This Cream Cheese Frosting recipe is so smooth, creamy, and spreadable. It is easy to make and perfect on baked desserts from pumpkin cake to banana bars.
While it is well known that I love buttercream frosting, I wanted to make a spreadable cream cheese frosting that is perfect for cakes and tastes like cream cheese. I decided to make a separate post just for the frosting recipe so that I could answer all of the questions that go along with the recipe.
Where is the cream cheese frosting? In this post, I will share step-by-step photos for how to make the recipe, as well as answer FAQs about the recipe and share a short video showing the recipe in motion. But you can go directly to the recipe by scrolling down to the bottom of the post.
What do softened cream cheese and softened butter mean exactly?
This recipe starts with two bricks of softened cream cheese and a stick of softened butter. They should be soft enough that you can easily press into them and leave an impression but not so soft that they won’t hold their shape.
The cream cheese and butter need to be softened so that they can be beaten smooth but still be spreadable. On the other hand, if they are too soft, the frosting will be too runny.
Why sift the powdered sugar when making frosting?
The reason you should sift the powdered sugar when making frosting is so that you can eliminate lumps in your frosting. You don’t always feel like taking the time with an extra step but it really does make a huge difference.
Use your fingers or the back of a spoon to press any remaining clumps through the sieve. If you were to just dump the powdered sugar into the buttercream without sifting it first, all of those clumps would end up making the cream cheese frosting lumpy.
What is the difference between vanilla extract and imitation vanilla?
Whenever possible always go with a pure vanilla extract when baking. Vanilla extract is made from vanilla beans while imitation vanilla is made using synthetically produced vanilla flavor.
Vanilla extract is more expensive than the imitation version because not only has there been a crop shortage lately but also because it is labor-intensive to grow and harvest. Some people like to make homemade vanilla extract but the vanilla beans are also expensive.
I try to buy my vanilla in a larger bottle from a wholesale store since it tends to be less expensive per ounce and it lasts for a long time.
Can I use low-fat cream cheese to make frosting?
Yes, you can use a low-fat cream cheese also know as Neufchatel to make this frosting. It has 1/3 less fat and will give you similar results. It is a little softer than regular cream cheese so you can add less half-n-half or more sugar if necessary.
How can I make cream cheese frosting thicker for piping?
If you want to make cream cheese frosting thicker for piping, you will need to add more butter and powdered sugar while adding less cream cheese. You can follow my recipe for cream cheese buttercream in this post but substitute the apple butter with an equal amount of half-n-half.
Does cream cheese frosting need to be refrigerated?
Yes, cream cheese frosting needs to be refrigerated because it is made up of cream cheese and butter which are both dairy products that require refrigeration. It can only be at room temperature for up to two hours.
Remove the frosting from the fridge and allow it to warm on the counter or put it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it. Then, beat it again to give make it spreadable.
Does a cake with cream cheese frosting need to be refrigerated?
Yes, cakes and other baked goods with cream cheese frosting need to be refrigerated. You can allow them to warm and soften before serving, but again, they can only be at room temperature for up to two hours.
Can I freeze cream cheese frosting?
Yes, you can freeze cream cheese frosting but you’ll want to thaw it in the refrigerator. Once the frosting has thawed beat it again until it is smooth and creamy.
Ways To Use This Frosting
Use your overripe bananas to make these delicious Banana Bars that are perfect with a cup of coffee!
With these Pumpkin Nutella Swirl Bars, I took basic pumpkin bars these a step further and swirled in some Nutella.
This Pumpkin Cake recipe is so easy to make with a cake mix, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin pie spice! All it needs is this cream cheese frosting.
Crescent Roll Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls are so easy to make and are perfect for fall. This small batch of cinnamon rolls is drizzled with caramel and icing.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 16 oz cream cheese, softened (two 8 oz packages)
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tbsp half-n-half
- 2 tsp vanilla
- Beat the softened cream cheese and butter until smooth.
- Gradually add 1 1/2 cups of the sifted powdered sugar a 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well before adding more.
- Stir in the half-n-half and vanilla.
- Gradually add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of the sifted powdered sugar a 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well before adding more. Then, beat until smooth and creamy.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.