This cream cheese frosting is perfectly sweet and tangy. Four ingredients are all you need for this easy recipe. The frosting holds its shape and is just the right consistency for piping onto cupcakes and decorating cakes. Top your favorite carrot cake, chocolate cake or red velvet cake with this dreamy topping.
This cream cheese frosting is the perfect topping for my gluten-free dairy-free carrot cake cupcakes, gluten-free red velvet cupcakes, gluten-free, dairy-free coconut cake or even my gluten and dairy-free strawberry cupcakes. Be sure to check out my full collection of gluten-free cupcakes and gluten-free dairy-free cakes.
Cream cheese gives this frosting a slightly tangy flavor that is such a great balance to the super sweetness of most frostings.
It is important that the cream cheese is at room temperature. If it’s too cold it will not beat smoothly & will make the frosting lumpy. If it’s straight out of the fridge place it on a plate, cut into 4 pieces and heat in the microwave in short 5-10 second bursts – just enough to take the chill off. Any longer, and it will melt – we don’t want that! So do a short burst and check to determine if it is soft enough.
I have tried making this recipe with vegan cream cheese (Kite Hill) and it came out extremely runny – more like an icing. Most vegan cream cheese is oil based and at room temperature, is too soft.
Butter – Even though this is a cream cheese frosting, some butter is needed for the right consistency and sweet flavor. All cream cheese as the base would make this frosting too runny and very tangy.
Vanilla – Most of the time vanilla extract is the ingredient for vanilla flavor. I am not a fan of the alcohol base and the beige tint it gives to my frosting. So I use vanilla powder, specifically Cook’s Vanilla Powder. It is sweet, pale and adds wonderful flavor to this frosting. Unfortunately, vanilla has become crazy expensive recently, so if you need to use an imitation vanilla extract for the sake of your budget, I get it!
Powdered Sugar – I have set the amount at 3 cups. This is my preference for sweetness but I suggest starting with 2 1/2 cups and taste. If you like it sweeter add the remaining 1/2 cup.
Normally, I would add a little salt to frosting for balance. But cream cheese is a pretty salty ingredient so the balance is already there.
More Frosting Recipes
Here are more of my frosting recipes including my vegan, dairy-free chocolate cream cheese frosting, 2 ingredient vegan chocolate frosting, sweet potato frosting without powdered sugar (no cane sugar at all) and strawberry buttercream frosting with no artificial color or flavors.
Pipeable Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
- 4 oz cream cheese room temperature
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter room temperature
- 3 c powdered sugar, sifted measure, then sift
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2-3 Tbsp milk (optional)
This recipe makes enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes. Double the recipe to lightly frost a 2 layer cake.
- Be sure that the butter and cream cheese are very soft. If they are at all cold, your frosting will be lumpy. The cream cheese can be heated in the microwave for short bursts of 5-10 seconds to take the chill off.
- In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese together until the mixture is creamy and uniform.
- Add half of the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until most of it is incorporated.
- If you are using the frosting to spread on a cake, I recommend beating in 2 Tbsp milk in the next step. This will make the frosting more spreadable. If it still seems to firm, add more milk 1 teaspoon at a time until you are satisfied with the consistency.
- Add the salt and remaining powdered sugar. Mix on low speed until most of the powdered sugar is incorporated.
- Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the vanilla.
- Beat on high for 15 seconds. Beat much longer and you'll create air pockets in the frosting. These air pockets make piping and shaping difficult.
- Place in a piping bag to decorate cupcakes or slather on your favorite cake. This frosting should not go more than 24 hours without refrigeration.