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!
Why you’ll love this recipe:
This cream cheese frosting is my absolute favorite frosting ever! In my book, a good cream cheese frosting should be:
- Smooth and creamy
- Light and fluffy
- Not overly sweet
- With a slight tang
- And 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 low amount of sugar in my recipe compared to the most recipes online. It’s no mistake, but you’ll still get the most delicious frosting, which is still plenty sweet!
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 this 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.
- 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.
- And voila! Frost your cakes or cupcakes right away, or refrigerate it until ready to use.
Troubleshooting Common Issues
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 liquids 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 into 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!
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.
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.
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.
- Keep the frosting in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Re-whip before using.
Ultimate Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 oz (225g) 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 kosher salt
- 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:
This recipe was originally published on March 26, 2013.