How to Make Cream Cheese Icing

Three Parts:Preparing the IngredientsMaking the IcingVariations and Uses

Cream cheese icing is a sweet, tangy frosting that pairs perfectly with red velvet, carrot, and spice cakes. Use this simple, versatile recipe to elevate your cookies, brownies, and other desserts, too!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups powdered sugar (also known as confectioner’s sugar or icing sugar), sifted
  • 1 8oz package of cream cheese, room temperature or slightly cooler
  • ½ stick of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Lemon juice (optional)
  • Milk (optional)

Part 1
Preparing the Ingredients

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    Choose full-fat cream cheese. Avoid low-fat, whipped, or spreadable cream cheeses, as these can lead to runny frosting. This means Neufchâtel cheese is out, too (you’ll probably see it right next to the cream cheese), as its fat content is too low. The fat in the butter and cream cheese are essential to stabilize the frosting and keep it from liquefying.[1]
    • If you can’t find full-fat cream cheese, you can try adding more butter to the recipe.
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    Soften the butter to room temperature. If the butter is too cold you may end up with lumps in your frosting, and melted butter will not mix well with sugar. The best method is to let a cold stick of butter sit out on your countertop for thirty minutes to an hour.[2]
    • If you are short on time, you can speed up the process by cutting the butter into smaller pieces. Use an electric mixer or stand mixer to beat the butter until soft and creamy.
    • Avoid softening the butter in a microwave, as this usually ends up melting the butter.
    • If your butter sits out too long and starts melting, simply put it back in the refrigerator until it becomes solid again.
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    Soften the cream cheese. Let the cream cheese sit out until it is room temperature.
    • Be sure the cream cheese is softened before you add it to the frosting. Unlike the butter, you can overwhip the cream cheese and ruin your frosting.[3]

Part 2
Making the Icing

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    Beat the butter until smooth and creamy. This will work best if you have a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or an electric mixer. Pause to scrape the bowl with a spatula, then mix again. This will help eliminate lumps. If you don't have an electric mixer, you have a few options.
    • You can beat the butter by hand, which will make your arm sore and take a little longer, but will still get the job done. Simply put the butter in a large bowl and mash and beat it with the back of a wooden spoon, scraping it off the sides as you go.[4]
    • A food processor with the chopping blade can also work and should make your frosting extra smooth.[5]
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    Add the vanilla extract and cream cheese and mix until just combined. You don’t want to over-whip the cream cheese and risk runny frosting, so stop mixing once the butter and cream cheese are fully blended.
    • Cutting the cream cheese into smaller chunks can help ensure smooth icing.
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    Turn the mixer speed to low and gradually add powdered sugar. The amount of powdered sugar you end up using can vary, depending on how sweet you like your frosting. Adding more powdered sugar can also stiffen frosting, which can be helpful if you plan to pipe it onto your dessert.[6]
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    Mix until smooth. Your finished icing should be thick, creamy, and spreadable, with no lumps.
    • If your icing is too thick, thin it with a splash of milk. Only add about a tablespoon at a time so you don't accidentally overdo it.[7]
    • If your icing tastes too sweet and has lost the cream cheese flavor, a little lemon juice can bring out the tanginess.[8]

Part 3
Variations and Uses

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    Try using different extracts to alter the flavor. Substitute almond or coconut extract for vanilla, or mix in the zest of your favorite citrus fruit.
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    Add peanut butter or jams to your frosting. Just beat them into the softened butter before adding the cream cheese.
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    Marble cream cheese frosting into brownie batter for a little extra zing. Pipe the frosting onto your batter when it's about to go into the oven; use a knife to swirl it throughout the batter.
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    Dollop the frosting onto oatmeal or ginger cookies to add a little sweetness. Or use it as the filling for a cookie sandwich by piping it onto the bottom or (flat side) of a cookie. Then top with another cookie, again making sure the flat or bottom side is facing the frosting.

Tips

  • Only frost your cake or cupcakes when they have fully cooled, otherwise your icing may melt or you may pull apart the cake.
  • If you plan to pipe the icing, put it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. If the icing is too soft it won't hold its shape.

Article Info

Categories: Frosting Icing and Fondant