Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting

5 from 5 votes
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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.

white bowl of vanilla cream cheese frosting with a cupcake in the background

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
cupcakes and frosting in a piping bag

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.
ingredients for vanilla cream cheese frosting in bowls

Variations

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

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.
red velvet cupcake with vanilla cream cheese frosting

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the frosting into the bag, filling it half-way.
  4. 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.
  5. Lift the bag straight up when you’re done to make a cute kiss on top.
piping bag of cream cheese frosting with cupcakes

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.

Storage

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.

cream cheese frosting piped in a bowl and on a red velvet cupcake

Serving Suggestions

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:

cream cheese frosting piped in a bowl and on a red velvet cupcake
5 from 5 votes

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

This is the best easy vanilla cream cheese frosting for decorating cakes, cupcakes and other baked treats.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 0 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 12 Servings

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.
Nutrition Facts
Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
Amount Per Serving
Calories 252 Calories from Fat 126
% Daily Value*
Fat 14g22%
Saturated Fat 9g45%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 4g
Cholesterol 41mg14%
Sodium 62mg3%
Potassium 31mg1%
Carbohydrates 31g10%
Sugar 30g33%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 490IU10%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 21mg2%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Disclaimers: Please discuss your individual dietary needs (i.e. gluten free) with a physician. Even when not specified, be sure to verify all ingredients are gluten free, if needed, by reading labels on all packaging and/or confirming with the manufacturer this varies by brand and can change at any time. Nutrition information shown is an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

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