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.
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 spice cake and carrot cake cupcakes to banana cake, red velvet cake, pumpkin 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!
This Perfect Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Isn’t as cloyingly sweet as buttercream
- Is smooth as silk
- Isn’t runny (thank goodness!)
- Has a tangy, yet sweet flavor
- Is my creamiest frosting ever
- 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.
Only 5 Ingredients
- block cream cheese
- confectioners’ sugar
- vanilla extract
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 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 and zucchini 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 (just like chai latte cupcakes)
- 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!
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:
- Spice Cake or Apple Cake
- Banana Bread
- Homemade Brownies
- Zucchini Bread or Zucchini Cake
- Banana Cake
- Carrot Cake Cupcakes
- Pumpkin Cupcakes
- Sugar Cookies
- Blueberry Cupcakes (pictured above)
- Pumpkin Cake (pictured above)
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 cake and coconut cake show the buttercream variation.Print
Favorite Cream Cheese Frosting
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: about 3 cups
- Category: Frosting
- Method: Mixing
- Cuisine: American
Homemade cream cheese frosting is super creamy, soft, smooth, and tangy. It’s so easy to make and the uses are endless!
- 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
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.)
- Chocolate: Here is my chocolate cream cheese frosting recipe.
Keywords: cream cheese frosting
Reader Comments & Reviews
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!
Terrific recipe. Needed it today for Easter cupcakes and you really came through for me. Thanks so much. Stay safe!!
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?
Hi Jamie, You can add food coloring to this frosting – I do it all the time!
My new go to recipe. I never could find a frosting recipe that I truly liked until now! Thank you!
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.
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.
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 🙂
I always use salted butter in any recipe that calls for unsalted, including this recipe. It tastes amazing (I personally prefer it salted).
I just made this for a carrot cake I baked today, and it’s absolutely perfect! (I’ve made your chocolate version before, and it’s the best!) Thanks!
This is a perfect cream cheese icing!!
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!
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. 🙂
The 3 cups of confectioners’ sugar is measured before sifting? Should I sift the confectioners’ sugar?
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.
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!
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!
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.
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
I want to make 4.5 cups of frosting to decorate a 3 tier naked cake, what proportions of the ingredients should I use?
This recipe makes 3 cups of frosting, so you will need to make 1.5 times the recipe to yield 4.5 cups of frosting.
Does the frosting and cake or c cupcakes need to be refrigerated?
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.
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!
Can i use salted butter with the cream cheese frosting?
The recipe is great as is. Perfect consistency for cupcakes with 3 1/4 cups sugar and held shape well.
I haven’t tried your recipe but I’m thinking about the cutting the sugar down to 1 cup.
Can this frosting be tinted? Looks so tasty and easy…. right up my alley!
Yes, absolutely! I tint my frostings all the time. I recommend using a gel food coloring.
I used 1tsp %100 lemon essential oil with this to make a topper for my lemon cake…. absolutely divine!
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?
Hi Carla, Yes I always find the frosting tastes best with vanilla plus whatever flavor you add!
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! ❤️
This is a nice tangy frosting – not too too sweet, which I like. Very easy with good directions. Thank you!
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?
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!
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 ❤️
Yum! Is it possible to freeze a cake already iced with this frosting?
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.
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…
So easy my toddler helped make it with me. It goes great on pumpkin spice cookies! Delicious and simple.
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.
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?
Could you add crushed freeze dried strawberries to this recipe?
Absolutely. I use a cream cheese based strawberry frosting for my strawberry cake.
soooooooooooo good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! my daughter loved this recipe for its wonderful taste and greate texture!!!!
Just made it to go on a carrot cake. OMG- this is the best cream cheese frosting I ever tasted!
This frosting came out perfect. So easy to make and delicious!
This is such a great recipe! And thank you for encouraging tweaking! I made this apple cake () but thought your cream cheese frosting would be better on it than the frosting in the KAF recipe. I tweaked your based cream cheese frosting by adding 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and swapping maple extract for the vanilla extract. SO GOOD!