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) 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
- 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
I’ve made this many times now and it’s perfect! Easy and so delicious! At Christmas we added crushed candy canes for a peppermint version. Thanks Sally!
This is the absolute BEST cream cheese frosting I have ever made! I had tried a new chocolate cookie recipe that I wasn’t impressed with (too plain) so I added some peppermint extract to the frosting, put it on the cookies, and sprinkled crushed candy canes on top. It was perfect!
Do you think that I could leave this frosting at room temp. over night? Also I am trying to to a two toned design on my cupcakes, but I am not sure how. If you have any tips that would be great thank-you!
Hi Reagan, Anything frosted with buttercream or cream cheese frosting is fine overnight at room temperature. After that we would definitely refrigerate it, but use your best judgement. We’ve never had a problem leaving this frosting for one day at room temperature 🙂
HI Sally, cream cheese is a little different here in Ireland I think , how much fat content does it need to have to be stable and work ? We have one that is 20g fat per 100g of cream cheese and another is 40g fat per 100g .Just wondering which would be better to use .Thank you
Hi Aneta– always good to check first. I would use the 40g fat/100g when making frosting.
Hi Sally I’m making some cupcakes for a school event and planning on using this cream cheese frosting recipe. Do you think the frosting would hold well at room temperature for 8+ hours ? Thank you
Hi Aneta, that should be just fine leaving this frosting at room temperature for this amount of time, but much longer and it should be placed in the refrigerator. Hope it’s a hit!
Made this frosting as written…. Turned out great. So yummy. I’m going to dollop it on my pumpkin pie! Best frosting EVER!
will it work on cookies too?
It will! It just will not dry hard so you won’t be able to stack your cookies.
Any tips for getting lumps out? I usually sift the powdered sugar, but this recipe didn’t call for that. I’ll sift next time. But, wondering what, if anything, can be done if one doesn’t sift before beating? No amount of beating, using my KitchenAid, seems to do the trick.
Hi Valerie, in addition to sifting the powdered sugar next time, also be sure that your cream cheese is fully warmed to room temperature. That will make it smoother and easier to incorporate into the rest of the frosting mixture. Trying a different brand of powdered sugar and cream cheese could also be helpful. Some simply give better results than others. Hope this helps!
Have you ever made a cookie-butter version of this cream cheese frosting? I’d like to try that but am unsure how much cookie-butter I can add and if I should replace some of the cream cheese? I suppose even a failed experiment wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world! 🙂
Hi Amy, we haven’t tested that but would love to hear how it goes if you give it a try!
Hi, I madetoo much frosting, can I keep it in the fridge or freezer? For how long?
PS tastes heavenly amazing btw!
Way too sweet!
We used this on top of pumpkin bread muffins for my 5 year olds birthday. It was amazing! Really took 5 minutes to make and was so easy to work with a spatula and also for piping. Saved it and will definitely use again!
I made the frosting with icing sugar and the frosting was still grainy although I whisked it lot .Can you please advise?
Hi Ann, we’re happy to help. It’s possible that your brand of confectioners’ sugar could be contributing, or that your butter and/or cream cheese were not soft enough, making it more difficult for the frosting to come together smoothly. It could also just need a bit more mixing to fully come together. Hope this helps!
I have used this recipe many times, but now I need to add food coloring. Can the frosting be colored and still hold its shape? I need a deep yellow. I’ve been reading about the microwave method for getting frosting a deeper color but worry the cream cheese will separate. Any advise?
Hi Corinne, you can absolutely use food coloring with this frosting. We recommend gel food colorings (vs. liquid) for the most vibrant colors, and because they don’t change the consistency of the frosting too much. We’re not familiar with the microwave method. Hope this helps!
Very very easy to make!! I made a Hershey’s cake, from their cook book, it was my roommates birthday request…she wanted a vanilla frosting in the middle and chocolate on the outside…with the vanilla, I added extra vanilla, and the chocolate I used a little more than extra powdered sugar…
They really blended nicely and are very tasty….
I’d like to use cream cheese frosting on a semi naked wedding cake, but I’m worried it might melt. Do you think this version will hold up well?
Hi April, you can use cream cheese frosting for a semi-naked cake.
I made the red velvet cupcakes and used this cream cheese recipe and it was delicious…but the cream cheese came out really yellow? How do I make the icing look nice and white like your pictures? I hand whipped it without a mixed. And the butter was quite a yellow colour.
Hi Meg, It could simply be that your butter is more yellow in color. It sounds weird but if you add a tiny (like really tiny!) drop of purple gel food coloring to your frosting it will actually make it brighter white.
I’m looking to make the cookies and cream sheet cake recipe but as a 9 in. layer cake. I want to do an oreo cream cheese frosting. I’m just wondering what would be the best version of cream cheese frosting would be to make for that. The recipe as stated here or one of the variations linked for the carrot cake, red velvet cake or lemon cake? Also, how much oreo crumbs would you add and would you keep the cream filling in the oreos when crushing them? Thanks!
Hi Ciara, you can 1.5x this recipe for a double layer cake or use the ratios from the carrot cake or red velvet cake as mentioned in the recipe notes. You can try adding 1/2 cup – 1 cup of crushed Oreos to the frosting, depending on how much you’d like. You can keep the creme filling. Enjoy!
Tastes great! Thank you! Love your site❤️
I’m making this for my boyfriend for his birthday and I cannot wait! I watched your video, made my list for the ingredients I needed for the strawberry cake and frosting; plan to make the puree on Monday night; make the cake on Tuesday night, but will it be okay until Thursday night? I want to make sure it still tastes fresh. Thank you for sharing all of your tips — first time for me!
Hi Jennifer, the strawberry cake can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to five days. Be sure it is tightly covered or in a cake box to help preserve freshness as long as possible. You could also make the cake layers, wrap, and then assemble and frost on Thursday if that works. Hope the cake is a hit!
This icing is amazing!!! It tastes good plain as well.
I was wondering how much cream cheese would be needed if I’m making a 2 tiered carrot cake? Bottom will be 2 8″ cakes and top will be 2 6″ cakes.
Hi Jenn! It really depends on how much frosting you’d like on the cake. If you plan on fully covering the cake and decorating, you can double the recipe to ensure there is enough. If you’re going for more of a naked cake look, you can 1.5x the recipe or use the ratios from our carrot cake recipe.
Can you suggest a substitute for block cream cheese please? We only get the tubs where I live. I’m sure I used a substitute before with this recipe and your chocolate cake recipe (and it turned out superb!) but I can’t remember what it was now 🙂
As long as it’s full fat cream cheese (the same as block cheese) use 8 ounces of it the same as the recipe calls for.
This frosting was not good . I used it to pipe cupcakes, but the frosting was too runny and my cupcake swirls turned into frosting puddles. I made sure that the cupcakes were completely cooled and the frosting was chilled, yet the frosting still failed. Would not recommend.
Hi M, we’d be happy to help you troubleshoot this frosting recipe. Did you happen to make any changes to the recipe, like using a lower fat cream cheese? For next time, you can also try adding a but more confectioners’ sugar to help thicken it up if it seems particularly runny. If needed, you can also place the frosting back in the fridge a few times throughout the decorating processes. The warmth from your hands on the piping bags can warm up frosting, especially cream cheese frosting, rather quickly. Thank you for giving this recipe a try, and let us know if we can help further!
What a shame, I had the same effect. Even before I started icing, the mixture was quite runny. I added extra sugar but have reached my limit of adding without over-sweetening the taste. I used regular fat cream cheese, however I did use a “house brand” (not Philadelphia, for example). Have you experimented with different brands and had varying results?
It happened with mine, too. I used Philadelphia-brand full-fat cream cheese. Putting in the fridge for 30 minutes did nothing. I made the one for her carrot layer cake. I had to keep refrigerating it throughout the process of trying to frost my cake.
I don’t usually let the cream cheese get to room temperature, it always makes recipes runny. Just leave it in the frig til you’re ready to use it, always works out. Try to get a metal bowl to mix in and put that in the freezer for a bit 5 min 10, makes everything less runny while you’re trying to measure, add, mix, etc. Butter you want at room temp but not the cream cheese.
We made Ina Garden’s Morning Muffins. They’re good, but with this cream cheese frosting, they’re great!
Can you use salted butter and just omit the salt?
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.
Absolutely delicious and easy to make!!Thank you
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.
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.
I substituted the vanilla extract for 1/2 tsp Lemon extract and it’s more tangy and less sweet
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
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!
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.