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
I served this for hubbys birthday with guests! Love love
Love it! And PS LOVE that your website lets you keep page open!! I’ve
Not noticed it on other sites! TY
Can i use whipped cream cheese instead of a block?
Hi Esther, unfortunately, no. Only block style cream cheese will help this frosting hold its structure.
easy, reliable, adaptable and delicious. I am a fan!
Would adding strawberry flavoring as well as the vanilla a good idea for strawberry cupcakes? What would you suggest? Thank you, Sally
Hi Catherine! Strawberry flavoring could definitely work, or you could try freeze-dried strawberry powder like we use in our strawberry buttercream and strawberry cream cheese frosting recipes – this gives great strawberry flavor and color naturally. Let us know what you try!
Thank you, Sally. I read your recipe for the strawberry cream cheese frosting.
I will get the freeze dried strawberries & milk tomorrow. I already made cupcakes. Too bad Walmart is no longer 24/7. Happy Mother’s Day
I am going to be making a 2 tier wedding cake with this cream cheese icing. How long can it sit out in room temperature? The cake will need to be put together and decorated in time for the wedding. Any suggestions? Thanks! I love your recipes!
Hi Michelle, After decorating anything with buttercream or cream cheese frosting, it’s fine for 1 day at room temperature. After that, we would refrigerate it. But, use your best judgment and whatever you are comfortable with- we’ve never had any problems leaving frosted desserts at room temperature for a day.
Hi! I just made this frosting and it tastes great, but it’s a bit grainy from the sugar. Did I just not blend it enough? Should I add anything to make it smoother?
Hi Hannah, it’s possible the frosting needed to be mixed a bit longer. For next time, you can also try sifting the confectioners’ sugar to help rid of any clumps. Hope this helps and thank you for giving this one a try!
I’ve found using organic powedered sugar reduces graininess because it used tapioca starch rather than cornstarch
I made the strawberry variation — it was excellent! It tastes just like fresh crushed strawberries.
Will this frosting take color okay? Would gel be best?
Hi Nikki! Yes, we recommend gel food coloring.
Hey Sally! If I want to make this frosting with your lemon cupcakes, is it okay as is or do I need to add the lemon extract? And if I do need to add it, do I take out the vanilla extract or use both? Thanks! (:
Hi Kasey! You can do it either way. Add 1 tsp lemon extract (in addition to the vanilla extract) to this recipe for extra lemon flavor.
Hi Sally, we just made this frosting for our Easter carrot cake. We added cardamom, nutmeg and Grande Mariner and it is amazingly delish!
Hi Sally & team, I love this recipe and a lot of the cakes that require cream cheese frosting – however, in many parts of Europe (and especially in the UK), it is impossible to find block cream cheese in stores…they simply only sell the tub version here. Can you please provide any recommendations, or an altered recipe, to make cream cheese frosting with cream cheese from tubs? There must be a way to make it thick enough, but I haven’t been able to strike the balance yet!
Hi Juliette, yes, we know this is an issue and it’s very frustrating! Look for a soft white cheese with around 33% fat content. Not sure how easy it is to get, but you could try this one, or look for something similar: https://longleyfarm.com/collections/cream-cheese
Or this one in Ireland: https://compsey.ie/full-fat-cream-cheese/
Some people also try using the tub kind and straining some of the liquid out of it before using, but I haven’t tried that myself so can’t tell you for sure how it would work. If you try it, please let us know how it turns out!
I was afraid to use this recipe as I was reading and saw so many complaints , but Sally YOU DID YOUR THANG honey! My grandma used to bake cakes for a living and I remember sneaking in the fridge to get the bowl of icing, grab a spoon, and pig out!
This is VERY VERY close to hers and OMG Sally it’s so good!