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

165 Comments

      1. soooooooooooo good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! my daughter loved this recipe for its wonderful taste and greate texture!!!!

  1. Hi Sally. Thank you for sharing detailed recipe with amazing tips and tricks to us. I’ve tried a few of your recipe and my personal favorite is your red velvet cake.

    I, however have failed to make the right cream cheese frosting. I wonder where I did wrong, the texture is a little bit like sandy (not smooth as picture) and it melt like in 10 seconds as soon as I bring them out of the fridge. I actually come from southeast Asia which is very hot so I’m sure that could’ve been one of the reason.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Beatrice! I’ve found that cream cheese just isn’t the same in other regions and therefore, it’s difficult to make the proper frosting without the proper product. Are you using block cream cheese?

  2. Best cream cheese frosting ever!!! I have not been able to make frosting successfully. But I sure have ate many a cakes with frosting on it. And I don’t like all types of frostings. I have always failed to make delicious buttercream frosting so I wondered if I should even try this recipe. But I am so glad I did!!! Your instructions are very detailed and reassuring.
    This was so soft and velvety. I did use 2/3 less sugar. And I thought it was fantastic. But I’m sure all the sugar is even better.
    Thanks so much! Now I have to find something to spread the frosting on…

    1. Hi Marty– Yes, it is possible. But for the absolute best taste and texture, I recommend only freezing the cake/cake layers. Freezing leftover frosted cake is completely fine, though. (Because it’s just leftover and doesn’t need to impress anyone anymore!) See my How to Freeze Cakes tutorial.

  3. Hi Sally!
    I added some orange zest and a splash of orange juice to the recipe and the flavor was outrageously good!! Just wanted to share that with you ❤️

  4. Does anyone know if it matters that I must use regular beaters? I don’t have whisk or paddle attachments. Is there anything I should do differently?

    1. Hi Betsy, the flat beater on the stand mixer is the paddle attachment. If you’re using a hand mixer, the regular beaters work just fine!

  5. This is a nice tangy frosting – not too too sweet, which I like. Very easy with good directions. Thank you!

  6. Hi Sally.
    Can I ask if instead of cream cheese I can use full fat strained Greek yogurt? My little one doesnt like cream cheese but I prefer this kind of frosting to buttercream. Do you think it will work?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Sandra, unfortunately not– full fat Greek yogurt is not a suitable substitute for cream cheese here. I recommend mascarpone instead.

  7. If I use lemon extract for lemon icing, do I still use the vanilla extract it calls for in the recipe? Also, what if I use the pumpkin pie spice? Keep the vanilla?

      1. Thank you! I am new to your website, but it’s now my FAVORITE, “go-to” for anything baking! I’m so glad I found you. Thanks for the answer to my question! ❤️

  8. Loved this. Not too sweet, And not too thin, it was just right. I didn’t have to doctor it at all and if you’re piping definitely make it thicker adding the extra 1/4 cup of sugar. I’m a beginner at baking and this was easy for me to do!

    1. Yes, cream cheese frosting should always be refrigerated. Cover and store it up to 5 days in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer.

  9. Hi Sally,

    I want to make 4.5 cups of frosting to decorate a 3 tier naked cake, what proportions of the ingredients should I use?

  10. Hi, Sally,
    I loved this recipe, but I used a quarter cup less of confectioner’s sugar. I found that this was a perfect balance of sweetness and tartness.

    Renée, age 10

  11. I made this today and absolutely loved it! Perfect sweet and tangy to go on my red velvet cupcakes. I did add the 1/4 c of sugar to make it a little thicker, but I found it was just really soft. Anyway to firm up the frosting without altering the flavor or adding more sugar? Maybe if I piped it cold? Thank you for all your baking tips, I come to your site often!

    1. Hi Chelse, Cream cheese frosting is definitely softer than a traditional buttercream. But I do find I can pipe it using simple tips (nothing intricate) – simply fill your piping bag and place the entire bag in the refrigerator to cool it off before piping!

      1. I’ll give this a try next time. Absolutely loved the flavor of this icing!!! Thank you for all your tips and tricks. I haven’t found a recipe of your I didn’t like. I even bought your books! I’m a huge fan.

  12. The 3 cups of confectioners’ sugar is measured before sifting? Should I sift the confectioners’ sugar?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Alice, I 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.

  13. I am using this frosting to make a “Irish Car Bomb” cupcake, along with your Guiness Chocolate Cupcake recipe. I plan to add a little Bailey’s Irish cream to the frosting. Any guess as to how much would be good for flavor but not mess up the consistency?
    New to your website, but everything I’ve made of yours has been AMAZING! Can’t wait to keep trying more!

    1. Hi Joyce! I recommend a couple Tablespoons, though that won’t add much flavor. (And the frosting will be thinner than pictured.) Try scaling back a bit on the butter since that will thin it out– then you can add more Baileys. 🙂

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