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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

You will want room temperature butter and room temperature cream cheese 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 (like the frosting on these banana cupcakes) or brown butter (like the frosting on this banana cake) 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 (depends how much spice flavor you want!)
  • 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.

For something lighter and less sweet that still pipes amazingly well, I recommend my whipped frosting. It’s the same frosting we used on this cookies and cream cake with the addition of Oreos!

Cinnamon cream cheese frosting in mixing bowl
slice of pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting on a silver plate

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.

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 1x
  • 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

Scale
  • 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 (30g) 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, the 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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. heyy! I am going to use this recipe for my cooking exam next week but I need to make the cream in advance and I won’t be able to rewhip it, how long can it last in room temperature? if I leave it in a cooler bag and defrost it when its ready for use would it lose its consistency?

    1. Hi Kayla, this frosting is usually okay at room temperature for up to 24 hours. However, the consistency can vary a bit depending on the heat, humidity, etc., so it’s hard to say if it will be the right texture by the time of your exam. We don’t recommend freezing and then defrosting, as it would need to be rewhipped at that point. Hope this is helpful.

  2. This frosting is so delicious! I like how it’s not super sweet and a little tangy. I don’t normally use butter in cream cheese frosting but from now on I will!

    1. Hey! Would this be a stable enough cream cheese filling for red velvet macarons? They would need to hold up for at least an hour. Thx!

    2. I love the flavor of this recipe so much! However I don’t know what I’m doing wrong but my cream cheese frosting always has tiny lumps in it. It’s either butter or cream cheese. I always sift the sugar and make sure that the cream cheese and butter is at really soft room temperature. Any other suggestions?

      1. Hi Elise, what brand of cream cheese are you using? Some simply smooth out better than others. As you mention, making sure the butter and cream cheese are room temperature is key. You can also try mixing them for just a bit longer (and at a higher speed) to smooth out the lumps, or even use a spatula to try and flatten out some of the lumps. Hope this helps for next time!

      2. Hi! I usually use a paddle attachment with just the cream cheese first on low then high eventually to help get rid of lumps. Hope it helps!

  3. This is the best cream cheese recipe I’ve ever tasted. I made it with my homemade vanilla bean paste and it was amazing. Thank you so much. I’m going to try your chocolate cream cheese recipe next, I’m sure it’ll be awesome.

  4. I was wondering if the dessert you are using the frosting on needs to be refrigerated? This sounds absolutely delicious. I can’t wait to try it on my pumpkin cake!

    1. Hi Tracey! After decorating anything with buttercream or cream cheese frosting, it’s fine for 1 day at room temperature. After that, we would refrigerate it. But, use your best judgment and whatever you are comfortable with- we’ve never had any problems leaving frosted desserts at room temperature for a day.

  5. Holy cow!! This is the BEST cream cheese frosting g I’ve ever had. Not to sweet, not to cream cheesy, I could eat like a cup of this in one sitting! I did 1.5x it for 2 layer 9inch cake and either I didn’t put enough in the middle or something because I had quite a bit left over. This will forever be my go to recipe!

  6. I just took my pistachio cake layers out of the oven & I can’t wait to make this cream cheese icing! You reference different flavors … thoughts on the addition of honey? If you think it would be ok … what measurement would you add? TY!

    1. Hi Sheila, we haven’t tried honey, but would recommend 1/2-1 tsp. Let us know how it turns out!

      1. I added 1/2 tsp of honey & it turned out light & wonderful! I will try the full 1 tsp next time though just for more honey flavor. I did the naked pistachio cake and once served it was gone in 1 hour! You now have furniture market fans in N.C. that hosts folks visiting from all over the world! Thanks for such a great recipe!

  7. It was so runny I couldn’t do anything with it. Adding sugar only made it worse, too sweet and inedible.

    1. Hi JJ, we’d be happy to help you troubleshoot this frosting recipe. Did you happen to make any changes to the recipe, like using a lower fat cream cheese? You’ll want to make sure you’re using full-fat, block cream cheese for successful cream cheese frosting.

  8. This was delicious, but I had problems with the piping.
    I later realised there were tiny lumps of cream cheese in the icing, that were stuck in the tip.
    How would you recommend I get rid of these lumps?

    1. Hi Saralynn! Makes sure to get the butter and cream cheese *completely* smooth before adding the rest of the ingredients next time. You may be able to get rid of the lumps by whisking the frosting again.

  9. I love the recipes on this site but I’m giving this one three stars because I think it really depends on personal preference. To me this is like a sweet vanilla buttercream with a bit of a zip. I like my cream cheese icing to really taste like cream cheese. If you’re like me, then cut the butter to 1/4 cup and only use 1 cup of icing sugar. If that doesn’t yield enough, then add 2 tbsp butter and another cup of icing sugar. Adding more than that hides the cream cheese flavour and makes the consistency too soft in my opinion.

  10. Hi i love this recipe but do you happen to have a pumpkin cream cheese frosting recipe?

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