Answers to Every Question You Have About Cream Cheese Frosting

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If used correctly, cream cheese frosting can really transform a baked good.

I’ve found the biggest problem with many baked goods is that they’re too sweet with no other flavor profiles. In other words, sweet is there, but salty and sour are nowhere to be found. Many baked goods are also too dense or dry.

Cream cheese frosting solves both of these issues: it adds a delightful touch of tart and salty goodness to the baked good, and it livens up the texture with some moisture!

Knowing how to use cream cheese frosting the right way is an invaluable tool in any baker’s arsenal, and this cream cheese frosting FAQ will tell you everything you need to know about preparing, using, and storing cream cheese in ways that will maximize deliciousness.

Cream Cheese Frosting Preparation

I’ve tried a lot of store bought cream cheese frostings, but I assure you that by far the best option is the homemade stuff. It’s tastier, it has a better consistency since it’s not filled with preservatives, and it’s easier to customize to your exact taste. Here are a few of the most common questions about cream cheese frosting preparation.

How to thicken or stiffen cream cheese frosting?

If you’re going to use the frosting to top a cake, you can thicken it by putting the frosting in the fridge for 10 minutes. The frosting ingredients will congeal a bit as they cool and you’ll have stiffer frosting.

If you’re planning to use the frosting as filling for a baked good or if you plan to leave it out a long time, you need to add something to the frosting to make it stay thick even if it warms to room temperature. I’d recommend using meringue powder if you have it, and powdered sugar if you don’t. Both ingredients help the frosting stay thick at any temperature. Another option is to add butter to the frosting.

How can you make cream cheese frosting without powdered sugar?

To maintain the same texture as classic cream cheese frosting, you can substitute corn starch or arrowroot powder for powdered sugar. You can even get creative and use another powder like cinnamon or cacao powder if you want to match the flavor of the baked good you’re preparing, though I’d recommend mixing a small bit of that with a more neutral powder like corn flour to avoid overpowering the cream cheese. These sugar-free cream cheese frosting options are obviously more healthy but not as sweet.

For a similar flavor to classic cream cheese frosting, you can use honey instead of powdered sugar. This can make the frosting a bit runnier, so compensate by adding one of the thickening agents I mentioned above. You can also use granulated sugar, which will keep the same flavor and give the frosting a tiny bit of crunch—my husband actually prefers cream cheese frosting this way.

How do you get butter chunks out of icing?

The most obvious solution is more mixing. Turn your mixing bowl or electric beaters to the highest setting and beat, beat, beat. You can’t over-mix cream cheese frosting, so go nuts.

If beating the frosting doesn’t work, the problem is probably that the butter is too cold. To fix this issue, get a hairdryer and put it on its hottest setting. Blow the hot air onto the sides of your mixing bowl as it mixes up the frosting to heat up the butter. In a few minutes, the lumps will most likely disappear!

Why does my cream cheese icing go runny?

Cream cheese frosting must have a correct sugar-to-liquid ratio, or it will become runny. The most common cause for this ratio being thrown off is using reduced fat cream cheese. When fat is removed from cream cheese, it is replaced with liquid that will make for runny cream cheese frosting.

There’s also the possibility the cream cheese was over-beaten during preparation. This won’t be an issue if you use one of the big brands like Philadelphia cream cheese, but if you made your own or bought it from a local merchant, it’s a possibility. Over-beating breaks down the fats in the cream cheese and makes it more liquid.

Luckily, there are solutions. Putting cream cheese frosting in the fridge for a few minutes is the best way to stiffen it up. There’s also adding powders like corn starch or omitting liquid ingredients like lemon juice.

Additions to Cream Cheese Frosting?

Some fantastic additions to cream cheese frosting:

  • Lemon juice – Cream cheese adds some much-needed saltiness to frosting, and lemon juice takes it to the next level by bringing in a bit of sourness!
  • Whipped cream – It gives the frosting a lighter, fluffier texture.
  • Heavy cream – For those who want the frosting really rich, this is a good choice. Remember to add a bit more sugar to compensate for the added liquid.
  • Greek yogurt – It gives the frosting an added kick. Again, compensate with extra powder.
  • Spiced butter – For a bit of added tang, use spiced butter instead of regular butter.

There are tons of great recipes out there to make chocolate cream cheese frosting, strawberry cream cheese frosting, or really any other flavor of the stuff you can think of. Check out a few in the “recipes” section below, or simply type “(insert flavor here) cream cheese frosting recipe” into Google!

You can also don your maverick cap and just sprinkle in some additions like spices and extracts that you think might be good.

Whatever you add, be sure not to throw off the liquid to sugar ratio!

Cream Cheese Frosting Uses

Cream cheese frosting tastes great, but when is the appropriate time to use it?

What to do with leftover cream cheese frosting?

My kids love to spread cream cheese frosting on top of a sugar cookie or a graham cracker, and then, put another one on top to create their own Oreo-like treat. It’s very very sweet, but it’s also delicious.

Leftover cream cheese frosting makes a great spread for anything starchy with a hint of sweetness. Pancakes, for example, or spice cake.

Can I use cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream?

Yes. Cream cheese frosting and buttercream are basically the same except for the ingredient used as the fat in the recipe; the former uses cream cheese and the latter uses butter. Since cream cheese is thicker and heavier than butter, buttercream is fluffier and is generally easier to spread on cakes. Cream cheese frosting is denser and a bit harder to spread evenly, but I think it’s much more flavorful and I substitute it for buttercream in any recipe that calls for it.

Can you ice a cake with cream cheese frosting?

Yes. As I said, it’s thicker than most frostings and not super-easy to spread with a knife, so I’d recommend putting it into a piping bag and icing your cake with it that way.

Cream Cheese Frosting Storage

Now, for a few frequently asked questions about properly storing cream cheese frosting once it’s made.

How long can cream cheese frosting sit out?

Two to four hours, depending on who you ask. I would say that the cream cheese starts to lose some of its taste at two hours, but you won’t actually risk stomach problems from eating it until it’s been at room temperature for four hours. If you live in a cold environment, you can double both of these times.

How to store cream cheese frosting?

Just put any leftover cream cheese frosting in an airtight container or cover the bowl it’s in with plastic wrap. Then, stick it in the fridge, and it will keep for up to 3 days. If you put it in the freezer instead, it will last for up to a month. Either way, let it thaw and return to room temperature before serving it again. I’d also recommend stirring it up.

Will cream cheese icing harden in the fridge?

Yes, cream cheese frosting will definitely get thicker and stiffer in the fridge. That’s why it’s important you let it return to room temperature after taking it out of the refrigerator. Don’t worry about it getting crusty if you leave it in the fridge for a day or two, though. If kept in an airtight container, cream cheese frosting maintains its creaminess in the fridge for three days.

Recipes Using Cream Cheese Frosting

Now that you know a little more about the wonders of cream cheese frosting, try out these great recipes using the delicious food:

The Icing on the Cake

Remember when you were a kid and you always wanted the piece of cake with the most frosting? Because that’s how I used to be, and that’s how most of my friends were too.

As we aged, most of our sweet tooths lessened and we grew to enjoy the rest of the cake just as much. But cream cheese frosting is such a flavor explosion that when I eat a cake topped with it I feel like I’m six years old again, clamoring for the pieces with the most sweet, salty, slightly tart frosting.

I tell you, I could eat this stuff with a spoon. It may not be the healthiest idea, but since when is baking about being healthy?

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