The Best Cream Cheese Frosting

This Cream Cheese Frosting is not overly sweet and has a great cream cheese flavor thanks to a key ingredient. It is never lumpy and never, ever runny!

a small spatula with three piped shells of Cream Cheese Frosting.

I perfected this recipe for my cake decorating business. You can imagine a wedding cake with a runny filling would not be a great idea. 

Why this is the best tasting Cream Cheese Frosting

  • This recipe uses just 1 1/2 times sugar to cream cheese/butter. Most recipes for cream cheese frosting use twice as much sugar as cream cheese/butter. This allows the cream cheese flavor to be front and center in this frosting.
  • A splash of fresh lemon juice emphasizes the cream cheese flavor. This ensures that even with equal parts cream cheese and butter the frosting has a distinct cream cheese flavor.

Why this Cream Cheese Frosting is never runny

  • Butter is about 20% water and cream cheese is about 50% water. The extra moisture in the cheese can make the frosting runny. The extra butter in this recipe makes a slightly firmer frosting, especially when it’s chilled.
  • I start my Cream Cheese Frosting by softening the butter with the beater, then adding the sugar and finally the cream cheese. Because cream cheese has more water than butter, mixing the butter with the sugar first prevents the sugar from absorbing too much water from the cream cheese. This is why cream cheese frosting made in the usual way often becomes soupy.
  • This process allows the butter to become similar in texture to the cream cheese before the two are combined, even if the butter is still a little cool. So, no lumps!

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients

Ingredients for cream cheese frosting with text overlay.

Ingredient Notes

  • Confectioner’s Sugar – Compared to most recipes, this one has less sugar but still plenty of sweet flavor.
  • Cream Cheese/Butter – Used in equal proportion for the perfect frosting texture that is never runny.
  • Vanilla/Lemon Juice/Salt – The combination of these ingredients emphasizes the flavor of the cream cheese and balances the sweetness.

How to make Cream Cheese Frosting that is not runny

See the recipe card for detailed instructions and measurements.

a mixing bowl with whipped butter
  • First, soften the butter with the beater attachment.
  • The butter should be room temperature. Pliable, but not soft and melty.
a mixing bowl with butter and powdered sugar
  • Add the powdered sugar to the butter and mix until well combined and there are no lumps of butter.
  • Mixing the butter with the sugar coats the sugar with fat so it absorbs less water from the cream cheese. This prevents the icing from becoming runny.
a mixing bowl with whipped butter and sugar
  • Once the sugar and butter are combined toss the cream cheese in while the mixer is running.
cream cheese icing in a mixing bowl
  • Mix until the frosting is smooth and well combined.
whipped cream frosting on a whisk
  • Switch to the whisk and whip until the frosting is light and aerated.
  • It’s best to use this frosting right away.

Cream Cheese Frosting FAQs

How can I make Cream Cheese Frosting better?

Always mix the butter with the sugar before adding the cream cheese. Add a little lemon juice to emphasize the cream cheese flavor.

Why is my Cream Cheese Frosting runny?

The best way to prevent runny cream cheese frosting is to mix butter with the sugar to waterproof it before adding cream cheese. If you mix butter and cream cheese together before adding sugar the sugar will absorb too much water from the cream cheese and the frosting becomes runny.

How do I thicken Cream Cheese Frosting?

Cream cheese frosting will be softer at room temperature so you can chill it a bit to thicken it.

Does Cream Cheese Frosting need to be refrigerated?

A cake iced with cream cheese frosting can be held at room temperature for 3-4 hours. After a few hours the cake should be refrigerated.

a swirl of cream cheese frosting on a small spatula with a bowl of icing in the background

beauty shot of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

This recipe has a pronounced cream cheese flavor and it’s plenty sweet but not cloying. It’s a versatile recipe that I use for carrot and red velvet cake, as a topping for breakfast buns and to decorate cheesecakes

Here are some of my other favorite frosting recipes:

If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.

cream cheese frosting
Print Recipe
4.60 from 145 reviews

Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

There is a better way to make cream cheese frosting. This recipe is lump-free and doesn't become runny. It has great cream cheese flavor.
Prep Time15 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
16 servings
Save Recipe

Ingredients

  • 8 oz unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 12 oz confectioner’s sugar (3 cups)
  • 8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
  • teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Cream 8 oz unsalted butter in a mixing bowl until softened. Add 12 oz confectioner’s sugar (3 cups) and mix until combined with no lumps. Scrape the bowl and beater attachment.
  • With the mixer running, toss in 8 oz cream cheese. Scrape the bowl and beater completely, add ⅛ teaspoon table salt, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. Switch to the whisk attachment.
  • Whip the mixture on medium high until light and fluffy
  • Best used immediately after it’s made.

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Notes

Makes enough to fill and frost an 8″ cake.
Best if used immediately, but can be refrigerated or frozen. Return to room temperature and re-whip before using.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 154kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 45mg | Sodium: 64mg | Potassium: 24mg | Fiber: 0.001g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 545IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 0.02mg
Have you tried this recipe?Mention @eileen.bakingsense or tag #bakingsense!

67 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    The title is true. This is incredible.

    It goes absolutely perfect with your carrot cake as it cuts through the flavour of the spices and carrots and adds the perfect light sweetness.

    If anyone is wondering, in the UK you can use Philadelphia spread. Full fat of course – you’re not on a diet if you eat this!

  2. 5 stars
    Simply fabulous! Spreads perfectly and tastes as good if not better than it looks. My adult godson ate 1/2 of a red velvet cake because he loved the frosting! Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  3. Hi Eileen! This is just what I’ve been looking for to make my daughter’s wedding cake. Have you tried freezing this frosting? If so, do you have any tips to reconstitute it to its original texture when taken out of the freezer?

    Thank you!
    Patti

    1. Yes, you can definitely freeze this frosting. Let it come back to room temperature then rewhip it to lighten the texture again. User it right after it’s whipped.

  4. 5 stars
    This is best cream cheese frosting recipe. This is my second time making it. FYI
    I froze the leftover frosting before and at a later date thawed it out and used it on another cake. Make sure to use a sealed tight container.

  5. Looking forward to trying this recipe!! I see that it’s been called ‘stable’ – is it stable enough for piping onto cupcakes? Nothing fancy – just swirls? I typically hate the taste of Buttercream, so looking for an alternative. Thank you!

    1. I’m not sure I understand your question. You want to add ice cream to the frosting? Obviously it would melt so it would be like adding liquid cream.

  6. Thank you for this recipe! What do you think of this sandwiched between 2 coffee cookies? I’m imagining it as tiramisu adjacent atleast. I like it in theory for sure. But does the consistency of the frosting work in a sandwich cookie?

    Thank you again!

    1. Yes, this could work for a sandwich cookie. But you will need to refrigerate if they’re around for more than a day since because of the cream cheese. You might just want to fill them as you serve them if they won’t be eaten all at once.

  7. This is my go-to cream cheese frosting because it’s so stable and pipes so well. If I wanted to add some caramelized white chocolate to this, how much would you recommend using, and would you reduce the powdered sugar to compensate for the added sugar?

    1. You could probably add caramelized white chocolate to this frosting. I’ve done it plenty of times with Italian Meringue Buttercream. Whisk some of the cream cheese frosting into the melted (but not too warm) white chocolate. Then whisk that into the whole bowl of frosting. This is “liason”. This prevents the white chocolate from solidifying as soon at it hits the cream cheese. You might want to reduce the sugar a little. I can’t give number since I haven’t tried it. You’ll have to experiment a bit.

  8. Best cream cheese frosting ever! It’s been my go to for a few years now. Nothing else compares. It’s decadent delicious, and STABLE!

  9. Hello Eileen, I would like to thank you for this WONDERFUL CREAM CHEESE RECIPE!! I tried it and I LOVE IT!! The flavor and method are now my favorites!! GOD Bless YOU!

  10. This is absolutely the best cream cheese frosting! I have made so many and usually have problems with them being runny, which is not the case with this recipe. Thank you so much. No more sliding layers.

  11. Definitely the best! The ratio of butter to sugar makes this a rich, buttery cream cheese frosting. Using the whip attachment makes it light and fluffy. My family loves it. This will be the only cream cheese frosting recipe I use.

  12. My usual cream cheese frosting recipe (same as yours minus the butter!) cracks when I refrigerate this overnight. Will this recipe hold well overnight? Thanks 🙂

  13. I read another cake decorator’s recipe for cream cheese icing. She suggested adding a couple Tablespoons of cornstarch. She said it makes the icing firmer, and it dries with a light “crust” making it less “risky” for decorating as it won’t melt down. Have you ever heard of or tried this? I’m wondering if 1/2 butter 1/2 cream cheese and a bit of extra cornstarch would work for a larger cake on a warmer day, like for a wedding?

    1. Personally, I would never ice the outside of a wedding cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. It’s just too risky, in my opinion. As I used to tell my clients all the time, when you think about how many people get a slice of wedding cake with the outside frosting it is very few. Flavor-wise, it matters much more what’s inside the cake since the majority of the slices come from the middle parts of the cake. Even the edge slices only get a little bit of icing on one side and the top. As far as the cake on a warmer day, if there is cream cheese icing involved I would keep the cake indoors until just before cutting to avoid food poisoning from cream cheese at warm temps.

  14. Thank you for this recipe. I have made a lot of cream cheese frostings/icings and usually runny and way too sweet. When I think about the food science involved it makes perfect sense. Most recipes seem to start with the cream cheese then butter then sugar or cream cheese and sugar with lumps of butter added in….cream cheese soup!
    Looking forward to our next carrot cake or cinnamon rolls!

  15. Can this be the topping of cinnamon rolls. Or there are another recipe? If i have the left over can i store it at refrigerator and for how long can it be used again?

    I tried the cinnzeo frosting cream cheese but never satisfied with the result

    Many thanks

  16. Hi Eileen, Have you ever used LorAnn’s Cream Cheese emulsion? I have some, but was wondering if I should skip it because of the lemon juice already boosts the the cream cheese flavor. (I cannot taste the icing as I make it, unfortunately!) I was going to use this frosting on cheesecake-filled carrot cupcakes (which seems like overkill to me, but the recipe is popular online. ). Thank you for any thoughts! 🙂

    1. Hi Stephanie, I haven’t used the emulsion, but I will say that I love the flavor of this recipe as is. The vanilla and lemon juice work together to highlight the cream cheese flavor.

  17. Hello. Quick and probably dumb question, why does one add butter? To hold shape? Flavor? Both? Bcz I don’t add butter to mine (house cakes) and cant see why its needed.
    Thanks.

    1. Butter is firmer when chilled than cream cheese. Think about the texture of cold butter, it’s a lot firmer than cold cream cheese. So frosting made with half butter will hold it’s shape better. Also, butter is about 20% water and cream cheese is 55% water. More water absorbed by the sugar means a runnier frosting.

    2. @Melanie, I’m with you, I usually use no butter at all. This weekend I decided to try it the more popular way and couldn’t figure out why it was so runny so I’m glad I ran into this recipe which explained it. On the other hand, I found a carrot cake recipe where they browned the butter first and it’s absolutely divine. No comparison to any cream cheese recipe out there.

  18. Would this recipe be ok to fill a wedding cake? I’m making a very amateur wedding cake soon, the top tier will be a 6inch red velvet. I’m coating every tier in swiss meringue buttercream but I’d like to fill the red velvet will cream cheese frosting. Will it hold? Thank you!

    1. Yes, Abbie. Just pipe a “dam” of buttercream around the edge of each layer to keep the softer cream cheese frosting in.

  19. Last night ended in tears because of everything you’ve written above. I had a few more disasters than just the icing. Literally the middle layer of 5 decided to crack from the edge of the cake, inwards. The pressure of the two cakes on top forced the crack to open causing a bulge. On top of this the runny icing provided zero support! I am definitely going with this recipe this morning to see if I can try and salvage something. I am so thankful that I googled what I did and that it brought me here. Sifting through a million recipes and I’ve found you! So please, keep saving lives! Hahaha

  20. Love this recipe, and mixing in the order you give is easy and yields perfectly smooth frosting. I used this on a 6″ cake; I think I would increase it by 1/2 for an 8″ cake. Love your work and generosity in sharing. Thanks heaps.

    1. Thanks, Judy. I can’t say enough that baking is about more than which ingredients you use, but also how you mix them. Yes, if you want thicker layers of frosting you can make a larger batch.

  21. Hey Eileen!

    I have a question! I want to bake a birthday cake for my cousin. She loves a gd red velvet cake. I want to be able to pipe beautiful roses on the cake woth cream cheese but i am so afraid it will not hold shape especially where I live, it’s so humid and warm!
    Help! Will this frosting recipe work for me?

    Thanks in advance!!

  22. This is absolutely the best cream cheese frosting ever! All the others I’ve tried have been too sweet. I love the addition of a little lemon juice.

  23. I just made this frosting and I’m wondering how you got your frosting soooo white. With using 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract my frosting is very off-white.

    1. Did you switch to a whisk and whip the frosting at the end? Whipping in some air will lighten the color.

    1. Hi Nyree-Dawn. Yes, you can certainly double the recipe without making any other changes. Cause there really can’t be to much cream cheese frosting, right?

    1. Hi Brandi – You can pipe with this cream cheese icing, but if you wanted to do a cake covered in rosettes I think it might be a little soft. Especially once it starts to soften at room temp. I use it to pipe on top of the cake, but haven’t tried a cake covered in cream cheese icing rosettes.

    1. Hi Karima! Are you asking if you can use this recipe to top cupcakes? Yes, I have used this recipe for cupcakes many times. It’s best to pipe with cream cheese frosting right after it’s made. That’s when it has the best texture.

  24. Definitely the best cream cheese frosting I’ve ever made. Taste and texture are so worth the arm work out!

  25. Yes! The internet needed this “other” cream cheese frosting! Love to learn in deeps about the technique. To make the butter first to fit the texture of the cream cheese makes great sense and the touch of lemon is a nice trick I’m looking forward to try. Great post!

  26. You…. are a genius! This is such a wonderful frosting, and it makes so much sense now that I think about your process! Thank you oh so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Eva. I used it to fill a carrot cake for Easter. I’ll be posting the carrot cake recipe later this week.

  27. I’ve tried a lot of cream cheese recipes for my cheesecake. I have to admit, as I was making it, I was a bit skeptical but I ended up very happy with the result! Not an overwhelming flavor, great consistency! Just enough for the 3layers I do. ITS DEFINATELY A KEEPER!

    1. Thanks Patti! I just made this recipe yesterday to fill a carrot cake. It comes out perfectly every time. The carrot cake recipe will be posted soon.

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