Cream Cheese Frosting

Learn how to make cream cheese frosting with just 4 ingredients! Sweet, creamy, rich, and tangy, it's delicious on cakes, cupcakes, and more.

Cream cheese frosting

Who doesn’t love cream cheese frosting?! This sweet, tangy topping is the perfect complement to just about any cake or cupcake, not to mention cookies, bars, and quick breads. I have it on repeat around here in the spring, when we have carrot cake cupcakes for Easter, an actual carrot cake for Jack’s birthday, and then carrot cake cookies, well, just because I like them. 🙂

My cream cheese frosting recipe calls for 4 basic ingredients, and it comes together in less than 10 minutes. The next time you want to make a homemade baked good taste extra-decadent and special, all you have to do is whip it up!

Bowl of powdered sugar next to block of cream cheese, butter, bottle of vanilla extract, measuring spoons, and spatula

Recipe Ingredients

You only need 4 ingredients to make this recipe:

  • Cream cheese, of course! Skip the whipped or low-fat stuff and seek out block-style, full-fat cream cheese. It gives this frosting the best rich texture and tangy flavor. Let it come to room temperature or soften it slightly in the microwave before making the frosting.
  • Unsalted butter – It gives the frosting buttery flavor and a texture that’s thick enough for piping. Allow the butter to soften to room temperature before mixing up the frosting. If it’s too firm, the frosting will be lumpy.
  • Powdered sugar – Aka confectioner’s sugar. It thickens and sweetens the frosting. Make homemade powdered sugar, or use store-bought.
  • And vanilla extract – For warm depth of flavor.

Optional: season to taste with a dash of salt!

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Frosting in mixing bowl with powdered sugar on the sides

How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting

My method for how to make cream cheese frosting couldn’t be simpler! Here’s how it goes:

First, combine the cream cheese and butter. Place them in a large bowl and use an electric mixer to beat until smooth. I like to use an electric hand mixer to make this recipe, because as written, it’s a bit small for my stand mixer. If you prefer to use a stand mixer, you may need to double the recipe.

If you don’t have a mixer, you can make this recipe by hand with a whisk. It’ll just take some elbow grease!

Closeup shot of cream cheese frosting swirl

Then, add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix until the frosting is smooth and creamy (check out that texture above!!). Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Tip: if your powdered sugar is lumpy, sift it before adding it to the cream cheese mixture.

Taste and adjust, adding a pinch of salt if needed. That’s it!

How to Thicken Cream Cheese Frosting

If your frosting is runnier than you’d like, you have a few options for how to thicken it.

  • Add more powdered sugar. Beat in a tablespoon at a time until the frosting reaches your desired consistency. Keep in mind that adding more sugar will make the frosting sweeter.
  • Stick it in the fridge. The frosting will firm up as it chills.

Note: Full-fat, brick-style cream cheese is essential for thick frosting. Whipped, low-fat, or spreadable cream cheese will make the frosting runny. When in doubt, choose cream cheese that comes in a box, not a plastic tub.

Bowl of cream cheese frosting with spatula

How to Use Cream Cheese Frosting

This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups of frosting. That’s enough for an 8- or 9-inch cake, a loaf cake, or a batch of 12 cupcakes. I love to use it on these treats:

Double the recipe for a 9×13-inch sheet cake, or triple it for a layer cake.

Storage

Cream cheese frosting shouldn’t sit at room temperature for more than a few hours. Store leftover frosting in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Baked goods topped with cream cheese frosting should also be refrigerated.

Can you freeze cream cheese frosting?

Yes! Cream cheese frosting freezes well for up to a month and thaws nicely in the fridge.

Its texture will change slightly after freezing and thawing, so I recommend re-whipping it before use. If necessary, add little milk to the frosting to loosen it up.

Cream cheese frosting recipe

More Frostings, Glazes, and Whips

If you love this recipe, try one of these sweet toppings next:

Craving more treats? Check out these 25 Super Fun Baking Recipes!

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Cream Cheese Frosting

rate this recipe:
5 from 9 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves 8
Our favorite cream cheese frosting recipe! It's SO easy to make, and it's the perfect sweet and tangy topping for desserts like cakes, cupcakes, cookies, bars, and more.

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, full-fat, block-style, softened slightly
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, more for a stiffer frosting, sifted if lumpy
  • teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sea salt, to taste

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until smooth.
  • Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. For a stiffer frosting, beat in additional powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it reaches your desired consistency. Taste and adjust, adding a pinch of salt if needed.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

12 comments

5 from 9 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Jaylin Bevan
    06.24.2024

    How much does it make. How many cupcakes could I frost?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.25.2024

      Hi Jaylin, it should frost 12 cupcakes.

  2. DAS
    03.30.2024

    5 stars
    I love that you have this recipe. In the 1960’s this was our family’s traditional cream cheese frosting, although back then people used margarine instead of butter because of cost. Back then everyone was very skinny, prepared food (the culprit per science) was not in high gear and rarely eaten, although cake mixes were around. In our house everything was from scratch, always had a garden, walked a great deal (few people had two cars), spent lots of time in the sun each day. Children always played outside unsupervised and went all over the neighborhood on skates and bikes (Iit was safe). DIfferent now, but this recipe isn’t. ::smile::

  3. Sabrina from newkitchenlife.com
    03.05.2024

    thank you, one of my favorite frostings, but hadn’t made it in so long I don’t have a regular tested recipe, and it’s definitely time for my chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      03.08.2024

      Hi Sabrina, that sounds delicious!

  4. Renée
    02.28.2024

    5 stars
    Hi, I love your recipes! I have a secret ingredient that I created years ago for my cream cheese frosting for my carrot cakes. Add a tsp or two of pineapple juice. It is fantastic-I hope you like it.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      03.01.2024

      Hi Renée, ooh great tip! I’ll have to try this!

  5. Angie
    01.04.2024

    5 stars
    Nice easy recipe! I did end up tweaking a bit as I found it wayyy too sweet! Added about 2 1/2 ounces more cream cheese and another tablespoon of butter and it evened out nicely. Will definitely make again!

  6. Lana
    03.23.2023

    5 stars
    Oh my goodness, this Cream Cheese Frosting recipe is a game-changer! It’s incredibly easy to make, and the result is so rich, creamy, and tangy that it instantly elevates any dessert it graces. The perfect blend of sweetness and creaminess makes it hard to resist licking the spoon (or bowl) clean. The simplicity of using just 4 ingredients and whipping it up in mere minutes makes it a go-to recipe for any occasion.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      03.23.2023

      Hi Lana, I’m so glad you loved it!

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Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.