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Every home baker needs a go-to Cream Cheese Frosting recipe! This one is light and fluffy with only a handful of ingredients. And the not-too-sweet, buttery vanilla flavor makes it perfect to decorate your favorite treats for birthdays or any occasion.
Table of Contents
- Why You’ll Love This Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients
- How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting
- Tips for the Best Buttercream
- How to Pipe Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
- Tips for Spreading Frosting
- Can I Freeze Leftover Frosting?
- Serving Suggestions
- Get the Recipe
- More Easy Frosting Recipes
Why You’ll Love This Cream Cheese Frosting
Keep this frosting recipe in your back pocket because it is incredibly versatile and so easy to make. The canned stuff just can’t compete. Here’s why you’ll be making frosting from scratch from now on:
- Alternative to basic vanilla. 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.
- So simple. This vanilla cream cheese frosting requires just five ingredients (one of them is even optional!), and one bowl.
- Easy 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. Keep reading for my tips for perfect piping or spreading.
- Sets up nicely. You won’t have to worry about drips, melting frosting or things not holding their shape. This cream cheese frosting maintains its shape so your baked treat looks great from the moment it’s made until you dig in.
- Cuisine Inspiration: American
- Primary Cooking Method: No-cook
- Dietary Info: Gluten-free. Dairy-free option
- Skill Level: Easy
Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients
Here’s an overview of what you need to make this simple fluffy cream cheese frosting. The full amounts you’ll need are listed in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
- 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.
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:
- Dairy-free frosting: replace the cream cheese and butter with vegan alternatives.
- 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! Read more about gluten free sprinkles!
- Mint frosting: use mint extract instead of vanilla.
- Coffee: add 1 tablespoon (or more, to taste) instant espresso powder.
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 the Best Buttercream
- 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.
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:
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.