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
Is this recipe enough for a 3 layer cake I cant wait to try this recipe
Hi Connie, For a 3 layer cake you can follow the quantities we use for this Carrot Cake. Enjoy!
Perfect!! I’m a heavy froster, apparently…next time I make this for 9” rounds I’ll make a little more. Yum!!
Just for clarification. On the instructions it says “Add 3 cups of confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt.” Do you mean add 3 cups of each ingredient(sugar,vanilla and salt) or add the amount it says on the ingredient list? I’m really stuck on that part.
Thanks for the recipes 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, Sally! It was absolutely incredible paired with your Easy Cinnamon Rolls recipe. Can’t wait to use this with other baked items from your blog!
Can I make some ahead of time and store in fridge. Making tiered 50th Anniversary redvelvet cake for Parent’s on Friday for Saturday celebration and we will store cake once put together in fridge as well.
Absolutely. Bring to room temperature before using. If it’s too stiff after coming to room temperature, beat it with a mixer for a minute or 2.
A really good recipe! Little too sweet for me so I added a bit less sugar!! Will I néed to keep the cake in the fridge or will the frosting be OK left out? Thank you!
I made this one yesterday for the vanilla cupcakes however it was too runny for piping, but it tasted good (tangy and sweet) :(. I’m not too sure it’s our temperature, or with the ingredients. The base of vanilla cupcakes were delicious though. Help.
Hi Abby, Thanks for giving this recipe a try! For a stiffer frosting, try adding a little more confectioners’ sugar. And, make sure you are using full fat block cream cheese, not cream cheese spread sold in a tub. That will help for next time!
Hi Sally! Love your website I’ve been trying out all your recipes!! I was just wondering how I could get the cream cheese frosting as smooth as yours? I know it says to use room temp cream cheese, but Ive read somewhere that they require it to be refrigerated and used straight from there. Thanks so much for all the help!!
Hi Denice, Cream cheese should be stored in the refrigerator for long storage but it’s just fine when set out for an hour to bring it to room temperature. It really needs to be at room temperature to combine smoothly 🙂
I am 10 years old. I love this blog and I love to bake. Today was my mom and dads 15 anniversary and so I made a cake for them when they were asleep. I used this recipe and I love it. There is no complaints, it is perfect.
This is an excellent recipe, easy to make but way too sweet for me. Rated it a 5 star because something being too sweet for me should not take away from the overall recipe. I just made it with a full 8 oz of cream cheese and half of the rest of the sugar, butter, salt and vanilla. The result is what tasted to me as being tangy frosting . This worked well for me.
Agreed. I only use 1cup of sugaring this recipe and find the frosting delightfully sweet, creamy, and cheesy!
I used this to frost a 5 layer, 6” red velvet Cake (also your recipe), it was so delicious! My only question is I found the frosting more on the runny side so it was difficult to get on the cake and the the cake shifted a little, so it was leaning. Is there something I can do to make it a more stiffer frosting?
Hi Angela, thanks for giving this recipe a try! For a stiffer frosting, try adding a little more confectioners’ sugar. And, make sure you are using block cream cheese, not cream cheese spread sold in a tub. That will help for next time!
Here in London, UK we don’t have cream cheese in a block! Only the Phillidelphia spread .. so should I forget making this recipe? or is there a solution? Thank you x
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!
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! 😉
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!
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.
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!!)
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.
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!!
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?
Hi Maria, I recommend using the lemon cream cheese buttercream from my lemon cake recipe!
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!
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
Amazing!!! Tried for the first time and it came out perfect, thank you!
How long can this frosting be at room temperature
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.
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.
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!
The best cream cheese frosting!
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!♡
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….?
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!).
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!
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!
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
Perfect frosting. Great taste. Not too sweet even after 3 cups of powdered sugar!! Yikes.