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This light and fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting is an easy five-ingredient recipe to decorate your favorite treats for birthdays or any occasion.
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The Best Five-Ingredient Frosting
If you’re an avid home baker like me, it’s great to have a go-to frosting recipe to keep in your back pocket. This vanilla cream cheese frosting is incredibly versatile and so easy to make. It requires just five ingredients (one of them is even optional!), and one bowl.
If this is your first time making frosting from scratch, you’re going to love the light and fluffy texture and not-too-sweet, buttery vanilla flavor. The canned stuff just can’t compete with this delightfully easy and versatile homemade frosting. Cream cheese adds a tangy flavor that’s perfect with rich desserts like chocolate cakes (try it on this Gluten Free Chocolate Pumpkin Cake). It’s also a classic to decorate carrot cake or red velvet cake.
One of the best things about this frosting recipe is how easy it is to work with. Whether you’re using a butter knife, an offset spatula, or a piping bag, you can make a beautifully decorated cake, or adorable cupcakes topped with sweet and creamy vanilla frosting. You won’t have to worry about drips, melting frosting or things not holding their shape. This cream cheese frosting sets up well and maintains its shape so your baked treat looks great from the moment it’s made until you dig in. I hope you’ll keep this recipe on hand for your next birthday celebration or special occasion.
Here’s what you need to make this simple fluffy cream cheese frosting:
- Butter. Use unsalted butter softened to room temperature for easy blending.
- Cream cheese. Full-fat cream cheese will give the best flavor, but light works. Do NOT use fat free!
- Powdered sugar. Regular granulated sugar can add a gritty, grainy texture to your frosting.
- Vanilla. Use pure vanilla for the best warm flavor. If you want a pure white color, make sure to use clear vanilla extract.
- Lemon juice. For a touch of brightness in this sweet frosting.
How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting
Follow these steps to make this easy vanilla frosting:
Blend the butter: In a mixing bowl, blend the softened butter with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.
Add the cream cheese: Mix in the cream cheese, vanilla and lemon juice.
Add the sugar: Turn the mixer to low speed and slowly add the powdered sugar. Continue to mix until you have a smooth, thick frosting.
Tips for Success
Here are a few tips to make sure your frosting comes out perfectly:
- Use room-temperature cream cheese and butter for the easiest blending and fluffiest texture.
- You can omit the lemon juice if you like, but it adds a night bright touch to cut through the sweetness.
- Make sure you let your baked goods cool fully before you use the frosting, otherwise it might melt right off.
- For added flavor, you can fold in powdered freeze-dried fruit or a fruit puree. This will also add a beautiful color.
How to Pipe Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
The texture of this frosting is perfect for piping. It holds its shape well so it will make you look like a pro regardless of your cupcake decorating skills.
To pipe frosting on a cake or cupcakes:
- Open a large plastic zip-top bag or piping bag. If you’re using a tip, fix the tip onto the bag. A star tip is a great choice for frosting cupcakes.
- Place the bag in a tall glass and fold the sides down over the edges of the glass. This holds the bag open so you can fill it.
- Use a rubber spatula to transfer the frosting into the bag, filling it half-way.
- Twist the bag closed and apply pressure from the top to gently and evenly squeeze the frosting out of the bag and onto your baked goods. For a swirl pattern like these red velvet cupcakes, start from the edge and work inwards, overlapping the frosting to make a neat little pile.
- Lift the bag straight up when you’re done to make a cute kiss on top.
Tips for Spreading Frosting
If you don’t have a piping bag or just want to keep things simple, you can use a butter knife or an offset spatula to cover a cake in this cream cheese frosting. Make sure your cake is fully cooled and the frosting is at room temperature for easier spreading.
It’s best to do two layers of frosting on a cake to avoid any see-through or thin areas. I recommend putting the cake in the fridge between layers to let the frosting set up and harden a bit before adding the second layer.
Flavors and Colors
You can flavor this cream cheese frosting in many different ways. For added color, add a few drops of food coloring. Use gel food coloring for a more intense color.
Mix up ingredient add-ins to match the flavor of your cake or cupcakes. Here are some of my favorite ways to flavor this frosting:
- Chocolate frosting: add 1/4 cup cocoa powder with the powdered sugar.
- Coconut cream cheese frosting: swap the vanilla extract for coconut extract and add coconut shavings to decorate your cake.
- Strawberry frosting: fold 1/4 cup strawberry preserves into the frosting at the end.
- Orange cream cheese frosting: swap the vanilla for 1 teaspoon of orange zest.
- Homemade funfetti frosting: fold rainbow sprinkles into the frosting at the end. Just be sure they are gluten free, if needed!
- Mint frosting: use mint extract instead of vanilla.
- Coffee: add 1 tablespoon (or more, to taste) instant espresso powder.
Store leftover cream cheese frosting in an airtight container for up to three days. This is a great make-ahead recipe if you’re baking for a crowd. Before using the frosting, let it come to room temperature.
Can I Freeze Leftover Frosting?
Yes, you can freeze this frosting for longer storage. Keep it in an airtight container or zip-top bag for up to one month. When you’re ready to use it, let the frosting thaw overnight in the fridge, then bring it to room temperature. You may need to mix the frosting with an electric mixer to give it a fluffier texture before using it to frost anything.
You can use this cream cheese frosting on cakes, cupcakes and more. It’s especially delicious with chocolate! Here are some of my favorite treats to top with vanilla cream cheese frosting:
- Gluten-Free Red Velvet Brownies for Two
- Gluten Free Brownies
- Easy Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes
- Gluten-Free Carrot Cake for Two
- Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread
Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), softened to room temperature
- 8 oz. cream cheese (regular or light), softened to rom tempaerature
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar
- Using a hand mixer, or standing mixer, cream room temperature butter until light and fluffy.
- Mix in cream cheese, vanilla extract, and if you wish lemon juice.
- With the mixer working at slow speed, slowly start adding powdered sugar and beat until smooth (if you want a bit thicker frosting, you can add extra powdered sugar)
- Use on completely cooled cupcakes.