Cream cheese frosting is a delicious, rich frosting of white cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar. This is the ultimate cream cheese-based frosting recipe and it's so easy to make. Good luck not eating the whole bowl!
Table of Content
A good frosting has the perfect balance between fat and sugar which are the two main ingredients that give you texture, stability, and flavor.
In fact, the secret to good CC frosting is full-fat cream cheese. Every baker needs a great frosting recipe in their repertoire. Having used this frosting professionally for years over endless desserts and cakes I can tell you this one is absolutely one of the best frostings ever!
Why make this recipe
- This recipe is very simple and easy to make in just 5 minutes. So the next time you need a frosting doesn't grab the storebought tub but buy these few ingredients. I promise you will get hooked on homemade frostings.
- I use a little whipping cream for my frosting. This adds that light and airy whipped cream consistency.
- I usually use a large bowl and whisk but you can also use a hand mixer or electric mixer.
- This recipe is an excellent treat for your favorite cupcakes. You can also use it to frost a cake or any other pastry.
- It is a stable frosting that you can use even under fondant. The stability of course comes from the butter that sets when chilled, unlike cream cheese that stays soft even when chilled.
- The rich cream cheese flavor of course comes from the full-fat cream cheese that whips up with the butter and powdered sugar.
- If you want a richer cream cheese flavor you can of course make a no-butter CC Frosting.
- You can freeze leftover frosting in the freezer in an airtight container for up to a month so don't hesitate to make more than enough frosting.
Ingredients and substitutes
- Cream Cheese - No low fat! Please use full-fat cream cheese such as Philadelphia or Mascarpone. Nothing less than 38% . I usually use 40% mascarpone in mine especially when I'm using it for my fondant-covered cakes.
- Butter - helps add stability to the frosting. As it firms up, it holds its shape better. Of course, preferably use only unsalted butter or omit salt in the recipe.
- Lemon - Just a tiny amount to cut into that sweetness. And yet, it does not affect the taste of your desserts.
- Salt - Sounds like a lot but it does help cut down the sweetness.
- Powdered sugar - Always use good powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar) made from cane sugar to avoid gritty/grainy frostings.
- Flavoring - I love the classic vanilla extract or vanilla bean scrapings, but almond, orange, or rose extract are wonderful too.
- Optional ingredients - feel free to spice your frosting to match the cake you are making. For example, in winter I use pumpkin spice or gingerbread spice when possible.
Best cream cheese frosting recipe
Makes enough for 24 cupcakes, 8 or 9 x 2 layer cake
- In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment cream the cream cheese and butter to remove any lumps. Add the heavy cream, salt, lemon juice, and vanilla extract– cream another minute
Pro tip - use medium-low speed for cream cheese to prevent it from separating.
- Next, add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Once all the powdered sugar has been used whip the frosting for 2 to 3 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy.
Pro tip - do not overwhip cream cheese as it can separate and become soft.
- Consistency – Add a few tablespoons of powdered sugar to make it firmer or add a few tablespoons of heavy cream to loosen it
Pro tip - if using it to frost a cake keep the frosting to a smooth but firm spreadable consistency or it will be too soft to smooth with the bench scraper.
Flavored CC frosting
- Chocolate CC Frosting - Replace ¼ cup powdered sugar with cocoa powder - stir together before you add into the mixer.
- Lemon Juice CC frosting - Replace 1 spoon (tbsp) of the fresh cream with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice - more tablespoons if you like a tart buttercream.
- Peppermint CC frosting - Replace 1 teaspoon of vanilla in the recipe with 1 teaspoon 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 ½ 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.
What can you frost with cream cheese?
A cream cheese frosting is very versatile and can be used on a number of cakes, desserts, and pasties. For example
- Red velvet, carrot cake, or pumpkin cakes are of course popular with cream cheese, and for good reason. The richness of the veggies is perfect when combined with veggies like carrots, pumpkins, or beets.
- It is the perfect frosting for sheet cakes whether you use chocolate cake or vanilla sheet cake.
- Of course, can you imagine cinnamon rolls without cream cheese?
- The same goes with pastries such as cream puffs, profiteroles, danish pastries, as well as puff pastry desserts like mille Feuille.
More frosting recipes
- No Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
- Maple Buttercream Frosting, Champagne Buttercream
- Ermine Frosting (Less Sweet), Eggnog Buttercream Frosting
- White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- Bakery Style Vanilla Frosting or Bakery-Style Chocolate Frosting
- Best Coffee Buttercream Frosting
- Caramel Buttercream Frosting, Butterscotch Buttercream Frosting
- 30 + Buttercream Recipes - 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.
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 into the frosting. And yet, over time it loses its volume when kept outside of the fridge. Especially in warmer climates.
Absolutely! You can use this classic CC frosting. You want your frosting to be firm with the right consistency. If it's too soft it will not firm up in the refrigerator. As a result, you will not be able to drape a heavy fondant. This favorite frosting does give you a nice firm canvas for fondant cakes.
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1 lb = 453 grams, 1 cup = 240 ml, 1 stick = 113g, 1 tbsp= 15 ml, 1 tsp= 5 ml,
Makes enough for 24 cupcakes, 8 or 9 x 2 layer cake
- 8 oz (226 g) Cream cheese
- 4 oz (113 g) Butter (unsalted, room temperature)
- 1 lb (450 g) Powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoon Heavy cream (38% fat or more)
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon Lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Vanilla extract
If needed for consistency
- 2 tablespoon Powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoon Heavy cream
- In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment cream the cream cheese and butter to remove any lumps. Add the heavy cream, salt, lemon juice, and vanilla extract– cream another minutePro tip - use medium-low speed for cream cheese to prevent it from separating.
- Next, add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Once all the powdered sugar has been used whip the frosting for 2 to 3 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy.Pro tip - do not overwhip cream cheese as it can separate and become soft.
- Consistency – Add a few tablespoons of powdered sugar to make it firmer or add a few tablespoons of heavy cream to loosen itPro tip - if using it to frost a cake keep the frosting firmer or it will be too soft to smooth with the bench scraper.
Recipe Notes & Tips
Flavored cream cheese frosting
- Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting - replace ¼ cup powdered sugar with cocoa powder - mix together before you add into the mixer.
- Lemon Juice - Replace 1 tablespoon of the fresh cream with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice - more if you like a tart buttercream.
- Peppermint - replace 1 teaspoon of vanilla in the recipe with 1 teaspoon 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 ½ 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
I want to use your frosting recipe for a lemon and poppy seed cake for a baby shower cake.
I based in South Africa and we have the Philadelphia Original Cream, will this suffice to put under fondant?
How would I know if the the fat content is enough?
Can I add lemon juice and lemon rind to the recipe?
Hey Melissa. Use all full-fat cream cheese and butter. For me, full-fat cream cheese here is 40% but anything from 35% over is great. Yes, lemon cream cheese sounds great. Just add lemon juice and lemon rind.
thank you, will the cake be ok left outside the fridge, since I am covering it with Cream Cheese Frosting and fondant?
Yes, even with fondant it still needs to be in the fridge.
Can the CC frosting be kept out of the fridge if covered in fondant?
How much of lemon juice can I add to your CC frosting to create a lemon CC frosting?
No Mellissa. Cream cheese is a perishable frosting and needs refrigeration all the time. Thanks
thanks. how much of Lemon juice can I add to this CC frosting to get a lemon flavour?
I usually add about 4 tbsp but you can taste and adjust accordingly
If I wanted to use food colouring to change the colour of the frosting, would I need to alter the recipe? Thank you!
Yes, use less liquid because food gel coloring is also liquid.