Cream Cheese Frosting

July 15, 2020
5 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Makes enough to cover 1 9-inch layer cake or about 24 cupcakes
Author Notes

Cream cheese frosting will play with—and perk up—cakes and quickbreads not only of the root vegetable variety, but chocolate, vanilla, fruit, spiced, any flavor really. The spreadable, tangy cheese adds an unexpected savoriness to frosting that is often overly saccharine, or worse—forgettable—and swiped off and into the trash.

Though it requires few ingredients and little-to-no know-how, this belovedly basic frosting can still be challenging to nail flavor- and texture-wise. A cream cheese frosting that delivers the desired tang and punch can be heavy, dense; a delightfully airy one, on the other hand, might not taste like anything other than powdered sugar.

In fine-tuning the flavor and mouthfeel, think of cream cheese frosting like an edited buttercream. The build is the same: Softened, unsalted butter gets whipped with a slightly-more-than-equal amount of icing sugar. (Try cultured butter for an even bolder icing.) But here, we replace some of that spready, creamy butter with similarly luscious, full-fat cream cheese. Two parts butter to one part cream cheese keeps the frosting light, while the vinegar and salt amp up the cream-cheesiness. For a spread that’s somewhere between sturdy frosting and drippy glaze—say for cinnamon rolls—simply up the heavy cream tablespoon by tablespoon, until you reach the desired consistency. —Coral Lee

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces/113 grams) full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces/226 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups (1 pound/454 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons tablespoons heavy cream
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until very, very fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the mixer off, then carefully add the sugar. Cover the stand mixer with a large, dampened tea towel (this will help contain the cloud), and turn the mixer back on to low. After 2 minutes remove the towel, crank the speed back up to medium-high, and whip until again very, very fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and add salt, vinegar, and heavy cream. Use the frosting immediately, or store it in the fridge until you’re ready to decorate. (If you end up refrigerating the frosting, just re-whip for a few minutes in the stand mixer on low before using.)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Lori
  • gmurp004

2 Reviews

Lori November 26, 2022
I used sour cream and omitted the cream & vinegar…because that’s what l had on hand. Perfect!
Refrigerated leftover cake… there wasn’t much!!
gmurp004 February 20, 2022
What a surprise; Never even tried a Food 52 recipe; Frosting was perfect; created a 8 tier brownie/cake so high! This frosting held it up. Thanks to video. Success on first attempt.