Learn all the best tips and tricks to make deliciously tangy cream cheese frosting that is thick, fluffy, and stable enough for piping!

Small glass bowl containing cream cheese frosting piped in a swirl with a star tip.

Hello again my friend! I’m back today with an information-packed post for a recipe that can be notoriously tricky: cream cheese frosting!

I have quite a few great frosting and filling recipes on this site. Some of my favorites include this chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream, this classic pastry cream, and this bright and citrus-y lemon curd.

But there are times when NOTHING but cream cheese frosting will do. Cream cheese frosting is the perfect accompaniment for red velvet cupcakes, hummingbird cake, and anything with cinnamon!

It’s taken me years of trial and error to finally feel like I understand how to make cream cheese frosting that is fluffy, stiff, and good for piping.

Many times, it can come out runny or soupy, and that can be disastrous! It can slide right off the sides of your cake, or even worse, cause the layers to slip apart from one another and topple right over!

But now I really get it, and I’m here today to share everything experience has taught me.

Small glass bowl containing cream cheese frosting piped in a swirl with a star tip, with a text overlay that reads "best way to make cream cheese frosting."

HOW TO MAKE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

You only need a few simple ingredients to make cream cheese icing: butter, cream cheese, lemon juice, vanilla, and powdered sugar.

But the way they are put together can make all the difference!

Start with soft butter. To this, add 1 block of cream cheese. The cream cheese should be cold, but the butter should be at room temperature.

Add the lemon juice and vanilla, and whip everything together until it’s smooth as can be. If you have any lumps at all when the next ingredient goes in, it will be nearly impossible to get rid of them. So do a good job on this step!

Once the mixture is smooth and lump-free, add in about half the powdered sugar. Mix it in on medium-low speed, just until combined, then scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, and add the remaining powdered sugar.

When the last of the powdered sugar is mixed in, turn up the mixer to medium-high and whip the frosting until it’s really fluffy. As soon as you see that it can hold stiff peaks, you are good to go!

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

I’ve had cream cheese frosting fail on me so many times! It can really be a bugger. But the more I experimented and played, the more I started to learn some great tips that can really guarantee a nice fluffy topping that’s stiff and stable.

THE CREAM CHEESE

Here in the US, cream cheese is sold in 3 different forms: a brick, a spread, and a whipped spread. The spreads come in tubs and they are softer. The bricks are more firm.

Bricks are best! They have the lowest water content, so you’re less likely to end up with a soupy or runny frosting.

If you live outside of the US, I know that cream cheese can’t always be found in bricks. You can try to use cream cheese from a tub, but I can’t guarantee the results because the only tub cream cheese I’ve ever used has been American, and I have not ever had success with that.

TEMPERATURE OF INGREDIENTS

I always get the best results when I use soft, room temperature butter, and cold cream cheese straight from the fridge. If the butter is too cold, the frosting can be lumpy, and if the cream cheese is too soft, the frosting can be runny.

MIXER ATTACHMENT

The whisk attachment is definitely the way to go! My paddle always gives me loose, soupy cream cheese frosting, but the whisk gets it nice and fluffy.

HOW LONG TO WHIP

It’s really easy to over-whip cream cheese frosting. The minute you see it starting to look fluffy and stiff, turn that mixer off! If it goes too long it can become a runny mess.

Overhead shot of a bowl of cream cheese icing, a piping bag, and a whisk, with a block of cream cheese in one corner and a white kitchen towel.

TROUBLESHOOTING

Here are some common gripes about cream cheese frosting, and why you might have had this problem in the past:

WHY IS MY CREAM CHEESE FROSTING LUMPY?

If the butter is too cold, it can be really hard to get things smooth. Use softened butter that has come to room temperature, and beat it together with the cream cheese, lemon juice, and vanilla until it’s smooth as can be, before adding in the powdered sugar.

WHY IS MY CREAM CHEESE FROSTING RUNNY?

This can happen if you use a low-quality cream cheese that has a higher water content, or if you use cream cheese from a tub instead of the kind that comes in a brick. Make sure to buy the best quality, full-fat, block cream cheese you can get your hands on.

I’ve also found that cream cheese frosting can have a looser texture than I’d like, if I use the paddle attachment on my mixer. The whip attachment does a much better job of getting lots of air into the frosting, so it’s fluffy and stiff.

Finally, if cream cheese is over-whipped it can break down and become runny. So, just as soon as you see it looking fluffy, light, and stiff, turn that mixer off and get right to decorating!

WHAT TO PUT CREAM CHEESE FROSTING ON

This topping is great on so many things! Here are just a few suggestions:

The list goes on and on!

CAN CREAM CHEESE FROSTING BE USED FOR DECORATING?

While cream cheese frosting is not quite as stable as Swiss meringue buttercream or American-style buttercream, when made correctly it can be used for cake decorating.

TINTING

To tint this frosting, stir in a few drops of gel-paste food coloring in to the final frosting. (I would not recommend using liquid color, as it could water the icing down too much.)

UNDER FONDANT

This frosting works really well under fondant. After the cake has been frosted smooth, chill it down in the fridge while you prepare your fondant. Then just lay it on top, smooth it out, and trim away the excess.

PIPING

When this cream cheese frosting is fluffy and stiff, it works really well for piping. But if you notice it’s getting too soft from the warmth of your hand, just chill it down in the fridge a bit, until it’s easier to work with.

Because this frosting contains powdered sugar, it will crust over as it dries. If you need something that does not crust over, try this Swiss meringue buttercream, this magical cream cheese frosting, or this whipped cream frosting.

HOW TO STORE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

This frosting can be left out at room temperature for several hours to a day. Any longer than that, and it’s best to refrigerate it.

I would not recommend freezing cream cheese frosting, as the freeze/thaw process can sometimes cause it to become grainy.

Close up of a glass bowl filled with cream cheese frosting, piped in a swirl pattern.

Hopefully this information is helpful to anyone who has ever struggled with cream cheese frosting!

Before I sign off, I’d like to take a minute to thank you for being patient with me these last few weeks. I know I have not been consistent with my posting.

As I mentioned in my last post, we recently had a death in the family and it has me really shaken up. Losing my sweet little niece has really made me realize that we just never know how much time we will have with the ones we love. And right now, I’m trying to sort all that out and find a better balance between work and family.

I appreciate the kind words I’ve heard from you. It makes me feel so good to know that you look forward to seeing my new recipes in your inbox. I will do my best to keep them coming!


As an amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

5 from 1 vote
Small glass bowl containing cream cheese frosting piped in a swirl with a star tip.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Prep Time
10 mins
Total Time
10 mins
 

Learn all the best tips and tricks to make deliciously tangy cream cheese frosting that is thick, fluffy, and stable enough for piping!

Course: Dessert, Topping
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cream cheese buttercream, cream cheese frosting, cream cheese icing
Servings: 24
Calories: 198 kcal
Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cold (the kind in a brick)
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Place the butter, cream cheese, lemon juice, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl, and beat on medium-low speed until smooth. 

  2. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, and add about half the powdered sugar.

  3. Stir in the powdered sugar until combined, then scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl again, and add the remaining powdered sugar.

  4. Stir together until combined, then turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and whip until the frosting is fluffy and stiff.  (Be careful not to over-whip the cream cheese frosting, or it could become runny.  As soon as the frosting looks stiff, turn off the mixer and use the frosting immediately.)

Recipe Video

https://youtube.com/watch?v=sxsnDyQJkBM
Recipe Notes

Makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes, 1 triple-layer, 6-inch diameter cake, or 1 double-layer, 8-inch diameter cake.

Nutrition Facts
Cream Cheese Frosting
Amount Per Serving
Calories 198 Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Fat 10g15%
Saturated Fat 6g38%
Cholesterol 30mg10%
Sodium 31mg1%
Potassium 15mg0%
Carbohydrates 25g8%
Sugar 24g27%
Vitamin A 365IU7%
Vitamin C 0.2mg0%
Calcium 12mg1%
Iron 0.1mg1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.