamon or brown butter are excellent, but chocolate cream cheese frosting might be my very favorite. You can even add some “strawberry dust” as shown in my strawberry cake.

Other flavor ideas:

  • Pumpkin Spice: 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • Lemon: 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • Chai Spice: 3/4 teaspoon chai spice mix
  • Coconut: 1 teaspoon coconut extract

Simply add these ingredients to the recipe below.

Cinnamon cream cheese frosting in mixing bowl

Uses for Cream Cheese Frosting

It tastes phenomenal with spiced cakes and cupcakes, but don’t limit yourself. This stuff is so versatile! Here’s plenty of recipe inspiration for your next batch:

For taller layer cakes, I usually add a little milk, extra cream cheese, and extra confectioners’ sugar to produce more volume. My carrot cake and red velvet cake recipes show this higher ratio of frosting. And sometimes I add extra butter for a stronger, more buttercream-like frosting. My lemon layer cake and coconut cake show the buttercream variation.

Pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting

Print
Cream cheese frosting on carrot cake cupcake

Favorite Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: about 3 cups
  • Category: Frosting
  • Method: Mixing
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Homemade cream cheese frosting is super creamy, soft, smooth, and tangy. It’s so easy to make and the uses are endless!


Ingredients

  • 8 ounces (224g) full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups (360g) confectioners’ sugar, plus an extra 1/4 cup if needed
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. If you want the frosting a little thicker, add the extra 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar (I add it).
  2. Cover and store leftover frosting for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting for a few seconds so it’s creamy again.

Notes

  1. Quantity: This recipe is enough to frost 12-18 cupcakes or one 9×13 quarter sheet cake. 1.5x the recipe for a double layer cake or add extra cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and a splash of milk or cream as shown in my carrot cake and red velvet cake recipes. (Doubling the recipe would be far too much.)
  2. Chocolate: Here is my chocolate cream cheese frosting recipe.

Keywords: cream cheese frosting

201 Comments

Comments are closed.

    1. Hi Chloe! Happy to help. See the recipe instruction. Cover and store leftover frosting for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer.

    2. I’m a beginner, I’ve always loved cooking but baking has always been on my mind. Thanks for making it easy for me to follow thru, this has really been helpful.

      Thanks Sally

    3. Needs a lot more confectioners sugar to be thick. I would look for another recipe. Tastes good but just not quite right.

  1. I don’t know what I did wrong but my icing was very sweet (maybe just too sweet for me?) And the butter didnt fully incorporate – there were little lumps of butter throughout and I think I may have over mixed it trying to get them out… not a success for me, any ideas as to why the butter would have done that? It was at room temperature.

    1. Hi Kay! If you are outside of the US, cream cheese products differ in both taste and texture. It could simply be a difference in the product that made this frosting overly sweet. Of course, too, it’s frosting and is supposed to be pretty sweet! For the butter, it’s likely it just wasn’t mixed into the cream cheese enough before the other ingredients were added. This is an easy fix for next time. Make sure the two are smooth before you add the remaining ingredients.

  2. My husband wants a funfetti cake with green cream cheese frosting for his birthday. I am using your easy funfetti cake recipe. Can I add food coloring to this cream cheese recipe?

    1. My new go to recipe. I never could find a frosting recipe that I truly liked until now! Thank you!

  3. The grocery stores only had low fat cream cheese, Will this be okay or should I hold off and try to find some full fat?

    1. Hi Jessica, It depends on what you are using it for. Low fat cream cheese will result in a thinner less creamy frosting. If you are trying to pipe or have it hold up to decorations then I would wait until you can get the full fat.

  4. Terrific recipe. Needed it today for Easter cupcakes and you really came through for me. Thanks so much. Stay safe!!

  5. Excellent and easy recipe! However, it made far too much for the 9 x 13 carrot cake that I made. I should have made half the recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hi Sally,
    I am planning on making this frosting for a two-layer cake, but my family is not fond of sweet frostings. I will likely only use about 2 cups of sugar…would you recommend adding cornstarch to thicken up the frosting if needed?
    Thank you!

  7. Taste is on point as usual, Sally!
    Quick question- the frosting cracked on a few of my cupcakes after an hour or so. Any idea why? My only guess is that I pressed sprinkles into most of the cupcakes with my fingers since the sprinkles wouldn’t stick well. Maybe that can cause cracking after a bit?

    1. Hi Betty! Do you mean the frosting separated or it formed a skin and cracked? Perhaps too much confectioners’ sugar? Or pressing in the sprinkles couldn’t have caused it too! So glad you enjoy how it tastes.

  8. I just made this recipe! I have never made cream cheese frosting in my life until tonight. I felt a little defeated at first when I found out last minute that I had a 1/2 a stick of butter. I used Imperial butter to substitute for the other half of butter. Even though I did that the frosting STILL came out perfect! I added the extra 1/4C to make it thicker and it magically became better lol Thank youuuuu sooo much!

  9. This was my first time making cream cheese frosting and it’s perfect! However, I didn’t use the full 360g of sugar. I measured out 295g and probably used 3/4 of that, and even that was on the verge of being too sweet. I think I would have been really disappointed if I had just blindly used the full amount. Other than that though this is great! I put it in the fridge with cling wrap touch the frosting so it wouldn’t get crusty, and then used an ice cream scoop to put it on my cupcakes. It looks & tastes great!

  10. 1st time frosting make, always a frosting eater though. Great recipe. Used local Italian ingredients and the metric conversions were perfect and it was so easy compared to the other recipes I’ve seen online. So thank you so much! Question why is salt added? And do you have any tips to last second frosting decorations for my 10year old boy whose birthday is in the morning…. in lockdown phase….?

    1. Hi Silvana, Salt is added to brighten all of the flavors and also can help cut the sweetness a bit (although it’s still very sweet!).

  11. This is the best cream cheese frosting ever….I’ve added pumpkin spice for pumpkin cake or speculaas spice for a cinnamon sugar ring cake or even a drop of lemon juice and lemon rind for a blueberry and lemon yoghurt cake. So delicious and smooth and creamy. Thanks Sally, another amazing favourite recipe!♡

  12. I made a cinnamon spice cake, topped it with your cream cheese frosting, and then topped that with ground up Biscoff cookies. I had added a teaspoon of maple syrup to the frosting recipe and it really brought out the cream cheese flavor. We have a new family favorite- thank you for this recipe!

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