This fluffy cream cheese icing is everyone’s favorite carrot cake frosting recipe and is often used for red velvet cake icing as well. Since it tastes delicious and is so simple to make, it’s easy to see why.
Cream cheese frosting is by far my favorite icing to use on cakes and cupcakes.
It is not too sweet, goes with almost any kind of cake and is surprisingly easy to make.
And even though it seems like the cream cheese might make it heavy, it really doesn’t.
Especially when you know the secret to making the icing fluffy.
Since it is white, you can easily add a few drops of food coloring to match the decor of whatever party you are throwing.
In the picture above, a couple of drops of red food coloring gives the icing the pink color.
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Here’s your shopping list:
- Dairy: 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, 1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter – the salt helps to keep the icing from being too sweet.
- Sugar: 1 pound (4 cups) of icing sugar (also known as powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar)
- Flavoring: 1 teaspoon vanilla
Here’s what you’ll need to make the icing:
- stand mixer and bowl – you can use a hand held mixer if you prepare all of the ingredients ahead of time and are willing to hold it for a few minutes.
How To Make Fluffy Cream Cheese Icing
1 | Soften The Butter And Cream Cheese
A few hours before you start, take the cream cheese and butter out of the refrigerator to soften.
You can get away without doing this, but it’s harder to get the lumps out of the icing if you start with hard ingredients.
If you are in a hurry, you can soften butter and cream cheese in the microwave.
Do this process for the butter and cream cheese separately.
Most microwaves perform better with smaller quantities, and with ingredients that have the same consistency. So trying to put the butter and cream cheese in at the same time does not give good results.
Remove the butter or cream cheese from its packaging.
Put it in the microwave on low power for 10 to 15 seconds. Don’t try it on high power because it tends to melt (not soften) the butter and cream cheese.
Then test to see if it is soft.
If it isn’t, repeat the process until the ingredient has softened. (The number of times you will need to do this depends on the strength of your microwave.)
2 | Mix The Cream Cheese
Cut the butter and cream cheese into chunks. While not absolutely necessary, this makes it easier to beat them (especially if you are using a handheld mixer).
Mix the cream cheese and vanilla in your mixer on medium speed until the cream cheese is smooth.
Add the butter.
Beat the cream cheese and butter mixture until it is fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. (This is the key to having light, fluffy cream cheese icing).
3 | Add The Sugar
Sift the icing sugar before you start.
Reduce the mixing speed to low.
Add the icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time.
Mix until all of the sugar has dissolved into the cream cheese before adding the next 1/2 cup.
Keep adding sugar until the icing has reached a spreadable consistency, which should take 3 to 4 cups.
Continue mixing until the icing is fluffy and smooth. (Again, lots of beating makes sure the cream frosting turns out light and fluffy).
Now it is ready to spread on your dessert of choice.
Refrigerate For Future Use
Because this icing is made with cream cheese, it does need to be refrigerated to stay fresh and hold its shape.
You can store it in an air tight containers for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Let it warm up before attempting to spread it.
If it seems lumpy, mix it in the mixer until it gets its fluffiness back.
Cakes You Can Use Cream Cheese Icing On
Fluffy Cream Cheese Icing
- Stand Mixer and Mixing Bowl
- ½ cup (or 1 stick) salted butter softened
- 8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese softened
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 cups (or 1 pound) sifted icing sugar also known as powdered sugar or confectioner's sugar
- Beat the cream cheese with the vanilla on medium speed until smooth.
- Add the butter.
- Beat the cream cheese and butter mixture until it is fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes
- Reduce the speed to low.
- Gradually add the icing sugar, waiting between each addition until the previous one has been incorporated and the icing is fluffy.
- Spread the icing on your cake or cupcakes as you would with any other icing.
Nutrition values are estimates only, using online calculators. Please verify using your own data.
Have comments or questions about our cream cheese icing recipe? Tell us in the section below.
This post was originally published on May 3, 2015 but was updated with new content on December 13, 2023.