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!

slice of red velvet cake on a white plate

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 on blueberries n cream cupcake

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.

slice of pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting on a silver plate

Print
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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

245 Comments

  1. Hi Sally!

    If i spread this on top of a cake, then put sugar on top of it and torch it like créme brulée, you think it’ll be too sweet? Thanks in advance! 🙂

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rachelle, It will definitely be sweet but what a fun texture combination! Let us know if you try it 🙂

  2. Erika Melissa Rodriguez says:

    Hi Sally,
    I’m making a stacked red velvet cake this weekend, and I’m wondering if I’d be able to “paint” the frosting with gold luster they way you can buttercream.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Erika, We haven’t testing painting it but in general cream cheese frosting won’t get as hard/crust over like a buttercream. You can try placing the entire cake in the refrigerator or even the freezer to harden the frosting before painting. Or use your cream cheese frosting between the layers and for a crumb coat and then finish frosting the with a crusting buttercream (we have a recipe for crusting buttercream in this Gingerbread House post).

  3. I used this to frost a 5 layer, 6” red velvet Cake (also your recipe), it was so delicious! My only question is I found the frosting more on the runny side so it was difficult to get on the cake and the the cake shifted a little, so it was leaning. Is there something I can do to make it a more stiffer frosting?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Angela, thanks for giving this recipe a try! For a stiffer frosting, try adding a little more confectioners’ sugar. And, make sure you are using block cream cheese, not cream cheese spread sold in a tub. That will help for next time!

  4. Kathy Holmes says:

    This is an excellent recipe, easy to make but way too sweet for me. Rated it a 5 star because something being too sweet for me should not take away from the overall recipe. I just made it with a full 8 oz of cream cheese and half of the rest of the sugar, butter, salt and vanilla. The result is what tasted to me as being tangy frosting . This worked well for me.

  5. Izayla talae Hauptmann says:

    I am 10 years old. I love this blog and I love to bake. Today was my mom and dads 15 anniversary and so I made a cake for them when they were asleep. I used this recipe and I love it. There is no complaints, it is perfect.

    1. You sound amazing. Bake on girlfriend.

  6. Hi Sally! Love your website I’ve been trying out all your recipes!! I was just wondering how I could get the cream cheese frosting as smooth as yours? I know it says to use room temp cream cheese, but Ive read somewhere that they require it to be refrigerated and used straight from there. Thanks so much for all the help!!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Denice, Cream cheese should be stored in the refrigerator for long storage but it’s just fine when set out for an hour to bring it to room temperature. It really needs to be at room temperature to combine smoothly 🙂

  7. Hi Sally/team,

    I made this one yesterday for the vanilla cupcakes however it was too runny for piping, but it tasted good (tangy and sweet) :(. I’m not too sure it’s our temperature, or with the ingredients. The base of vanilla cupcakes were delicious though. Help.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Abby, Thanks for giving this recipe a try! For a stiffer frosting, try adding a little more confectioners’ sugar. And, make sure you are using full fat block cream cheese, not cream cheese spread sold in a tub. That will help for next time!

  8. Members of my family are lactose intolerant so I use lactose free cream cheese which is a spread, it doesn’t come in block form. As you may guess the frosting comes out runny. Do you have any suggestions on how to increase the thickness? I tried adding more sugar, but it didn’t help. The frosting still tastes great!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rebecca, We haven’t made the frosting with that substitution so I can’t say for sure – but if adding more sugar doesn’t help, try to place the entire bowl in the refrigerator after you mix it and see if it firms up at all.

  9. A really good recipe! Little too sweet for me so I added a bit less sugar!! Will I néed to keep the cake in the fridge or will the frosting be OK left out? Thank you!

  10. Hi sally
    I want to make simple vanilla sponge, and add some caramel almond crunchy bits in between the layer. Now i want to use chocolate ganache in a dripping manner on top of the cake. Should I use cream cheese frosting with it? I am worried about balancing my flavours.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Fatima, It’s really a matter of personal preference which frosting you choose. A tangy cream cheese frosting is always good, you could pair it with a caramel frosting to compliment your filling, or if you wish the other flavors to stand out more you can use a frosting that is a bit less sweet like Swiss Meringue. There are so many frosting options!

  11. Can I make some ahead of time and store in fridge. Making tiered 50th Anniversary redvelvet cake for Parent’s on Friday for Saturday celebration and we will store cake once put together in fridge as well.

    1. Absolutely. Bring to room temperature before using. If it’s too stiff after coming to room temperature, beat it with a mixer for a minute or 2.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, Sally! It was absolutely incredible paired with your Easy Cinnamon Rolls recipe. Can’t wait to use this with other baked items from your blog!

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