Classic Cream Cheese Frosting

Classic Cream Cheese Frosting

I don’t make a lot of time-intensive cakes (i.e. layer cakes, or cakes requiring two days of prep).  Most times when I’m baking, I just want to bake and eat — not wait for the cake to cool before spreading a crumb layer and then frosting. There are exceptions, like for a birthday or anniversary — then, I’ll happily make the effort…  or if the cake I’m jonesing for all but demands a cream cheese frosting… Like carrot cake (my favorite) or Emily’s often requested Chocolate Mint Cake.  In those cases a Classic Cream Cheese frosting isn’t an afterthought.  It’s a critical part of the finished product and I quickly get over those seeming extra steps for the well-worth it cream cheese crowned confection.


butter & cream cheese

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Of course, there are “ready made” frostings in plastic tubs for sale at the grocery.  I implore you…  don’t buy them. Homemade cream cheese frosting is so much better without the preservatives and it doesn’t have that weird processed flavor.  Plus, it’s easier than you might think.

butter and cream cheese blended together with powdered sugar being added to the bowl


I was actually at my local Publix the other day, in the flour and sugar aisle, when I spied what has to be the epitome of laziness convenience food items. Cream Cheese frosting — pre-loaded in a piping bag with a star tip ALREADY AFIXED to the bag. I mean, really?  REALLY???  Let’s gloss over the fact that it was cream cheese frosting – in the flour aisle — ergo — not refrigerated — what kinds of fake food and chemicals are they putting in THAT??? The fact that the frosting had already been pre-loaded into a pastry bag with a star tip — is to me — like having a mother-bird regurgitate her food into your gullet — because you can’t be bothered to chew.  Aaaggggghhhhh!!!!!!!

vanilla in a teaspoon


Ok, sorry about that… rant over. This easy cream cheese frosting recipe is little more than unsalted butter and cream cheese whipped together until smooth and sweetened with powdered sugar, a pinch of salt and vanilla extract. See — a homemade frosting recipe with only 5 ingredients that’s ready in 10 minutes. Spare yourself and your guests the fake frosting abomination.

This frosting is thick and fluffy with a slight tang from the cream cheese. This recipe makes enough to cover a 13×9 inch pan of cake or brownies, but if you’re making a layer cake, I’d recommend making a double batch of this recipe — ’cause you don’t want to skimp…


bowl of classic cream cheese frosting in a bowl on a cutting board.

The Difference Between Frosting and Icing:

I’ve often wondered about this because where I grew up, those two terms were used interchangeably.  However, I’ve recently discovered that there IS a difference.

  • Icing is thinner and glossier — and is perfect for glazing cakes and cookies. Makes sense.
  • Frosting is thicker and fluffier, enveloping your cake with creamy, swooping swirls, mounds and whirls.

I know which one I’d rather dive into head-first!


Bowl of cream cheese frosting with a dish towel and offset spatula beside it.


How To Make Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting Without Lumps:

  • Start with room temperature butter and cream cheese. If your butter and cream cheese are chilled, they won’t blend as well and you’re liable to wind up with whole chunks of either in the frosting. Ick.
  • Blend the butter and cream cheese together with a hand mixer like this one: KitchenAid KHM7210CU 7-Speed Digital Hand Mixer with Turbo Beater II Accessories and Pro Whisk – Contour Silver {affiliate link}. You want the butter and cream cheese to be completely melded before adding the sugar.
  • Add the powdered sugar a little at a time, making sure to thoroughly blend it before adding more.  Powdered sugar can have a tendency to clump and if you don’t want little beads or kernels of unincorporated sugar, take your time to ensure that it’s being mixed completely into the butter and cream cheese mixture. You can’t really overmix frosting (it’s not like batters or doughs) and it’s the whipping action that makes a fluffy cream cheese frosting, well… fluffy.
  • You can flavor this easy cream cheese frosting with whatever type of extract you prefer. I used vanilla here for the standard, but almond, coconut or mint work well too, depending on what you plan to frost it with.
  • To color cream cheese frosting I recommend you avoid using the watery food colorings sold at the grocery store. Adding too much can further soften the frosting making it less likely two hold your peaks and swirls. Wilton {affiliate link} makes gel food colorings in a multitude of colors and a very small amount will add beautiful hues without loosening the frosting too much. There are plenty of others brands available as well, just look for the gel-based variety.


Classic Cream Cheese Frosting with an offset spatula covered in frosting.



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4.80 from 10 votes

Classic Cream Cheese Frosting

Tangy and sweet, this cream cheese frosting makes enough to frost a 13x9 inch cake pan or layer cake.  If you like a greater frosting:cake ratio, scale it to make 1 1/2 batches... Yeah, I've done this.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword buttercream, cream cheese frosting
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 16


  • ½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature (NOTE: if using salted butter, omit the additional salt)
  • 8 ounce package cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 pound powdered sugar (about 4-4 1/2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  • In a large bowl combine the butter, cream cheese and salt.  Use a hand mixer to blend together until smooth.  Add the salt to the cream cheese mixture - it may sound counterintuitive, but a little salt rounds out the flavors.  Mix in the powdered sugar in 1 cup increments, blending into the butter cream cheese mixture after each addition.
  • Add the vanilla extract with the last of the powdered sugar and mix until ingredients are fully incorporated and the frosting is smooth and fluffy.  
  • Frosting can be used immediately.  Any leftovers can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.


When I make this frosting, I tend to make a double or triple batch and keep half of it in the freezer so it's ready to go whenever I have a cake whim.  Just remove it from the freezer when you start your baking.  It will be ready to spread once your cake has cooled.


Calories: 210kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 30mg | Sodium: 83mg | Potassium: 19mg | Sugar: 28g | Vitamin A: 370IU | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 0.1mg

More Classic Dessert Toppers:



Don’t Forget To “Pin It” For Later!


This homemade frosting recipe is as easy as it is delicious. Classic Cream Cheese Frosting starts with butter and cream cheese, sweetened with powdered sugar and a hint of vanilla. This fluffy cream cheese frosting is ideal on cakes or quick breads. #frosting #creamcheese #creamcheesefrosting #homemadefrosting #homemadeicing #icing #butter #powderedsugar #easyfrostingrecipe #frostingforcarrotcake #5ingredients #bestfrostingrecipe #buttercream #homemadebuttercream

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  1. How many cupcakes would this recipie Frost?

    1. This should frost 2 dozen cupcakes, or one 13×9 or an 8″ layer cake.

  2. Rose Williams says:

    This looks like something even Incan do! I wanted to make it for the small batch of turtle cupcakes. How can I scale back this recipe?

    1. Anyone can do this, Rose. This is a very scaleable recipe… If you want to cut the recipe in half, use 4 tablespoons of butter, 4 ounces cream cheese, about 2 cups of powdered sugar + 2 tablespoons, half a teaspoon of vanilla and a pinch of salt.

  3. 5 stars
    Lovely! I’m glad that you have given all the step wise pictures to make this cream cheese frosting!

  4. 5 stars
    Gotta love a freshly whipped homemade cream cheese frosting! Looks so fluffy and delicious.

  5. 5 stars
    That is a classic! Great instructions on how to make it smooth too.

  6. 5 stars
    This frosting looks so scrumptious!! I agree with you, homemade is always better than the stuff you could buy in the store. And I shudder too at what must be in them to keep them in the flour aisle! Great tips on how to make fluffy frosting!

  7. I like adding cream cheese frosting to many desserts, and my version is the same is yours. Simple and great!