Cream Cheese Frosting

This Cream Cheese Frosting is the BEST...sweet, slightly tangy, and quick and easy to make, coming together with just FOUR ingredients. As a bonus, this classic cream cheese frosting recipe complements a variety of cakes and cupcakes!

Cream Cheese Frosting on a cupcake with text overlay.


 

Hello, friends! I'm coming at you today with a simple, staple Cream Cheese Frosting that I make at least once a month.

This classic recipe is, hands down, my favorite frosting EV-AH. More specifically, it's my favorite cupcake frosting recipe, as the perfect complement to my famous vanilla sheet cake cupcakes.

It's also delicious on carrot cake and Italian Cream Cake and red velvet cake.

It's amazing on chocolate cake and lemon cake and coconut cake and pumpkin cake. Really, it's just flat-out fabulous.

Aerial view of ingredients.

Ingredients

There are just FOUR simple ingredients required to make this amazing Cream Cheese Frosting:

  1. Butter. It must be softened, and I prefer using salted. However, when I don't have salted butter on hand, I add a tiny pinch of salt to my frosting to make the flavors pop.
  2. Cream cheese. It needs to be completely at room temperature.
  3. Powdered sugar. The amount is negotiable. However, keep in mind that the amount used will affect not only the sweetness, but the thickness of your ultimate frosting.
  4. Vanilla. Trust me...use pure extract of a good quality. Because you will taste it! More on that below...

I realize this isn't rocket science, folks. It's a really simple recipe with minimal ingredients. It's done in a matter of minutes. But as a cream cheese frosting connoisseur, these are the proportions that I've found to render the yummiest results!

Cream Cheese Frosting on the beater of a stand mixer.

How to Make It

Did you know that making homemade Cream Cheese Frosting is super-duper easy?

  1. Plop your softened butter and cream cheese into a big bowl.
  2. Use an electric hand mixer (or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment) to beat until smooth.
  3. Slowly blend in the powdered sugar and vanilla, then beat on high until well-combined, smooth, and creamy.

The longer you whip this frosting, the lighter and fluffier it will become.

However, as soon as it starts to stiffen, stop beating! Otherwise, it can start to break down and turn runny.

How Much Powdered Sugar?

Feel free to tweak the sweetness of this recipe by increasing or decreasing the powdered sugar.

I actually prefer that my Cream Cheese Frosting is not overly sweet, because I like the slight tang from the cream cheese to come through. In fact, I think that's why I adore this frosting so much. I'm not a fan of cloyingly sweet frostings, and this isn't one of 'em.

Just keep in mind that the amount of powdered sugar you add to this frosting will also dictate how loose or thick it ends up.

A cupcake topped with a perfect swirl.

Use Real Vanilla

In my humble opinion, the key to taking this frosting from good to great lies in the vanilla you use.

For the love of all that is good and holy, use pure vanilla extract! No imitation stuff here, please.

To take it up even a notch more, invest in high quality pure vanilla extract. I'm telling you...it might cost a bit more, but it will make all the difference in your baked goods.

(And forgive me if you've heard me rave about this before, but my most favorite, most beloved, most obsessed-with vanilla extract is Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. I know that's not the brand pictured in this post, but I ran out...and it's still the best. The end.)

Close-up of a bowl of Cream Cheese Frosting with frosted cupcake in the background.Cupcake Frosting

I made this particular batch of frosting last week to put on cupcakes for my 7-year-old's school Valentine's party, and when I did, I shared my quick and easy cupcake frosting method with my Instagram followers (I hope you're one of them, because it's my favorite social media for sharing...and over-sharing?). Rather than slopping on your frosting with a knife, you just need a gallon-sized freezer bag and about five minutes...hop over to read the details if you don't already know this trick!

Speaking of cupcakes, one batch of this recipe should make enough frosting to ice 24 cupcakes with a knife...and this means spreading each cupcake with a reasonable amount of frosting. 😉

But if you really want to pile on the frosting (such as by using the bag trick mentioned in the previous paragraph) for cupcakes with sky-high frosting like those pictured in this post, you will probably need to make 1.5 or even 2 times the recipe to cover 24 cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting on a cupcake and in a bowl.

How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting White

I'm sometimes asked how to get this frosting white. Well, cream cheese frosting isn't likely to ever be truly white, but there are some tricks that you can try if white frosting is important to you.

  • Butter can range from pale to dark yellow, so obviously, use the lightest shade of butter that you can find.
  • While I don't really recommend using anything but pure vanilla extract, you can use a clear imitation vanilla extract for an even lighter shade of frosting if that's the most important thing to you.
  • Also, the longer you whip your frosting, the lighter and fluffier it will become and the lighter in color it will appear.
  • Adding a teeeensy drop of violet food coloring can also help yellow-ish frosting appear more white. Fully incorporate a very small dot or drop before determining if you need to add more. Be careful not to add too much or your frosting will turn gray or purple!

Any questions about the yummiest frosting that ever was? Actually, I have one for you...what are you going to use this on? I might have to bake something this weekend just to have an excuse to whip up another batch, and I'm lookin' for idears...

P.S. If you have any frosting left over and you decide to take a spoon to it, it's particularly tasty if you sprinkle some chocolate chips on top. Or so I've heard...

Helpful Tips, Tricks, & Equipment

  • Vanilla prices have skyrocketed over the past couple of years because of a worldwide vanilla bean shortage. I used to buy my beloved Nielsen-Massey by the 32-ounce jug on Amazon...but the current price for a mass quantity like that is rather heart stopping. So these days, I tend to buy a smaller bottle of "the good stuff" and only use it in my favorite recipes (like this one!) where the vanilla flavor truly shines through.
  • This frosting recipe holds up best when chilled. It is pretty soft at room temperature, meaning it's not the best choice for frosting an elaborate cake that needs strength and structure.
  • I usually frost my cake or cupcakes ahead of time, refrigerate, and then let them come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.

Bowl and cupcake.

More Cream Cheese Frosting Variations

Cream Cheese Frosting on a cupcake.

Cream Cheese Frosting

This classic Cream Cheese Frosting recipe is the BEST...sweet, slightly tangy, and quick and easy to make, coming together with just FOUR ingredients. As a bonus, it complements a wide variety of cakes and cupcakes!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 24 cupcakes (about 3 cups of frosting total)
Calories: 126kcal
Print Pin Rate

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 to 4 cups powdered sugar, depending on your desired consistency & sweetness of frosting
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Using an electric hand mixer (or stand mixer with paddle attachment), beat together the butter and the cream cheese. Slowly blend in the powdered sugar and vanilla, then beat on high until well-combined, smooth, and creamy.

Video

Notes

  • The longer you whip this frosting, the lighter and fluffier it will become. However, as soon as it starts to stiffen, stop beating! Otherwise, it can start to break down and turn runny.
  • This frosting recipe holds up best when chilled. It is pretty soft at room temperature, meaning it's not the best choice for frosting an elaborate cake that needs strength and structure.
  • I usually frost my cake or cupcakes ahead of time, refrigerate, and then let them come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 126kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 21mg | Sodium: 64mg | Potassium: 13mg | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 245IU | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 1mg
Made this recipe? I'd love to see on IG!Mention @FiveHeartHome or tag #FiveHeartHome!

Post originally published on February 19, 2015. Updated on February 5, 2019, and again on May 2, 2020.

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Recipe Rating




123 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Delicious thank you so much for your recipe. It’s going on top of a devil’s food sheet cake:)

  2. 5 stars
    I made this once before and it was delicious! Everything went perfectly. I can't recall though, how much does one batch make? Will it be enough to frost 4 dozen cupcakes? Lol.....thank you!

    Jessie

    1. Glad you enjoyed this frosting, Jessie! One batch of frosting will cover 2 dozen cupcakes with a moderate (not sky-high) amount of frosting. So for 4 dozen cupcakes, you'd need to double the recipe. 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    This is a very good recipe for frosting my Finnish Coffee Bread that we call Nisu Nissua or Pulla. I could not find a recipe when looking for one under any of those names but this one is very good.

    1. My mother was Finnish and came from northern Michigan, Bruces Crossing just a few miles from Ewen, Michigan. The people on the farm next to them were named Aho and from what I understand were related some how.. My mothers last name was Manninen and her sister Martha married Chauncey Eggleston who also lived on the same road, just before my Grandpa and Grandma. I don't know if you would know about any of these folks but they all immigrated from Finland directly there was a half sister named Lemby. Just curious!!
      Sincerely, Lois Lewis Olker. Happy Easter!!! got to get busy with your frosting recipe.

    1. You can make this frosting a good bit in advance, Lindsay (even up to a week), but you'll need to let it come to room temperature (and give it a quick beat again, if you like) before spreading it on your cake/cupcakes.

    1. If you don't have salted butter, you can definitely use unsalted butter plus a pinch of salt. Just be careful not to add too much! 🙂

  4. Dear Samantha,
    Is it possible to use less sugar powder so its less sweet or the cream would not shape well? Many thanks

    1. Hi Victoria! I often make this recipe with a lesser amount of powdered sugar and you're correct...it does come out a bit looser. Might not work for a tiered cake, but I find that it works just fine for a cake in a baking dish or even cupcakes. 🙂 Hope that helps!

      1. I’m making this cake today for my mother’s birthday and I would like to know the measurements please. I bought 2 sticks of cream cheese and big bag of powdered sugar and pure vanilla !

  5. 5 stars
    I made a half recipe of this to generously cover a 9-inch round cake (Ina Garten’s chocolate recipe, ahhhhmazing). It was to-die-for. We all agreed it was the best we’d ever had. Thank you so much!

  6. 5 stars
    I used this recipe last weekend for a last minute request while visiting my friend’s son; it happens to be his birthday, I didn’t hv any baking/frosting tools other then a hand mixer, so I went for a red velvet cake and covered it with your cream cheese frosting, I used a knife and a ziplock bag to frost that not so good looking cake. It turn out that everybody love the cake, even last night my friend was talking about the delicious frosting. Thank you this recipe is going to be on my favorites list 👩🏼‍🍳