Classic Cream Cheese Frosting
A perfect cream cheese frosting is an absolute treat over cakes or cupcakes. It makes a huge difference to the overall effect. This simple, easy and effortless classic cream cheese buttercream frosting is made from scratch with butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and whipped to a light and fluffy texture that just melts in the mouth.
Ain't nothing like the classic cream cheese buttercream frosting, if you do it right. Yup, you heard me. If you do it right!
A good cream cheese frosting has a good balance between the cream cheese, butter, and sugar which are the three main ingredients that give you texture stability and flavor.
Having said that, if you are on a diet try not to use cream cheese for your frosting. BUT please please please do not use low-fat cream cheese. That's just a BIG NO NO!! Don't get me wrong, I'm not against your diet I'm just in favor of good cream cheese frosting. The biggest issue with low-fat cream cheese is that it contains more liquid, which ends up giving you a very soft and wet consistency frosting. As a result, you add more powdered sugar. So there is basically no actual cream cheese flavor in there just powdered sugar. Hence, again if you are on a diet find a frosting that works with your diet. And keep a good cream cheese buttercream frosting for a time when you can afford it.
Ingredients and substitutes
- Cream Cheese - As I've written above - no low fat - please use full-fat cream cheese such as Philadelphia or Mascarpone.
- Butter - Helps add stability to the cream cheese frosting. As it firms up, it holds its shape better, unlike cream cheese.
- Lemon - Just a tiny amount to cut the sugar and it does make a huge difference. And yet, it does not affect the taste. So if you want a lemon flavor you will need to add more.
- Salt - Sounds like a lot but it does help cut the sugar a lot!
- Powdered sugar - As I said above use good powdered sugar made from cane sugar.
Useful Tips and Tools
- For buttercream mixing always use a paddle attachment so you do not incorporate too much air into the buttercream. Some recipes, however, such as meringue buttercreams, require the use of the whisk attachments.
- Having said that, a simple Bowl, whisk and Spatula with a little extra elbow grease will do too.
- Personally, I believe in measuring ingredients by weight, which makes my kitchen scale one of the most valuable items when baking. The same goes for mymeasuring cups and measuring spoons. It's always a good idea to have these handy and use them when baking rather than trying to guess measurements.
- After the buttercream is prepared always keep it sealed well in the fridge. This will prevent any odor from the other foods to attach itself to the buttercream. Therefore, I place my buttercream in a stainless steel storage (we try to avoid using plastic in our home). And I also cover the top surface of the buttercream with cling wrap.
More flavors from this basic cream cheese Buttercream Frosting
- Chocolate CC Frosting - Replace 1/4 cup powdered sugar with cocoa powder - mix together before you add into the mixer.
- Lemon Juice CC frosting - Replace 1 tbsp of the fresh cream with 1 tbsp of lemon juice - more if you like a tart buttercream.
- Peppermint CC frosting - Replace 1 tsp of vanilla in the recipe with 1 tsp peppermint extract to the above frosting.
- Maple CC frosting - Replace the cream in this recipe with Maple syrup - the syrup will lighten the frosting so you may not be able to pipe firm swirls but it will still be absolutely delicious.
- Caramel CC frosting - Omit the fresh cream in the recipe - Add 1/2 cup thick caramel sauce (see my homemade caramel sauce recipe here) - and add the caramel sauce at the last stage and you have whipped the cream cheese frosting.
The consistency will be softer so you won't be able to pipe firm swirls. Since caramel is added sugar the resulting frosting is rather sweet. You can add salt flakes to cut some of that and get a salted caramel effect.
Personally, I prefer to make the classic cream cheese frosting recipe and then drizzle the caramel over the finished cupcake or cake as an added effect which is usually more appreciated than adding caramel into the frosting.
Frequently asked questions
This is probably to do with the low-fat cream cheese lecture I gave you above. You must use cream cheese with at least 32 to 38% fat or more. Cream cheese is not an extra ingredient here it's just like butter. We reduce the butter in a recipe to add cream cheese. So the powdered sugar needs to mix with the fat in the cream cheese and butter, which gives us that light and fluffy texture.
Always room temperature. Both the cream cheese and the butter need to be at room temperature when you start mixing. This will give you a smooth texture. Cold ingredients will give you lumpy cream cheese and very sweet frosting because it has not emulsified enough.
Powdered sugar made from cane, not beet sugar. Did you ever have a frosting that feels grainy on the pallet? That's usually made with beet sugar since it does not dissolve easily in the frosting. You can make frosting with caster sugar. And yet, it really takes forever to dissolve and emulsify. Also, it does not have the same light and fluffy volume you get from powdered sugar.
NO!! Cream cheese frosting is not brand sensitive but rather fat sensitive. You don't need to use a brand name cream cheese. If you can find a local cream cheese that has above 32% fat - go ahead and use it. Of course, the cream cheese has to be unflavored so it does not influence the final flavor of the frosting.
Cream cheese is a perishable product just like milk and yogurt or whipped cream. Hence, it must be treated with the same courtesy. The high powdered sugar content does work as a preservative. So we can keep the finished product out for a few hours. And yet, in general, you must treat cream cheese just as you would milk or yogurt.
Similarly, just like whipped cream - cream cheese becomes fluffy with all the mixing and a lot of air is incorporated in the frosting. And yet, over time it loses its volume when kept outside. Especially in warmer climates.
I have two favorite CC frosting - one is this with added butter, and the other is without added butter. I call it No Butter Cream Cheese Frosting. The second is richer in cream cheese flavor, with a softer consistency. It's an absolute treat and I love to use it on cupcakes. Also, it's more stable and does a great job with piping. In addition, kids love it since the cheese flavor is just right.
Absolutely! If you use (this) classic cream cheese buttercream frosting made correctly. You want your frosting to be firm with the right consistency. If it's too soft it will not firm up in the fridge. As a result, you will not be able to drape a heavy fondant. This frosting does give you a nice consistency and I have used under fondant very successfully. Please note, a fondant cake with perishable frosting such as cream cheese frosting does need to be stored in the fridge.
- In a mixer bowl add the cream cheese and room temperature butter.
- Whip with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy - about a minute.
- Add 2 tbsp of cream, salt, lemon juice and vanilla - whip another minute.
- Add powdered sugar one cup at a time until you've used 3 cups.
- Continue to whip on medium-high for 3 minutes more.
- Check consistency - if necessary add more powdered sugar to stiffen or fresh cream to lighten.
- The more you whip the lighter this frosting will become.
- Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting - replace 1/4 cup powdered sugar with cocoa powder - mix together before you add into the mixer.
- Lemon Juice - Replace 1 tbsp of the fresh cream with 1 tbsp of lemon juice - more if you like a tart buttercream.
- Peppermint - replace 1 tsp of vanilla in the recipe with 1 tsp peppermint extract to the above frosting.
- Maple - Replace the cream in this recipe with maple syrup - the syrup will lighten the frosting so you may not be able to pipe firm swirls but it will still be absolutely delicious.
- Caramel - Omit the fresh cream in the recipe - Add 1/2 cup thick caramel sauce (see my homemade caramel sauce recipe here) - and add the caramel sauce at the last stage and you have whipped the cream cheese frosting. The consistency will be softer so you won't be able to pipe firm swirls. Since caramel is added sugar the resulting frosting is rather sweet. You can add salt flakes to cut some of that and get a salted caramel effect. Personally, I prefer to make the classic cream cheese frosting recipe and then drizzle the caramel over the finished cupcake or cake as an added effect which is usually more appreciated than adding caramel into the frosting.
The nutrition information and metric conversion are calculated automatically. I cannot guarantee its accuracy. If this data is important to you please verify with your trusted nutrition calculator. Thank you
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