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How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting

Yields 18 cupcakes or a 9x13 inch cake (3 cups)     adjust servings

Everyone needs a perfect recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting! This classic recipe is essential for so many different kinds of cupcakes, cakes, and cookies. It is sweet and tangy, creamy and swirly. I will show you just how to make it so that you get the perfect texture every time. A touch of lemon and vanilla in the frosting really brings on the flavor! 


  • 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, or up to 4 cups
  • 1 teaspoon good quality vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, optional
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Soften your cream cheese and butter. You can either do this by leaving it out on the counter for an hour or two, or you can speed up the process by putting it in the microwave. I like to put the butter and cream cheese I need on a plate or in a bowl, and then microwave on power level 2 in 30-second increments. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't start to melt. When you can easily push your finger into it, it is soft enough.
  2. Add the cream cheese and butter to a large bowl or stand mixer. Beat for about 1-2 minutes, taking the time to scrape the bottom and edges of the bowl, to make sure it is all getting smooth. If you have any lumps in your mixture right now, there will be lumps in your frosting. Make sure you beat until the entire mixture is smooth and creamy. 
  3. Add 1 cup powdered sugar and beat together. If it is very clumpy, I recommend sifting it to make sure that you don't end up with powdered sugar lumps in your frosting. Make sure you scrape the bottom and edges.
  4. Add another cup of powdered sugar and beat well.
  5. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, and 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. You don't have to use the lemon juice, but I love how it really brings out the tang in the cream cheese. It doesn't make the frosting taste like lemon. 
  6. Add another 1/2 cup powdered sugar and beat well. 
  7. Taste your frosting and see what you think. If you are frosting a sheet cake and like the flavor and texture where it's at, leave it as is. If you are piping the frosting onto cupcakes, or using the frosting in a layer cake, you might consider adding more powdered sugar (up to 4 cups total) so that the frosting is more sturdy and will hold up. Remember that the more powdered sugar you add, the less tangy and cream-cheesy your frosting will taste. 
  8. Adjust salt, lemon juice, and vanilla to taste as desired.