How to: Foolproof Thick Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe. Problems with your cream cheese frosting? Runny, yellow, lumpy? Follow my foolproof tutorial for the THICKEST, best Cream Cheese Frosting ever!
Problems with your cream cheese frosting? Too runny, lumpy, or yellow? Read on for the answers to all your cream cheese frosting problems, and beautifully thick, white and delicious frosting!
Cream cheese frosting is a really important part of my life. Ha, no I’m not joking. 💖
Carrot Cake is traditionally covered with cream cheese frosting – the perfect contrast to the moist fragrant carrot cake (here’s my recipe for an amazing carrot cake!).
My favourite cake ever, Rainbow Cake, is covered with it, and it’s crucial for the look of the cake that the frosting is very thick to cover those bright rainbow layers! I also love using cream cheese frosting to decorate cupcakes – I find normal buttercream (with just icing sugar and butter) to be too sickly, but the cream cheese in this frosting stops it from being too sweet. You can also make flavoured cream cheese frosting – chocolate, strawberry, lemon – you name it!
My cream cheese frosting is flavoured with vanilla bean paste (for those gorgeous flecks and flavour), and lemon juice, which doesn’t make it lemony, but just lifts the whole thing, cuts through the sweetness and makes it even more delicious.
So how is this THE Foolproof Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe? Well, for starters, the method is unusual – it actually involves MELTING your butter before you start, as well as draining all of the excess water out of the cream cheese using a muslin or tea towel. There’s no stand mixer involved – it’s all done by hand and is the work of just a few minutes. Most importantly, it’s SUPER THICK – you can see just how thick in this video!
Why does cream cheese frosting tend to come out runnier in countries outside of the US?
In America, they’re lucky enough to have something called ‘blocks’ or bricks of cream cheese, which are very thick and super dense – crucially, they contain very little moisture. What we have here in the UK is soft cream cheese that is easily spreadable, similar to the difference between butter and margarine – one is very easy to spread.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that blocks of cream cheese become available in the UK eventually, in the meantime, I developed this method which helps you to achieve really stiff, thick cream cheese frosting.
IMPORTANT NOTE – This recipe works for me and my readers 90% of the time, but it occasionally (maybe due to humidity or other factors) doesn’t work and becomes runny. I’m in the process of testing more recipes to find one that’s even more foolproof, but in the meantime, I also recommend this recipe which uses double cream. The cream cheese frosting is lighter and fluffier, but it absolutely always holds its shape and is pipe-able.
- 250g cream cheese
- 100g soft unsalted butter
- 400-600g icing sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- First, take your cream cheese and drain it. This only applies to non-Americans – in the UK (and possibly in other countries!) we have very runny cream cheese. The cream cheese I came across in America was incredibly thick – the texture of a very thick mousse with absolutely no liquid in it whatsoever.
- Note – I only do this when my cream cheese appears to be runny. If I’m using goldessa cream cheese from Lidl, I don’t strain it as it’s very thick, but I do pour off any extra water from on top into the sink still.
- In order to get really stiff frosting, the excess fluid needs to be drained out before it’s used. Otherwise it will just become incorporated in the frosting and you’ll have runny frosting.
- To drain, scoop out your cream cheese onto the centre of a square of muslin cloth. Gather up the cloth and twist it, like you would the top of a piping bag. Hold it over a bowl or sink, and apply pressure, and watch liquid drip out! I got about 30ml out of mine. Once it seems like no more will come out (if you squeeze too hard tiny bits of cream cheese will start to push out too!), set the ball down on some kitchen towel to allow it to dry further.
- In a medium-large heatproof bowl, heat your 100g of butter in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. You’re looking for it to be incredibly soft, but not completely melted so that it changes colour. It should still have some of it’s structure. Next, take a whisk and whisk the butter thoroughly – at first it will be very lumpy as there are still some bits of unmelted butter. Whisk vigorously until there’s only smooth, liquid butter.
- Next, unwrap the muslin and scoop your cream cheese into the butter mixture. Use the whisk to whisk the two together until completely mixed. Now, switch from the whisk to a wooden spoon.
- Add in the icing sugar. I don’t normally weigh it – I simply continue to add it until the frosting seems right, but it’s always within the 400g – 600g window. It also depends on how sweet you’d like it! To add the icing sugar, hold a sieve over your bowl and add 150g at a time, sieving it into the bowl.
- Using the wooden spoon, gently fold the icing sugar in slowly. The aim here is to keep the frosting thick – if you overbeat it by stirring it too many times, the frosting will slacken (go more runny), so just barely beat in each lot of icing sugar before adding the next 150g.
- You will fear that you are going to end up with runny, lumpy frosting after all! But never fear, carry on and I promise it will turn out amazing!
- The frosting will at this point be very thick – as you can see in the photos – it will be so stiff it won’t fall from a spoon, or even from the bowl if you hold it upside down! *Try this at your own peril! If your frosting isn’t quite so thick, you can add some more icing sugar and then pop it into the fridge to cool before piping or using to decorate.
- Finally, stir in the vanilla bean paste and lemon juice. Set aside, or refrigerate until 10 minutes before you’re ready to use it. It’s perfect for holding it’s shape while piping!
Pin it for later – you’ll want to keep hold of this recipe!
This is silly, but here I am holding the bowl with cream cheese frosting over my head so you can see how thick it is!
Thick Cream Cheese Frosting FAQs:
How can I get the lumps out of my cream cheese frosting?
Lumpy? Lumpy cream cheese frosting is a common problem, and it can happen when lumps of unmelted / unincorporated butter hang about in the frosting. If you’ve followed the method I’ve given above you should have absolutely no problems with lumps, as the butter is completely liquid. Ensure you whisk it very well at this point – no lumps must remain!
If you DO realise at the end that the frosting has lumps of butter in it (if you squish them between your fingers, they will be yellow), you CAN as a last resort microwave the frosting for short bursts (10 seconds) and whisk thoroughly after each burst. I have used this method successfully to remove lumps, but the heat will obviously make the frosting runnier. Only give this a go if you have plenty of time for the frosting to go into the fridge or freezer to thicken up.
The other thing that can cause lumps is the icing sugar – you must sieve the sugar, as otherwise errant lumps can make your frosting lumpy. Don’t be tempted to skip this step!
How to disguise lumps in cream cheese frosting?
So, the lumps are there, but don’t panic! If the frosting are thick and tastes delicious, it’s FINE! Just disguise it by adding something else lumpy to your frosting. 😂 Maybe desiccated coconut, finely chopped carrot, or chopped nuts?
How can I get my cream cheese frosting really WHITE?
Yellowy? Cream cheese frosting should be beautifully pale. I always use Tesco everyday value unsalted butter to make my frosting, and although it’s relatively yellowy, the frosting still turns out incredibly pale (see pictures!). If you’d like to ensure it’s as white as possible, use a very pale butter, like Lurpack or President. You can also add some white food colouring like this one, although generally I don’t.
Trust me, once you start making your cream cheese frosting this way, you will never go back to using a stand mixer and doing it the traditional way!