Cream Cheese Frosting

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This silky Cream Cheese Frosting is a basic recipe that can be used in a variety of ways. It’s not too sweet and has a ton of tangy cream cheese flavor!

You will be so impressed with this light and smooth frosting. It’s perfect for all sorts of cakes, cupcakes, and even cookies!

Close up overhead view of cream cheese frosting swirled over yellow cupcakes

This is the only cream cheese frosting recipe you need! Trust me, I’ve used it so many times for cakes and cupcakes, and I always get rave reviews!

My coconut buttercream frosting, vanilla buttercream, and chocolate buttercream frosting are some the top frosting recipes on the site and today’s cream cheese version fits right in with those!

It’s so smooth, tangy, and lightly sweet. It’s the best way to ice a carrot cake or red velvet cupcakes. It’s even great on vanilla cupcakes!

I’ve made a lemon version of today’s frosting in the past but honestly, a basic frosting is my absolute favorite!

It’s actually a great base for other flavors as well but you have to be careful because adding too much of anything extra will thin out the frosting and make it runny.

You could mix in things like crushed pineapple that’s been very well drained. Different citrus curds. Or you could add a little cocoa powder to make chocolate cream cheese!

Side view of cream cheese frosting swirled over yellow cupcakes

How to make cream cheese frosting

The concept is the same as making a buttercream. You want to start with softened butter and cream cheese but the butter shouldn’t be so soft that it looks oily. 20 to 30 minutes on the countertop seems to be the sweet spot for softening butter.

Whip the butter and cream cheese together until it’s completely smooth creamy. This can take up to 5 minutes depending on your mixer.

Then I just add all of the remaining ingredients at once – the sugar, salt, and vanilla – and beat it until is completely mixed in and smooth. Alternatively, you can add the sugar in two additions to make it easier to fully incorporate without making a huge mess.

how to make cream cheese frosting

The frosting is very soft and supple but it does hold its shape well when pipped. If the frosting seems too soft, you can pop in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes then whip it a bit more. The cold temperature will help stiffen it some. 

But, do try to avoid adding more confectioners’ sugar. The cream cheese makes the frosting creamier and it will take quite a bit of confectioners’ sugar to get a stiff frosting. The excess sugar may be too sweet to handle.

You can make cream cheese frosting up to a week in advance. Just store it in an airtight container and keep it refrigerated.

Close up of cream cheese frosting in a white bowl

Can you color cream cheese frosting?

The answer is yes! You can add a few drops of gel food coloring to color the frosting. Avoid using liquid food coloring because it can ruin the texture and make the frosting too runny.

How do you thicken cream cheese frosting?

The best way to thicken cream cheese frosting is to refrigerate it for 5-10 minutes. As the butter cools, it’ll help firm up the frosting. 

You can also add meringue powder to thicken the frosting and keep it stable. I’ve done this countless times and it works like a charm. It’s even great for stabilizing frosting with wet ingredients, like my pineapple frosting. Start with 1 tablespoon, mix it in, then see if you need to add more. 

Tips for making the best cream cheese frosting

  • Don’t work with butter that is too soft. If it’s oily, it’s too soft and won’t mix properly with the cream cheese. 
  • Don’t use plain powdered sugar. Use confectioners’ sugar instead. It contains cornstarch and will help thicken the frosting.
  • Use full-fat cream cheese! Cream cheese with lower fat content contain more liquid and can result in a runny frosting.
  • Avoid adding more sugar to thicken the frosting! This will only make it too sweet. 

Overhead view of cream cheese frosting swirled over yellow cupcakes

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Cream Cheese Frosting

This silky Cream Cheese Frosting is a basic recipe that can be used in a variety of ways. It’s not too sweet and has a ton of tangy cream cheese flavor!
Makes about 5 cups. Enough to frost two 8 or 9-inch layers or 24 cupcakes.
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Yields: 20 servings
Calories: 254
Author: Jen Sobjack

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, cut into pieces, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a handheld electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy.
  • Add the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low until just incorporated then turn the mixer to high speed and beat for 2 minutes.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Nutrition

Serving: 4tablespoons | Calories: 254kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 103mg | Potassium: 34mg | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 11.8% | Calcium: 2.5% | Iron: 0.6%

Nutritional values here on my recipes should be used as a general guide only. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.

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