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If you find yourself looking for an alternative to American-style buttercream– which we all know can be cloyingly sweet– you may enjoy this whipped frosting instead. Made from only 4 simple ingredients, this lightly sweetened frosting is fabulously creamy and fluffy, but still holds its shape when piped with a piping tip. Enjoy it with vanilla cupcakes, white cake, chocolate cake, or anywhere you’re looking for a lighter frosting option.

whipped frosting piped on vanilla cupcakes

Enjoy Creamy, Lightly Sweet Frosting

Today’s recipe can really be known as “all the things” including whipped frosting, creamy lightly sweetened frosting, whipped cream frosting that pipes well, won’t-give-you-a-toothache-frosting, etc. I settled on Not-So-Sweet Whipped Frosting so you understand the selling point as soon as you read the title… this is a whipped frosting that isn’t too sweet.

If you’ve made this cookies and cream cake before, you’ve made a version of today’s frosting!

Whipped Frosting Details

  • Texture: This frosting is basically a very sturdy whipped cream. Think of a thicker, fluffier version of soft whipped cream. Even though it’s thick, it’s still pretty light and airy. There’s something known as stabilized whipped cream and I suppose today’s recipe could fall into that category, but it does contain cream cheese so there’s a little extra flavor.
  • Flavor: Like the consistency, the whipped frosting flavor is light. It’s a little sweet, a little tangy, and flavored with vanilla extract. I especially love it with soft cakes that have strong flavor such as lemon blueberry cake, pumpkin cake, and citrus cake. You can’t really taste the cream cheese, but if you really dislike cream cheese, you may be able to detect it. (A few taste testers had no idea there was cream cheese in the frosting.)
  • Ease: If you love the consistency and structure of Swiss meringue buttercream, but are looking for something simpler, this whipped frosting is a prime choice. It’s probably the easiest frosting you’ll ever make because even if you mess up, there’s likely a solution to fix it. All you’re doing is mixing the ingredients together in a particular order at various speeds.

Pictured: vanilla cupcakes with today’s whipped frosting.

piping whipped frosting on cupcakes with piping bag and tip
whipped frosting piped on cupcake

Even though this recipe is easy, I want to set you up for success by giving you all the information you need to get started. Review these headnotes before you try the recipe for the first time because they will help you understand the best ingredients to use and the ideal consistency you need.

This Whipped Frosting Has 4 Ingredients

And with only 4 ingredients, it’s imperative you use the correct ones!

  1. Room Temperature Cream Cheese: Cream cheese is the magical ingredient because it acts as the sturdy, structured base. I hesitated publishing this recipe because I know there’s been a massive cream cheese shortage. However, recently I’ve been able to find it more and more so hopefully you can get your hands on some too! Make sure you use block-style cream cheese, not cream cheese spread. It must be softened to room temperature so you can successfully rid any lumps. You need 6 ounces, which is a little less than one 8-ounce block.
  2. Confectioners’ Sugar: Confectioners’ sugar sweetens the frosting and compared to many frosting recipes like vanilla buttercream, you need a fraction of the amount to produce the same volume of frosting. Wow!
  3. Vanilla Extract: Vanilla extract adds flavor. If you want to get started or already have some going, homemade vanilla extract is fantastic in this whipped frosting.
  4. Cold Heavy Cream: Emphasis on the COLD temperature. You may remember this from making regular whipped cream, but the colder the heavy cream, the easier and more successfully it will whip. Make sure you use cream labeled heavy cream, heavy whipping cream, or double cream. All contain 36% or higher milk fat. Whipping cream (without “heavy” in the title) is a little lighter with 30% milk fat. Do not use that because your frosting will never firm up.

By the way, this recipe is very easy to scale up or down. Use 2 ounces of cream cheese per 1/4 cup (30g) confectioners’ sugar and 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream. Add more or less vanilla extract. When you’re whipping in the heavy cream, reduce or extend that length of time based on the volume. Whip shorter if you scaled down the recipe and whip longer if you scaled up the recipe.

heavy cream, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla extract in bowls

I didn’t want to call this recipe whipped cream frosting because you have a little flavor from cream cheese. Again, even though the flavor is very faint, if you’re sensitive to the taste of cream cheese or simply do not care for it, I would skip this recipe.

FAQ: Can I Make This Without Cream Cheese?

No. Instead, try a different recipe.

If you’re looking for a lighter topping, I recommend regular whipped cream. For a sturdy, yet lightly sweetened frosting, try Swiss meringue buttercream. If you need a whipped buttercream, use the frosting found with this vanilla sheet cake. Or search for whipped frosting made without cream cheese– some recipes use cornstarch or instant pudding mix instead.

Let’s Make Whipped Frosting!

In terms of preparation, the recipe reminds me of no-bake cheesecake. We’re using mostly the same ingredients found in the filling, except that recipe instructs you to whip the cream cheese and heavy cream separately. Here, we’re doing it all in 1 bowl in different stages. First, beat the cream cheese to begin breaking it down. Then add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract and beat together. You really want to rid all the lumps:

cream cheese confectioners' sugar and vanilla extract

Now here comes the *magic!* Switch the mixer to low speed and in a slow and steady stream, whip in the heavy cream. After you add all of the heavy cream, turn the mixer up to high speed and watch your new favorite frosting fill with air and rise up in the bowl.

You’re looking for a thick, airy consistency with stiff peaks. If you were to shimmy and shake this bowl, the frosting would hardly move:

whipped frosting in mixing bowl
whipped frosting shown on whisk attachment

Now let me show you what not to do.

Too Thin Vs Too Thick

Too thin: If you do not whip the mixture long enough, you’ll have soft, soupy, thin frosting. If you were to shake a bowl of under-whipped frosting, it will jiggle all around like a jello mold. This is an easy fix– just keep whipping until you have the consistency above.

Too thick: If you over-whip the frosting, it will appear chunky and curdled. While my fix isn’t perfect, it will certainly help– by hand, stir in more liquid heavy cream 1 Tablespoon at a time until the frosting smooths out again.

collage photo showing the consistency of under-whipped and over-whipped whipped frosting

Whipped Frosting: 3 Success Tips (Do Not Miss These!)

  • No lumps in cream cheese. While you can over-whip the frosting after you add the heavy cream, you cannot over-mix the 1st 3 ingredients in the recipe. Beat the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla extract together for as long as you need to rid all of the cream cheese lumps. Stop and scrape down the mixing bowl as needed.
  • Don’t leave. Do not walk away and let the mixer run after you add the heavy cream. Sometimes the frosting sets up in 1 minute and sometimes it takes 3 minutes. Keep your eyes on the mixture to avoid over-whipped frosting.
  • Pop the air if needed. After you make the whipped frosting, you’ll notice that the consistency can change the longer it sits in the bowl. The frosting develops more air bubbles and if you want the silky, yet thick consistency back, stir the frosting by hand a few times to deflate the air. I don’t notice this as much when the frosting sits on a finished cake and that’s likely because you handled it a lot in the frosting process– the bubbles develop most when the frosting is just sitting in the bowl before you use it. Likewise, if you notice the frosting really airy and looking over-whipped as you pipe it, either “massage” the frosting while it’s in the piping bag (sounds weird, but this can help deflate air bubbles) or pipe back into the mixing bowl and gently stir it.

The success of this recipe depends on the ingredients used and length of time mixing. Follow the recipe below carefully. It’s so nice to have an easy sturdy frosting that isn’t too sweet!

cake with whipped frosting and rainbow sprinkles
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whipped cream frosting

Not-So-Sweet Whipped Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 8 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 8 minutes
  • Yield: 4 cups 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Whipping
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Made from only 4 ingredients, this lightly sweetened whipped frosting is creamy and fluffy, yet holds its shape when piped with a piping tip. For best results, review the success tips above and recipe notes below before you begin.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 6 ounces (170g) block full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (90gconfectioners’ sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) cold heavy cream or heavy whipping cream (very cold!)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed until creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract, and then beat on medium speed until combined and completely smooth (absolutely no lumps), at least 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to smooth out.
  2. Switch to a whisk attachment (if you haven’t already been using it). Turn the mixer to low speed and with the mixer running, carefully pour in the cream in a slow and steady stream. After all of the cream has been added, turn the mixer up to high speed and whip until thick and stiff peaks form, about 1-2 minutes. This time can vary depending on exact temperature of ingredients, temperature in kitchen, and even the humidity. Do not walk away during this time and do not be concerned if your frosting takes longer to whip. You’re looking for a thick, airy consistency with stiff peaks. If you were to shimmy and shake your bowl, the frosting would hardly move. If your frosting appears soupy now or at any point you are working with it, it needs more whipping to introduce more air. If your frosting appears chunky or curdled, it’s over-whipped. To fix, stir 1 Tablespoon of heavy cream into the frosting by hand to smooth out again. Use more heavy cream if needed to smooth out.
  3. Use it: After you make the whipped frosting, it’s ready to frost your cupcakes, cake, or other confections. After frosting a cake or cupcakes with this frosting, I strongly recommend refrigerating them uncovered for at least 30 minutes to help “set” the frosting (especially when using on a layer cake). Then you can serve or set out for a few hours before serving. And please note that you’ll notice the frosting becomes thicker and airier the longer it sits in your mixing bowl. This is not a problem and can easily be fixed by gently stirring it to pop any air bubbles. Likewise, if you notice the frosting really airy and looking over-whipped as you pipe it with piping tips, either “massage” the frosting while it’s in the piping bag (sounds weird, but this can help deflate air bubbles) or pipe back into the mixing bowl and gently stir it. You can even stir in a splash of heavy cream to thin/smooth out if needed.
  4. Serve or Make Ahead: After the 30 minutes of refrigerating to “set” the frosting as instructed in step 3, frosted confections are fine to serve or sit out at room temperature for a few hours. If you plan to serve later than that, such as the next day, I recommend storing in the refrigerator. Lightly cover as best you can. Confections topped with this frosting can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Notes

  1. Freezing Instructions: This whipped frosting freezes and thaws surprisingly well. For best results, I recommend freezing the frosting after you’ve already frosted your cake or cupcakes– as opposed to freezing the frosting in your mixing bowl or other container. Frost your baked good(s), refrigerate for at least 1 hour to really set the frosting, and then cover and freeze for up to 3 months. (Note that covering this frosting can get messy and I haven’t found a workaround for that.) Thaw your frosted baked good(s) at room temperature.
  2. Can this frosting sit out at room temperature or in a warm environment? A few hours at room temperature is fine. If you’re serving your frosted confections outside on a hot day (I’ve done this a few times), refrigerate your frosted cake/cupcakes for up to 1 day. Remove from the refrigerator 30-60 minutes before serving them. This way they start out a little colder and can last longer in the heat.
  3. Can I leave out or replace the cream cheese? No. See notes above. Instead, I would try a different recipe like regular whipped cream, Swiss meringue buttercream, or this whipped buttercream.
  4. Can I tint this frosting a color? Yes. This frosting holds onto food coloring nicely and I strongly recommend using gel food coloring or natural food coloring powder. If you plan to tint the frosting, it’s best to add the food coloring when you add the heavy cream. If you need to add more food coloring after the frosting is done, gently stir it in by hand. If the frosting becomes too thick, stir in a splash of heavy cream to thin out again.
  5. Can I flavor this frosting? Yes. Feel free to replace up to 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract with another extract of choice such as lemon or coconut extract. If it’s a potent extract such as peppermint extract, I would only use 1/2 teaspoon. You can also turn this into a whipped strawberry frosting by replacing 1/4 cup (30g) confectioners’ sugar with 1/4 cup freeze-dried strawberry crumbs/dust. See strawberry frosting for how to do that.
  6. If your frosting begins losing shape: If your frosting becomes unstable or thins out/loses shape overtime, whip it on high speed until stiff peaks form to reintroduce more air.
  7. Quantity: This recipe yields about 4-5 cups of frosting. This is enough to heavily frost 12-16 cupcakes (as pictured), a 9×13 inch quarter sheet cake, or a 2 layer cake. For a 3 layer cake, I recommend slightly scaling up the recipe by using one 8-ounce (225g) block cream cheese, 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 2 cups (480ml) heavy cream. After adding the heavy cream, you may need to whip the mixture for slightly longer.
  8. Piping Tip: I used (affiliate link) Wilton 1M piping tip in the photos above. This is one of my favorite piping tips and you can watch how to use it in this Piping Tips Tutorial video.

Keywords: whipped frosting

Pictured below: my soft and springy white cake with today’s whipped frosting. Perfection!

slice of white two layer cake with whipped frosting on pink plate
slice of white two layer cake with whipped frosting on pink plate

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Hi,
    Yes, I used block cream cheese, heavy whipping cream that was cold cold and I whipped it for a VERY long time because it only got somewhat fluffy and then the more I whipped it to get it stiff it became more and more liquid again. Even refrigerated it overnight to see if I could save it the next day and again, just spinning liquid.

    1. Hi
      Just wondering can you add jam or preserves for flavor?
      I want a not so sweet raspberry or strawberry frosting. Sometimes can’t find the freeze dried fruits
      Thanks

      1. You could certainly add a few Tbsp of jam for flavor, but adding too much can thin out the frosting and it will lose stability.

      1. Hi Megan, we haven’t tested it but let us know if you try anything! I’m sure adding some cocoa powder would be great.

      2. I’m not sure if you’ve tried it yet but you can definitely add cocoa powder to it and it tastes delicious!

    2. There is such a thing as whipping the heavy cream for too long, and this is what might have happened to yours — sorry! This has happened to me before and I avoid it by paying close attention to the formation of the lovely soft peaks which I want each time — and immediately stop beating at this point. Even a few seconds longer can result in a liquid-y mess which is difficult to salvage.

  2. This was the easiest frosting recipe to make and with incredible taste. So lite and airy and perfect for cupcakes!

  3. This was PERFECT for macarons (I used your beginner recipe, also a success!). I halved it for a full batch of about 20 cookies, and probably could have done a bit less than that. I used half lemon extract and half vanilla. Tasted amazing and not too sweet, which was my gripe on my last macaron filling. Agreed that you can taste the cream cheese, but I love cream cheese frosting, so no complaints here 🙂 Thank you!

  4. hi, I am so stuck between making this or the swiss buttercream recipe to fill macarons with. Could you tell me the difference between them taste-wise and which would be better for macarons? I would most likely flavor with almond extract as well because I love it so much lol.

    1. Hi Elizabeth, this frosting is like a sturdier whipped cream. It’s light and airy. One reader said she already used it for macarons and loved it. Swiss meringue buttercream is heavier and tastes more buttery.

  5. This reipe was great but my cream keeped getting un stable, quick question, can you please make a recipe about whipped frosting but like the kind you buy at stores, like a tres leche cake frosting or a nice whipped kind like from sams club, I have tried to find a recipe but none work because I have no idea what it is called. I want to also meet up sometime or anyway possible or even on zoom to bake with you one day! I am a BIGGGG Fan and I hope that you have time but if not possible I understand , it would be a dream come true !!! I would be so happyyyyy! I loved it though and please get back to meeeeeeeeeeee

    1. Hi Lila, Are you looking for a plain whipped cream? If so you can find a full tutorial plus a video here: Whipped Cream

  6. This was PERFECT for macarons (I used your beginner recipe, also a success!). I halved it for a full batch of about 20 cookies, and probably could have done a bit less than that. I used half lemon extract and half vanilla. Tasted amazing and not too sweet, which was my gripe on my last macaron filling. Agreed that you can taste the cream cheese, but I love cream cheese frosting, so no complaints here Thank you!

  7. I was super excited to see a recipe for a less sweet frosting. My family is not into very sweet sweets, so when I needed to make a birthday cake for my niece a couple of weeks ago, I gave it a try. I made a chocolate cake with a not-so-sweet raspberry filling and your frosting. It hit the mark! My family raved at the dessert but more specifically the frosting. I will be using this again! Thank you for filling this void in the baking recipe world.

  8. I promised the kids cupcakes for st Patrick’s day and decided to try and make them myself. My older son also doesn’t really like frosting like from the bakery so buttercream is a no go. I decided to make this with your chocolate cupcake recipe and both are so good! The frosting easily took the color green from liquid food coloring and looked cute with sprinkles. My son even said it tasted just the right amount of sweetness. I could see this easily being adapted to a low carb frosting with erythritol confectioners sugar just a thought for any keto or diabetic readers. Thanks again for another amazing recipe!!

  9. I recently made this frosting and followed the instruction on how to make it Strawberry Flavored, to decorate the SBA 2- layer Favorite White Cake. I appreciated having a frosting recipe that was “not too sweet”, but thought it was more “not very sweet”. I might amp up the sugar just a smidge next time – that’s just me 🙂 I used the directions for scaling up the recipe to use 8 oz. of cream cheese (to avoid a lonely leftover 2oz. square). I ended up using 1/4c of strawberry powder, but found it wasn’t enough. I added another 1/8c, but it really could have used much another 1/8-1/4cp. for optimum flavor. Overall, I liked that the recipe was simple with few ingredients and held up well. Worth making.

  10. Really the best ever icing. First time everyone had a second piece of cake , no left overs for us! Ices a 2 layer cake perfectly. Made a white cake, can’t wait to try it with devil’s food. Thank you Sally.

  11. Do you think I could put some honey into it? I think this frosting would be great with angle food cake. I am making a Winnie the pooh beehive cake out of angle food cake and would like it to be more “exciting” than just cake.

    1. I think adding honey would be great! I would not reduce the confectioners’ sugar much, though– because it helps the frosting hold shape. I haven’t tested this, but try replacing 2 Tbsp of the confectioners’ sugar with honey.

  12. I made this today as a topping for chocolate cupcakes. It turned out brilliantly and was so delicious. We used it for scones also with strawberry jam. Everyone loved it. I’m happy to find a frosting that doesn’t used massive amounts of powdered sugar

  13. For freezing decorated cupcakes or cake, freeze first uncovered until the frosting hardens and then package however you like. I usually do it on a baking sheet overnight and then wrap in plastic wrap or store in airtight container. Happy baking!

  14. This is so easy to make and absolutely delicious!! I made it strawberry flavored using blended freeze dried strawberries and it came out great. As soon as my husband tried it he said “This is a keeper! We have to save this recipe!” This will definitely be my go to frosting from now on!

  15. Will this frosting hold up to the weight of a 3 layer cake. I am making 3 8″ rounds. Thank You!

    1. Hi Amy, yes, you can use this frosting for layer cakes– it’s excellent as a filling and for the crumb coat especially if you refrigerate the cake to “set” the frosting as instructed above. It’s great on the exterior of the cake too, however Swiss meringue buttercream is much more sturdy and stable. You may want that for an extra tall layer cake.

  16. Delicious frosting! Easy recipe to follow, and the taste was amazing. For me personally, 1 batch of this frosting was just barely enough to frost a 2 layer 9″cake. I would have appreciated just a bit more. I would recommend increase the batch to 1.5x for a 2 layer 9″ cake.

  17. This recipe changed my entire attitude on making cakes! It’s perfect- so creamy, fluffy, lightly sweet, and easy to work with. It’s a game changer for those of us who can’t stand buttercream. I made a lactose free version with lactose free cream cheese and “plant cream” and even that was great! This will definitely become my go-to frosting.

  18. Delicious, not too sweet and very stable. Use this to top it Keylime pie. Thank you for this great recipe

  19. Would this frosting work well on a semi-naked cake? I’ve done your vanilla naked cake and it turned out wonderfully. Just wondering if the texture of this frosting works as well on a naked cake. Thanks!

  20. Omg this is my new favourite frosting!!! It’s light, fluffy and tastes like cheesecake mousse. I’m in the UK and used the full fat Philadelphia in a tub. I found the cream cheese went quite thin when I mixed it with the vanilla and sugar. I fixed this by whipping the cream cheese mix on high for a little longer than recommended- fixed it right up! Then added the cream according to the recipe. Delish!!

  21. My family loves whipped cream frosting, and this is THE BEST recipe I’ve used.

    A tip for the cream-cheese-haters: substitute MASCARPONE cheese for the cream cheese. I love cream cheese, but I’m allergic to the stabilizer gums in most brands. When I can’t find my “unstable” cream cheese (Nancy’s brand FYI) or I’m baking for cream-cheese-haters, I use mascarpone from the fancy Italian cheese section of the grocery store. It has NO detectable flavor, so your frosting just tastes like whipped cream. Just make sure the heavy cream is REALLY cold because…obviously…no stabilizer gums to help it thicken up. I have piped this onto cupcakes for several summer birthdays and it has held up beautifully despite the heat.

  22. Can you use food coloring to dye the frosting? And is it strong enough to use in one of your 6″ layer cake recipes?

    1. Hi Emmy, See recipe notes for instructions on adding food coloring – enjoy!

  23. Hello, and thank you so much for this recipe. We made it to top a lemon cake and some cookies, and it has been a smash hit in my house! We are using the extra to top our coffee until it runs out. It was perfect for my semi-sweet household!

  24. I’m about to make this frosting for a wedding cake. Can I make the frosting the day before and store it in the fridge and maybe give it a fresh turn in the mixer the next day when I frost and assemble the cake?

    1. Hi Amy, that should work just fine! Hope the frosting is a hit at the wedding.

  25. Could I make this frosting a day or two ahead and refrigerate on its own or is it best made closer to use due to the whip cream?

    1. Hi Sarah, here are the make-ahead instructions: After the 30 minutes of refrigerating to “set” the frosting as instructed in step 3, frosted confections are fine to serve or sit out at room temperature for a few hours. If you plan to serve later than that, such as the next day, I recommend storing in the refrigerator. Lightly cover as best you can. Confections topped with this frosting can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 2 days. This whipped frosting freezes and thaws surprisingly well. For best results, I recommend freezing the frosting after you’ve already frosted your cake or cupcakes– as opposed to freezing the frosting in your mixing bowl or other container. Frost your baked good(s), refrigerate for at least 1 hour to really set the frosting, and then cover and freeze for up to 3 months. (Note that covering this frosting can get messy and I haven’t found a workaround for that.) Thaw your frosted baked good(s) at room temperature.

  26. This recipe is amazing and delicious and easy and exactly as described! Not too sweet and a mix between cream cheese frosting and whipped cream. I went with the slightly increased amounts (8 oz cream cheese) and had plenty to frost 24 cupcakes. Going to be my new go to!

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