How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting

5 from 3 votes

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Learn to make the best cream cheese frosting with my proven tips and troubleshooting guide for light and fluffy frosting that’s thick enough to pipe. *Video tutorial is included!

Upclose creamy smooth cream cheese frosting.


 

Why you’ll love this recipe:

This cream cheese frosting is my absolute favorite frosting ever!

  • Texture: smooth and creamy, light and fluffy!
  • Flavor: not overly sweet with a slight tang. My cream cheese frosting recipe uses half the sugar than most recipes!
  • Consistency: thick enough to pipe.

Ingredients you need:

  • Cream cheese – It’s important to use the “right” type of cream cheese for proper consistency. You need a brick-style, full-fat, plain block of cream cheese for sturdy thick frosting.
  • Butter – I recommend unsalted butter, so you can control the saltiness. If you need sturdier, more stable frosting, you may increase the butter amount up to 1.5 cups. That way you’ll get more like a cream cheese buttercream, which is still delicious.
  • Powdered sugar – Don’t be surprised by the low amount of sugar in my recipe compared to most recipes online. It’s no mistake, but you’ll still get the most delicious frosting, which is still plenty sweet!
Cream cheese frosting ingredients in individual plates.

Tip

The “secret” to perfectly smooth frosting is softened cream cheese and butter. Cold cream cheese will yield lumpy frosting.

Simply take cream cheese and butter out of the fridge for 1-2 hours in advance.

How to make cream cheese frosting:

It’s really quick and easy to make this frosting.

  • Beat cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until nice and fluffy for about 2 minutes.
Whipped cream cheese and butter in a glass bowl of stand mixer.
  • Add powdered sugar and stir on low speed until incorporated. Then increase the speed to medium-high and whip until smooth and fluffy.
  • Add salt and vanilla extract and whip for another 30 seconds or so.
Side by side images of whipping cream cheese with powdered sugar.
  • And voila! Frost your cakes or cupcakes right away, or refrigerate it until ready to use.
A glass bowl of smooth frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting Troubleshooting

And before you make your frosting, read through the following troubleshooting guide to avoid any mistakes that could ruin your work without salvage.

What causes runny cream cheese frosting:

  • Make sure to use full fat, brick-style cream cheese, because brick-style cream cheese has lower water content, which is crucial for a thick frosting. Reduced fat or low-fat cream cheeses or cream cheese spreads contain higher water content, which melts the sugar making a cream cheese soup.
  • Too soft butter can also make the frosting a bit loose. Room-temperature butter should be firm, yet soft enough to leave a little dent when you push on it.
  • Avoid adding too much liquid to flavor your frosting. Up to 1 teaspoon of liquids, like vanilla extract, would be ok. And add extracts at the very end, so that it won’t melt the sugar causing a runny frosting.
  • Opt for dry flavorings, like lemon zest, vanilla paste or vanilla beans, freeze-dried fruit powders, cocoa powder, etc.
  • Don’t over-beat cream cheese and butter, or the mixture may heat up and melt the sugar, again making a soupy frosting.

How to fix runny frosting:

Adding more powdered sugar won’t help you if you already got runny frosting, because your frosting is runny is due to excess moisture in it, and adding more sugar will just melt it. Also, putting it in the fridge won’t help in this case as well, because moisture doesn’t thicken in cold temperature.

Instead, try adding up to 1/2 cup of cornstarch to the runny frosting. Cornstarch helps to thicken the frosting without altering the flavor by absorbing excess moisture.

Too sweet frosting:

If you think your frosting is too sweet, add a pinch of salt. Salt will balance out the sweetness and it’ll taste much better!

Grainy frosting:

This could happen if there’s not enough moisture in the frosting, and sugar isn’t incorporated properly.

FIX: Try adding 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream and whip it again.

Lumpy cream cheese frosting:

It’s likely that you used cold cream cheese. Make sure to soften your cream cheese at room temperature, about 1 hour on the counter. Also, check your powdered sugar. If it has lots of lumps, I suggest sifting it before adding it to the frosting.

Half a dozen red velvet cupcakes frosted with cream cheese frosting
Check out my Red Velvet Cupcakes recipe

Make-Ahead Tip:

You can definitely make this frosting in advance.

  • Keep it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Bring it to room temperature and re-whip before using.
  • You can also freeze it for up to 3 months! Simply thaw it overnight in the fridge. Then bring it to room temperature and re-whip before using.

Storing Tips:

  • Keep the frosting in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Re-whip before using.

Video Tutorial

Watch How to Make This Below!
Upclose creamy smooth cream cheese frosting.
5 from 3 votes

Ultimate Cream Cheese Frosting

Learn to make the best cream cheese frosting with my proven tips and troubleshooting guide for light and fluffy frosting that’s thick enough to pipe.
Total: 5 minutes
Servings: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 oz (225g) full-fat cream cheese at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (55g) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups (260g) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Instructions 

  • In a mixing bowl with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter on medium high speed until fluffy, about 1 minute.
  • Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed for a minute. Then increase the speed to medium high and continue to beat until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  • Stir in vanilla extract and salt. Whip again until incorporated, 30 seconds.

Tips & Notes

Yields: about 2.5 cups of frosting, enough frosting for 12 cupcakes.
Make-Ahead Tip: Keep cream cheese frosting in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. Re-whip before using. To thaw frozen frosting, transfer to the fridge and thaw it overnight.

Nutrition

Calories: 177kcal
Carbohydrates: 21g
Protein: 1g
Fat: 10g
Sugar: 20g
Sodium: 86mg
Course: frosting
Cuisine: American

This recipe was originally published on March 26, 2013.

Hi, I’m Shinee!

Welcome! I’m so happy you’re here! I believe anyone can cook restaurant-quality food at home! And my goal is to help you to become a confident cook with my easy-to-follow recipes with lots of tips and step-by-step photos.

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8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I would just like to say a massive thank you for such a perfect recipe! I did the extra butter option as I wanted a sturdy frosting, and I put lemon zest in. It came out absolutely perfect.

  2. Hello! Thank you for the article! I’d like to ask on why my cream cheese frosting still has like bits of cream cheese on it.. I already thaw the cream cheese overnight so no cold cream cheese and I always shift my powder sugar before adding it to the cream cheese.. Would really appreciate your help, thank you 🙂

    1. Hi, Hana. If you’re confident your cream cheese was perfectly soft, then it’s just matter of whipping cream cheese and butter well before adding sugar. It should be perfectly fluffy and smooth with no lumps before you add powdered sugar. Hope this helps.

    1. Hi, Yogi. Depending on whether you’re planning on decorating the cake with the frosting or not, I’d increase the recipe by 1.5 or double the recipe. Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions or if you give it a try.

  3. I love all your recipes but I get frustrated because you don’t offer a simple way to add a recipe to a Pinterest Board. I know you have a page with all your boards and many recipes to look through but I cannot “pin” anything. Am I missing the symbol to pin the recipe I’m looking at to my board?

    1. Hi, Annabelle! Thank you for your feedback, and I’m sorry for causing a frustration. I had just deleted my social sharing buttons due to security issue, and I hadn’t replaced with new ones. I just installed Pinterest button on images now. If you hover over the image (or click on image on mobile), you will see red “P” button. Click on that button to save it to your Pinterest board. Again I appreciate your nudge. Hope this helps. I’m so happy you enjoy my recipes. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any other questions/ concerns.