This Cream Cheese Frosting recipe is smooth, creamy, spreadable, and easy to make! Use on cupcakes, cookies, pumpkin cake, and 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.
What You’ll Find In This Post
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
The flavor of cream cheese frosting goes so well with baked goods, especially pumpkin and banana desserts. This five-ingredient recipe is smooth, spreadable, and easy to make. Plus, homemade frosting is always superior in flavor to store-bought versions!
- Cream Cheese: This recipe uses two packages of softened cream cheese. We used regular, full-fat cream cheese. You can use low-fat cream cheese, also known 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.
- Butter: You’ll need one stick of softened butter to add flavor and help make the frosting spreadable.
- Sugar: Sifted powdered sugar adds sweetness while keeping the frosting smooth. If you don’t have any on hand, you can make it in batches by blending one cup of granulated sugar and one tablespoon of cornstarch in a food processor or high-speed blender until powdery.
- Cream: We use half-n-half (known as half cream in some countries) to thin the frosting. You can also use slightly less whole milk or slightly more heavy cream than half-n-half if you prefer.
- Vanilla: A little vanilla extract adds flavor.
How To Make Cream Cheese Frosting
First, put the softened cream cheese and butter in a bowl and beat until smooth and creamy.
Then, gradually add half of the sifted powdered sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time. Mix until fully incorporated before adding more.
Next, mix in the half-n-half and vanilla extract.
Finally, mix in the remaining sifted powered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and then beat it until it is smooth and creamy.
Refrigerator Storage: Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
Freezer Storage: You can freeze cream cheese frosting in an airtight container for up to one month. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Once the frosting has thawed, beat it again until it is smooth and creamy.
Flavored Cream Cheese Frosting
- Coconut: Add a little coconut extract for a tropical flair.
- Strawberry: Stir in strawberry extract and a little red food coloring for a spring dessert.
- Lemon: The zesty flavor of lemon extract pairs well with cream cheese.
- Almond: Add almond extract instead of vanilla extract.
- Peppermint: Use peppermint extract for holiday desserts.
What Others Want To Know
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 soft so that you can beat them until smooth while still being spreadable. On the other hand, if they are too soft, the frosting will be too runny.
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.
Start by measuring out how much powdered sugar you need, and then sift the powdered sugar after you’ve measured it. I use a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl or a sifter.
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.
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, according to the USDA.
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.
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 they can only be at room temperature for up to two hours.
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.
Ways To Use
- 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 a step further and swirled in some Nutella.
- This Pumpkin Cake recipe is 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 easy to make and perfect for fall. This small batch of cinnamon rolls is drizzled with caramel and icing.
- Homemade Buttercream Frosting is popular on cakes and cupcakes!
- This Chocolate Buttercream Frosting melts in your mouth.
- Powdered Sugar Glaze is perfect for icing cakes and cookies.
- See our Sugar Cookie Icing Guide for four ways to frost cookies.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 16 oz cream cheese softened, (two 8 oz packages)
- ½ cup butter softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar sifted
- 2 tablespoon half-n-half
- 2 teaspoon vanilla
- Beat the softened cream cheese and butter until smooth.
- Gradually add 1 ½ cups of the sifted powdered sugar a ½ cup at a time, mixing well before adding more.
- Stir in the half-n-half and vanilla.
- Gradually add the remaining 1 ½ cups of the sifted powdered sugar a ½ 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.