Did you know it was possible to make a cream cheese frosting without butter? Here is my go-to no-butter cream cheese frosting that is velvety smooth and full of rich decadent cream cheese flavor in every bite. Top your cupcakes, spread the frosting on a cake, or any other dessert for the perfect complement of flavors.
This homemade cream cheese frosting is made with simple ingredients! Cream cheese, powdered sugar, a splash of vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Grab your stand mixer or hand mixer and whip up the perfect frosting to toss in a piping bag and use for red velvet bundt cake, chocolate cake, and more. A classic cream cheese frosting that will be the best part of the dessert.
So I was making my dark chocolate raspberry cupcakes the other day and I thought I needed to create a cream cheese frosting for those who don’t love chocolate. So then I took the recipe a step further and opted for a no butter frosting recipe, and that is how this magical recipe was inspired.
The beauty of this recipe is it offers a creamy consistency and requires just a few ingredients you might already have on hand. I do recommend using an electric mixer or stand mixer with a whisk attachment as it will offer a smooth texture to the frosting. Here is all you need for this easy recipe.
- Cream Cheese – Make sure to use a full-fat cream cheese for the richest flavor to the frosting. Less fat can be used but it won’t have that richness you get from a full-fat. The other thing is for this homemade frosting it has to be a softened cream cheese. If you use cold cream cheese it will leave the frosting clumpy like cottage cheese.
- Powdered Sugar – You also might call powdered sugar confectioners’ sugar. This is a very light sugar that helps sweeten the frosting but also aids in the perfect texture of the homemade cream cheese icing.
- Vanilla – Vanilla extract is going to help create more dimension of flavor to the frosting. Real vanilla works great but if you don’t have that a vanilla extract will work as well.
- Salt – A little salt brings this recipe to a 5-star rating. The salt is going to bring out tons of flavor in the frosting that you won’t get if you skip the salt.
See recipe card for quantities.
Here is a visual overview of how to make cream cheese frosting without butter. It is easy to make and once you try this recipe it might easily become your go-to frosting.
In a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment or paddle attachment, you will add your powdered sugar and cream cheese. Add your vanilla extract in as well. Mix on low.
Slowly turn the speed up on the mixer, make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure all the frosting mixes well. Mix for a few minutes to get the desired consistency of a velvety smooth delicious frosting that is smooth.
Then I used a rubber spatula to scrape the frosting into a piping bag and then used the cream cheese frosting for frosting cakes, cupcakes, topping cookies, etc. This is the perfect topping for all your favorite desserts. Or use it as a delicious spread for a graham cracker or other pre-made cookies.
Hint: If you find your powdered sugar is clumpy, use a sifter to help create a super smooth texture. This will create that bakery-style quality of frosting.
Variations and Substitutions
Here are a few different ways you can change up the ingredients just a bit to alter the frosting. Whether you are frosting cinnamon rolls or chocolate cupcakes, this is tasty.
- Cocoa Powder – Add in some cocoa powder to make this a chocolate cream cheese frosting. I would start with 1 tablespoon of cocoa, and if you want it to be a bit richer then add a bit more cocoa powder.
- Vegan Cream Cheese – Use a block of cream cheese that is vegan in replace of the regular cream cheese. the texture will vary a bit of course to make it dairy-free. Add less or more powdered sugar to create the right consistency when using the vegan cream cheese.
- Honey – Add in around 1/4 cup of honey to make a honey cream cheese frosting recipe. This will be naturally sweeter. You could even use maple syrup as a swap, just make sure it is real syrup.
- Almond Extract – Swap the vanilla with almond extract for a sweeter frosting. I find that almond extract offers that nutty flavor but it is sweeter to taste.
- Heavy Cream – You can add a teaspoon to a couple of teaspoons of heavy cream to make the frosting a bit richer in flavor. Just use a bit more powdered sugar for the best thick texture.
- Strawberries – Dice up 5-8 fresh strawberries finely and mix in the frosting. This will give the frosting a rich flavor of strawberries. Then you can use the strawberry cream cheese frosting the same way you would the classic. This is great on chocolate cookies and all sorts of cakes from vanilla to chocolate.
You can use this cream cheese frosting to top these banana cookie bars instead of the caramel frosting. It would be a delicious twist.
So I truly find when it comes to making my 3-ingredient cream cheese frosting that using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer is key. It is going to whip up to a fluffy frosting that is stunning. While you can use a large mixing bowl and whisk, you will find you will mix for quite a while.
Also if you want bakery-style frosting add it to a piping bag with your preferred tip and pipe on the frosting to create that tall swirl. This is an amazing frosting to pipe and decorate with.
Any frosting you do not use you will be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. You might want to stir it before you use it, to remix it up. But also know that refrigerated frosting will be thicker as the cream cheese will thicken back up. So let it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before you use it.
Another option is to freeze the frosting. Place in a freezer bag or container and freeze for 2-3 months. Then thaw in the fridge overnight before you want to use it.
Test Kitchen Tips
- Make sure that when you start with the recipe you use room-temperature cream cheese. It has to be softened or it will clump and not offer that smooth texture.
- Also allowing time for the frosting to whip up in the mixer is going to help lighten up the frosting and add more air into the mixture.
- This creates a super light and fluffy texture to the frosting. You will love how delicious this cream cheese frosting tastes. Just allow time for the frosting to fully whip up.
Make sure that you add powdered sugar in a little at a time, and if you feel it is runny then add more powdered sugar. Or you can also refrigerate the frosting to help it set up thicker.
Yes, this is a great frosting for piping. Just know that the frosting has to be nice and thick for piping, or it will fall as it sits.
Add in extracts or spices to flavor the frosting differently. Just add a little extract or spices at a time. Cinnamon, cloves, almond extract, lemon juice or lemon zest, and pureed fruits, all work great for flavoring the frosting.
Looking for other sweet treat recipes like this? Try these:
These are my favorite dishes to serve with cream cheese frosting:
No Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
- stand mixer
- piping bag
- Rubber Spatula
- 1 8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Pinch salt
- In a mixing bowl using the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar on low until the powdered sugar is completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides.
- To the cream cheese frosting, add the vanilla and salt and beat until blended. Scrape down the sides. Then, increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy.