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

93 Comments

  1. I had a small amount of the block cream cheese leftover and just added to my vanilla buttercream as a “little extra”. It added tang to the flavor of the frosting. I imagine it would enhance my chocolate buttercream also, tho’ I haven’t tried it yet.

  2. Hey Sally,
    You are right on. Got this off your site a while back and is definitely the one I use for my cupcakes. I usually make cupcakes because I find them easier to transport. Your recipe has just the right amount of sugar. I’ve also added food colouring and it holds up well. I would definitely use it for any type of cake. It’s addictive!!

    1. Recipe: great. Piping advice: spot on. Used this for red velvet cupcakes and added a touch of star anise extract and beet powder instead of food coloring. Enhanced the flavors and was the most delightful shade of rose.

  3. Hi Sally. I think this may just become my “go to” frosting recipe. I really like the idea that it can be frozen. Helps when baking for the grandchildren. One loves frosting the other can do without it. Thanks for another great recipe.

  4. If you wanted a more creamy white version, would you use a clear vanilla then? Vanilla can tinge it slightly brown, any recommendations?

  5. Hi Sally….Sure do love your site, I look forward to it daily….yes, I have made this frosting on many occasions, and while I love vanilla, I really favor using Lemon Juice in place of the vanilla and I must admit, it’s difficult to keep from eating it out of the bowl …yum, it’s so good….thanks for sharing your recipes……I’m always collecting great recipes!.

  6. Do you have a pipe-able cream cheese frosting, for a star tip? On your red velvet cupcakes recipe you said you don’t recommend using a star tip for this frosting as it is a little thin. I am hoping to frost some cupcakes for a party and want them to be fancy! 😉
    Thanks in advance!

  7. Dear Sally, I’ve never been sure if I should sift the powdered sugar before measuring, or spoon and level straight out of the bag or canister, lumps and all ?

    1. A good rule is to sift in the order the directions are written. If the recipe calls for “1 cup sifted sugar” you should sift and then measure. If the recipe calls for “1 cup sugar, sifted” then you should measure and then sift. If the recipe doesn’t require sifting but you still want to then you should measure first.

  8. I used to have problems with cream cheese frosting, it would always be more like cream cheese soup. No doubt because of the cream cheese I use – in Europe it’s only sold in tubs, not in blocks! But I recently read that if you cream the butter and powdered sugar first, to get a very thick buttercream, and then add the cream cheese, it will stay stiff. And that actually works really well!

    So to any European bakers: use the same ingredients, just change the order in which you mix them in, and this frosting will work for you!!

    1. Which cream cheese have you used? Im in the UK. Is philadelphia one to use? I dont know which brand is considered that type of cheese here.

  9. Hi Sally, is it possible to flavor this cream cheese frosting with raspberry preserves? And if so, do I need to modify the amounts of any other ingredients? Thanks!

    1. Preserves are difficult in frosting because they are often more sugar than fruit and you would have to add so much to get the berry flavor that your frosting would be very thin. Use my strawberry frosting trick and get freeze dried raspberries, run them through the food processor or blender to make a powder and add that to your frosting!

  10. this isnt a question more of a suggestion you should add optional teaspoon of lemon juice into the recipe it gives it an extra twang!

  11. Hi, thanks for the recipe, I really liked it!
    I’m wondering what happens when we don’t put any butter at all? Can it be just the cream cheese and the sugar? Would the taste change or the texture or both?
    If not, would reduced butter work?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Angie! Cream cheese frosting without butter would be very thick and heavy, like spreadable cheesecake. Delicious, yes, but hard to work with. You need the butter to lighten it up.

    1. Hi Cinny! You can use slated butter instead of unsalted in this recipe. Leave out the added salt. But taste the frosting after it’s prepared– if you think it still needs a pinch of salt, add it.

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