It’s time we talk about cream cheese frosting. This most wonderful addition to layer cakes and cupcakes is simple to whip together IF you use the right ingredients at the right temperatures in the right order. Am I making it more complicated than it should be? Ha, no! Here are five tips to making the best cream cheese frosting along with my best cream cheese frosting recipe!
Use this cream cheese frosting on cupcakes or this recipe for The Perfect Carrot Cake.
Pipe this cream cheese frosting between these Easy 4-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies.
Also, cream cheese frosting on a spoon with half a strawberry – that is dessert in itself, amen.
Here’s what you’ll need for this Cream Cheese Frosting recipe:
• cream cheese, the sort sold in blocks at the grocery store, full fat.
• unsalted butter
• fine sea salt (or kosher salt in a pinch)
• powdered sugar, sifted if clumpy
• vanilla extract or vanilla bean seeds
• (optional) a splash of whole milk or heavy cream for a thinner consistency cream cheese frosting
Tip #1 • Choose the right cream cheese
The right cream cheese is a block of full-fat cream cheese. The sort sold in a foil liner inside of a small cardboard box. That’s the winner. Cream cheese told in tubs are typically aerated to some degree for spreading on bagels. Those aren’t great for making smooth and creamy cream cheese frosting as they might break and separate under the power of a mixer.
Tip # 2 • Pay attention to the temperature of the ingredients
Cream cheese must must must be at room temperature for a smooth and cream cream cheese frosting. This will ensure that the cheese whips up to completely smooth with the other ingredients. Any chill on the cream cheese will result in cream cheese lumps that are hard to completely work out of the finished frosting.
Two tricks: microwave the softened cream cheese on low for just a few seconds to ensure that it’s completely pliable and room temperature AND beat the cream cheese in the bowl alone before adding butter so you’ll know for certain its soft and pliable before adding the butter.
Speaking of butter – that should be a very soft room temperature too! Not melted and not slightly chilled in the center. You should be able to press a butterknife through the softened butter with no resistance. Beat the softened butter into the cream cheese after you’ve beat the cream cheese alone.
Tip #3 • Mix the frosting together with a stand mixer and paddle attachment or electric hand beaters.
This may come down to personal preference but I have had the best experience using either a paddle or electric mixer (here’s my favorite) to mix together my cream cheese frosting. Both will aerate the frosting without over-mixing it and breaking the butter. Have you ever seen a buttercream or cream cheese frosting that looks curdled or wet and won’t come together no matter how much powdered sugar you add? That’s a “broken” frosting as the water in the butter has separated from the fat with overmixing.
You can also mix together cream cheese frosting by hand, but give yourself a good arm workout aerating it at the end.
Tip #4 • Use whole milk or heavy cream will make the frosting lighter
If you find that you’d like thinner frosting (or even a glaze) add whole milk until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Whipping in heavy cream will both thin and fluff your frosting – nice if you want a super soft and spreadable frosting for you layer cake.
Tip #5 • Chill cream cheese frosting before piping.
Warm cream cheese frosting can have a pretty stretchy texture, making it hard to pipe to a tcrisp tip and lazy in holding its shape. Spoon cream cheese frosting into a piping bag with your preferred piping tip and place in the refrigerator for about an hour. Remove from the fridge and try your hand at piping. If you find you want the frosting even more firm – back to the fridge it goes. I’ve left the frosting in the piping bag overnight in the refrigerator and it’s pretty difficult to squeeze coming out of the bag. In that case let it warm on the counter for 10 or 15 minutes before piping.
Flavor additions for this cream cheese frosting recipe:
Tangy cream cheese frosting but let’s tweak the taste!
• 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
• 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
• 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract or a handful of toasted coconut
• 3 tablespoons sifted cocoa powder for chocolate cream cheese frosting
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon for a hint of spice
• 3 tablespoons dehydrated fruit powderPrint
- 2 blocks (16 ounces) cream cheese, very well softened
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- Pinch of fine sea or kosher salt
- 4 cups (480 grams) powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- splash of whole milk or heavy cream, optional
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese around the bowl to soften and smooth. Make sure the cream cheese is pliable and has no chill to it.
- Add the softened butter and beat until well incorporated with virtually no lumps from both the cream cheese or butter. Add the salt.
- Add the powdered sugar in two batches mixing on medium speed until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and whip on high speed until smooth. Add a splash of milk or heavy cream if you desire a thinner consistency.
- Leave cream cheese at frosting room temperature if frosting cooled cake layers. Store the frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before using to frost a cake.
- Cream cheese frosting lasts up to 7 days in the refrigerator.
This is enough frosting to frost a 3-layer 9-inch round carrot cake.