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.

For something lighter and less sweet, I recommend the whipped cream frosting used on this cookies and cream cake. Feel free to leave out the 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
  • 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 (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

333 Comments

  1. Kim Goldfeder Clarke says:

    Hi Sally! I’m a big fan and follower, choosing to seek out your recipes when trying something new. I have a quick question about this cream cheese frosting: If I want to pipe “Nests” & “Grass” for Easter “Chicks in a nest” cupcakes, do you think this frosting will hold up and be precise enough/not too soupy? I know to add more confectionery sugar to thicken it, as well as your previous comment about chilling the frosting in the piping bag in the refrigerator for approximately 20-30 minutes prior to piping, but I was just curious if this will work, as well as if these cupcakes’ designs will stay precise after piping for a few days in the refrigerator? I have to make 100 of these cupcakes for an Easter event and would love to use your recipe, if you think it’ll hold up. Thanks so much!!
    Best,
    Kim Goldfeder Clarke

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kim! We use this frosting to pipe simple designs, but nothing intricate like grass and nests on cupcakes. I fear it will be too soft to hold its shape correctly. Our vanilla buttercream would be a great option for intricate piping instead! Best of luck to you and your Easter cupcakes – happy baking!

      1. Sally Shive says:

        A pinch or two of meringue powder can help it stand up in decorations, too.

  2. Hi Sally 🙂 Can this icing be frozen and used later?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Sure can. See the last step of the instructions for freezing directions.

  3. Hi,

    This recipe has worked really well for me. However, this time I decided to make a blackberry cream cheese variation. I used homemade jam. The jam is well set and not watery. The flavor is great, but my consistency is runnier than expected. I didn’t add the addition 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar at the end and suspect this is my issue. The frosting has been in the fridge for a bit, but I am wondering if it’s too late to incorporate that 1/4 cup now and then return it to the fridge. What do you think?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rachel! Yes, you can beat in more sugar – we would bring it to room temperature first.

  4. If I’m using this to fill and top cupcakes, do I need to refrigerate the cupcakes until consumed since they have dairy from the cream cheese in them?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Stephanie, yes, that’s what we’d recommend. Although you can certainly take them out a bit before serving so that they have a chance to come back to room temperature, if desired. Hope they’re a hit!

  5. Do you sift the powdered confection sugar first?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cynthia, 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.

  6. Hi! Just wondering, could I substitute the confectioner sugar with something else? Because I find it too sweet if I add all those cups of sugar. Is there a sub I can use to help it thicken aside from confectioner sugar?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Raizel, unfortunately there isn’t a great substitute for confectioners’ sugar in buttercream recipes. However, if you’re looking for a less sweet buttercream, you might enjoy our Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe instead. Let us know if you give it a try!

      1. The correct answer is ‘cornstarch’. A small portion of the sugar can be replaced with cornstarch without significantly impacting the flavor.

  7. This recipe is the bomb!! I added an additional cup of confectionary sugar, juice of half lemon and about a tablespoon of lemon zest. Wow!! What a taste!!! I would tell everyone to try this recipe.

  8. Hi Sally! Just wondering can I put fondant over this?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Sure can, Nicolete!

  9. Hi! can someone tell me how much does the recipe yield in grams please? <3

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Daniela, I’m sorry we have never weighed the finished frosting to get the yield in grams.

  10. OMG. I just made this frosting. I tasted it it is delicious!! Light and fluffy and not super sweet. I will never buy nasty canned frosting again. Thank you so much!!

  11. Elizabeth Jackson says:

    Good Morning.
    I am going to be making a wedding cake. (Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese icing.). I am going to use your recipe for the icing. I have a couple of questions.
    1. How far in advanced can I bake and ice the cake with cream
    cheese Icing? ( I’m hoping for 2 to 3 days in advance.)
    2. Will I need to refrigerate the cake after icing?
    3. Will the cake/icing be alright to sit out for very long on the day of the
    wedding.
    Thank you
    Elizabeth

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Elizabeth, you should be fine baking and icing the cake 2-3 days in advance, just keep in mind that it may start to lose freshness. We always recommend keeping cream cheese frosting in the refrigerator. It should be okay for a little while at room temperature at the wedding, but keep it in the refrigerator as long as possible. It may begin to soften if it’s out for too long. And, keep it out of direct sunlight if possible. Hope this is helpful, and best of luck with the wedding cake!

      1. Thank you so very much!

        Elizabeth

  12. Kathy Goblirsch says:

    I love your recipes. I used to make buttercream frosting, but cream cheese is my go to now. I have been making it to save in thr freezer.
    I made a vanilla cake days ago and made this frosting today. Not too sweet and super creamy. I only had salted butter left today, so no added salt and a bit more vanilla and cream cheese. Yum.

  13. Hi sally,
    Are you able to add food colouring to this recipe? Wondering if it mixes well. Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shahnaaz, absolutely — we recommend gel food coloring for best results.

  14. CLAY BRINDLE says:

    It is hard to find vanilla extract where I am. However, I can get vanilla flavoring. Since the flavoring is not as strong as the extract how much flavoring should I use to have the same result?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Clay, we’re unsure of the exact amount of vanilla flavoring you should use, but start with the amount as written, taste the frosting, and then add more to taste (in small amounts!). Enjoy!

  15. Angela Gurney says:

    Best cream cheese icing!!

  16. Hi Sally
    I will make your carrot cake recipe over the weekend and I’d like to know which frosting would you recommend: this one or the one that comes with the carrot cake recipe. I know that they have the same ingredients but the quantities are different. The other one has a different cream cheese/butter ratio.
    Thank you!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ioana! We would follow the cream cheese frosting recipe with our carrot cake to ensure you have enough to cover your cake. Enjoy!

      1. In that recipe you’re doubling the amount of CC but not the amount of butter. Is this correct or a typo?
        Thank you !

  17. Hi Sally! I am thinking about making this frosting to go on top of the chocolate sweet rolls for this months baking challenge. Do you think it would make for a nice “icing” on those rolls? Thank you! 🙂

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Brittany, absolutely! Let us know if you give it a try.

      1. The tangy cream cheese frosting pairs so well with the sweet chocolate rolls!!

    2. A success 1st time! Made this last night took me three hours but I was well worth it! I had made a attempt to make pistachio macaroons 3yrs ago and it failed. This recipe I followed everything down to a T, weighing the ingredients and even wiping down with lemon juice. I was super excited it was a success! I paired my macaroons with your cream cheese frosting. I will definitely make again soon. Thank you Sally!!

  18. Allisynne Dunlap says:

    This is the first time that I have ever made cream cheese frosting (and I’m 70 years old)! Now I’m wondering WHY this is the first time that I have ever made it. It is easy to make and delicious. I will certainly be making this again and again! Thank you for the recipe.

  19. I’m doing Keto,and this recipe is perfect for it! I just use the Lily’s brand powdered sugar instead.Delicious!!

  20. I halved this to frost a carrot cake loaf. So delicious! I did reduce the confectioners sugar, as I prefer my cream cheese frosting to be less sweet.

  21. Hi Sally, planning to use this frosting for an Oreo cake. I am planning to pulverise the Oreos to a very fine crumb and folding them in at the end. How many Oreos should I put in the frosting, and do I need to do this just before decorating or can I put it in the fridge? Or, do you have a recipe for Oreo cream cheese icing already? Thank you

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Nicky, you can certainly add Oreo crumbs to this recipe — the amount depends on how prominent you want the taste. We’d recommend anywhere from 1/2 cup – 1 cup of Oreo crumbs. We’d fold them in right at the end, then decorating or putting it in the fridge. Let us know how it turns out for you!

  22. I made this frosting and it was way too sweet for me. Any suggestions on how I could make it less sweet, more tangy.. but still pipeable? Thanks.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tina, for next time, you can try adding an additional pinch or two of salt to help cut the sweetness. You can try slightly reducing the confectioners’ sugar, but we caution removing too much as it will change the consistency. For an overall less sweet frosting, you might enjoy our Swiss meringue buttercream instead.

  23. Cynthia Vuille says:

    Absolutely delicious and easy to make!!Thank you

  24. Jerrilea Uhrick says:

    Can you use salted butter and just omit the salt?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jerrilea, 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.

  25. We made Ina Garden’s Morning Muffins. They’re good, but with this cream cheese frosting, they’re great!

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