Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 24 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
139 Calories
7g Fat
19g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 24
Amount per serving
Calories 139
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 9%
Saturated Fat 4g 21%
Cholesterol 20mg 7%
Sodium 44mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 19g 7%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 18g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 11mg 1%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 14mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Cream cheese frosting is a versatile cake filler and topper that contains only five ingredients: butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, a pinch of salt, and vanilla extract.

Vanilla is the flavoring of choice in this recipe, but there are many possible alternatives. Cinnamon or orange flavoring might be an excellent choice for a carrot cake or pumpkin cupcakes. Or you might want to add lemon zest if you're frosting a lemon cake or dessert. Almond flavoring complements a white cake or cupcakes nicely. Take a look at the below variations for more ideas.

Cream cheese comes in solid bricks and in tubs. Because it is made for spreading, the cream cheese sold in tubs contains more moisture. Use full-fat, brick-style cream cheese in this frosting for the best flavor and consistency.


  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened to room temperature

  • 3 to 4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Cream Cheese Frosting ingredients

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  2. In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the softened cream cheese and butter together until smooth and fluffy.

    softened cream cheese and butter beat together

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  3. With the electric mixer on low speed, add 3 cups of the confectioners' sugar a little at a time; continue beating until well blended. Beat on high speed until very smooth and creamy. Add more confectioners' sugar, as needed for thickness.

    confectioners' sugar, softened cream cheese and butter beat together in a bowl

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  4. Add a pinch of salt and the vanilla extract and blend thoroughly until light and fluffy. The recipe makes enough cream cheese frosting for a small layer cake, a sheet cake, or about 12 to 18 cupcakes.

    Cream Cheese Frosting ingredients beat together with a hand mixer

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Does cream cheese frosting need to be refrigerated?

A cake or cupcakes frosted with cream cheese frosting is fine at room temperature for several hours (the USDA recommends no more than 2 hours) if the house is kept at 70 F or less, but must be refrigerated for longer storage. So, if you won't be eating the cake within one day, refrigerate it or freeze it in portions.

What if the frosting is too runny or too thick?

The amount of confectioners' sugar you add depends on whether you will be spreading or piping the frosting. Use a bit less for spreading or use slightly more to make a stiffer frosting for piping. If your frosting turns out too thick, you can always thin it with a small amount of milk or cream.

If it's too runny, you can add a bit more confectioners' sugar and stick the bowl in the fridge to help firm up the cream cheese—it is possible that the cream cheese got too warm, making the frosting more like chunky soup than frosting.


  • For a thicker or stiffer frosting, use vanilla powder instead of vanilla extract to flavor the frosting.

Recipe Variations

  • Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting: Sift 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa with 3 cups of the confectioners' sugar. Add it to the cream cheese mixture and blend thoroughly. Add more confectioners' sugar, as needed.
  • Maple Cream Cheese Frosting: Add a few tablespoons of maple syrup or about 1/2 teaspoon of maple flavoring, or to taste.
  • Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting: Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon extract and a few teaspoons of finely grated lemon zest, if desired.
  • Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting: Add 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract. If desired stir in crushed candy canes or peppermint candies.
  • Espresso Cream Cheese Frosting: Dissolve 1 1/2 teaspoons of espresso powder in the vanilla extract.
  • Cream Cheese Glaze: Use the same basic formula to make a thinner glaze for a Bundt cake. Use half the amount of butter and cream cheese, about 1 cup of confectioners' sugar, and a pinch of salt, along with 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Add 1 to 3 tablespoons of milk or half-and-half or a flavored liqueur to thin the mixture as desired.