Magical Cream Cheese Frosting
A magical take on cream cheese frosting! A hybrid of magical (ermine/flour) frosting & cream cheese frosting, this recipe is firm, pipeable, & more stable.
*This post was originally published on September 9, 2013. I thought it was due for an update! So, I’ve included new photos, added a how-to video, and given more detailed instructions and tips for success. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy this cream cheese frosting as much as I do!*
I am always on the lookout for new frostings to try!
So when I first heard about magical frosting (aka ermine frosting, cooked flour buttercream, or boiled milk icing), I wasted no time trying it out.
It’s excellent! With a fluffy and smooth texture. I liked it a lot!
But the one thing that struck me about ermine frosting was how well it held up. It keeps its shape and doesn’t weep, slump, or get all melty. It got my wheels turning…
But a lot of times, it can be a little loose and gloopy.
Naturally, I set out to try and make a magical cream cheese frosting.
And guess what? It worked.
Table of Contents
- What Is magical cream cheese frosting?
- What does magical cream cheese frosting taste like?
- Why you’ll love this magical cream cheese frosting recipe
- Ingredients and notes
- How to make magical cream cheese frosting
- Recipe FAQS
- Expert Tips
- How to use
- How to Store and Keep
- Serving size
- More Frosting Recipes You’ll Enjoy!
What Is magical cream cheese frosting?
Magical cream cheese frosting is a hybrid of magical frosting (aka ermine frosting) and regular cream cheese frosting.
It’s made with no powdered sugar.
Instead, you cook a sweet, thickened milk mixture and then whip cream cheese and butter into that.
What does magical cream cheese frosting taste like?
This frosting has a pronounced cream cheese flavor. It’s really tangy and just sweet enough.
But the magic is in the texture. It’s super fluffy and smooth.
Because it’s made without powdered sugar, there’s no grittiness whatsoever. It’s light as a cloud and so silky!
Why you’ll love this magical cream cheese frosting recipe
- It has an awesome, tangy cream cheese flavor.
- There’s also a whisper of vanilla and a hint of lemon.
- This frosting pipes like a dream.
- It has a super fluffy texture.
Ingredients and notes
Here’s a quick rundown of the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe and why:
Sugar sweetens the frosting. If you like things sweeter, you can use more, or if you prefer a less sweet frosting, less. In this case, it really won’t affect the chemistry of the recipe.
Regular white sugar is fine, or sub for another type of sweetener if you like. As long as it swaps 1:1 for granulated sugar it should work.
All-purpose flour provides structure to the frosting, helping it to be stiff, pipeable, and stable.
For a gluten-free cream cheese ermine frosting, leave out the flour and use an additional 2 tablespoons of cornstarch instead.
Cornstarch is a colorless, odorless, and flavorless starch that is used as a thickener, so it does much the same thing as flour.
Make sure you’re using cornstarch, which is white and powdery, and not cornmeal, which is yellow and gritty and tastes like corn chips.
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.
Milk is used to dissolve the sugar. This is what creates that satin-y smooth mouthfeel!
Use whatever kind of milk you keep on hand. Skim milk, whole milk, 2%… even a plant-based milk will work here!
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 subtly sweet flavor without being at all sugary.
For a more pronounced flavor, try using vanilla bean paste.
You could also split a vanilla bean down the center lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and add those.
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.
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.
How to make magical cream cheese frosting
Step 1: Make the roux
In a small pot, whisk the sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt together until combined.
Then, slowly dribble in the milk while whisking.
It’s really important to go slow for this step so you don’t end up with a lumpy roux!
Step 2: Cook the roux
Cook this mixture until it starts to bubble and thicken, making sure to whisk continuously so it heats evenly.
Again, you don’t want lumps! As soon as it comes to a bubble, you’ll see it transform into a thick, almost gluey mixture.
Step 3: Chill the roux
Strain the roux into a heat-safe container, and pop it into the fridge to chill.
It needs to be very cold before the next step.
Step 4: Work in the cream cheese
Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract once you have the roux good and cold.
Whip the mixture on medium-high speed, adding the cold cream cheese just a tablespoon at a time.
Let each tablespoon of cream cheese completely incorporate before you add the next one.
Step 5: Work in the butter
When all the cream cheese has been added, do the same thing with the softened butter.
One tablespoon at a time until your buttercream is smooth and fluffy.
Step 6: Whip it good!
The final step is to crank up the mixer to high and whip that frosting until it’s super light and airy.
You’ll see the icing nearly double in volume right before your eyes!
I recommend using the highest quality, full fat, lowest moisture-content cream cheese you can get.
The higher the moisture content, the harder it will be for this buttercream to hold its shape.
That’s why I only use the kind of cream cheese that comes in a brick.
If you can only get a tub of cream cheese where you live, by all means, give it a try if you like. But I can’t guarantee that the result will be quite the same.
As you can see in the video below, this magical cream cheese frosting is pipeable! It pipes like a dream and holds its shape very well.
It’s a little stiffer when cool, so if you’re working with it on a very hot day, you might want to chill it beforehand.
Because it contains no powdered sugar, this frosting will not crust like a classic cream cheese frosting.
However, it becomes a little drier on the surface as it sits exposed to air. So it’s not entirely soft on the outside, either.
- This recipe takes a little bit of planning ahead.
- There’s a bit of downtime.
- You must cook it on the stove and wait for it to cool.
- Avoid runny frosting. It’s all about the temperature with cooked frostings like this one.
- Make sure the roux is fully chilled before mixing in the other ingredients. It will melt the cream cheese and butter if it’s still too warm.
- Your cream cheese should be cold.
- Your butter should be soft but cool. If it’s too soft your frosting could come out soupy. Leave it out on the counter for about 30 minutes, and it should be just right.
- Use cream cheese with the lowest moisture content you can find. I mentioned this above, but it bears repeating. Whipped cream cheese and cream cheese spread in a tub are much softer than the kind in a brick. That soft, loose quality will translate into your cream cheese frosting. So use a stiffer cream cheese, and you’ll end up with a stiffer frosting.
- If you’ve goofed up on the temperatures and find yourself with runny cream cheese frosting, all is not lost! Just put everything into the fridge for about 20 minutes, then re-whip. You should see it come together pretty quickly!
How to use
Tinting: You can tint this frosting if you’d like! I would recommend using gel paste icing colors. They are highly concentrated, so you only need a tiny bit, and they won’t add a lot of excess liquid to your cream cheese frosting.
Under fondant: You can use this cream cheese icing as a base under fondant. It holds its shape best when cool, so it’s a good idea to chill the frosted cake before covering it with fondant, so it stays nice and smooth under all that handling.
How to Store and Keep
Once made, you can store the frosting in the fridge for several days, up to a week.
When you’re ready to use it, it may seem a little less airy or workable from sitting in the fridge for so long. It can settle and become compacted over time, but if you pop it into the mixer and fluff it back up, it works like a charm!
It’s a good idea to plan ahead if you want to make this frosting recipe. You must allow plenty of time for the roux to chill before adding the cream cheese and butter.
Does magical cream cheese frosting need to be refrigerated?
This frosting can sit out at room temperature for a few hours, but anything longer than that and it should probably go in the fridge. It should last for a least a week refrigerated, maybe even a little longer!
This recipe makes about 3 cups of frosting, which is enough to top 24 cupcakes, to frost and fill one 6-inch diameter triple-layer cake, one 8-inch diameter double-layer cake, or if you stretch it, one 9-inch diameter double-layer cake.
You can double or halve this recipe, no problem, if you need less or more.
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More Frosting Recipes You’ll Enjoy!
- Marshmallow Frosting
- Cream Cheese Frosting
- Whipped Chocolate Ganache
- Easy Chocolate Frosting
- Royal Icing
Magical Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (31.25 g) all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons (24 g) cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) salt
- 1 1/2 cups (366 g) milk
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon (4 g) vanilla extract
- 4 ounces (113.4 g) cream cheese, cold
- 1/2 cup (113.5 g) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
- Place the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt in a small pot and whisk to combine.
- Gradually whisk in the milk, taking care to whisk out any lumps.
- Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring often, until thickened.
- Pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer, and into a heat-safe container.
- Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
- Place the cooled mixture in a large mixing bowl, along with the lemon juice and vanilla, and whip on medium-high speed.
- Whip in the cold cream cheese, a tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to fully incorporate before adding the next.
- Whip in the softened butter, a tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to fully incorporate before adding the next.
- Turn the mixer up to high speed, and continue to whip until doubled in volume and very fluffy.