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Try our best cream cheese frosting recipe! Here’s how to make a lusciously creamy, tangy frosting that’s ideal for cupcakes and cakes.

Cream cheese frosting
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Buttercream can move on over, because in our book there’s only one frosting that gets us excited: cream cheese frosting! There’s nothing better than a big slather of the stuff: fluffy, lusciously smooth, and tangy, with just the right amount of sweet to complement the savory undertones. Turns out, it’s beyond easy to make at home and loads tastier than store-bought. Here’s your guide to the best cream cheese frosting (pipe it right onto our carrot cake cupcakes for instant joy).

Ingredients in cream cheese frosting

Cream cheese frosting is simple, but it’s also easy to get wrong. (Trust us: we’ve made the mistakes so you don’t have to!) Follow these tips, and you’ll be able to whip up a batch of professional style frosting. Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:

  • Full-fat cream cheese: in a block, not spreadable in tubs
  • Unsalted butter: for the lightest color, experiment with brands to find a butter that is light in color (see below)
  • Vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar
How to make cream cheese frosting

Tips for how to make cream cheese frosting

Once you’ve gathered the ingredients, there are a few tips that will make or break your frosting experience. The basic task: beat the butter and cream cheese with a stand mixer or hand mixer, then add the vanilla and powdered sugar. But there are two very important things to remember:

  • Make sure your cream cheese and butter are at room temperature. To do so, let the cream cheese and butter sit on the counter for 1 hour prior to starting the recipe. You want them just at room temperature: not too hot, not too cold. (Trust us: we ruined an entire batch with chunky, too cold butter.) We don’t recommend microwaving because it can be uneven and you can risk melting the butter or cream cheese too much.
  • Sieve the powdered sugar. Sieving the powdered sugar helps to eliminate any lumps in the frosting. (Trust us: we’ve tried it without sieving and it’s not pretty!) All you need is a fine mesh sieve to pass the sugar through before incorporating in the icing.
Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

How to get the best white color

Want to have bright white cream cheese frosting? The color can depend on the butter! Some brands of butter are more golden yellow in color, whereas others are pale yellow. If color is important to you, experiment to find a brand of butter that is light in color. We’ve found Land O’ Lakes makes a nice white colored frosting.

In our recipe, we also use only ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract: it’s just enough to flavor it, but not enough to affect the white color of the frosting.

Variations for sheet cake vs cupcakes

The amount of powdered sugar in this cream cheese frosting recipe is customizable based on what you’re using it for! We love a tangier flavor in the frosting, but it makes for a softer texture that’s not as easy to pipe. Here’s what to know:

  • Use 2 cups sugar for serving with a cake (like carrot cake, pumpkin cake or banana cake). This makes a purer, tangier cream cheese flavor and a softer texture to the icing. It works with a cake since you’re spreading the icing, not piping it.
  • Use the 3 cups powdered sugar when piping onto cupcakes. This results in a stiffer, robust-textured frosting that can easily be piped onto cupcakes.
Cream cheese frosting

Cream cheese frosting storage

Can you make cream cheese frosting ahead of time? Or can you store leftovers? Yes! Here’s what yo know about storage:

  • How long can cream cheese frosting stand at room temperature? Best practice is to keep frosted cupcakes or cake at room temperature for up to 2 hours. Refrigerate the cakes or cupcakes until serving again, and allow to come to room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.
  • Store cream cheese frosting refrigerated for up to 1 week. Let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes and stir before using.
  • Freeze the frosting for up 1 month in a sealed container. Fully defrost and stir before using.

Ways to use cream cheese frosting

What doesn’t taste better with a little tangy schmear of cream cheese frosting? Here are some of our favorite ways to serve it:

This cream cheese frosting recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free.

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Cream cheese frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: About 2 ½ cups; for 12 cupcakes or a 9″ x 13″ sheet cake 1x

Description

Try our best cream cheese frosting recipe! Here’s how to make a lusciously creamy, tangy frosting that’s ideal for cupcakes and cakes.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar (or 2 cups for a sheet cake*)

Instructions

  1. Let the butter and cream cheese sit on the counter for 1 hour to come to room temperature.
  2. Use a fine mesh sieve to sift the powdered sugar into a bowl.
  3. Beat the butter and cream cheese with a stand mixer or hand mixer on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes until completely smooth, scraping once.
  4. Reduce the speed to low, then add the vanilla. Slowly add the powdered sugar until it comes together into a thick icing.
  5. Storage instructions: Store cream cheese frosting refrigerated for up to 1 week; allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes and stir before using. You can also freeze cream cheese frosting for up 1 month in a sealed container: fully defrost and stir before using.

Notes

*When serving with a sheet cake, you can get away with less powdered sugar to get a purer, tangier cream cheese flavor and a softer texture to the icing (since you’re spreading and not piping it). Use the 3 cups powdered sugar when piping icing onto cupcakes, which results in a stiffer, more robust texture.

  • Category: Essentials
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Frosting
  • Diet: Vegetarian

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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1 Comment

  1. Sonja Overhiser says:

    Let us know if you have any questions!