Photos by Constance Higley.
Frosting is the stuff dreams are made of.
Luscious, creamy, and such a delightful indulgence all on its own. But add it to a cake, cupcake, or just about any other baked treat? Now it’s on a whole new level of deliciousness.
I can see why my post on How to Make the Best Buttercream has been so popular. Everyone loves frosting, but it’s surprisingly easy to get wrong. That’s why I’m sharing with you everything I can think of to help you achieve the BEST cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting Tips & Tricks
If you’re curious as to why I believe this is the BEST cream cheese frosting recipe, or if you want extra help ensuring yours comes out perfectly, then read through my more details tips and explanations below. If you have any questions, they’re probably answered!
This is indeed a simple recipe, but I find sometimes it’s easiest to overlook things that are simple and to then be disappointed with lackluster results.
It should be regular full-fat brick cream cheese at a cool room temperature. NOT whipped or spreadable cream cheese made for bagels. I’ve found that some off-brand cream cheese bricks have an unappealing almost watery texture. Go with a quality brand when possible.
Unsalted butter at a cool room temperature helps to make the frosting light, fluffy, and sturdy enough to pipe. Unsalted really does work best here and if you’re curious why, check out my article on unsalted vs salted butter.
It may not be so secret once you take a closer look at these photos. The secret ingredient that elevates this frosting to a gourmet level…. it’s vanilla PASTE! Yes, it’s a little pricier and harder to find than regular vanilla extract, but it’s totally worth it.
When adding vanilla extract to anything that won’t be baked, like frosting, you can often taste and smell the alcohol of the extract. That’s why vanilla paste works so much better here. It adds a deeper vanilla flavor and appearance to your frosting. Since we truly do eat with our eyes this is more important than you might think! It’s also much easier than seeding a vanilla pod.
You can purchase it at gourmet food and kitchen stores like Williams Sonoma and Sur la Table, or make it easy on yourself and just add a bottle to your next Amazon order.
Lastly, if you find cream cheese frosting to be too sweet or rich for your taste, add a splash of lemon juice. It won’t add much pronounced lemon flavor, but the acidity will cut through and balance the richness.
Powdered sugar is a must here. No other sugar will produce a smooth texture. It’s also completely necessary to sift the powdered sugar after measuring it, and before adding it into the mixing bowl. This will ensure no pesky lumps and clumps ruin the smoothness of your frosting. If you don’t have any on hand, check out my quick hack for making your own powdered sugar in 5 minutes.
An electric mixer, either hand held or standing, makes quick and easy work of creating a light and fluffy frosting. Actually, because recipe doesn’t make a huge amount of frosting as written a hand mixer in a deep medium bowl does the trick perfectly.
Serving, Storing, and Make Ahead:
Cream cheese frosting, alone or on cake or cupcakes, can sit at a cool room temperature for up to 8 hours before it should be refrigerated.
The frosting can be made and transferred to an airtight container and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature and re-whip with an electric mixer before using.
Step by Step Video
If you want to up your buttercream game to a bakery-quality level, download my free Best Buttercream Guide below: