Cream cheese buttercream frosting is a smooth and rich frosting that's perfect for your next cake or cupcake recipe. Cream cheese frosting pairs perfectly with any flavor of cake or cupcake you can imagine!
Cream cheese frosting is a great alternative to a traditional buttercream frosting. The addition of cream cheese and reduced amount of sugar make it less sweet with a tangy flavor.
Since this frosting uses less sugar than a traditional buttercream, it isn't stable enough for piping small details like rosettes or other cake decorations. However, it's perfect for spreading with a knife onto cake, using as a cake filling, or piping on top of cupcakes!
Ingredients and substitutions
- Cream cheese - For this recipe, it's very important to use the correct type of cream cheese. You'll need one 8-ounce block of full-fat original cream cheese. Low-fat cream cheese or spreadable cream cheese in a tub will not work for this recipe. Using whipped or spreadable cream cheese will result in a runny frosting.
- Butter - Unsalted butter and salt can be substituted with salted butter if needed.
- Vanilla extract - Can be substituted with your favorite extract you have on hand, like lemon, almond, or maple extract. This frosting is easy to flavor to match your favorite cake recipe!
- Confectioner's sugar - Also called icing sugar or powdered sugar, is necessary to make buttercream frosting.
Room temperature cream cheese
Your butter and cream cheese need to be at room temperature before beginning. Set your ingredients out on the counter top about 1 hour before beginning and they should be the perfect consistency for mixing.
Room temperature does not = melted. Melted cream cheese and/or butter will make a thin, runny frosting. Your ingredients should be soft enough to press into with your finger and easily leave an impression, and should not feel cold.
Forget to set out your ingredients beforehand? Here are a few ways to bring your cream cheese to room temperature quickly:
- Unwrap your cream cheese and butter. Cut them into small cubes and set out on a plate for 15-20 minutes. This will help them come to room temperature much faster than if they were left whole.
- Place cold cream cheese and/or butter (separately) in the microwave and heat for 5-10 second bursts until warm (this should only take 15-20 seconds max). Do this very carefully and make sure that none of your ingredients begin to melt around the edges. Melted butter or cream cheese will make a runny frosting.
Does cream cheese frosting need to be refrigerated?
If your baked goods are being prepared and served in the same day (within 2 hours), your cream cheese frosting can sit out at room temperature. After 2 hours, it is recommended to store your cream cheese frosting in the refrigerator.
For any baked goods made ahead, store them in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. One hour before serving, remove them from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature.
Cream cheese frosting will melt in hot summer heat or direct sunlight in warm weather, between 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 35 degrees Celsius). I recommend displaying frosted cakes indoors or in the shade during warmer weather.
Cream cheese frosting is a fantastic blank slate. Substitute the vanilla with one of these flavors in your next batch:
- Zests: Lemon, lime, orange (up to 1 tablespoon)
- Extracts: Maple, coconut, almond, lemon (1 teaspoon)
- Dry spices: Cinnamon, chai spice, pumpkin spice (½ to 1 teaspoon)
What cakes pair best with cream cheese frosting? Here are a few popular ideas:
- Red velvet cake
- Carrot cake
- Lemon cupcakes
- Chocolate cake
- Pumpkin cake
- Spice cake
- Applesauce cupcakes
- Vanilla cake
- Banana cake
How much frosting do I need?
This recipe makes enough frosting to frost the following cupcake quantities and cake sizes:
- 6-inch three layer cake
- 18 cupcakes with piped frosting
- 24 cupcakes spread with a knife
- 9x13 sheet cake
- 13x18 sheet cake
- 8-inch or 9-inch two layer cake with thick frosting (filling and top of cake, leaving the sides bare). To cover the sides of your layer cake with thick frosting, make an additional half batch of frosting.
- 8-inch or 9-inch two layer cake with thin frosting on the top, middle, and sides.
In the recipe card below, hover over the serving size. Use the sliding bar to change the serving size and measurements.
Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting
- 8 ounces (227 g) block-style cream cheese, room temperature
- ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 ½ cups (400 g) confectioner's sugar
- In a large bowl, add room temperature cream cheese and butter and beat with a hand mixer (or stand mixer) until creamy, about 1 minute.
- Add vanilla extract and salt and mix until incorporated.
- Add confectioner's sugar, half at a time, and mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated. Switch to high speed and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Pipe onto cooled cupcakes or spread onto cooled cake and serve immediately.
- Original, full-fat block-style cream cheese cannot be substituted with low-fat cream cheese, whipped cream cheese, or spreadable cream cheese in a tub. Any of these substitutions will cause your frosting to be runny.
- Cream cheese frosting needs to be refrigerated if it sits out for longer than 2 hours. Store frosted baked goods in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container. Remove and bring to room temperature 1 hour before serving.
- Leftover frosting will keep for 1 week in a sealed container in the refrigerator, or up to 3 months in the freezer. Bring to room temperature before spreading onto baked goods.
- Recipe will make enough to frost up to 18 cupcakes with piped frosting, 24 cupcakes spread with a knife, a 9x13 sheet cake, a 13x18 sheet cake, or the top and middle of a round 8 or 9 inch 2-layer cake (leaving the sides bare). To frost the sides of a 2-layer cake, make an additional half batch of frosting.