The Best Cream Cheese Frosting

I get asked a lot about my cream cheese frosting recipe, and I’m finally sharing it!

A lot of cream cheese frosting recipes taste great, but don’t hold their shape.

This can be super frustrating when you’re trying to get super smooth sides on a cake, or pipe some fun designs onto a cupcake!!

That’s what makes this frosting recipe so fantastic; it has the tang of a cream cheese frosting, but is sturdy like my classic american buttercream.

It’s great for piping on cupcakes, and smoothing on cakes. The recipe and tutorial are included below:

When using this recipe to frost my favorite vanilla layer cake recipe (which is amazing and bakes flat!!), which can be used to make four 7 inch or 8 inch cake layers, I usually make 1.5 – 2 batches, depending on how I’m decorating the cake.

Cream Cheese Buttercream Ingredients: 

  • 3 sticks or 1.5 cups (325 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 oz cream cheese frosting (115g), room temperature
  • 8 cups (907 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp (3 grams) salt
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 grams) heavy cream
  • 1 tsp (4 grams) vanilla

Instructions:

Beat the butter and cream cheese on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth.

Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.

Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.

If the frosting is too thick, add in cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).

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NOTE: If you are making frosting for a cake, it is important to mix the buttercream on low at the end of the process for a couple minutes, to get out any extra air that might have be incorporated during the mixing process.

This will make it easier to get super smooth sides on your cake!

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Chocolate Ganache “Frosting”

I’ve worked a lot with chocolate ganache, but mainly for drip cakes! When I decided I wanted to cover a cake in ganache, I knew the ratios of heavy cream to chocolate would have to change.

It’s important that you weigh out your ingredients when making ganache, as different chocolates come in a variety of shapes and using volume isn’t a consistent form of measurement.

For example, if a cup of miniature chocolate chips weighs more than a cup of chocolate chunks, as there is actually more chocolate in the cup of miniature chocolate chips.

The ratio for making dark chocolate ganache to fill and/or cover a cake is 2:1.

The amount of chocolate you use should weigh twice as much the amount of cream you use. If I was using 100g of heavy cream, I would use 200g of dark chocolate.

Keep in mind that if you make milk chocolate ganache, the ratio is 3:1!! Below are the proportions I use to make dark, milk, and white chocolate ganache.

Each type is made using the same instructions.

I place both the chocolate and heavy cream in a heat proof bowl, and heat it for 30 second increments (stirring between).

Usually after about 2 minutes of heat, all the chocolate is melted. Once the mixture is fully incorporated, I place plastic wrap over the top of the ganache, and let it sit overnight.

Before adding the room temperature ganache to a cake, I give it a slow stir with a spatula.

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For this cake, I added a touch of black gel food coloring to make a gothic ganache!! I’ve found that dark chocolate ganache is MUCH easier to color a true black than frosting.

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You can use the same techniques to smooth ganache that are used to smooth buttercream! You can also pipe with ganache!!

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If you are unsure of the amount of ganache you need to cover a cake, here is an amazing chart that will help.

I like to use about two bags of chocolate chips to make enough ganache to cover a 7 or 8 inch cake (made with 4 layers).

Ganache is a great alternative to frosting, and is a fun way to mix things up. Since some people find American buttercream too sweet, it’s also a great option for those who prefer a richer dessert over a sweet one!

Below is a chocolate overload cake I made with both a ganache filling, and ganache drips.

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Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting

  • 750 grams dark chocolate chips (about 2 bags)
  • 375 grams heavy cream

Milk Chocolate Ganache Frosting

  • 750 grams milk chocolate chips (about 2 bags)
  • 250 grams heavy cream

White Chocolate Ganache Frosting

  • 750 grams milk chocolate chips (about 2 bags)
  • 190 grams heavy cream

Best Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

I’ve tried several white cake bases, and have found a few favorites. However, this vanilla cake recipe blows them all out of the water!! It’s delicious, moist, and best of all, it keeps its shape!

The layers bake with smooth sides that are perfect for stacking and frosting. I now use this as my go to white cake base recipe, and color or flavor it as needed. I HIGHLY recommend it! Another perk is that it can be made in one bowl! That’s right, ONE BOWL!!!

The secret ingredient to this recipe?? BUTTERMILK! I don’t know what is is, but I’m absolutely crazy about buttermilk. I love baking with it, and use it in most of my cake recipes! It such tender cake layers, and adds so much moisture! It also gives my cakes such a delicious tang.

While buttermilk can be found in most grocery stores, some parts of the country or foreign countries don’t sell it! If you’re having a hard time getting your hands on buttermilk, fear not. You can make your own! For each cup of buttermilk that the recipe calls for, use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to fill 1 cup.

You also can use plain, low-fat yogurt as an equal substitute, cup for cup!

These layers can be made in advance, and can be stored in the freezer for up to 5 days! If you do plan to freeze them overnight, be sure to either place them in an airtight container, or wrap them tightly in saran wrap.

I also love to color my cake batter using Americolor gel food coloring (I order it on amazon), and used this recipe to make this checkerboard cake.

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The layers turned out perfectly! Level, delicious, and perfect for stacking!! You can see a full tutorial on exactly how I make the batter below.

The recipe is adapted from Kara’s Couture Cakes, and can be found below.

NOTE: The thing that make this recipe an amazing layer cake recipe (baking flat), cause it to make terrible cupcakes! They stick to liner and don’t rise enough. If you want to make vanilla cupcakes, I highly recommend using my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe.

If you do decide to trim your cake layers once they’re baked, be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart. Below is a full tutorial showing how I trim my layers:

Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword vanilla layer cake recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 36 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 1 seven inch layer cake

Ingredients

  • 3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (416 grams)
  • 3 cups granulated sugar (600 grams)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder (13 grams)
  • 1 tsp salt (5 grams)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (226 grams) - 2 sticks
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (9 grams)
  • 1 cup egg whites (or about 7 egg whites) (244 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature (360 grams)
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil (28 grams)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7 inch pans (for taller layers) or 8 inch round pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.
  3. Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.
  4. Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
  5. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. I like to use a digital kitchen scale to weigh my pans, and ensure they all have the same amount of batter. This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.
  6. Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8 inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7 inch cake pans (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers into the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.

Recipe Notes

Once the layers have fully cooled, I sometimes like to trim the caramelized bits from the sides of the layers using a serrated knife. While these layers bake pretty flat, sometimes I’ll also trim the top of the layers too if I’m working a super special partnership 🙂