Delicious and decadent, this is the best cream cheese frosting you will ever make and it's super easy to make! An absolute classic that goes perfectly with everything from cakes and cupcakes, to cookies and bakes, or whizz up a batch in five minutes and jump in with a spoon!
Hands up if cream cheese frosting has ever been the bane of your baking life like mine?
*Shoots arm straight up in the air*
Ok, so time for another confession...
For years I've had a love/hate relationship with this classic, so much so that if I'd go to silly lengths to avoid making it, convincing everyone requesting cream cheese frosting that they'd truly prefer a good vanilla buttercream instead.
You see my first experiences were quite tragic - a runny, gooey, sticky, snotty mess. It would just slide straight off a cake. And don't even think it was possible to pipe it; no way, that stuff just poured straight out of my piping bag.
After years of failed attempts, involving lot of trial and error and many frosting related tears, I've finally honed my cream cheese frosting recipe and I'm ready to share it with you all.
So if you're like me and using cream cheese has been limited to toast and cheesecakes then this is the recipe for you.
It's time to share my secrets!
Take me to the frosting already!
Table of Contents
If you want to skip the super essential info for making absolutely the best cream cheese frosting then head on down to the printable recipe card.
Taste: Sweet with a tang of cream cheese
Ease: Super simple and absolutely no faff
Pros: Smooth, creamy and ideal for piping
Cons: Sets soft, not suitable for heavy decoration
Make again: For sure, it's the perfect recipe
What you'll need to make this
View my Amazon shopping list with equipment and ingredients
- Butter - I use unsalted and add a pinch of fine sea salt. You can also use salted butter if you prefer. Make sure the butter is at room temperature before using.
- Icing Sugar - Also called powdered or confectioners sugar. This can sometimes clump, so I recommend sieving before using.
- Cream Cheese - Full-fat is a must! If you can get block cream cheese then that's ideal. I use Philadelphia as it's more widely available in the UK. Check out my tips for more information about which cream cheese to use and why.
- Vanilla Extract
Just like my awesome chocolate buttercream, you do not need any fancy equipment to make this recipe. If you're feeling strong you could do this by hand, but a mixer, either handheld or stand, will make things a lot easier!
I do prefer to use a stand mixer, as I can just leave it to do its thing as I do something else. However, for this recipe, a hand mixer is a great alternative so you can keep an eye on the frosting and not overbeat it.
What cream cheese should I use?
Ok so let's talk cream cheese. You don't want to skip this bit as getting this right can make or break your frosting!
There are two types of cream cheese - block or spreadable. Depending on where in the World you are will determine which you use. Which ever you use, it must be full-fat!
Here in the UK spreadable is the most popular option; while in the US block is more readily available.
- Block Cream Cheese - Has a significantly lower water content, and will result in stiffer frosting that holds firmer. If you can get hold of this, then definitely use this one!
- Spreadable Cream Cheese - This has a higher water content than block cream cheese, so will result in a softer frosting. You need to be careful when using this as over beating can cause your frosting to turn runny. I prefer to use Philadelphia as it has the lowest water content than store-brand versions.
REMEMBER: It's important to use full-fat cream cheese as lower-fat versions have a significantly higher water content and won't hold up to being piped.
How do I know if my cream cheese has a high water content?
If you're using block cream cheese, you'll be fine. This really only applies to spreadable options.
If your cream cheese has a high water content, you'll most probably notice it straight away. Peel back the foil lid and there will be water on the surface of the cheese.
I've found over the years of trial and error that Philadelphia is by fair the best option in the UK, and while there will be some water it is easily drained off.
I've also tried a lot of store-brand options as well but found that they have a lot more water in them. And when drained more water will appear, but Philadelphia stays drier.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't use store-brand options; they are often a more cost effective option. Just be aware that the water can cause the frosting to become too soft.
This is also the same for lower fat versions which are pumped with water and stabilisers. So forget counting the calories and stick with the full-fat option!
How to make cream cheese frosting
Full measurements and instructions can be found on the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.
Right then, you've got your ingredients and equipment so you're all set to make your frosting.
Before we go any further, I need to say this again... don't overbeat the cream cheese. Have a little patience and it will turn out just right. The whole recipe takes no more than 10 minutes to make.
First up, start by whisking the butter for 3-4 minutes until it is pale and fluffy. If using unsalted butter, add the salt as well. If your butter is at room temperature it will be easier to work with.
Next add the icing sugar; do this a tablespoon at a time whisking well between each addition. Now I know this seems laborious but it helps the frosting stay smooth and creamy, and it's a lot less messy!
Follow this with the vanilla extract and mix again.
When everything is combined, add the cream cheese. To prevent over-beating, fold the cream cheese in with a spatula, then just gently whisk on low speed to make sure everything is combined.
You're then ready to pipe, ice or frost!
If not using straight away, pop the frosting in the fridge to keep chilled.
Frequently asked questions
This recipe makes enough frosting to ice approximately 12 cupcakes, fill and cover a three layer 6-inch cake or frost a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake.
Yes you can, but I would recommend making this when you need it, or no more than 1 day ahead, and then kept in the fridge. Bring the frosting up to room temperature and gently beat, being careful not to over whisk, before using.
Store the frosting in an air-tight container and keep chilled in the fridge.
The frosting is best used with 1-2 days, but will for up to 1 week in the fridge if stored in an air-tight container.
Yes you can freeze the frosting for up to 3 months; this is great if you have any leftover. Make sure it is kept in a freezer-proof air-tight container to prevent ice crystals forming. When ready to use, fully defrost the frosting in the fridge then bring it up to room temperature and mix carefully before using.
Yes you can, the recipe is easily doubled but if you need a larger batch remember the butter and icing sugar should be equal quantities, and the cream cheese is double that quantity. So for this recipe I used 150g of butter, 150g of icing sugar and 300g of cream cheese.
Top tips for the best cream cheese frosting
- Make sure the butter is at room temperature - Before you do anything, let the butter come up to room temperature; it is easier to whisk until it is pale and fluffy. Make sure the butter is not too soft else the frosting will become greasy and collapse.
- Whisk the butter and icing sugar together first - I know it seems easier to just add everything in together and whisk it up, but don't! Instead whisk the butter and icing sugar together, just like a regular buttercream, and then add in the cream cheese. This will prevent the cream cheese slacking causing runny frosting.
- Don't overbeat when adding the cream cheese - This is critical especially if you're using a spreadable cream cheese. Over beating will release any water in the cream cheese meaning the frosting won't thicken up.
Can you fix runny cream cheese frosting?
To be honest... no!
If your frosting is runny it's past the point of return.
Once the water has been released, there is no way to dry it out. Some will say to add more icing sugar but trust me it doesn't work. The frosting will just get super sweet and extra sticky and gooey.
The best thing for runny frosting is to use it in something else. It works well as a glaze for a Red Velvet bundt or drizzled over the top of raspberry swirl buns. You could even add it into a quick no churn ice cream to sandwich between Red Velvet cookies.
But whatever you do, don't waste it... it still tastes great!
Save for later!
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Looking for more inspiration?
Now you've made the frosting, check out these recipes to use it with...
Have you made this recipe?
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Jump to the Recipe
Cream Cheese Frosting
- In a large bowl or stand mixer with the whisk or paddle attachment, add the butter and salt and mix together, on medium/high speed, for 3-4 minutes until soft, pale and fluffy.
- Add the icing sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing into the butter between each addition until well combined and smooth.
- Add the vanilla extract mixing into the butter mixture until well combined.
- Add the cream cheese and fold into the butter mixture with a spatula until combined.
- Whisk the frosting on low speed for about 1 minute. You may not need to whisk for this long, keep an eye on the consistency. Be careful not to over beat the frosting, you just want the mixture to come together until smooth.
- If the frosting is too stiff, 1 teaspoon of full fat milk and mix through.
- Use the frosting straight away or keep in an air-tight container chilled in the fridge.
This recipe makes enough frosting to ice approximately 12 cupcakes, fill and cover a three layer 6-inch cake or frost a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake. Can I make ahead of time and use when needed?
Yes you can, but I would recommend making this when you need it, or no more than 1 day ahead, and then kept in the fridge. Bring the frosting up to room temperature and gently beat, being careful not to over whisk, before using. How should the frosting be stored?
Store the frosting in an air-tight container and keep chilled in the fridge. How long will the frosting keep for?
The frosting is best used with 1-2 days, but will for up to 1 week in the fridge if stored in an air-tight container. Can the frosting be frozen?
Yes you can freeze the frosting for up to 3 months; this is great if you have any leftover. Make sure it is kept in a freezer-proof air-tight container to prevent ice crystals forming. When ready to use, fully defrost the frosting in the fridge then bring it up to room temperature and mix carefully before using. Can I scale up the recipe?
Yes you can, the recipe is easily doubled but if you need a larger batch remember the butter and icing sugar should be equal quantities, and the cream cheese is double that quantity. So for this recipe I used 250g of butter, 250g of icing sugar and 500g of cream cheese.
Disclaimer: The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.
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