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, lemon blueberry cupcakes, or anywhere you’re looking for a lighter frosting option.
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.
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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
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:
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:
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.
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!
Pictured below: my soft and springy white cake with today’s whipped frosting. Perfection!
Not-So-Sweet Whipped Frosting
- Prep Time: 8 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 8 minutes
- Yield: 4 cups
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Whipping
- Cuisine: American
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.
- 6 ounces (170g) block full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (90g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) cold heavy cream or heavy whipping cream (very cold!)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 or in the refrigerator.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand) | Disposable or Reusable Piping Bag | Wilton 1M Piping Tip
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Reader Comments & Reviews
I love seeing your videos on YouTube. Would you ever consider turning your comments on so you could interact with viewers directly on there for any questions?
Hi Victoria, the recipes live on my website, so we keep all of the comments and questions here as well. Just makes things a little more streamlined since my team and I receive so many baking comments/questions daily. We’re even adding a new Search Within Comments feature to the site soon.
YouTube is really just our way to embed the videos directly on the site.
How can I make this Not-So-Sweet Whipped Frosting chocolate flavored? Thanks!
Hi Cindy, we haven’t tested it but let us know if you try anything! I’m sure adding some cocoa powder would be great.
Hi there! I’m planning on making this frosting and I’m wanting to colour it, I’m wondering when the best time to add the colouring would be. Thank you!
Hi Kendra, See recipe notes for instructions on adding food coloring – enjoy!
I did everything step by step and made sure to follow all the instructions but like others, it came out runny like soup after whipping it for a very long time. There was no air being introduced, it just spun and spun and turned into liquid again.
How do i fix it? I put it in the fridge to see if i could salvage it tomorrow.
Hi Melanie, it’s frustrating when the results aren’t as expected. Let me try to help. Are you using block cream cheese? (Not cream cheese in a tub?) Are you using heavy whipping cream or heavy cream? (Not “whipping cream” without heavy in the title?) Was it cold? And how long did you whip? Because eventually air will be introduced to the mixture and it will thicken. Hopefully we can troubleshoot so this works out as intended.
Tried it. Loved it
Hi there, I was wondering if the end product would be strong enough to hold decoration (buttercream flowers & vines) or if the SMBC recipe would be a better go-to for a smooth finish. I’ve had great success with so many of your recipes, thanks!!
Hi Jessica, thank you! Definitely some buttercream flowers like roses but nothing more intricate than that.
I love the flavor of this frosting! However, even though I followed your instructions carefully, it came out very watery and unstable. Frosting the cake was very frustrating, and had to constantly put back in the fridge in between coats. Nothing airy and fluffy about it. What do you think went wrong?
Hi Nilda, this is absolutely something you can fix for next time! If the frosting isn’t holding shape, it needs more air– you can whip it again to reintroduce more air.
I wanted to like this recipe. When I made it, it was really runny. I think I may have whipped it too much. I think I want to try it again and see what I did wrong. Is this a forgiving frosting like ABC is? Or once it’s ruined it can’t be fixed?
Hi Lisa! See the blog post above or the end of step 2 for a quick trick for fixing over-whipped heavy cream. Thank you for giving it a try!
I love the taste of this frosting! I did have a few issues. The frosting never set up properly even after bringing to the stiff peaks. As soon as I started frosting the cake it became softer and softer so I had to refrigerate between the crumb coat and the final coat and I did not get as smooth of a finish on my cake as I would have liked.
I will make it again but I’m wondering what I may have done wrong?
Hi Michelle, if you notice the frosting losing stability or becoming too soft, you can whip it for a few seconds to reintroduce some air.
Yes. Just YES. I also find American style buttercream far too sweet and do love and rely on a nice Swiss Meringue buttercream but this is the best compromise….with no compromise on flavour, structure or taste! And it’s ready in less than 15 minutes. I was going to ask if you thought it was strong enough for carrot cake….but I went ahead and tried it on my own. Worked beautifully, stood up nicely and still looks great the next day, so no structure issues. LOVE THIS RECIPE and, like your bagels and pizza dough, and another dozen or so recipes, will become a family staple! THANK YOU Sally!
Hi, can you use this icing to pipe flowers?
It depends how fine/detailed the flowers are– if making a cake with flowers like this, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Hi Sally! This recipe is exactly what I’m looking for! However in Canada we don’t have the distinction between heavy whipping cream, heavy cream, etc. We just have “whipping cream” which is 33%, do you think that will still work?
Absolutely, that should be just fine.
Can you add cocoa to make this a chocolate whipped frosting?
Hi Linda, We haven’t tested it but let us know if you try anything! Adding some cocoa powder would likely be great.
Used 1/3 cup Dutch cocoa and mixed some heavy cream with it to make it a little creamy then added the cream cheese so it would mix better. I made amount of ingredients for a three layer cake. Will definitely make this frosting again! Really appreciate your website and make a lot of your recipes. I’ve never had a bad experience. Thank you!
Hi Sally. Thanks for so many great recipes.
Can you use this frosting to decorate tall cakes like you would with Swiss Meringue Buttercream? Using a cake scraper, doing a crumb coat first, then another layer?
Or do you think this would be nice to just fill the layers, maybe do the crumb coat, then use Swiss Meringue Buttercream on the finishing layer? Thanks in advance, regards, Corrinne
Hi Corrine! I’ve used 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.
Thank you so much for publishing a less-sweet frosting recipe! I’m making some strawberry cupcakes for a family get together this weekend. I was wondering how I could turn this less-sweet frosting into a strawberry flavored frosting. Should I add freeze dried strawberries, fresh strawberries….. ?
Hi Cindy! We recommend using freeze dried strawberry powder – see recipe note titled “Can I flavor this frosting?” for details!
Will this recipe size as is work for a 3 layer cake? Or do you think I should scale it up a bit? It says 4 cups of finished frosting, I just wasn’t sure how much cake that would cover. Thank you!
Hi Adrianne, This recipe yields about 4-5 cups of frosting. But for a 3 layer cake, we do recommend slightly scaling up the recipe. See the recipe note “quantity” for details.
Thank you! Appreciate the help. And love this website and all the recipes. You ladies are amazing!! 🙂
Question for you, Sally. You mentioned in the post, the type of tip you like to use. What is your favorite piping bag??
Hi Sally – We do have some favorites! If you go to the post on Piping Tips 101 and scroll down to the section called “other tools required” you will find links for a few different options. Hope this helps!
This frosting seems like it would be a great alternative to sweetened whip cream I use to finish /decorate the 6″ ice cream cakes. This frosting would add a whole new taste .
I look forward to trying t it soon.
Also, I recently read that whipped frosting has a better mouth feel if organic confectioners sugar is used. Organic sugar contains tapioca powder rather than cornstarch. Tapioca powder has a lower melting temp resulting in a soother, more velvet like mouth feel. I have not tried a taste comparison test but i did just purchase organic confectioner’s sugar so maybe I will try it with this recipe. Any excuse to bake!
Very interesting. I’ve experienced that organic confectioners’ sugar makes a better cookie icing– somewhat less aftertaste.
Hi Sally! First, thank you so much for your recipes – I’ve always had great success whenever I bake a Sally recipe!! I’m making a Persian love cake for my sisters birthday. I was planning on making your pistachio cake and I’m wondering if I make this icing, how much Rosewater would you add? Would you include vanilla or almond with Rosewater? Thank you!!!
YUM! So it depends on the potency of flavor. The only experience I’ve had is using the brand Nielsen-Massey Rose Water. It’s very potent and only a few drops provided enough flavor to frosting that yielded about this quantity. So I would start small, taste, and slowly stir in more after you whip in the heavy cream. Almond or vanilla extracts would be great with it.
Looking forward to trying this out! I love whipped cream frostings, but they always turn out very runny for me, and I’ve never had much luck just tossing in gelatin to help stabilize it. One note for people who aren’t huge fans of cream cheese’s tang: Dutch Cream Cheese is a brand with a much milder taste than Kraft’s; I tend to find it at smaller, local groceries and mom-and-pop stores.
When stabilizing with gelatin, the gelatin has to be dissolved completely in a little hot water, cooled until no longer hot and then slowly poured into the cream while transitioning from the soft peak to stiff peak stage. Just adding the gelatin powder will have no postive effect.
Looking forward to trying this recipe. I prefer flavor over sweetness and love cream cheese, so this seems perfect. What do you think about adding passion fruit baking powder or freeze dried fruit powder to the first stage?
Hi Andrea! I LOVE adding freeze-dried strawberry powder. See the Can I add flavor section in the recipe notes.
Can I freeze this icing in a piping bag and then defrost, massage it and use? I would love to have this already finished to take to the cottage.
Hmm… I’m sure that could work, but I have not tested it!
Looking forward to making this! Could I use this on a cake covered with sprinkles? Or do you think the moisture from the whipped cream would make the sprinkles bleed? TY!
I’ve never had any issues with sprinkles bleeding into this frosting!
How could I make this chocolate flavored?
Hi Tanya, I haven’t tested it but let me know if you try anything! I’m sure adding some cocoa powder would be great.
Not having grown up with American buttercream and not so fond of the sweetness, I switched to making my frosting this way a couple years ago.
For a cocoa version of this: take approx 1/4-1/2cup of your whipping cream (unwhipped) and mix in 2-3 Tbsp of cocoa to make a paste. Mix this in with your cream cheese mixture until smooth. Then proceed with mixing in the remainder of your whipping cream and beat to perfection. You will have to up your confectioner sugar some to compensate for the bitterness of the cocoa.
Could this be used in macarons? I find American buttercream to be too heavy.
Hi Sally, I haven’t made this yet but am looking forward to doing so. If I wanted to make this a different flavour, say coffee, could you tell me how I would do it please. By the way love your new website. All the best Julie x
Thanks Julie! I haven’t tested a coffee flavored version of this. However, you could start by adding some espresso powder, such as 1 teaspoon when you add the confectioners’ sugar.
Can I cut this recipe in half to use on your 6 inch chocolate cake?
I recently made your cookies and cream cake with this frosting. When I say everyone loved it – EVERYONE LOVED IT!!!!! The frosting was what WOWED everyone. I filed those compliments away in my head, as in – Make this frosting often!! You never steer me wrong and all of your recipes are always easy to follow and a complete success!!! Thank you so much, Sally!
Thanks Kat! Ever since I published that recipe last summer, I’ve made this frosting with nearly every cake for any birthday or party. It’s by far my favorite. I love that it’s not overly sweet, so you can really taste the flavor of the cake. So glad you love it too!
This frosting looks great! I cannot wait to make it this weekend. I saw your ad for “help wanted” on face book. Too bad I live in NJ as I would love that job! I have been baking for a really long time and follow you for all your delicious recipes.
Can you use Mascarpone cheese as a substitute to cream cheese?
That shouldn’t be a problem!
This light frosting was perfect for my coconut cake! I can’t wait to try it on hummingbird cupcakes.
Thank you sooo much! Been wanted a not so sweet frosting.