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

224 Comments

  1. How long does the frosting keep for in a sealed container?

    1. Hi Chloe! Happy to help. See the recipe instruction. Cover and store leftover frosting for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer.

    2. I’m a beginner, I’ve always loved cooking but baking has always been on my mind. Thanks for making it easy for me to follow thru, this has really been helpful.

      Thanks Sally

    3. Sarah foshee says:

      Needs a lot more confectioners sugar to be thick. I would look for another recipe. Tastes good but just not quite right.

      1. She says add 1/4 cup confectioners sugar to increase thickness. It’s an addition that she herself makes so it’s all about preference!

  2. I don’t know what I did wrong but my icing was very sweet (maybe just too sweet for me?) And the butter didnt fully incorporate – there were little lumps of butter throughout and I think I may have over mixed it trying to get them out… not a success for me, any ideas as to why the butter would have done that? It was at room temperature.

    1. Hi Kay! If you are outside of the US, cream cheese products differ in both taste and texture. It could simply be a difference in the product that made this frosting overly sweet. Of course, too, it’s frosting and is supposed to be pretty sweet! For the butter, it’s likely it just wasn’t mixed into the cream cheese enough before the other ingredients were added. This is an easy fix for next time. Make sure the two are smooth before you add the remaining ingredients.

      1. Hey Sally. I too found this recipe to be OVERLY sweet. I used 1 cup of icing sugar and it was just right. I enjoy my icing just as much as anyone but I find that the sugar in this icing and your chocolate cupcakes really sweet. Just my opinion of course 🙂

  3. My husband wants a funfetti cake with green cream cheese frosting for his birthday. I am using your easy funfetti cake recipe. Can I add food coloring to this cream cheese recipe?

    1. Hi Jamie, You can add food coloring to this frosting – I do it all the time!

    2. Holly Garcia says:

      My new go to recipe. I never could find a frosting recipe that I truly liked until now! Thank you!

  4. The grocery stores only had low fat cream cheese, Will this be okay or should I hold off and try to find some full fat?

    1. Hi Jessica, It depends on what you are using it for. Low fat cream cheese will result in a thinner less creamy frosting. If you are trying to pipe or have it hold up to decorations then I would wait until you can get the full fat.

  5. Can I use whipped cream cheese?

    1. I don’t recommend whipped cream cheese– use the blocks of cream cheese.

      1. Hi, how many cupcakes will this amount work for? Thank you!

  6. Terrific recipe. Needed it today for Easter cupcakes and you really came through for me. Thanks so much. Stay safe!!

  7. Excellent and easy recipe! However, it made far too much for the 9 x 13 carrot cake that I made. I should have made half the recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Perfect frosting. Great taste. Not too sweet even after 3 cups of powdered sugar!! Yikes.

  9. Victoria Ginsburg says:

    Hi Sally,
    I am planning on making this frosting for a two-layer cake, but my family is not fond of sweet frostings. I will likely only use about 2 cups of sugar…would you recommend adding cornstarch to thicken up the frosting if needed?
    Thank you!

    1. I don’t recommend that, Victoria. Cutting the sugar will result in a very thin icing. You can add salt to cut the sweetness or try a different type of frosting that isn’t as sweet such as Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

  10. Taste is on point as usual, Sally!
    Quick question- the frosting cracked on a few of my cupcakes after an hour or so. Any idea why? My only guess is that I pressed sprinkles into most of the cupcakes with my fingers since the sprinkles wouldn’t stick well. Maybe that can cause cracking after a bit?

    1. Hi Betty! Do you mean the frosting separated or it formed a skin and cracked? Perhaps too much confectioners’ sugar? Or pressing in the sprinkles couldn’t have caused it too! So glad you enjoy how it tastes.

  11. I just made this recipe! I have never made cream cheese frosting in my life until tonight. I felt a little defeated at first when I found out last minute that I had a 1/2 a stick of butter. I used Imperial butter to substitute for the other half of butter. Even though I did that the frosting STILL came out perfect! I added the extra 1/4C to make it thicker and it magically became better lol Thank youuuuu sooo much!

  12. This was my first time making cream cheese frosting and it’s perfect! However, I didn’t use the full 360g of sugar. I measured out 295g and probably used 3/4 of that, and even that was on the verge of being too sweet. I think I would have been really disappointed if I had just blindly used the full amount. Other than that though this is great! I put it in the fridge with cling wrap touch the frosting so it wouldn’t get crusty, and then used an ice cream scoop to put it on my cupcakes. It looks & tastes great!

    1. That is a great method for adding frosting to cupcakes. Thanks for sharing, Sarah!

  13. 1st time frosting make, always a frosting eater though. Great recipe. Used local Italian ingredients and the metric conversions were perfect and it was so easy compared to the other recipes I’ve seen online. So thank you so much! Question why is salt added? And do you have any tips to last second frosting decorations for my 10year old boy whose birthday is in the morning…. in lockdown phase….?

    1. Hi Silvana, Salt is added to brighten all of the flavors and also can help cut the sweetness a bit (although it’s still very sweet!).

  14. This is the best cream cheese frosting ever….I’ve added pumpkin spice for pumpkin cake or speculaas spice for a cinnamon sugar ring cake or even a drop of lemon juice and lemon rind for a blueberry and lemon yoghurt cake. So delicious and smooth and creamy. Thanks Sally, another amazing favourite recipe!♡

  15. The best cream cheese frosting!

  16. I made a cinnamon spice cake, topped it with your cream cheese frosting, and then topped that with ground up Biscoff cookies. I had added a teaspoon of maple syrup to the frosting recipe and it really brought out the cream cheese flavor. We have a new family favorite- thank you for this recipe!

  17. I’m gonna try it later. But, can it stand the hot weather here in Philippines?

    1. Hi Rein, I recommend keeping it refrigerated if it’s very hot!

  18. Hi Sally, I’ve been baking a lot of your recipes during lockdown and they’ve turned out great so thank you for sharing! I’m in the UK and was wondering whether I could use Quark rather than regular cream cheese, as the Quark appears to have a thicker texture? I tried this frosting recently but it came out too thin, probably because our cream cheese here isn’t very thick.

    1. Hi Noor, I haven’t tested cream cheese frosting with that product before so I can’t say for sure. Let me know if you try it.

  19. How long can this frosting be at room temperature

  20. Amazing!!! Tried for the first time and it came out perfect, thank you!

  21. Planning on using this for my son’s birthday cake. How long can I leave this frosting out of the fridge? For instance, if I frost the cake, how long can it safely sit on the counter? Thanks!

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

  22. You can also use bourbon in place of vanilla for another variation. Very good. My aunt gave me that idea. Can also be used on chocolate cake. Makes no difference it always tastes great.

  23. Will this be enough to frost a 3 layer, 6” cake?

    1. This will be plenty of frosting for that size cake.

  24. Hi Sally, I wanted to make a lemon cream cheese frosting but only have lemons and not lemon extract. How much lemon juice should I add without making it runny?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Maria, I recommend using the lemon cream cheese buttercream from my lemon cake recipe!

  25. Hi Sally, you are amazing and you inspire me to bake more; your blog makes the process so much more fun and easier! So thank you 🙂
    My question is as follows: I am going to bake a Guinness chocolate cake and top it with your recipe for cream cheese frosting. I want to spike this frosting with Bailey’s. Any advice on how that would work out/ how much to add/ when to add/etc.? (I am very new to baking and just bought a Kitchenaid – the first thing I made was your recipe for Boston cream cake and it was amazing!!)

    1. Hi Aishwarya! Thank you so much for the incredibly kind comment. So nice to read! I’ve never made a Baileys spiked frosting before. You could try reducing Baileys on the stove similar to what I do with this champagne frosting and add it to this cream cheese frosting. If doing so, I recommend reducing the butter by 2 Tbsp so the frosting isn’t overly thin.

      1. Thanks a ton for your super useful response! I will try that soon. For now, I decided to go with your Guinness Chocolate cupcakes with Mocha Guinness Buttercream!!

  26. Deborah E Gietzen says:

    This is the best frosting I have ever made. My family and friends loved it! My four year old nephew had never had carrot cake before and when he tasted the cake and the frosting, he asked for two more small pieces. He face-timed and told me how much he liked my cake with the frosting. This is a definite winner and I will never buy canned frosting again. I am also looking for a butter cream frosting recipe.

  27. Can this be made with granulated sugar vs. Powdered sugar as my kiddo is allergic to corn so can’t have powdered sugar. Thanks

  28. I have a member in my family that can’t have dairy. We have a dairy free cream cheese that we use for her. Will margarine work as a replacement for the butter, or is there something else you recommend using that is dairy free that I can use for the butter?
    Also great recipe! I seriously could eat this stuff all day! 😉

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Brielle, Thrilled you love this frosting! We haven’t tested this recipe with dairy free alternatives. If you do try it, let us know how it goes!

  29. Oh, and I just wanted to comment on your beautiful photography!

  30. I have been baking for years but I don’t typically make homemade frostings. This was easy to make, the ingredients were easy to mix when my butter and cream cheese were room temp and it tastes like my mom’s. Thank you for a great southern cream cheese frosting. I will definitely use this recipe for many different cakes!

1 2 3 4

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe. Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×