Cream Cheese Frosting: A Classic and Delicious Frosting for All Occasions

Cream cheese frosting is a creamy and tangy frosting that has become a classic choice for many desserts.

Whether it’s a carrot cake, red velvet cake, or a simple cupcake, cream cheese frosting adds a rich and luxurious taste that can elevate any dessert to the next level.

What is Cream Cheese Frosting?

Cream cheese frosting is a type of frosting made with cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and flavorings such as vanilla extract.

cream cheese frosting

It is a smooth and creamy frosting that is slightly tangy, thanks to the cream cheese, which gives it a unique and delicious flavor.

Cream cheese frosting is typically used to frost cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and other desserts, and it can be piped, spread, or dolloped onto baked goods to create a beautiful and mouthwatering finish.

History of Cream Cheese Frosting

The origins of cream cheese frosting can be traced back to the United States in the early 19th century.

Cream cheese, a soft and spreadable cheese made from cream and milk, was invented by William Lawrence, a dairyman from New York, in 1872. It quickly gained popularity and became a staple in American cuisine.

The first known recipe for cream cheese frosting was published in a cookbook called “The Philadelphia New Cook Book” in 1877, which featured a simple recipe for “cream cheese icing” made with cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract.

Over the years, cream cheese frosting has evolved and become a beloved frosting option for many people.

It has been used in countless recipes and has become synonymous with classic American desserts such as carrot cake and red velvet cake.

Today, cream cheese frosting is a staple in many bakeries and households, loved for its creamy texture, tangy flavor, and versatility in creating stunning desserts.

Popular Uses of Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream cheese frosting is a versatile frosting that can be used in a wide range of desserts. Some of the popular uses of cream cheese frosting include:

  1. Cakes: Cream cheese frosting is commonly used to frost cakes, especially carrot cake and red velvet cake. Its tangy flavor complements the sweetness of the cakes and creates a delicious contrast of flavors.
  2. Cupcakes: Cream cheese frosting is a popular choice for frosting cupcakes, adding a creamy and tangy element to the sweet cupcakes.
  3. Cookies: Cream cheese frosting can be used to sandwich cookies, such as whoopie pies or thumbprint cookies, adding a luscious and tangy filling.
  4. Brownies: Cream cheese frosting can be swirled onto brownie batter before baking to create a marbled effect, adding a tangy twist to the rich.
  5. Bars: Cream cheese frosting can be used as a topping for bars, such as lemon bars or pumpkin bars, adding a creamy and tangy layer of deliciousness.
  6. Pastries: Cream cheese frosting can be used as a filling or topping for pastries, such as danishes or cinnamon rolls, giving them a rich and tangy twist.
  7. Dessert dips: Cream cheese frosting can be used as a base for dessert dips, such as fruit dips or cookie dough dips, adding a creamy and indulgent texture.

The versatility of cream cheese frosting makes it a favorite choice for many different types of desserts, and its creamy and tangy flavor adds a delightful contrast to the sweetness of baked goods.

Ingredients of Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream cheese frosting typically requires simple and readily available ingredients. The main ingredients are:

  • Cream cheese: Use full-fat cream cheese for the best results. It should be softened to room temperature for easy mixing.
  • Butter: Unsalted butter is commonly used in cream cheese frosting, but salted butter can also be used. It should be softened to room temperature.
  • Powdered sugar: Also known as confectioners’ sugar, it provides the sweetness and thickness to the frosting.
  • Vanilla extract: Adds flavor to the frosting. Pure vanilla extract is recommended for the best taste.

These basic ingredients can be easily customized to suit personal preferences by adjusting the sweetness, tanginess, and consistency of the frosting.

How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting

Making cream cheese frosting is a simple process that requires minimal effort. Here’s a step-by-step guide:


  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened cream cheese and butter together with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
  2. Gradually add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and continue to beat on low speed until fully incorporated.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and beat on medium speed until the frosting is light, fluffy, and well combined.
  4. Taste the frosting and adjust the sweetness or tanginess by adding more powdered sugar or vanilla extract, if desired.
  5. Once the desired consistency and flavor are achieved, the cream cheese frosting is ready to use. You can spread it, pipe it, or dollop it onto your favorite desserts.

Making cream cheese frosting at home allows for customization and ensures that you are using fresh and high-quality ingredients. It’s a simple and delicious way to elevate your homemade desserts to the next level.

Tips for Making Perfect Cream Cheese Frosting

To make the perfect cream cheese frosting, consider the following tips:

  • Use softened cream cheese and butter: Make sure your cream cheese and butter are softened to room temperature before making the frosting. This ensures that they mix together smoothly and create a creamy texture.
  • Gradually add powdered sugar: Adding powdered sugar gradually, one cup at a time, allows for better incorporation and prevents lumps in the frosting.
  • Beat on low speed: When adding powdered sugar, beat on low speed to prevent it from flying everywhere and creating a mess. Once the sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to achieve a light and fluffy texture.
  • Use pure vanilla extract: Pure vanilla extract adds a rich and authentic flavor to the frosting. Avoid using imitation vanilla extract for the best taste.
  • Adjust consistency as needed: If the frosting is too thick, you can add a little milk or cream to thin it out. If it’s too thin, you can add more powdered sugar to thicken it.
  • Chill the frosting: If the cream cheese frosting is too soft after making, you can refrigerate it for about 30 minutes to firm it up before using it on your desserts. This will help the frosting hold its shape better.
  • Avoid over-mixing: Be careful not to over-mix the cream cheese frosting as it can result in a runny and less stable consistency. Once the frosting is smooth and well combined, stop mixing to avoid over-beating.
  • Store properly: If you have leftovers, store the cream cheese frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Before using it again, allow it to come to room temperature and give it a quick stir to restore its smoothness.


Can I use low-fat cream cheese for cream cheese frosting?

While full-fat cream cheese is recommended for the best results, you can use low-fat cream cheese. However, keep in mind that it may result in a softer and less stable frosting due to the lower fat content.

Can I freeze cream cheese frosting?

Yes, you can freeze cream cheese frosting for up to 3 months. To thaw, transfer it to the refrigerator and allow it to thaw overnight. Before using, give it a quick stir to restore its smoothness.

Can I use salted butter for cream cheese frosting?

Yes, you can use salted butter for cream cheese frosting. However, be mindful of the saltiness and adjust the amount of powdered sugar accordingly to balance the flavors.

Can I tint cream cheese frosting with food coloring?

Yes, you can add a few drops of food coloring to cream cheese frosting to achieve the desired color. Gel or powdered food coloring is recommended as it won’t affect the consistency of the frosting.


Cream cheese frosting is a versatile and delicious addition to many desserts. With its creamy and tangy flavor, it can elevate the taste and appearance of cakes, cupcakes, cookies, bars, pastries, and more.

Making cream cheese frosting at home is easy and allows for customization to suit personal preferences. By following the tips and steps outlined in this article, you can create the perfect cream cheese frosting to enhance your homemade desserts.

I'm Jennifer Tirrell, a self-taught baker, and founder of CakeRe. As an experienced baker and recipe publisher, I have spent over a decade working in the kitchen and have tried and tested countless baking tools and products. From classic cakes to creative twists, I've got you covered. So grab your apron and let's get baking!

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