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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 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.

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. S.B.A. Is one of my top 3 go to baking sites. My husbands favorite cake is chocolate with cream cheese frosting – actually it’s the only cake as far as he is concerned.
    I get tired of cream cheese frosting though. I’ve added special dark cocoa and that is amazing. Tonight I added about 16 ounces of marshmallow fluff. Yum!

      1. Hi Bev, we don’t sift the confectioners sugar for this frosting, although you certainly can. If you wish to sift your sugar, measure (spoon and level) and then sift.

  2. I l9ve the recipe. Can I use a tub of cream cheese, is not whipped or it doesn’t say spreadable

    1. Hi Stella, Spreadable cream cheese that is sold in the U.S. is too thin. However, from what we understand, spreadable cream cheese sold in a tub in countries outside of the US is a little different from the spreadable cream cheese in the US. It’s thicker, sturdier, more solid, and other readers have reported success using it. It might be worth trying!

  3. I just got done making a homemade carrot cake and needed a cream cheese frosting recipe. This one use more butter than others and it’s super light and fluffy. Taters super good to!

  4. I searched for a simple frosting and came across this one. Perfect except a ran out of icing sugar half way through and completed the stated quantity with cocoa powder and it worked beautifully! Lovely thick icing on my cake! Saved for my go to now.

    1. This is the first time I tried this recipe and it is SO perfect! I whipped this up in my food processor and a matter of seconds, and it is amazing how light and fluffy this turned out and so flavorful. Thank you so much for sharing this awesome recipe!

  5. Doesn’t taste very cream cheese-y, more just like regular icing. When I put it on the cake, it was too liquify and just poured over the sides. Complete fail. Will have to make another recipe now

    1. I thought this recipe had way to much sugar .I couldn’t get all the sugar to mix so It was the most sugary thing ever but sometimes all that junk Is good but not for you of course.I would suggest that you lower the sugar to 1 cup and a half.Although the cream cheese frosting Otself was wonderful.

    2. I find my CC frostings get too thin/soft when you over beat it. If you try this one again, cream the butter and CC together for just a minute, scrape down, add the powdered sugar, low for 30 sec and then the 2 min at high. Set a timer for 2 min. Hope this helps!

    3. If the icing became liquidy after frosting the cake, your cake was probably too hot to frost. Try letting the cake cool down to room temperature before adding the icing next time!

    4. I thought the same thing, so I added another block of creeam cheese and it came out amazing. It’s better to tweak a recipe if it doesn’t come out how you want instead of ditching it. I know think that this is going to be my go to recipe for cream cheese frosting but I’ll just double the cream cheese and a little more salt.

  6. A wonderful recipe, to be certain.

    The color alone is a beautiful pearly white, that blends gloriously with colorings.
    Its texture is that of a cloud, and it tastes so light and airy. The flavor isn’t overpowering, so it’s mild, but not at all bland.
    It pipes like a dream, and spreads so smoothly.
    Best frosting recipe I’ve ever seen.
    You are a true blessing for bringing this baker’s mana from heaven down to earth.

    Will definitely use again!

    10/10

  7. Amazing frosting! The only thing I’ll say is that the cream cheese and butter needs to be pretty cold so after beating it I popped it back in the fridge for about 5 minutes to firm up again or else its a little too soft. 🙂

    1. Great tip about putting it in fridge to make it easy to pipe. I made this for SBA red velvet and used the extra cooling trick for easier piping. 30min in the fridge made it much firmer consistency. Rest of the recipe I followed exactly, full fat brick cream cheese. I will use it again probably for carrot cakes, zucchini bread and spice cakes.

  8. Made this to go with red velvet cupcakes out of a box but beefed up with buttermilk etc – and it came out perfect for the Dr. Seuss party at my kid’s school. Thank you, simple but perfect

  9. OMG this was amazing frosting!! I added Baileys Irish Cream to it for my boozy Irish Cupcakes and it was the best frosting ever!!

    1. Hi Rebecca, you can use cream cheese frosting for a semi-naked cake.

  10. I was wondering if this will work with your “ Cheesecake Swirl Carrot Bundt Cake”? If not would you have a better suggestion?

    Thank you in advance 🙂

  11. Made this for my sons 2nd birthday. I added cherry pie filling in between the layers! It was a hit! Everyone loved it and even had seconds!!

  12. I don’t know what I did wrong, because I followed the instructions! Although it tastes good, it is not a fluffy consistency and is not the pretty colour, like off white. I’ll use it for the layers but not the outside! Will likely not use this recipe again.

  13. I haven’t made this yet but I intend to. If I want to add lemon extract, would this be instead of the vanilla extract, or in addition to it? Thanks!

  14. Hi,

    Could I add melted white chocolate to this recipe to make a white chocolate cream cheese frosting? If so, any idea how many ounces? Thanks!

    1. Hi Nav, we haven’t tested adding white chocolate to this recipe but let us know if you do!

  15. I made this recipe for the My Favorite Carrot Cake recipe, and it’s amazingly delicious. I ended up making 3 layers of the cake and had to double this recipe for enough frosting. Definitely worth it! Highly recommend!

  16. Can I make this frosting a day before using it and keep in the fridge till ready to frost cake?

    1. Hi N, You sure can, You may need to beat the frosting for a few seconds so it’s creamy!

  17. Our 10 year old has asked for Sallys vanilla cake and a maple cream cheese frosting for her birthday. Can we use this cream cheese frosting and modify it somehow? If so, how?

    1. Hi Tammy, we haven’t tested a maple version of this frosting. We would try adding some pure maple syrup or maple extract if you have it. Let us know what you try!

  18. I have never been a huge fan of cream cheese frosting….until this recipe!My daughter wanted red velvet for her 12th birthday, so this was my go-to recipe for the frosting…..and will continue to be my go-to recipe! Super easy directions, and has turned out amazing every.single.time! P.S. We use the red velvet cupcake recipe as well! I may…or may not have (lol)….eaten the frosting by the spoon full!

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