How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting in Only 10 Minutes!
Back away from the store-bought stuff. This cream cheese frosting is so tasty you'll never go back. We'll even show you how to make flavored varieties! (Strawberry cream cheese frosting, anyone?)
After the time and care it takes you to bake up a homemade cake (like one of these beauties!) or a batch of soft sugar cookies, you may be tempted to pull out the tub of store-bought frosting lurking in the back of your cabinet. The problem with that high-fructose corn syrup-laden frosting is that its artificial flavor and coloring will ruin the deliciously decadent flavor of your freshly made cake. (If you absolutely must use the canned stuff, reach for our best-loved brand.)
A simple solution? This oh-so-easy cream cheese frosting that’s ready in 10 minutes or less! We love cream cheese frosting because it’s a bit tangier and less syrupy sweet than plain frosting. Because the frosting is made with simple, on-hand ingredients like cream cheese, butter, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar, you’ll be able to pronounce everything in the recipe. (What even is polysorbate 60? Yuck.) Plus, this quick and effortless cream cheese frosting can be stored in the fridge for later, so you’ll never be tempted to go store-bought again.
How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting
There’s nothing better than a recipe like this one that uses ingredients you already have and is perfectly delicious. Grab these (make sure the butter and cream cheese is softened) and get to work.
- 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt, optional
- 3-3/4 to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
Step 1: Prep the Ingredients
Let the cream cheese and butter soften if they’re hard from the fridge. (In a pinch? Try these tips to soften butter in a snap.) While they sit on the counter, measure out the rest of the ingredients. It’s important to have the ingredients ready to go for this recipe since they all have to come together so quickly.
Test Kitchen tip: If you need a pure white frosting, use clear vanilla extract rather than a standard vanilla extract. (Ever tried homemade vanilla extract? It’s so good.)
Step 2: Just Beat It
Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt in a large bowl. Keep beating until the mix is light and fluffy. It’ll already look a little bit like frosting, but will be thicker and glossier.
Test Kitchen tip: If your confectioners’ sugar is clumpy, sift it with a fine-mesh sieve before adding it to the cream cheese mixture to prevent a lumpy frosting.
Step 3: Add the Sugar
Gradually beat the confectioners’ sugar into the mix. We usually add one cup at a time—you don’t want all that sugar to fly up into your face. (Don’t ask us how we know.)
Once you’ve added three cups, slow down a bit. Taste the frosting. Is it sweet enough? Is the texture firm but workable? If it’s not sweet enough or if it’s too thin, add more sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until it tastes good and the texture’s just right. If you add too much sugar and the frosting gets stiff, you can thin it out with a dash of milk.
Test Kitchen tip: While making the frosting, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula frequently, to make sure all of the ingredients are incorporated evenly.
Using Cream Cheese Frosting
After you sample a few fingerfuls (for quality control purposes, of course), get frosting! (Psst! Here’s how to use a piping bag like a pro.) This recipe yields about three cups of cream cheese frosting, which is enough to cover a two-layer cake, a single-layer sheet cake or two dozen cupcakes.
After frosting, be sure to store your goods in the refrigerator until serving. Cream cheese can melt or even spoil if left at room temperature.
Test Kitchen tip: This frosting can be made and refrigerated so you can always have some on hand for desserts or a late night treat. Just bring it to room temperature and beat again to fluff it back up before using.
How to Make Flavored Cream Cheese Frosting
While a straightforward cream cheese frosting is just the thing you need for carrot cake, you might want to amp up the flavors to add more personality to your bakes. Here are some of our favorite icing flavors and how to create them:
- Almond: Add a few drops of almond extract in place of (or along with) the vanilla.
- Coconut: Use that bottle of coconut extract in the pantry! Add a teaspoon to the recipe. You can even fold in toasted coconut.
- Lemon: Add a few drops of lemon extract in place of the vanilla. You can even add in a touch of lemon zest.
- Peppermint: Add a few drops of peppermint extract in place of the vanilla. Go easy with peppermint extract—it’s super strong.
- Rum: Add a tablespoonful along with the vanilla. If you prefer rum extract, a teaspoon works.
- Strawberry: Make strawberry cream cheese frosting by pureeing three ounces of fresh berries and adding to the basic frosting recipe
Extracts, especially almond and peppermint, are fairly strong, so start slow and add more to taste.