This Cream Cheese Frosting without butter makes the perfect frosting for an endless list of sweet treats, including cookies, cakes, and cinnamon rolls. This easy recipe takes only 5 minutes to make and is made with just three ingredients! It has a delightfully sweet and tangy flavor and a rich, creamy consistency.
Can you make cream cheese frosting with no butter? You sure can! These easy-to-follow instructions, plus helpful tips and tricks from a trained pastry chef (me!), will teach you how to make the perfect cream cheese frosting without butter, margarine, heavy oils, heavy cream, milk, or ingredients of the like.
While classic cream cheese frosting has butter, this delicious butter-free version is just as decadent despite the lack of added fat. It’s a fantastic option for lightening up desserts traditionally decorated with cream cheese frosting. An apple bundt cake, red velvet cake, or a carrot cake bundt cake are just a few of the MANY desserts you can top with this no butter cream cheese icing!
The best part? You only need 5 minutes of your time to make this frosting from scratch, and the simplicity leaves plenty of room for customizing the flavor and color to anything you really want! You can also make this as thin or thick as you want it. Learn how to thicken frosting quickly to make it the way you like!
If you forgot to leave out your cream cheese to soften, you can totally soften cream cheese quickly!
So if you’re ready to make all of your desserts extra special, grab your cream cheese and confectioners sugar, and let’s get started.
WHY YOU SHOULD MAKE THIS RECIPE
- It’s quick, easy, and has only three ingredients -which you probably already have in your kitchen.
- The silky smooth texture is perfect for cookies, cakes, breakfast pastries, and even pancakes!
- It has the perfect balance of full-bodied sweet, tart, tangy, and vanilla-y flavor, but it’s super versatile. The flavor possibilities are endless!
- Cream cheese – It acts as the base of this homemade frosting. It’s super important that you use room temperature, FULL FAT cream cheese. The high-fat content helps accommodate for the stabilizing properties you’d typically get from adding high-fat butter to frosting recipes.
- Powdered sugar – Superfine powdered sugar is the key to the velvety smooth consistency. I do not recommend substituting powdered sugar for granular sugar, as it will result in a gritty texture.
- Vanilla – This is your flavoring agent, so be sure to use a good quality pure vanilla extract. Swap vanilla extract with another flavored extract to switch up your frosting flavor. See below for variations.
HOW TO MAKE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING with NO BUTTER
Combine cream cheese and sugar: Add softened cream cheese and sifted powdered sugar to a large mixing bowl and mix with a hand mixer on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the cream cheese. Alternately, you can combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Mix in vanilla: Scrape the bottom of the bowl, lifting any powdered sugar that may have stuck to the sides. Then, add the vanilla and continue mixing on low speed for 1 minute. Next, increase the speed to med-high and blend for an additional minute or until the frosting is smooth and creamy.
TIPS FOR RECIPE SUCCESS
- Use FULL FAT cream cheese – For the best results, the cream cheese must be full-fat and at room temperature. Otherwise, it won’t blend with the other ingredients into a smooth frosting as it should.
- Sift your powdered sugar – This eliminates the risk of the powdered sugar clumping and making a lumpy frosting.
- Do not under/overmix – Take your time beating the ingredients together. The goal is a creamy, cohesive icing that isn’t quite as fluffy as frosting with butter. If it’s under-whipped or over-whipped, it will be loose and runny.
- To stabilize – Because this frosting is made without butter, it isn’t sturdy enough to successfully pipe – but if you want to firm it up a bit, you can pop it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes before using it to spread over desserts.
- Frosting cakes- I do not recommend piping this icing onto cupcakes but you can totally fill and frost a cake with it. See below for intructions!
How to fill and frost a layer cake with this icing
Fill the cake layers- First fill the cake with the frosting. The layers might slide around a bit but that is ok! Once you have filled the cake, do not frost it yet. Pop it into the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up.
Frost the cake– Once the cake has chilled, frost the cake as usual, then return to the fridge until serving.
Feel free to use this recipe as a canvas for creating your own creative cream cheese icing flavors. However, to help eliminate the risk of your mix-ins weighing it down and making it runny, make sure not to use any warm ingredients or too much liquid flavoring agents.
- Berry flavors – Mix in 1 teaspoon of any berry-flavored extract and 2-4 tablespoons of pulverized freeze-dried berries, like raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries.
- Chocolate – Fold in about 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Citrus flavors – Add 1 tablespoon of lemon or lime zest and 1 teaspoon of lemon or lime juice.
STORAGE AND FREEZING
Storing – Homemade cream cheese icing is best kept in an airtight container in the fridge for 5-7 days. If the icing is too stiff once you’re ready to use it, set it at room temperature for a few minutes.
Freezing – To extend the shelf-life of your cream cheese icing, you can freeze it in an airtight container or freezer-friendly resealable bag for up to 1 month. When you’re ready to use it, it’s best to let it thaw in the fridge, but if you’re short on time, you can thaw it on the counter. However, it may destabilize a bit as it softens. If that happens, remix it back into shape.
How do you thicken cream cheese icing?
If your icing is too thin, try placing it in the fridge for about a half hour. If it still isn’t thick enough, try mixing in more powdered sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, until it’s thickened. Remember, since this cream cheese icing doesn’t have butter, it won’t be as thick and fluffy as classic cream cheese frosting.
How long can cream cheese frosting without butter sit out?
This cream cheese frosting can safely sit out at room temperature for 2-4 hours before it should be transferred to the fridge. It may start to lose it’s shape though, so I recommend not keeping it out for longer than 40 minutes.
Can I add food coloring to cream cheese icing?
Absolutely, but since butter-free cream cheese icing is a bit thinner than recipes made with butter, it’s best to use a food coloring powder. Liquid food coloring may make it runny.
WAYS TO ENJOY
This frosting is best for smoothing over cinnamon buns, cookies, and cakes and for use as a filling. Try spreading it over these indulgent recipes:
- Chocolate Loaf Cake
- Lemon Poppyseed Cake
- Carrot Cake Muffins
- Banana Cake
- White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
- Cinnamon Bundt Cakes
- Bourbon Soaked Cherry Cinnamon Buns
- Thumbprint Cookies\
3 Ingredient Cream Cheese Frosting Without Butter
- 8 oz cream cheese full fat at room temperature
- 2 ½ cups powdered sugar 325 g
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Combine the cream cheese and 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar in the bowl of a hand or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- Mix on low speed until the sugar is incorporated into the cream cheese.
- Scrape down the bottom of the bowl to make sure sugar hasnt gotten caught. Add the tsp of vanilla and mix again for 1 minute on low.
- Speed up the mixer to med-high and mix for 1 more minute.
- This frosting is best for smoothing over cinnamon buns and cakes and for using as a filling. If you want to make it more stable, pop it into the fridge for 20 minutes before using. Because it doesnt have butter, it wont harden as much for piping.