This cream cheese frosting is downright dreamy! It's silky smooth, perfectly sweet, and everything that's right in life. Perfect for cakes, cupcakes, and cinnamon rolls.
Why you'll love it:
I remember years back ordering a red velvet cupcake at a local bakery. I admired it for a second, then went in for a luscious bite only to realize it was topped with buttercream. Dun dun dunnnnn!
Is this some kind of cruel pastry joke? Where was the cream cheese frosting? I felt a little cheated. Scratch that - VERY cheated. At the very least, put a big red flag in front of it that reads, "no cream cheese".
You won't feel cheated with this cream cheese frosting recipe. It's divine!
This 3 ingredient cream cheese frosting is super simple. Simple recipes are the best kind of recipes. It's almost as easy as picking up Betty Crocker cream cheese frosting from the store.
Cream cheese - It's not cream cheese frosting without cream cheese! For best results, stick to full-fat cream cheese. It provides a lusciously smooth texture and rich flavor. Any brand works great!
Unsalted butter - IMHO, the best cream cheese frosting also includes butter! It creates a pipeable texture that's not runny AND it tames the tanginess of the cream cheese. It should be room temperature.
Powdered sugar - Also known as confectioner's sugar. Powdered sugar is just regular sugar that's been pulverized into a fluffy, white powder! It's essential for a velvety smooth mouthfeel.
Vanilla - For that warm vanilla essence. If you don't have any, don't stress! This cream cheese icing still tastes delicious without it!
How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting:
This cream cheese icing recipe is super duper simple!
First, make sure your butter is room temp! It shouldn't be hard/cold. If you forget to leave it out, you can microwave it in 5-second intervals until soft to the touch.
Don't melt it!
Beat the butter on medium speed for 30 seconds or so. This ensures the cream cheese will emulsify with NO lumps, especially if your butter is on the cold side.
Add the cream cheese and vanilla. Beat for another minute to incorporate the ingredients and add volume.
Next, add half of the powdered sugar to the bowl.
Beat on low speed for a few seconds so the sugar doesn't poof outside of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for one minute.
Add the remaining powdered sugar. Beat again for one more minute.
Use the frosting for cupcakes, cakes, or whoopie pies!
- The butter should be room temp. It's easier to whip and it won't cause lumps in your frosting. If you try to beat cold butter and cream cheese together, you will get lumps! This is why I took the extra step to whip the butter first. No room for accidents!
- Avoid fat-free cream cheese. Now's not the time to put your frosting on a diet! It's frosting after all. Use the full-fat version for the creamiest, best results.
- It's okay to microwave your butter. You forgot to leave a stick of butter on the counter, now what? Not a problem. Simply microwave cold butter in 5-second intervals until it can easily be pressed into with your fingers. Be careful not to melt it. This is why you do it in 5-second intervals. It will turn melty on you before you can say cream cheese soup. It's better it be slightly firm than melty.
- Don't overwhip it! It's not like buttercream, where you can whip it for a long time and it gets fluffier. If you whip cream cheese frosting too long, it turns into a runny mess and a serious buzzkill.
Ways to Use it:
Put it on everything! I kid (sort of).
It's great for cakes, cupcakes, and cinnamon rolls. You can make cinnamon roll icing without cream cheese, but if you want that Cinnabon-esque icing stick to cream cheese.
If you've been itching to bake up your award-winning carrot cake recipe, then look no further!
It also tastes delectable with:
- Chocolate cake
- Pumpkin cake or cake rolls
- Strawberry cake
- Coconut cake
- Lemon cake
- Whoopie pies
Variations & Substitutions:
This recipe for cream cheese frosting is easy to customize! Try one of these simple variations:
Chocolate cream cheese frosting - Add a small amount of cocoa powder with the powdered sugar until it tastes perfect for you. I like to add dark cocoa powder. It's right next to Hershey's regular version. It produces a rich, dark chocolate flavor you can't achieve with regular cocoa powder.
Cinnamon cream cheese frosting - Add a small amount of cinnamon with the powdered sugar to taste.
Coconut cream cheese frosting - Add a small amount of coconut extract. You can always add more so only add a drop or two at a time.
Strawberry cream cheese frosting - Try pulsing freeze dried strawberries into a powder and then folding them into the frosting. This way you get the strawberry flavor without it turning runny.
Peanut Butter cream cheese frosting - Reduce the powdered sugar to 1 ¾ cup and add ½ cup of creamy peanut butter.
How do you thicken cream cheese frosting for piping?
Cream cheese frosting isn't quite as thick as traditional buttercream. I piped the cupcake in the picture with fresh frosting, but you can throw it in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm it up.
Just be careful, because if you leave it in too long it will be too firm to pipe.
An easy solution is to beat it for a few seconds until pipe-able again. You can use the mixer or a heavy duty spatula for this, but it takes arm muscles (for which I have none).
Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
- Stand Mixer with the Paddle Attachment or a hand mixer
- ½ cup Unsalted Butter (1 stick) room temperature* (4 ounces)
- 4 oz Full Fat Cream Cheese half a block
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 cups Powdered Sugar
- Beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. This will ensure the cream cheese and butter emulsify with no lumps especially if your butter is on the cold side.
- Add cream cheese and vanilla and beat for 1 more minute. Scrape the bowl with a spatula.
- Add 1 ½ cups of the powdered sugar. Beat on low for 5 seconds so the sugar doesn't poof out of the bowl. Beat on medium high for 1 minute.
- Add 1 ½ cups of powdered sugar and beat on low for 5 more seconds. Beat on medium high for 1 more minute.
- Use frosting to pipe onto cupcakes.*