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Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

A vanilla cupcake topped with cream cheese frosting in front of a sea of other cupcake varieties.
Alex Lau
  • Active Time

    5 minutes

  • Total Time

    10 minutes

Let us clear something up: Classic cream cheese frosting recipes like this one aren’t just for topping carrot cakes, cinnamon rolls, or red velvet cakes. Too often the frosting is pigeon-holed and we aim to change that here and now. In fact, homemade cream cheese frosting can be used to add a pleasantly sweet and tangy note to almost any cupcake or layer cake recipe that calls for buttercream frosting, including this Double Banana Cake. It’s so easy and versatile, it’ll soon become your new favorite frosting.

This recipe requires almost no prep time or special equipment. A stand mixer with a paddle attachment works well, but a handheld mixer is just fine here. (If you go the second route, wrap a large dish towel into a ring shape around the base of a mixing bowl to help it stay in place.) Another bonus: The ingredient list is short and sweet. This is not a time to swap out full-fat cream cheese for a low-fat alternative or use anything but powdered sugar. Look for a confectioners’ sugar made with tapioca starch instead of cornstarch (check the ingredients). The tapioca does a better job of helping to thicken the frosting. And, if you prefer frosting that’s a bit tangier, add about two-thirds of the sugar and taste the mixture before adding more. 

This recipe can be made while a cake bakes or the day before, just be sure to store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight and let it come to room temperature so it’s easily spreadable.


Makes enough for 24 cupcakes


ounces cream cheese, room temperature


tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature


teaspoon kosher salt


cups powdered sugar


tablespoon vanilla extract


  1. Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat cream cheese, butter, and salt in a large bowl until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until incorporated, then increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl, then beat in vanilla. Spread frosting on cupcakes. 

    Editor's note: This recipe first appeared online in June 2016. Looking for a variation? Head this way for our favorite chocolate cream cheese frosting

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  • Used this to frost a cake, and doubled it to ensure I'd have enough (definitely enough for a simple two layer chocolate cake). Only ended up putting in 2.5-3 cups powdered sugar, as that tasted plenty sweet to our taste buds. Didn't pipe it, but would probably chill a little (checking every 10-20 minutes to make sure it's not too cold)...but maybe if adding the full amount of sugar, it may have a bit more structure to pipe. Great recipe, and made me want to try it again with a subtle hint of orange flavoring with a chocolate cake. Next time we have an occasion for cake, we'll try it! Pleased to have this as a good go-to cream cheese frosting. Thanks!

    • Sasha

    • Pacific Northwest

    • 2/13/2021

  • Best cream cheese frosting!!! So easy!

    • Anonymous

    • San Diego

    • 10/8/2019

  • Does this frosting pipe well?

    • Samanthantha

    • Los Angeles

    • 6/13/2019