Get the scoop on how to make cream cheese frosting that is versatile and delicious. This simple cream cheese frosting works on cake, cupcakes, cookies and cinnamon rolls.
Oh the beauty of silky, sweet cream cheese frosting swirled on top of spice cake, chocolate layers or even warm cinnamon rolls.
The best ever cream cheese frosting
I use a combination of butter and cream cheese mixed with vanilla and confectioners' sugar to make a really versatile frosting.
A pinch of salt (optional) doesn't hurt either.
My favorite ratio of cream cheese to butter is 2 to 1. I use 8-oz of cream cheese and 4 oz (1 stick) of unsalted butter.
You can add 3 to 4 cups of confectioners' sugar. Why the variable? Using 3 cups makes a perfectly tasty frosting. It's a little softer and less sweet if you are in to that. (My friend Susan is happy with this amount, I prefer all the sugar I can get my hands on!)
– Get my favorite measuring cups.
Using a full 4 cups of sugar gives you a balanced frosting that is just stable enough for a layer cake and tastes balanced and delicious.
You'll love my Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting recipe as well! It combines the taste of rich milk chocolate with tangy cream cheese.
Why use unsalted butter in frosting?
I get asked why I use unsalted butter, then add salt to my recipes. There are a few reasons!
Salted butter is so delicious, especially spread on your bread. But really it should stop there! Unsalted butter allows you to control the salt content of a dish as well as guarantees freshness. Read on:
• Salt is a preservative, so it is added to butter to lengthen its shelf life. Certainly there is an expiration date before it goes bad, but it just helps grocery stores keep it there a bit longer. I know when I buy unsalted butter it hasn't been sitting there as long.
• You don't need to have high blood pressure to be concerned with how much salt goes into your food. Salt brings out the flavor of other foods, it's a flavor enhancing seasoning! That being said, too much of a good thing is, well, too much! For frosting specifically, I want a sweet, perfectly flavored topping to go with what I'm spreading it on. I like to control that by adding my own salt, or not!
• Can you use salted butter in this cream cheese frosting? Well, absolutely. Skip the pinch of salt, you won't need it. And know that it will just be a tad bit more salty than the originally tested recipe.
– Use a stand mixer or a hand mixer to make simple cream cheese frosting.
Can I make Cream Cheese Icing with No Butter?
You can make cream cheese icing and frosting with no butter. It will be a more dense, softer icing.
While butter certainly cuts down on the intense cream cheese flavor, it also adds aeration (air bubbles that form after whipping) that give the frosting lift and texture. I use 2 parts cream cheese to 1 part butter so that I get the best of both worlds in this simple cream cheese frosting.
Using just cream cheese could make a nice icing for cinnamon rolls, but, forgive me for the thought, it will be slightly slimy in texture, so maybe not the best for cakes or soft sugar cookies.
Make cream cheese icing for soft sugar cookies!
Freezing and storing frosting:
Freezing cream cheese frosting is perfectly acceptable. You can refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to a week.
Freeze the frosting for up to a month. If you have the time, thaw it in the fridge. Otherwise you can thaw it almost to room temperature and then beat it in the mixer again to get the texture back.
You may need to add a little more confectioners' sugar to stabilize it as the cream cheese molecules break down slightly being frozen.
Make another easy frosting recipe!
- Fluffy Chocolate Frosting
- The Best Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- Whipped Peanut Butter Frosting
- How to make Caramel Frosting
• This recipe makes enough to frost a 9-by-13 inch sheet cake, 24 cupcakes (if you are piping more frosting on each cupcake it will frost about 15 to 18).
• For a round layer cake you may want to 1 1/2 this recipe: Use 12 oz cream cheese, 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, 6 cups confectioners' sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.
Simple Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 oz (one block) cream cheese softened to room temperature
- 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter softened
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 4 cups confectioners' sugar sifted, only if there are hard lumps
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add the butter and beat until smooth and incorporated, about 1 minute.
- Add the vanilla and salt and stir.
- With the mixer running on low speed, add the confectioners' sugar about 1/2 cup at a time. After each cup or cup and a half, scrape the inside of the bowl and turn mixer to medium-high speed. Then reduce speed to low and add more sugar. This will ensure a smooth frosting.
- Use immediately or keep refrigerated.
Recipe by Tara Teaspoon
I’ve been in the food publishing business for over 20 years, creating recipes and food styling for magazines, books, television and advertising. Find out more about me!
Recipe by Tara Teaspoon. Photography by Ty Mecham.