This easy cream cheese buttercream frosting is thick, fluffy, and perfect for piping or frosting cakes or cupcakes. With just 5 ingredients, one bowl, and a few secret ingredients, it's ready to use in under 20 minutes!
I've made hundreds of batches of buttercream working in bakeries. Now I'm sharing my best tips and secret ingredients for making the best cream cheese frosting at home!
It's light and creamy with a tangy flavor and pairs perfectly with red velvet cake, churro cake, or even cheesecake brownies. It's an easy-to-make frosting that makes a delicious blank slate for other flavor variations too!
Why We Love This Homemade Frosting
- Silky smooth. I'm sharing all of my bakery secrets to perfectly smooth classic cream cheese frosting with no lumps!
- Thick and pipe-able. It's super spreadable and perfect for decorating layer cakes, carrot cake donuts, or banana bread.
- Perfectly sweet yet tangy. With the perfect balance of ingredients, it isn't overly sweet like regular vanilla buttercream.
- The possibilities are endless! Use it to decorate a birthday cake, color it with food dye, smother it on top of warm cinnamon rolls, or flavor it to suit any occasion.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
Full-fat cream cheese: This is the best type of cream cheese for a thick yet fluffy frosting. Do not use low-fat or cream cheese that comes in a tub. Brick-style cream cheese is the only kind that will work!
Butter: If you crave a rich and buttery bakery-style buttercream, use a mix of European and American butter! European butter has a richer, buttery flavor that makes a huge difference in the final taste. My go-to brand is Kerrygold.
Confectioners' sugar: Also known as icing sugar or powdered sugar. This ingredient is not replaceable and is key to achieving a thick yet pipeable cream cheese frosting.
Heavy Cream: Adding a touch of cream makes this frosting creamy while enhancing the smooth consistency. Substitute with whole milk if needed.
Vanilla bean paste: This is my secret ingredient to the best cream cheese frosting! It is super concentrated so it packs a deep vanilla flavor just like from a bakery. Substitute with pure vanilla extract if needed.
Find the full list of ingredients, measurements, and instructions in the recipe card below!
Cream Cheese Frosting Flavors
The best part of this homemade cream cheese frosting is you can easily add other flavors to complement any dessert.
- Chocolate cream cheese frosting: Beat in 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder with powdered sugar for frosting moist chocolate cake.
- Orange or lemon cream cheese frosting: Add 1-2 teaspoons of fresh orange or lemon zest with the vanilla extract.
- Coconut cream cheese frosting: Add 1-2 teaspoons of coconut extract in place of the vanilla extract.
- Pumpkin cream cheese frosting: Add ¼ cup of room-temperature pumpkin puree with the cream.
Step 1: Cream the butter. In a stand mixing bowl or a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, cream the unsalted butter and cultured butter with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Mix in the cold cream cheese until just combined.
Step 2: Mix in the powdered sugar. On low speed, mix in half of the powdered sugar, then mix in the other half. Continue beating on low-medium speed until the buttercream is white, light, and fluffy. This will only take 1-2 minutes!
Step 3: Add the vanilla and cream. Mix in the vanilla bean paste and heavy cream until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix until everything is well combined.
Step 4: Use as desired! Use the frosting as you would a traditional buttercream to pipe on top of cupcakes, cakes, wedding cakes, or anything else your dessert heart desires!
Using Cream Cheese Frosting
This recipe makes about 3 cups of frosting. It is enough to use on top of cupcakes, as a cake filling, or used to frost the outside of a cake. These are the most common batch sizes:
- Two-layer 9-inch cake
- Two-layer 8-inch cake
- 2-3 layer 6-inch cake
- 12-18 cupcakes
Note that personal preferences on frosting can vary and you may need to double the recipe if needed!
Tips for the Best Buttercream
Avoid over-mixing- Over-beating the frosting, especially at a high mixing speed can lead to a runny or curdled texture because it breaks down the structure of the cream cheese.
Sift the powdered sugar, especially if you notice that your sugar is lumpy! Using sifted sugar will yield a smooth cream cheese icing.
Use cold cream cheese. I found when testing that using warm or room-temperature cream cheese can make the buttercream look wet.
Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice if you prefer a less-sweet frosting.
Double the recipe if needed- if you are a fan of tons of frosting, you can easily double the recipe. Just click the 2x button on the recipe card!
Storing, Freezing, and Make-Ahead
- Storage: Cream cheese buttercream frosting needs to be stored in the fridge. Cakes or cupcakes that are frosted can be kept at room temperature for 2-3 days. Store any leftover frosting in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Freezing: It is generally okay to be frozen for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Let it defrost in the fridge for at least 24 hours before using.
- Make-ahead: Once the buttercream is finished, store it in an airtight container in the fridge up to 2-3 weeks in advance. Before using, let the icing sit out at room temperature for 30-60 minutes to soften. Then beat with a paddle for 20 seconds to loosen.
Over-beating the frosting, using anything other than full-fat brick cream cheese, or using warmed cream cheese can cause it to be runny and wet.
You can add more powdered sugar to it, or you can let it chill in the fridge before using.
Yes, it should be kept in the fridge when not using to keep it fresh.
You can if you want to, but I've found it doesn't need it and too much can give it a grainy and powdery taste.
Best Cakes for Cream Cheese Frosting
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Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting
- Cream the butter. In a stand mixing bowl, cream the butter until fluffy, 1-2 minutes.½ cup unsalted butter, ½ cup unsalted cultured butter
- Mix in the cream cheese. Mix in the cream cheese on low until just combined.8 oz full-fat cream cheese
- Add the powdered sugar. Mix in half of the powdered sugar on low speed, then mix in the other half. Beat the frosting on low-medium speed until white and fluffy, about 2 minutes.3 cups powdered sugar
- Add the flavors. Mix in the heavy cream and vanilla bean paste until combined.2 tablespoons heavy cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- Use as desired. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. Before use, let the frosting sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes, then briefly whip it in a mixing bowl for 20 seconds until it’s just soft enough to work with but not wet and thin (a sign that it’s over-mixed).
- This recipe makes about 3 cups of frosting; enough to cover: 2-layer 8 or 9-inch cakes, 2-3-layer 6-inch cakes, or 12-18 cupcakes. Note that frosting preferences vary and you may want to double the recipe!
The calorie information provided for the recipe is an estimate. The accuracy of the calories listed is not guaranteed.