The BEST CREAM CHEESE FROSTING – This quick and easy cream cheese frosting recipe is sooo good! It’s the perfect cream cheese icing for frosting carrot cake, pumpkin bars, banana cake, red velvet cake, cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, cookies, or your favorite cake recipe! Learn how to make cream cheese frosting that is homemade, light and fluffy, and so delicious!
Don’t settle for a great cream cheese frosting. You deserve only the best recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting for your cakes, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, and cookies! Here’s everything you need to know to for how to make cream cheese frosting that is smooth and creamy as well as delicious! You’ll love this recipe!
There are two frosting recipes everyone should have in their baking arsenal. One is this Best Buttercream Frosting recipe, and the other is this Classic Cream Cheese Frosting recipe that’s so easy to make, you’ll want to make it all the time!
Although both buttercream and cream cheese frostings are similar in preparation, they are distinctively different. Homemade cream cheese frosting has a nice tang to it due to the ratio of cream cheese and butter.
Many cream cheese frosting recipes have varying ratios of cream cheese and butter. Since cake decorating for nearly 25 years, I’ve found the 2:1 ratio to provide the most smooth and creamy cream cheese frosting. When cream cheese frostings have a 1:1 ratio, the delicious flavor of the cream cheese becomes closer to a cream cheese buttercream flavor. You can taste both cream cheese and butter which is nice for some recipes.
Other cream cheese frosting ratios are 2 to .5. In my opinion, this ratio doesn’t provide as much creaminess but heavily leans towards a sweet whipped cream cheese flavor. You want to taste the cream cheese without it being overpowering. The 2:1 ratio allows the cream cheese flavor to be in the spotlight with all the work-ability and fat butter brings to make this the best cream cheese frosting recipe for all your baked goods calling for cream cheese frosting.
This frosting has a creamy soft texture to it that makes it perfect for frosting carrot cakes or cinnamon rolls. Truthfully, it’s the best cream cheese frosting for red velvet cake or your favorite banana cake or bread because it spreads so nicely and is the right amount of sweetness.
Not only is it an easy frosting recipe for cakes, but it’s also the perfect cream cheese icing for pumpkin bars. You can also use this recipe for cream cheese frosting for cupcakes and cookies! It’s the only one you need!
TO MAKE THIS BEST CREAM CHEESE FROSTING RECIPE, YOU NEED TO THE FOLLOWING INGREDIENTS:
- Cream cheese (Must be full fat. Using low-fat frosting makes the frosting taste and feel weird.)
- Unsalted butter
- Sifted powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
- Pinch of salt
- Vanilla extract
- A tiny bit of fresh lemon juice
HERE ARE THE STEPS:
Start with softened cream cheese and butter – Cutting the cream cheese and butter into cubes helps both ingredients come to room-temperature quicker.
Cream the cream cheese and butter in stages until nice and creamy – there should be no lumps or chunks.
Add the sifted powdered sugar to the mixing bowl in stages – Whether you use a stand mixer or an electric mixer, you want to add the powdered sugar in one cup at a time. Starting with the SLOWEST speed possible, incorporate the sugar with the cream cheese icing mixture, so it doesn’t blow everywhere. It will look clumpy, and that’s ok.
Increasing the speed – Once the homemade cream cheese frosting has incorporated the powdered sugar, add in the vanilla extract, lemon juice, and pinch of salt. Turn the mixer back on to slow and increase the speed to medium. The cream cheese frosting will not look smooth and creamy, YET. Don’t worry.
This is when you have to trust the process. Increase the speed to medium-high. As you whip air into the cream cheese frosting, you’ll see it transform into this beautiful light and fluffy cream cheese frosting right before your very eyes.
Side note about fresh lemon juice: This cream cheese frosting recipe calls for a tiny squeeze of fresh lemon juice. The reason for this is to help amplify the tanginess of the cream cheese icing. You only need about ½ a teaspoon, not much. Adding the small amount of fresh lemon juice into this cream cheese frosting also helps cut the sweetness and intensity of the powdered sugar flavor. You will not be able to taste the lemon juice after whipping the cream cheese frosting.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
This frosting recipe requires sifted powdered sugar. You can find mesh strainers in most baking sections at your local grocery store. However,this Cuisinart CTG-00-3MS Set of 3 Fine Mesh Stainless Steel Strainers are such a great deal – way below the retail listed price. Having a set of three in various sizes will serve you well, especially the small mini one. I use that one to dust small plated desserts or a pan of brownies ALL THE TIME.
This homemade frosting recipe requires you to beat it with a mixer until the texture of the cream cheese, butter, and sugar turns light and fluffy-just like the picture. This step is crucial as it whips air into the frosting. If you own a Kitchenaid stand mixer and bake regularly, I HIGHLY recommend purchasing the beater attachment with the silicon edge scraper.
I’ve owned two of these beaters because it saves me a step from having to stop the mixer to scrape the bowl down. Truth moment – scraping the bowl down is a pain in the butt. I haven’t used the medal attachment for years since discovering the scraper attachment. I hate having to scrape the bowl down when making frosting or mixing batter. This attachment makes for a better workflow for me. At nearly half off the listed price, I recommend this KitchenAid KFE5T Flex Edge Beater for Tilt-Head Stand Mixers.
HOW TO MAKE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CREAM CHEESE FROSTINGS
Using this recipe for cream cheese frosting as a base, you can make several different types of cream cheese frostings by adding the following ingredients:
- Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting – Add ½ cup of sifted unsweetened cocoa powder with the powdered sugar before adding to the cream cheese icing mixture.
- Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting – Add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon zest when adding in the vanilla extract to the cream cheese icing.
- Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting– Decrease the butter in this cream cheese frosting recipe to 1 stick (1/2 cup). Add in ¼ cup of strawberry freezer jam. (Here’s a strawberry freeze jam recipe for you to try! ) You could use regular strawberry jam, but freezer jam is made with pectin and has the purest sweetened fresh strawberry flavor. Unless you use the most perfectly ripe, sweetened fresh strawberries, it’s tough to the strawberry flavor right. Freezer works perfectly without making the cream cheese frosting runny. You can add more or less jam depending on how intense you want the strawberry flavor. Keep in mind; you may need to add more powdered sugar in to compensate for the texture and consistency.
- Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting– Omit the butter entirely and add in ½ cup of creamy peanut butter. Cream the cream cheese first, then add in the peanut butter. Follow the rest of the instructions for this cream cheese frosting recipe.
- Stiff Cream Cheese Frosting- If you prefer to have a stiffer frosting, add in UP TO 2 cups more of sifted powdered sugar. I recommend starting with one cup first, then increasing the amount according to your liking. You may require stiff cream cheese frosting for firm frosting decorative piping.
HOW MUCH FROSTING DO I NEED TO FROST A CAKE?
This recipe makes just over 3 cups of cream cheese icing. It’s enough to frost a 2-layer 8-inch or 9-inch cake without decorative piping or additional decorating. On my buttercream post, I posted a cake batter and frosting chart from Wilton you can reference if you need frosting measurements for spreading and decorating amounts.
HOW MUCH FROSTING FOR CUPCAKES?
This is a hard question to answer because it depends on how much frosting you plan on using per cupcake. But, here’s a visual chart I made for approximately how much frosting you need per cupcake.
If you plan on just spreading a light layer as shown above, you will need 1 tablespoon of cream cheese frosting (or any frosting) per cupcake. This cream cheese icing recipe will frost 48 thinly frosted cupcakes.
If you plan on making a flat swirl (or disk), you’ll need about 2-2.5 tablespoons of cream cheese frosting per cupcake. This cream cheese icing recipe will frost 18-24 flat swirl cupcakes.
If you plan on making a taller swirl, you will need 4-5 tablespoons of cream cheese frosting per cupcake. This cream cheese icing recipe will frost 9-12 (1.5-2-inch) tall swirl cupcakes.
WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVER FROSTING?
Any leftover frosting can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a month and several months in the freezer. The cream cheese frosting should be brought to room temperature before using.
Leftover frosting is perfect for spreading on cinnamon rolls or any loaf breads like banana bread, pumpkin bread, or lemon pound cake as it is, or slightly melted as a glaze. You can glaze doughnuts, scones, and cookies with this recipe for cream cheese frosting.
If you have any additional questions about this Best Cream Cheese frosting recipe, feel free to ask in the comment section below, and I’ll answer them best I can.
HOMEMADE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING RECIPE
- 2 8-ounce packages full-fat cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup 2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar sifted
- 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- pinch of salt
- Cream the cream cheese to a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until creamy. Add the remaining cream cheese and butter. Beat again until creamy.
- Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time on low speed until just combined and all the sugar is mixed in. The frosting will should like dense butter.
- Add in the vanilla extract, lemon juice, and salt. Slowly increase the mixer speed to medium-high for 2 minutes, then on high speed for 30 seconds until the frosting is light and fluffy. If not using an edged paddle attachment, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
- This recipe will make just over 3 cups and is a medium-consistency frosting - perfect for spreading on cakes.
- If you need a stiffer cream cheese frosting, add in an additional cup of sifted sugar.
- If you plan on using this frosting for piping decorations, it is best to allow it to cool in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.
FROSTING RECIPES TO TRY:
The Perfect Buttercream Frosting
Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Alice Currah says
Whenever you substitute more cream cheese for butter there are trade-offs and vice versa. When you use more butter, you will have a much easier time spreading the frosting smooth and your piping borders and decorations will be easier. What I would suggest is this. If you already do not have a filling picked out, I would fill the cake with traditional cream cheese frosting. This way guests can taste the cream cheese frosting. You can also spread the layers with another type of filling then add a layer of cream cheese frosting on top, like caramel and cream cheese, or maple and cream cheese, etc. Then frosting the exterior of the cake with buttercream. With that said, you can also make a cream cheese buttercream frosting that I personally really love to make and use. Use my traditional buttercream frosting recipe and use the ratio 3:2 butter: cream cheese. For instance, since the buttercream recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, use 2/3 cup of butter and 1/3 cup of cream cheese. I find this works really well. And always taste your frosting and adjust to your liking. Hope this helps!
Sherrie Sehrt says
Do you have a favorite recipe for a combination……….. Buttercream/CreamCheese frosting?
I’m going to bake a carrot cake for a fall wedding cake and was thinking i’d use buttercream to be a bit more traditional “wedding-y” but love a classic creamcheese for carrot cake…………. any suggestions?
Janet Lee says
My daughter and I baked a carrot cake sheet cake for my husband’s birthday yesterday. Since we love your buttercream recipe we thought we would give this one a try. I’m so glad we did because neither of us could stop sneaking spoonfuls of it. Thanks for a great recipe. I hope you keep doing more baking and cake posts.