A classic cake topper, cream cheese frosting is easy to make and tastes just heavenly. Even the plainest cake is elevated by cream cheese frosting!

Cream cheese frosting being piped onto a cupcake with a colorful green liner.

Cream cheese frosting. Do I need to say more? I think a moment of silent reflection is all we need here. Just … yum!

Some of you have been making my Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting and lemon cream cheese frosting for ages. I had sort of an aha! moment when I realized I didn’t have a plain cream cheese frosting recipe on my site. Whoops! So here it is and you’re going to love it. 

You’ll find that cream cheese frosting is easy to make. There’s nothing tricky about it. Pretty much anything goes and it will taste good. You really can’t go wrong.

My grandma, who was a fine baker, always used melted butter and stirred up her cream cheese frosting by hand. It wasn’t nearly as light and fluffy as this whipped frosting, but guess what? It tasted great on her homemade cake. Seriously, you cannot go wrong with cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar. 

About this recipe

This is a classic whipped cream cheese frosting. The recipe is simple with only five ingredients. No additives or preservatives, and once you’ve tried this frosting, I’m predicting you’ll never buy canned frosting again. 

This recipe makes enough to frost a two layer cake. It’s more than enough for a 9 x 13 inch cake. If you like a LOT of frosting, go ahead and make a whole batch. Sometimes, if I’m feeling conservative and self-controlled (this rarely happens when it comes to frosting), I make a half batch of frosting for a 9 x 13 cake. It’s totally up to you.

If you’re wondering, a whole batch yields around three cups of frosting. As always, you’ll find the full printable recipe on the recipe card below.

Overhead view of a bowl of frosting, bare cupcakes, and a piping bag.

What you need

  • Cream cheese: Full-fat or reduced-fat cream cheese works best. Fat-free cream cheese isn’t recommended because it has a lot of added ingredients that aren’t found in regular cream cheese. Philadelphia is a popular brand but store brands are fine.
  • Unsalted Butter: You’ll need a half stick of softened (room temperature) butter. Use unsalted butter because frosting just doesn’t need salt.
  • Milk: Any kind of milk will do. Just a few drops are added to thin the frosting, as needed.
  • Pure Vanilla Extract: Vanilla adds flavor to your frosting. Vanilla bean paste adds lovely little flecks to your frosting. Other flavoring extracts could be substituted. Grated nutmeg or ground cinnamon are good additions, too.
  • Powdered Sugar: You may know it as “confectioner’s sugar.” Regular granulated sugar won’t work in this recipe.
Overhead view of ingredients: Butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk.

How to make it

You’ll need a hand mixer and a large bowl. The process is really easy and it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to make perfect frosting. 

Beat the softened cream cheese and butter until the mixture is creamy.

Butter and cream cheese mixed together.

Add vanilla, milk, and powdered sugar.

Bowl with powdered sugar and vanilla extract visible in it.

Blend the ingredients together and beat for another minute or so until the frosting is fluffy and light.

Very close up view of frosting to show texture.

That’s all it takes to make totally yummy homemade frosting!

Beaters in white frosting.

FAQs

Do I need to refrigerate cream cheese frosting?

Yes, cream cheese frosting should be refrigerated. It will harden slightly. If you prefer, take your frosted cake out of the refrigerator an hour before serving so it has a chance to come to room temperature.

Is it okay to leave cream cheese out of the fridge overnight?

Cream cheese, like all soft cheeses, should be refrigerated. However, it’s okay to leave it on the counter for a couple of hours so it softens for recipes like this cream cheese frosting.
Tip: If you forget to take your cream cheese out ahead of time to soften, unwrap the block of cream cheese and cut it into small chunks, spreading them apart on a plate. The small chunks will warm up and soften much more quickly than a big block of unwrapped cheese.

How can I thicken cream cheese frosting?

Add more powdered sugar if your frosting seems too thin. Refrigerating the frosting will help thicken it, too.
If your frosting is too thick, beat in a few more drops of milk.

Can I freeze cream cheese frosting?

Yes, leftover or extra frosting can be frozen. Keep reading for more tips on freezing and thawing cream cheese frosting.

What to put cream cheese frosting on

What doesn’t taste better with cream cheese frosting? My kids love it on graham crackers (mom does, too). It’s so creamy, rich, and delicious.

Is there a better topping for carrot cake? I don’t think so. It’s wonderful on banana cake, apple spice cake, or chocolate cake, too. For this easy rhubarb cake, I add a bit of freshly grated nutmeg to cream cheese frosting which complements the nutmeg in the cake. And don’t forget cupcakes!

Try cream cheese frosting on cinnamon rolls. If necessary, thin the frosting just a little with milk.

Frosting being piped onto cupcakes.

Make-Ahead Ideas

Make the frosting up to a day ahead and refrigerate. Take the frosting out of the fridge an hour before you want to use it so it comes to room temperature. It will soften slightly and be easier to spread. Give it a good stir before using.

Storage Tips

Store cream cheese frosting, whether it’s on a cake, cupcakes, or just plain, in the refrigerator. It will keep for three days. 

Or freeze extra cream cheese frosting in zip top bags, removing any extra air as you seal the bag. Label the freezer bag and use the frosting within a month. Defrost the frosting overnight in the freezer. Snip a corner from the bag and pipe the frosting right from the bag onto cupcakes or cake. If the frosting separates slightly, remove it from the bag and stir or beat the frosting until it’s creamy.

Close up of frosting being piped on a cupcake.

More toppings for your cake

Frostings and sweet sauces are the crowning glory of cakes and cupcakes. Try:

Frosting being piped on a cupcake in a green liner.

Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

Yield: 3 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

A classic cake topper, cream cheese frosting is easy to make and tastes just heavenly. Even the plainest cake is elevated by cream cheese frosting!

Ingredients

  • 1 (8 oz.) package of cream cheese, softened (reduced-fat will work, we don’t recommend fat-free)
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon milk, more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, with electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy, 2 minutes.
  2. If frosting seems too thick, beat in additional milk, ½ teaspoon at a time. If frosting is too thin, add powdered sugar, ¼ cup at a time. 
  3. Frost completely cooled cake. Frosted cake should be refrigerated.

Notes

  • If desired, make the frosting up to a day ahead and refrigerate. Take the frosting out of the fridge an hour before you want to use it so it comes to room temperature. It will soften slightly and be easier to spread. Stir well before using.
  • Store leftover cream cheese frosting in the refrigerator for up to three days. Store cakes frosted with cream cheese frosting in the fridge, too.
  • Freezing Directions: Freeze extra cream cheese frosting in zip top bags, removing any extra air as you seal the bag. Label the freezer bag and use the frosting within a month. Defrost the frosting overnight in the freezer. Snip a corner from the bag and pipe the frosting right from the bag onto cupcakes or cake. If the frosting separates slightly, remove it from the bag and stir or beat the frosting until it's creamy.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1/4 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 154Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 10mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 0gSugar: 36gProtein: 0g

RachelCooks.com sometimes provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietitian. Please consult a medical professional for any specific nutrition, diet, or allergy advice.

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