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 this recipe!! Mine turned out beautifully. It whipped up so nicely and it piped perfectly onto my cupcakes. I love this not-so-sweet version. After reading the other reviews I was a little scared, so while my cream cheese was whipping I put the measured heavy cream into the freezer to really get it extra cold. Seemed to have done the trick. Thank you, Sally….. it’ s delicious!
I’ve used this recipe many many times. It has become a go to! What about for coffee flavor? Would you just add in espresso powder with the powdered sugar?
Thanks for the great recipe.
Hi Randi, so glad you’re loving this frosting recipe! We 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. Let us know how it goes!
How does this frosting pair with a brownie cupcake? I’m trying to make a “brownie sundae” cupcake and thought this might work well as the “ice cream” frosting. Thanks!
I love a reason to bake a cake and my go-to icings are ermine and 7 minute. Wanted something lighter to go on a lime cake. I’m not a fan of cream cheese frostings and never use powdered sugar but this was perfect! Added 1.5 TB lime juice to the cream cheese mixture. Lightly sweet & not cream cheesy at all! Moved into my favorites &will be much used!
I was really scared of this frosting not whipping up or of having any missteps but this turned out so well and it’s delicious! It may be my new go to frosting because it’s really not overwhelmingly sweet while still being soft and buttery. I used it with a funfetti cake and it was definitely the right call because the cake itself was plenty sweet. Loved it! I made sure to read all the steps and notes before starting (I was really nervous!) and double checked my heavy cream was extra cold by putting it in the freezer a few minutes before i needed it. Mixing the cream cheese and the rest took longer than expected but I just kept it going until the lumps were all gone. I’d definitely recommend this!
Oh dear, this was a disaster for me. Despite cold cream, the more I whipped, the soupier it got. Currently trying to turn into an Ermine before I chuck it and start again.
Hi Julia, Could it be over-whipped? 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!
Hi – question. Making key lime cake for a son’s birthday & he’s not a fan of cheesecake nor cream cheese icing but wants whipped cream frosting. I I want it to mostly taste like whipped cream but have a little more body. His palette is not that experienced and I’m thinking if I add zest maybe he won’t know cream cheese in it? Or is it really cream cheesy tasting? Thanks!
Hi Nancy, I’ve served this many times and to those who don’t even like cream cheese and I’ve never had anyone detect it! You could absolutely cover up any faint flavor with some lime zest though.
Wow, this was fantastic. I followed your suggestion using this recipe instead of whipped cream with a stabilizer. I love that it is less sweet and held its peaks. This will be my go to icing for most of your cakes. Thank you Sally!
This frosting is delicious. It’s really light and I found you need to heavy cream to be extra extra cold before whipping. Great for summertime!
Can I add melted white chocolate to this recipe?
Hi Autumn, we haven’t tested that, but please let us know if you do and how it turns out!
Can I airbrush this frosting?
Hey Sally, I tried to make this frosting twice and twice it didn’t work. It first whipped but didnt get stiff enough and it endet up to be a flaky soup 🙁 The cream was cold, everything that I did I made it as written…
It may be the brand of powdered sugar. Some powdered sugars are finer than others. I’ve had trouble with grainy and flaky frostings before. Switching brands worked.
…… do you think 2 recipes is enough for a 6 and 8 in cake?
Hi Carolee, depending on how many layers and how heavily you frost the cake, you’ll likely want at least double the recipe. See recipe note labeled “Quantity” for more details.
I am doing a small wedding cake for just the bride and groom. Would this icing hold up for a couple hrs at the reception? And could I frost it the night before and refrigerate it?
Hi Carolee, 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. You can make and frost it the night before as well. Hope this helps!
This is the recipe I’ve been dreaming of! It came out perfectly. I was shocked how well it held up with such little sugar. Any ideas on how to make it with freeze dried strawberries for a pretty pink strawberry frosting?
Hi Donna, we’re thrilled this frosting was such a success for you! You can absolutely flavor it with freeze dried strawberries — see recipe note titled “Can I flavor this frosting?” for details.
How did i miss that?! LOL thank you 🙂
I don’t have vanilla extract. Is there a substitute I could use? I read make syrup or almond abstract (both of which I have).
Hi Kim, you can use almond extract. I would use only 3/4 teaspoon because it’s quite potent and strong.
Can I use this frosting for 3 layers 8 inches cake to frost and decorate it?
Hi Lia, For a 3 layer cake, we 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.
What an utterly perfect frosting. It is so much fun to make and the texture is amazing. The flavor is exactly what I hoped for since I love the idea of cream cheese frosting but never love it in reality. This frosting is just tangy enough to be a substitution for my carrot cake without being overwhelming in cream cheese flavor and is perfectly creamy, smooth, and sweet.
Hi! I love that this is a less sweet option to ice my cupcakes. Would it be possible to flavour this recipe with brown butter? How would i do that?
Hi HV, We have not experimented with swapping some of the cream cheese out with brown butter. It would take additional recipe testing for us to be confident in how to change the recipe. You can see the recipe note “Can I flavor this frosting?” for other flavor options we have tested. Let us know if you try anything!
Any thoughts about making this delicious frosting a peanut butter flavored frosting? Possibly using half cream cheese and half peanut butter.?
Hi Debi, We have not tested it but we would try to replace 1/4 cup (30g) confectioners’ sugar with 1/4 cup powdered peanut butter. Let us know what you try!
I want to make this for a birthday cake as I usually am not a fan of sweet frosting !! Do you think this will be ok to decorate and frost a cake with? Can I also substitute the cream cheese with butter ? How much butter would it be ? I do not like cream cheese
Hi Rylee, you can absolutely frost a cake with this frosting. The photos in this post are of this frosting on our white cake. Cream cheese is necessary for this recipe and there are no suitable substitutes. Instead you can try 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.
Can I make this frosting ahead either the night before or a few hours before and let it sit in the fridge before frosting my cake? We will be traveling with the cake and I don’t want to travel with a frosted cake, so I plan on frosting it once we get there.
Hi Hailey, absolutely, just lightly cover the frosting and store in the refrigerator until ready to use the next day.
This frosting is absolutely delicious! It has the perfect amount of sweetness with just the slightest bit of tang from the cream cheese. I used the reduced fat, Neufchâtel cream cheese, because that was what I had on hand and it turned out flawlessly! I would definitely make this frosting again!
Can this be turned into a chocolate frosting? By adding melted chocolate?
Hi Steph! We haven’t tested it but let us know if you try anything! I’m sure adding some cocoa powder would be great.
Do you think this can be used as a filling for a cake? Not to frost it? will it hold up?
Hi Mary Pat, yes, you can use this frosting between layers of cake. Enjoy!
Hi there, Can I add the teaspoon of lemon and about 1/2 a cup of fresh blueberries?
If not can I add them to the cake before the next cake layer?
Hi Andi! We wouldn’t add blueberries directly into the frosting, but you can definitely layer them in the cake like we do with our fresh berry cream cake. You can add a teaspoon of lemon juice if desired.
Was looking for a not so sweet icing for a peaches & cream cake. I’m wondering if I folded diced peaches into the finished icing for between the layers of my cake if it would cause the frosting to separate?
Hi Amy! We fear that adding the peaches will add too much moisture to the frosting, thinning it our and causing it to lose stability. What you could do it layer the peaches in between the layers (place them right on top of the frosting rather than dicing and mixing them directly into the frosting). Or, see recipe notes for flavoring this frosting with freeze dried fruits. Let us know what you try!
Since cold wasn’t an issue; it sounds like you needed to turn up the speed on your mixer (maybe)?
Would it be possible to use a food processor to make this?
A mixer is really best!
Yes, the cream was very cold, I tried all the tips, and it was not moving from soupy. I even put it in the fridge for a few hours, where the top stayed the same, but underneath it turned to water. I tossed it all in the trash before going to bed. I’m sure somehow it went wrong, but I tried my best to fix it. I’ve not had any issues with any of your other recipes (I use many of them) and I will claim user error, even thought I double and triple checked each step and tips. Even room temp, which was AC cooled to 70 degrees. Used Philadelphia full fat Cream cheese, Walmart Heavy Whipping cream and Walmart Powdered Sugar and Vanilla Extract.
Followed recipe exactly, whipped for over 5 minutes in my kitchen aid, and frosting is actually dripping from whisker! All ingredients were purchased yesterday, so I have no idea what happened. I had added more powdered sugar after the 5 minutes, ending up adding 3/4 of a 2# bag of powdered sugar, whipped another 2 mins. and no change in texture. I’m putting it in the fridge to see if it thickens, but may have to use crummy backup canned stuff husband bought!
Hi Marianne! Did you start with cold heavy cream? It’s very important for this ingredient to be cold in order to whip up properly. Could it be over-whipped? 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!
Same thing happened to me twice. I can’t get this to stiffen up. I don’t know what else do do. =(
My mom made the frosting today. Hers came out good. The only difference is that she just went around in slow circles.
I on the other hand, was mixing it really fast with the wisk. Not sure if that will help
Can this recipe be made sweeter by adding more confectioner’s sugar? I’m afraid “not so sweet” will not be sweet enough for my crowd!
Hi Kara! Adding more sugar will make the recipe much thicker. You may enjoy our vanilla buttercream recipe or this cream cheese frosting recipe instead.
It turned out perfectly until I put it on my tres leches cake. It went on beautifully. I refrigerated it for an hour and it got softer and softer and eventually totally deflated. I think the wetness of the cake did that to it. This is just a heads up in case anyone is thinking of using it for that. I look forward to using it on a regular cake. I could have eaten the whole bowl as it was when it was first made. Yummy!!
Oh NO! I just put this on 3 Tres Leches Cakes