The Only Frosting You’ll Ever Need

When Bacon Slayer and I were just pups and newly dating, an important event occurred: his birthday.  Birthdays are a very big deal in our house–it’s the one day of the year that is truly your own, and we celebrate the blessing of your birth. As I felt very blessed to have Bacon Slayer in my life, it was only natural that I made him a birthday cake.

I agonized over what type of cake to make. I mean, we had only been dating a few months. I wasn’t sure what kind of cake he liked. And I wanted it to be a surprise, so I couldn’t ask. I settled on my favorite–chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. I figured that way, if he didn’t like it, I could still eat it.  Because when it comes to cake, it really is all about me.

I very proudly presented my made from-scratch birthday cake to my beloved on his birthday. He was thrilled! Then he told me something so entirely shocking that I wasn’t sure that I’d heard correctly. It seems that up until that point in his life, Bacon Slayer had never eaten homemade cream cheese frosting.

Wait. What?!

Clearly, this was a dire situation. So I did what any good girlfriend would do and served my new man a hefty slice of cake slathered in cream cheese frosting. He took one bite and made a bold proclamation:

“This is the best frosting I’ve ever had! You don’t ever have to make another type of frosting ever again.”

I completely agree.

Master this cream cheese frosting, and you’ll never need to make any other kind of frosting again for the rest of your life. Seriously! It’s just that good.

My cream cheese frosting is a bit different than most recipes in that I use a lot more butter and cream cheese. Buttercream is clearly a case of More is Better, right? I also use less powdered sugar than many recipes call for, which results in a creamy, gooey frosting that is perfect with just about anything.  I’ve included notes at the end of the recipe for other ways in which to use this frosting, including a chocolate version.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

½ C. (8 Tbs.) butter, softened

3 ½ C. powdered sugar

1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract (or flavor of your choice)

Here’s the part when I should insert the lovely cast of characters ingredients shot that I so painstakingly set up. Really, I did. Then I snapped what I thought was a photo with my new big girl camera, and as it turns out, I really took a video.  As videos of stationary ingredients with a voice-over of my younger boys arguing over a hockey stick in the background are not so appealing, I left it out.

You’ll thank me later.

Since a smooth and creamy frosting is the main objective, all of the ingredients should be at room temperature, or “softened.” Sometimes when I know I am going to make a cake the next day, I will put the butter and cream cheese on the counter the night before. Put the softened stick of butter, and brick of cream cheese into a large bowl.

Cream on low speed until fluffy, then add the vanilla extract. I like vanilla with most cakes because of it’s neutral flavor. If you are feeling spunky, feel free to substitute another extract for the vanilla. Maple or orange would be delicious. Also, the vanilla will tint the white frosting to a pretty ivory color. If you want super white frosting, use a clear extract.

Geez, I can be bossy.

Sift or whisk the powdered sugar before measuring to get a little air in there, and to break up any large clumps. Then stir in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until the frosting is smooth and the desired consistency.

Grab a large spoon, and scoop out some of the frosting. Eat the frosting then curl up on the couch to sleep off the sugar crash.

I’m kidding! I’m kidding!

Sort of…


When you get up from your nap, frost everything that you can get your hands on with cream cheese frosting: cake, cupcakes, cookies, graham crackers, fresh strawberries, small children.  This truly is the only frosting that you’ll ever need because the recipe is so versatile. No need to refrigerate it if it’ll be eaten in a day or two. It can also be flavored, thinned, or thickened for many uses. (See notes below.) If it’s hot where you live, and using cream cheese makes you nervous, just make a thicker frosting so that it doesn’t melt off the cake.


The Only Frosting You’ll Ever Need: Perfect Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: About 4 cups

Prep Time: 10 minutes, Total Time: 10 minutes

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

½ C. (8 Tbs.) butter, softened

3 ½ C. powdered sugar

1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract (or flavor of your choice)

  1. Cream together cream cheese and butter until fluffy.
  2. Sift or whisk powdered sugar to aerate.
  3. Stir powdered sugar into cream cheese mixture, 1 cup at a time, until well blended.
  4. Makes enough to generously frost a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan, 24 cupcakes, or thinly frost an 8-inch layer cake.


  • This makes a medium consistency frosting, which is very spreadable and creamy.
  • For a stiff decorator frosting: add more powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time, until desired consistency (about another cup or so.)
  • For a thinner consistency to fill cupcakes or sandwich cookies, add about ½ cup less powdered sugar.
  • For Honey-Citrus cream cheese frosting: omit the vanilla extract, adding one tablespoon of honey, and 2 to 3 drops of orange extract. (King Arthur Flour’s Fiori di Sicilia extract is fantastic.)
  • For chocolate cream cheese frosting:sift ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder to the powdered sugar before adding to the cream cheese mixture.
  • For flavored cream cheese frosting: Substitute equal amounts of the flavored extract of your choice for the vanilla. Maple, or lemon, or orange are wonderful.
  •  Fresh Lemon flavored frosting: add 2 Tbs. of fresh lemon juice.

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  1. says

    Oh, baby. My favorite application of homemade cream cheese frosting is on carrot cake, red velvet cake or warm cinnamon rolls. Can’t be beat. Not even with a stick.

  2. says

    You win for most useful trick of the day – I never would have known that vanilla is what tinted the frosting ivory!

    p.s. Thanks for the storage/climate tips – I’m not a frequent (if ever) cake baker or frosting maker, so those are SUPER helpful.

  3. says

    Cream cheese frosting is my favorite to make. This recipe is slightly different than mine so I’ll definitely try it out! I have a question, though. I’m making a cake for a friend this week… she wants to give her husband a coconut cake for Valentine’s Day. Do you think this frosting will compliment a cake like that or should I stick to a double-boiler egg white type frosting? Thanks! :)

    • says

      In my opinion, I think that cream cheese frosting goes with everything. Coconut is a subtle flavor in cake, so if I were icing a coconut cake with cream cheese frosting, I’d be sure to amp up the coconut extract in that cake so that the flavor is not lost. :)

  4. MaddiMarie says

    Do you think this could stand up to high temps? I mean I’m thinking if I added more sugar so its stiffer it should hold up.

    • says

      You can certainly add a bit more powdered sugar to stiffen the frosting, but refrigeration is really the best option in high heat/humidity situations. Heat is the enemy of any buttercream. I recommend refrigerating the frosted cake or cupcakes until 30 minutes before serving in higher temperatures.

      • MaddiMarie says

        and another question. I’m not sure how many cakes or cupcakes one batch can cover.. I have a wedding coming up and I’d like to know how much I’d need for lets say like 150 cupcakes

        • says

          Well, that really depends on how you are choosing to decorate the cupcakes. I find that I can cover about 20 cupcakes per batch if I top them with a tall, generous swirl of frosting using a piping bag and decorating tip. If I use a smaller amount of frosting, then I can cover 24 cupcakes. I hope this helps!

  5. Linda davenport says

    Wow amazing frosting. Used your recipe in my carrot & walnut cake. When I have made a similar filling it has always gone runny. Tried this and the result was fantastic.

  6. Linda Davenport says

    Wow amazing frosting. Used your recipe in my carrot & walnut cake. When I have made a similar filling it has always gone runny. Tried this and the result was fantastic

  7. says

    Is this pretty tangy? I’m making cupcakes for my niece’s birthday. She prefers canned frosting to homemade buttercream, so I’m looking for something a little different than my usual buttercream — maybe a cream cheese or white chocolate. I’m just worried about a cream cheese frosting tasting too tangy.

    • says

      Good question, Lynn! Hmmm…as canned frostings are super sweet, I’d have to say that this will be more tangy than a canned frosting, but I don’t think it’s oppressively so. In fact, I find this frosting to be quite sweet in it’s own right. Your best bet is to make the recipe as is, and if you find it too tangy to your liking, then maybe try adding a teaspoon or two of light corn syrup to the recipe if you’d like to get closer to that canned frosting taste. :)

  8. Chris says

    I’ve made both this and your white chocolate butter creams a million times and just wanted you to know that they are incredible. I’m looking forward to trying one of your chocolate buttercreams someday soon.

    I’m planning on making a strawberry version of this frosting this weekend–any ideas re: how you’d go about adding strawberry purée or a strawberry simple syrup to the recipe?
    Thank you!!!!

    • says

      Hooray! You made my week, Chris! I apologize for not getting back to you sooner, but somehow your comment was filed as spam. To make a strawberry version of this frosting, make it as directed for the thicker decorator’s consistency. I would then macerate a half cup or so of fresh cut berries in a few teaspoons of sugar for 20 minutes then puree it, and fold the puree into the frosting. If you’d rather use a strawberry simple syrup, then just substitute the syrup in equal parts for the liquid called for in the recipe. Good luck!

  9. Nell says

    In the past I have tried several buttercream frostings that failed (all of them melted when I decorated my cake). I had given up on baking cakes.
    This is the only frosting recipe that I will EVER use. It was sooo delicious. I used it on an Italian Cream Cheese Cake that I made for Easter (I drove from Georgia to Alabama with this cake and the icing didn’t melt). Thank you, thank you and thank you. You are a genius.

    • says

      Hooray! I can’t believe you drove from Georgia to Alabama and the frosting held up so well. That’s the best news, Nell! Go YOU. I’m so glad that you found me…and the recipe. :)


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