Cream Cheese Frosting
Learn all the best tips and tricks to make deliciously tangy cream cheese frosting that is thick, fluffy, and stable enough for piping!
Table of Contents
- Why You’ll Love This Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
- Ingredients and Notes
- Key Equipment
- How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting
- Expert Tips
- Recipe FAQS
- How to use cream cheese frosting
- How to store and keep
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 citrusy lemon curd.
But there are times when NOTHING but cream cheese frosting will do. Homemade cream cheese frosting is the perfect complement for red velvet cupcakes, hummingbird cake, pumpkin 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. It can often come out runny or soupy, which can be disastrous! It can slide right off the sides of your cake or, even worse, cause the layers to slip apart and topple right over!
But now I get it, and I’m here today to share everything experience has taught me.
Why You’ll Love This Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
Creamy and tangy flavor: This frosting offers a delightful combination of creamy sweetness and a subtle tanginess.
Smooth and luscious texture: It has a smooth and luscious texture that spreads quickly and evenly. It adds a velvety touch to cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and other treats, enhancing their overall mouthfeel.
Versatile and complementary: This complements a wide range of flavors, making it a versatile option for a lot of different desserts. It pairs beautifully with classic flavors like vanilla, chocolate, carrot, red velvet, and pumpkin, adding an extra layer of richness to the overall taste.
Lighter and less sweet: Compared to other frosting options, cream cheese frosting tends to be lighter and less sweet. The tangy cream cheese flavor cuts through the sweetness, making it a popular choice for those who prefer a less sugary frosting.
Ingredients and Notes
I like to use unsalted butter because it lets me control the amount of salt in the dish. Different brands of butter can contain different amounts of salt, so this way you get a more consistent result.
This recipe works best if you allow the butter to come to room temperature first. You can set it out on the counter a few hours ahead of making your recipe, or you can microwave it for 10 seconds, turn it over, and microwave it again for another 8 seconds.
The star ingredient of cream cheese frosting is, of course, cream cheese.
This recipe works best if you use cold cream cheese, straight from the fridge.
Look for the kind that comes in a brick. The kind in a tub could make for a runny frosting.
And make sure it’s full-fat! You need the fat for things to whip up properly.
This ingredient “lifts” the flavor of the frosting and enhances the tanginess of the cream cheese.
The end result won’t taste lemony, it will just have a subtle brightness.
Vanilla extract adds a touch of sweetness and flavor to cream cheese frosting.
Powdered sugar, also known as confectioners’ sugar or icing sugar, is a key ingredient in cream cheese frosting.
It sweetens the frosting while also contributing to its stability.
Salt carries the flavors and intensifies them. The end result won’t taste salty, but it will make everything so much more flavorful!
I like kosher salt best because it doesn’t have any additives (table salt usually contains iodine and that can leave a bitter taste), so the flavor is pure. It’s also inexpensive and easy to find in a regular grocery store.
A stand mixer makes this recipe super-easy to make! Fit it with the whisk attachment to whip the cream cheese frosting.
If you don’t have a stand mixer, an electric hand mixer and a large bowl will work too.
How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting
This recipe comes together in just 3 simple steps.
Step 1: Beat butter & cream cheese
Start with room-temperature butter and cold cream cheese.
Add the lemon juice and vanilla, and whip everything together at medium speed until smooth.
If you have any lumps when the next ingredient goes in, it will be nearly impossible to eliminate them. So do a really thorough job on this step!
Step 2: Add powdered sugar
Once the mixture is smooth and lump-free, add about half of the powdered sugar.
Mix it in on medium-low speed until combined, then scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula and add the remaining powdered sugar and salt.
Step 3: Whip
When the last powdered sugar is mixed, mix it to medium-high and whip the frosting until it’s fluffy.
You are good to go as soon as it can hold stiff peaks!
I’ve had cream cheese frosting fail on me so many times! It can be a real 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.
Use the right cream cheese
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 firmer.
Bricks are best! They have the lowest water content, so you’re less likely to have 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.
Use the whisk attachment
The whisk attachment is 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 easy to over-whip cream cheese frosting.
The minute you see it looking fluffy and stiff, turn that mixer off! If it goes too long, it can become a runny mess.
If the butter is too cold, it can be tough to get things smooth.
Use softened butter that has come to room temperature, and beat it with cold cream cheese, lemon juice, and vanilla until it’s perfectly smooth before adding in the powdered sugar.
This can happen if you use low-quality cream cheese with a higher water content or 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 find.
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, the cream cheese can break down and become runny if it is over-whipped. So, as soon as you see it looking fluffy, light, and stiff, turn that mixer off and get right to decorating!
How to use cream cheese frosting
This topping is great on so many things! Here are just a few suggestions:
To tint this frosting, stir a few drops of gel-paste food coloring into the final frosting. (I would not recommend using liquid color, as it could water the icing down too much and cause it to separate.)
This frosting works well under fondant.
After the cake has been frosted smooth, chill it down in the fridge while you prepare your fondant. Then lay it on top, smooth it out, and trim away the excess.
When this cream cheese frosting is freshly made, it works really well for piping.
But if you notice it’s getting too soft from the warmth of your hand, 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 and keep
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.
Store any leftover homemade frosting in an airtight container.
I would not recommend freezing cream cheese frosting, as the freeze/thaw process can sometimes cause it to become grainy.
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Cream Cheese Frosting
- Place the butter, cream cheese, lemon juice, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl, and beat on medium-low speed until smooth.
- Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, and add about half the powdered sugar.
- Stir in the powdered sugar until combined, then scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl again, and add the remaining powdered sugar and the salt.
- 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.)