Cream Cheese Frosting Recipes

carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Cream cheese frosting is the quintessentially versatile frosting of the baking world. It lends a rich, creamy, and tangy taste to densely baked goods like carrot cake or pumpkin bread. However, by substituting or adding an extra ingredient, you can take your dessert from great to extraordinary.

Basic Cream Cheese Frosting

Rich, dense and creamy, this cream cheese frosting recipe takes just four ingredients.


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


For the best results, leave the butter and cream cheese out until it is soft.

  1. In a mixing bowl, add the butter and cream cheese. Mix together with an electric beater until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  2. Add the vanilla to the mixture, mixing thoroughly with your beater.
  3. Add the powdered sugar to the cream cheese mixture slowly, approximately one-half cup at a time, until you've achieved the desired consistency.


  • If the cream cheese and butter have clumps in it after mixing, take the bowl and put it in a large pan of hot water, stirring until the clumps melt.
  • If the mixture seems too dry, you can add milk to it, one tablespoon at a time, until you get to the desired consistency.
  • If the mixture is too moist and is more drizzly than spreadable, add more softened cream cheese or butter. You can also add additional powdered sugar, but taste test as you go since it can make the frosting too sweet.

Decadent Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Take your frosting from plain to decadent and extraordinary with a little chocolate. The key to getting the best tasting chocolate cream cheese frosting is to use the best kind of chocolate you can afford. Ghirardelli is the perennial favorite, winning the Epicurious Magazine's editors' vote.


  • Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
    4 squares (1 ounce each) dark or unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 to 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt


  1. In a mixer, beat the softened cream cheese until the texture is creamy.
  2. Chop chocolate for easier melting.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat. When butter is melted, take the pan off the heat and stir in the chocolate until it is melted.
  4. Add melted chocolate mixture and the vanilla to the cream cheese and mix thoroughly with an electric mixer on low.
  5. Add the powdered sugar in, one-half cup at a time, and mix thoroughly.


  • If you're out of chocolate baking squares, substitute 12 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder instead.
  • Add semi-sweet chocolate chips or white chocolate chips after adding the powdered sugar to give the recipe a bit of crunch and texture.
  • To get just the right consistency, add milk to thin or more powdered sugar to stiffen.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

If you have a chocolate cake, and you're looking to frost it with something that has a little more pizzazz, try peanut butter cream cheese frosting. After all, there are few combinations in life as perfect as peanut butter and chocolate.


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups (approximately) powdered sugar


  1. Cream together peanut butter, cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until smooth with an electric mixer.
  2. Add powdered sugar and mix thoroughly.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Strawberry cream cheese frosting is perfect for heavy cupcakes, true shortcake, or even a sweet corn bread.


  • Strawberry cream cheese frosting on a cupcake
    1 package (10 ounces) frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed OR 2 cups fresh, mashed strawberries mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar


  1. Purée strawberries in a blender.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese until it is smooth in consistency using an electric mixer.
  3. Add the strawberry extract and 1/2 cup of puréed fruit to the cream cheese. You'll have leftover puréed fruit, which you can use for a smoothie or another batch of frosting.
  4. Add the powdered sugar, one-half cup at a time, to the strawberry cream cheese mixture and mix until you reach the desired consistency.

10 Variations for Sublime Frosting

If you have the hankering to get a little creative, or are feeling like the cream cheese taste isn't quite right for your dessert, try one of these variations or substitutions that will take your frosting from great to phenomenal.

  1. In lieu of vanilla, add rum, Kahlua, or any other sweet liqueur.
  2. Add a bit of strong coffee to the cream cheese and butter mixture. Crush chocolate sandwich cookies and mix them into your frosting.
  3. Fold in whipped cream for a lighter, fluffier frosting.
  4. Chopped walnuts or chopped pecans can add texture.
  5. For a citrusy burst, add lemon or orange extract instead of vanilla, and then add in the zest of a lemon or orange while mixing.
  6. Add a dash of pumpkin pie spice and candied ginger for a Thanksgiving treat.
  7. Mix in caramel sauce.
  8. Add one-half cup of chocolate-hazelnut spread instead of peanut butter.
  9. Mix in melted white chocolate.
  10. Add a dash of coconut extract and shredded coconut before adding the powdered sugar.

Serving Suggestions

Cream cheese frosting has a bit of tang, so it goes best with things that are especially sweet or dense. However, don't limit yourself just to cake!

  • Use cream cheese frosting with any kind of cake, cupcake, or bar that has carrot, pumpkin, or zucchini in it.
  • Pair this frosting with spiced cakes.
  • Use it as a dip for pretzel sticks and graham crackers.
  • Very rich chocolate cakes take a cream cheese frosting very well.
  • Try it on a toasted bagel.
  • Spread frosting on warm cinnamon rolls.
  • Use it as a filling for whoopie pies.

Using and Storing Your Frosting

Once you've made your frosting, use it immediately. Any leftovers should be stored in an air tight container and used within a week or so. Note that when you store the frosting in the fridge, it may get too hard to spread easily. Simply take the container and set it in a bowl of hot tap water for about 10 minutes. Give the frosting a stir, and it should be ready to spread again.

Cream Cheese Frosting Recipes