The BEST Cream Cheese Icing

How to make the creamiest, richest, tangiest and best cream cheese icing ever! Swirl this on top of red velvet cake, carrot cake and cupcakes galore! 
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It doesn’t get better than an amazing cream cheese icing! It’s the best of all frosting worlds, sweet, tangy and cream-cheese delicious! My recipe uses my favourite secret ingredient, salted butter to give this cream cheese frosting a deeper depth of flavour. It just doesn’t get better than butter, cream cheese and powdered sugar!  Use this on red velvet cupcakes , Spice Cake, Hummingbird Cake, or anything that goes with a cream cheese frosting! This post has been updated from 2010, it’s an oldie but a goodie!

close up Cream Cheese Icing swirled on a cupcake with blue cupcake liner

Cream Cheese Icing That’s Also a Buttercream

This cream cheese frosting is halfway to a cream cheese frosting recipe and still a delicious buttercream base. My Buttercream Frosting Recipe is one of the most popular on my website so I knew that using it as my inspiration for a cream cheese frosting was the way to go. This is the best cream cheese frosting out there – and you can even pipe it a little!

Cream Cheese Icing Ingredient Tips

The way that I make this frosting is simple, fast and so easy! All you need is 4 main ingredients and then you beat them together until they are light and fluffy.

  • cream cheese – don’t use light and don’t use a cream cheese spread!
  • butter – always used salted so that the salt cuts the sweetness
  • icing sugar – a fresh bag of icing sugar is a must! Icing sugar absorbs the “smells” in your pantry just like baking soda, which means it tastes gross!
  • vanilla – real vanilla extract
close up Cream Cheese Icing swirled on a cupcake with blue cupcake liner

Commonly Asked Cream Cheese Icing Q & A

When you add in a major dairy product to a frosting recipe, there are bound to be a ton of questions that go along with it. I’m going to try and answer some of the more commonly asked questions when it comes to making cream cheese frosting.

Can cream cheese icing be left out or should I refrigerate it?

You should always keep a cake or cupcakes that has cream cheese frosting on it cold in the refrigerator. Remember, you are using a dairy product that HAS to be kept in the fridge. When you use just butter, it’s ok to keep it out for a while, as you can keep salted butter on your counter safely. Cream cheese? It’s not safe to leave it out. That doesn’t mean that you serve the cake or the cupcakes stone cold, you can take the baked goods out a few hours before you serve them and warm them up to room temperature safely. Just make sure that they don’t get too warm!

How many cups is 8 ounces of cream cheese? How much is in a brick? A block?

Eight ounces is equal to one cup or if you want to be precise, 7.9 ounces is equal to one cup. Close enough for our purposes! When you are talking about the common term “brick of cream cheese”, that means that it’s one 8 ounce package. If you see the term ” block of cream cheese” that means that it’s two packages. Let’s hope that the recipes are clearer for you than that, however!

How do I thin cream cheese icing?

cupcake in a white plate with cupcake liner and Cream Cheese Icing swirled on top, more cupcakes with cream cheese icing on the background

Perhaps you are looking for more of a cream cheese glaze than a heavy frosting that is best on cakes and cupcakes. If you want to thin a cream cheese frosting you can do so by beating in some heavy cream. I do NOT suggest using more butter as some recipes advise, that means that you are going to get a greasy frosting. Cream adds a lovely texture and creaminess to the frosting that can’t be beat. Simply beat in enough until you have the desired consistency that you want. 

Karlynn’s Tips and Tricks for Making Perfect Cream Cheese Icing

  •  The most important thing to remember is that your cream cheese needs to be room temperature! If you don’t make sure that it’s room temperature, you are not going to be able to blend it into the butter smoothly, you are going to have small chunks of cold cream cheese that are honestly the toughest thing to smooth out once you make the mistake.
  • SALTED BUTTER! This is the secret to making the best tasting frostings that I have been telling everyone for almost a decade of food blogging now! Find a salted butter brand that tastes amazing off the spoon and you are going to make frostings that will have people swooning in delight – and begging you for the recipe!
  • You can adapt this recipe so easily. I use only 8 ounces of cream cheese when I want a milder frosting, perhaps on a rich, dark chocolate cake that I want to cut the sweetness of. When I used this on red velvet cupcakes, however, I used 12 ounces of cream cheese ( one and a half packages) because there is nothing better than a strong tangy cream cheese frosting on red velvet!

Looking for more icing or frosting recipes? Try these:

  1.  Lemon Buttercream Frosting
  2. Chocolate Buttercream Icing
  3. Pistachio Pudding Buttercream Icing
  4. Vegan Buttercream Icing
  5. Candy Bar Buttercream Icing

Happy baking everyone! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them! If you loved this recipe, please leave a 5 star review!

Love Karlynn

Cream Cheese Icing

How to make the creamiest, richest, tangiest and best cream cheese icing ever! Swirl this on top of red velvet cake, carrot cake and cupcakes galore! 
5 from 14 votes
close up Cream Cheese Icing swirled on a cupcake with blue cupcake liner
Prep Time
5 minutes
Total Time
5 minutes
15 cupcakes
Karlynn Johnston


  • 1 to 1 1/2 packages of cream cheese ( 12 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 3 cups icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  •  Beat the cream cheese until smooth and light textured.
  • Add in the butter and beat until it’s completely combined with the cream cheese.
  • Add in the first TWO cups of icing sugar, then add in another 1/4 cup at a time, TASTE TESTING until you have reached the perfect tang and sweetness for your tastes! 
  • Once the icing tastes perfect to you, beat in the vanilla. Frost cupcakes and cakes. This will heavily frost 15 cupcakes and (1) 8-10 inch wide 2 layer cake.

Recipe Notes

This is such an easy recipe to adapt. I used 1 1/2 packages of cream cheese to frost red velvet cupcakes, but if you want just the slightest hint or cream cheese, simply use one 8 ounce package. 

Nutrition Information

Calories: 148kcal, Carbohydrates: 23g, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 16mg, Sodium: 54mg, Sugar: 23g, Vitamin A: 190IU, Calcium: 2mg

All calories and info are based on a third party calculator and are only an estimate. Actual nutritional info will vary with brands used, your measuring methods, portion sizes and more.

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How to make the creamiest, richest, tangiest and best cream cheese frosting ever! Swirl this on top of red velvet cake, carrot cake and cupcakes galore! #frosting #buttercream #creamcheese #cupcakes #redvelvet #icing #recipe #dessert

Karlynn Johnston

I’m a busy mom of two, wife & cookbook author who loves creating fast, fresh meals for my little family on the Canadian prairies. Karlynn Facts: I'm allergic to broccoli. I've never met a cocktail that I didn't like. I would rather burn down my house than clean it. Most of all, I love helping YOU get dinner ready because there's nothing more important than connecting with our loved ones around the dinner table!

Learn more about me

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Reader Interactions

Comments & Recipe Tips Share a tip or comment!

  1. Lee Ann Collins says

    can you freeze this okay like your buttercream? Planning a wedding and want to make cupcakes ahead of time. Please answer as soon as possible…wedding in November..Thanks

  2. Sona Sly says

    Icing sugar? I’m guessing this means
    Powdered Sugar? Never heard it referred to as Icing Sugar.

    • Wilma Eisenman says

      Icing sugar is what we call “powdered sugar” in Canada. Karrlynn is Canadian. 🙂

  3. Michelle Leon says

    Please state the weight in ozs and grams for ingredients. A cup of butter just does not make it easy to follow your recipes. Cup sizes vary globally.

  4. Tracey says

    Amazing cream cheese buttercream frosting paired with my mother’s carrot cake recipe made for a fabulous Christmas Dinner dessert. Thank you so much!!!5 stars

  5. Jenn says

    This recipe does not have near enough icing sugar… the icing was soo runny and I could not decorate my cupcakes.
    Also, the page has conflicting amounts for the icing sugar.2 stars

    • Mr. Kitchen Magpie says

      There’s no liquid in this recipe, so I’m not sure why it would be runny, you don’t melt anything, and the recipe STARTS at 2 cups of sugar, then as you read on in the recipe you are supposed to beat in more,slowly, adding to make the correct consistency for yourself.

    • Maggie says

      I only have unsalted butter. How much salt should I use?

      • Marie says

        made this today .. everything came out as you said without issue .. idk why ppl are having issues with icing mine came out fabulous.. cannot wait to have it tomorrow for my moms 84th bday .. thank you.5 stars

    • Ema says

      Can you pipe flowers with this buttercream, please?

  6. Ena says

    Hi Karlynn, can I use this icing with food coloring (green for a dino cake) and will the icing hold if I use a star tip for instance? Thanks

    5 stars

  7. Karlynn Johnston says

    Very weird, this is a solid icing for sure! Did you use a low fat cream cheese? That might have too much liquid in it….

  8. Garbo369 says

    I found it was a bit too runny to put on my cupcakes but tastes AMAZING!. Any suggestions? Add more icing sugar?

    5 stars

    • TheFoodie07 says

      Add a bit more icing sugar, add it by the tablespoon until it firms up a bit. You can adjust the other ingredients to make sure the flavour doesn’t get altered too much if necessary.

      5 stars

  9. lostdwarf says

    Amazing! I’m going to use your Best Buttercream, Chocolate Buttercream and Cream Cheese Buttercream for the mini cupcakes at my sister’s baby shower. I was thinking about making half batches but after reading the ingredients, that might cause some kid-fights to break out!

    5 stars

  10. Foreveradame says

    This  recipe looks great! Does it have to be refrigerated???

    5 stars

    • callas444 says

      Although cream cheese buttercream will be okay at room temperature for a couple hours (a party, perhaps), for longer than that you definitely want to refrigerate it.

      5 stars

5 from 14 votes (6 ratings without comment)

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