This classic Cream Cheese Frosting is creamy, tangy and super addicting. It has just the right amount of sweetness to bring out the flavor of cakes and cupcakes without being cloyingly sweet. I guarantee you’ll want to lick the bowl.
When I started making cupcakes, cream cheese frosting was my go-to frosting for pretty much every single cupcake recipe I baked. Mainly because I have a soft spot for cheese and also because I can easily reduce the amount of sugar significantly while keeping the frosting pipeable.
I have been using this cream cheese frosting recipe for years and it’s finally getting its own well-deserved post. If you’re looking for an easy cream cheese frosting for cupcakes and cakes, or even cinnamon rolls. This recipe is going to be your best friend.
Not too sweet Cream Cheese Frosting
Whenever I see a frosting recipe that calls for 4 – 6 cups of powdered sugar, my eyes bulge out and I immediately feel like I need a cup of black coffee to fight the sweetness. This not too sweet cream cheese frosting recipe only uses 1 ¼ cup of powdered sugar and is enough for a dozen cupcakes even if you’re a generous froster.
There are just a few simple steps to making this easy cream cheese frosting.
- Add the softened butter and cream cheese to a stand mixer bowl.
- Beat with the whisk attachment until smooth.
- Add powdered sugar to the bowl.
- Stir to mix, then slowly increase speed to beat until all the sugar is incorporated and the frosting is creamy and fluffy.
How to make different flavor cream cheese frosting?
This classic cream cheese frosting is a must for Red Velvet Cupcakes, Carrot Cupcakes, and Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes. But flavor variations are easy to achieve and super easy as well.
- For these Lemon Cupcakes, a little lemon zest and lemon extract add some zing to the classic cream cheese frosting.
- You can even flavor it with freeze-dried fruits such as strawberry for a pretty in pink Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting to adorn these Strawberry Cupcakes.
- Try other powders and ground spices such as cocoa powder, instant espresso powder, cinnamon, etc.
What do I do if my frosting is too runny?
Frosting with lower sugar content can turn out very soft, especially in warmer weather. I found that when I made this recipe with an equal amount of cream cheese and butter, the frosting turns out softer and runnier. But it can harden up with a little refrigeration and can still be pipeable.
Make sure your butter is at room temperature, beatable but not too soft. This recipe calls for 2 parts cream cheese and 1 part butter, which I found to be the perfect ratio to get a pipeable frosting right away without having to refrigerate before piping.
Use liquid flavoring like extracts or juices sparingly. If you want to flavor the frosting, it’s better to use citrus zest, ground spices or powder freeze-dried fruits to avoid adding excess liquid to the frosting.
Except for cinnamon rolls, you want to make sure all your cakes and cupcakes are completely cool before adding frosting on top, or your frosting will cry and melt off the surface of the cakes.
How do you fix over beaten cream cheese frosting?
If your frosting is runny because it has been overbeaten, and refrigeration doesn’t do the trick. You may need to fold in more powdered sugar to stiffen it up but you risk making the frosting too sweet. A couple of other ideas are:
- Adding a starch like corn starch or tapioca flour to thicken the frosting. However, too much can alter the flavor of your frosting.
- Change the flavor of your frosting by adding cocoa powder or powdered freeze-dried fruits which should also thicken your frosting.
If nothing works, you will need to start over.
Do I need to refrigerate cream cheese frosting?
If serving right away, you don’t need to refrigerate. Cream cheese frosting can sit out at room temperature for a few hours. But it is made with dairy products and any leftover needs to be kept refrigerated.
Will cream cheese frosting harden in the fridge?
Yes, cream cheese frosting will harden in the fridge. So if your frosting is too soft to pipe once beaten, you can pop it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to harden up.
But if you refrigerate the frosting overnight, it will be too hard to pipe, simply let it soften at room temperature, re-whip until fluffy and use as desired.
How long does cream cheese frosting last?
Cream cheese frosting will last one to two weeks in the refrigerator and much longer in the freezer. It freezes well and you can defrost it overnight in the refrigerator, then allow it to soften at room temperature before adding/piping onto cakes. You could also re-whip it quickly to fluff it back up.
How do you store cakes and cupcakes with cream cheese frosting?
You need to keep all baked good with cream cheese frosting refrigerated since the frosting can go bad at room temperature. To serve, simply thaw on the counter for 10 – 15 minutes, both the cake and the frosting will soften.
You can also freeze leftover cakes and cupcakes and thaw completely before serving.
What can I do with leftover cream cheese frosting?
Leftover frosting can be stored in the fridge or freezer for later use. If you don’t have enough cake or cupcakes, you can always use it on something else:
- Use it instead of icing on cinnamon rolls. For these, add frosting right out of the oven so it can melt into all the layers, nooks and crannies.
- Spread it on cookies or fill cookie cups like these red velvet cookie cups.
- Use it as a dip for strawberries, other fruits, pretzel sticks, graham crackers, etc.
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment, send me a photo, rate it and don’t forget to tag me @wildwildwhisk on Instagram. I’d love to see what’s cooking up in your kitchen. Cheers!
📖 Recipe card
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 12 oz cream cheese (room temperature, 340 g)
- 6 oz unsalted butter (room temperature, 170 g)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (5 g)
- 1 ¼ cup powdered sugar (125 g)
- Add softened butter, cream cheese, and vanilla extract to a stand mixer bowl and beat on medium speed with the whisk attachment just until incorporated and creamy.
- Add powdered sugar and stir to mix, then slowly increase mixer speed to medium and beat just until all the sugar is incorporated and the frosting is creamy and fluffy.
- Use a pastry bag fitted with your favorite piping tip to pipe frosting onto cakes and cupcakes or simply use an offset spatula or butter knife.
- Allow the cream cheese and butter to soften at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour, but don’t let the butter melt. If the butter is too soft, the frosting can be too soft as well.
- Overbeating cream cheese frosting can make it too runny. When all the sugar is incorporated into the frosting, don’t beat it for much longer to avoid overbeating.
- If the frosting is too soft, pop it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to harden before piping.
- If your refrigerated cream cheese frosting is too hard, you can let it soften at room temperature and re-whip it to make it fluffy again.
- Always store cream cheese frosting in the refrigerator, do not leave it at room temperature overnight.
Like others, I too have problem with cream cheese frosting, but worse mine has curdled. I have have added more butter 1 whole pound no resultso I added another whole packet of cream cheese still split, still runny. So I added about half a cup of whipping cream and some more icing sugar. All I have now is a huge mixing bowl of split/curdled runny mess. The only thing I may have done wrong is added vanilla paste instead of extract but I didn’t have any extract. Maybe you can over beat it. Or maybe Gyou just should not make it on a hot day. Even 24 hours refrigeration has been no help. So what can I do with about 3litres of cream cheese, runny like curdled milk frosting?
Can it be used with flour to make spritz cookies or cake. I loath the idea of wasting it that’s about $30NZ.half my grocery money for the week.
Hi Diana, I’m so sorry you run into problem with your frosting. I really can’t tell you why this happens since I have not experienced it myself. Perhaps it has been over beaten. I understand that cream cheese frosting can split if too hot or even too cold. If it is split due to it being too hot, usually refrigeration should fix it, but if 24 hr refrigeration hasn’t fixed it then I truly don’t know what else to say. I wonder if you could try to warm it up gently on the stove and stir until it is smooth, then let cool and refrigerate.
I have a bunch of rugelach recipes that use cream cheese and butter for the wet ingredients. Maybe you could try making rugelach dough, they’re great for the holidays. But try to use a small amount first to see if you can successfully make a dough before wasting other ingredients. The recipe I link uses 8 oz (226 g) total of cream cheese and butter, I would measure your frosting mixture to 226 g and then add the dry ingredients as stated. I think it would be lovely to try making spritz cookies with this as well, but again, try a small batch first, this almond spritz calls for 4 oz (113 g) of butter and 1 egg yolk as the wet ingredients, I would measure out 113 g of your frosting then add the rest of the ingredients as the recipe states. I hope you can find a way to use up all that butter and cream cheese.
I need to frost 2 layer red velvet cake, would the recipe as is, be enough?
Hi Jennifer, looks like you’ve found my carrot cake recipe with the cream cheese frosting. You can use this recipe too, it is the same frosting, just scale it up 1.5x to 2x to make enough for a 9” cake. You can always freeze the leftovers and spread it over cinnamon rolls or make cookie sandwiches with it.
Dear Trang, my frosting is very diluted. I try to refrigerated 24 hours also the same. I am
Not able to produce any pattern due to the cream is not hard enough. Please advise. Thank you.
Hi Adeline, what does the frosting looking like after refrigeration? It should solidify because it’s just cream cheese and butter, it should not be runny after refrigeration. If it still runny after refrigeration, I truly have no idea why it would be. It’s like when you melt butter, then put it back in the refrigerator, it should resolidify…
My cream not hard (soft) even though I refrigerated it over night. 😫. Please help how to improve. I tried a few time. 😖. Thank you.
Hi Florence, this is very strange, I got another comment from another reader saying the same thing. I can’t understand why it would not harden in the fridge if you just make it with cream cheese and butter. When those ingredients are refrigerated, they should solidify. Are you using something else in the recipe?? You could also try adding more powdered sugar to stiffen it, but I hate to make it too sweet.
I am wondering if those having trouble with the recipe being runny are using actual cream, like whipping cream and not cream CHEESE. There would be a huge difference then?
Hello Trang, My cream is not hard (Very soft) even though I refrigerated it over night 😭. I am not able to do any pattern 😢.
My buttercream is too gritty 🙁
I grind my sugar in a grinder but its gritty
Hi Rida, I recommend using powdered sugar. Even if you grind your sugar, it will never get to the fine consistency you can get with store bought powdered sugar.
Would it be possible to make this frosting by hand, without an electric mixer? Thanks!
Hi Natalie, you certainly can but it will take a lot of effort to cream the butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Honestly, I recommend buying a small electric hand mixer, it will really help.