8tablespoons(113 g) lightly salted or unsalted butter, at room temperature
1cup(100 g) powdered sugar
1/8teaspoonsalt if using unsalted butter
squeeze of lemon juice, optional
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with an electric beater or wooden spoon) combine the cream cheese and butter. Beat on medium-low speed until smooth and combined, 1-2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl and paddle as needed.
Sift the powdered sugar into the cream cheese mixture and add the vanilla and salt. Beat the frosting on low speed to combine, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.
Taste the frosting, adding a squeeze of lemon if you want to sharpen the flavors. Use right away, or store refrigerated airtight for up to 1 week. If chilled, let soften to room temperature before using.
VARIATIONS:Matcha Cream Cheese Frosting: Omit the vanilla and add 1 tablespoon matcha with the powdered sugar. Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting: Use the seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean, or 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste, instead of the vanilla extract.Whiskey Cream Cheese Frosting: Add 1-2 tablespoons bourbon or other whiskey to the frosting along with the vanillaCitrus Cream Cheese Frosting: Omit the vanilla and add a good grating of lemon, orange, tangerine, or lime zest to taste.Chocolate Ombré Cream Cheese Frosting: Make the basic recipe without the lemon and remove one third from the bowl, scraping it into a pastry bag fitted with a french star tip. To the bowl, sift in 1 tablespoon cocoa powder and mix to combine. Remove half of this frosting to another pastry bag fitted with a different sized star tip. To the remaining frosting, sift in 2 tablespoons cocoa powder and mix to combine. Place this in a third pastry bag fitted with a different sized star tip. Pipe the frostings on top of your cake in a random pattern. Beet Ombré Cream Cheese Frosting: Make the cream cheese frosting as directed. Divide into 4 bowls. Leave one bowl white. To the second bowl, add a big pinch of beet powder. To the third bowl add ¼ teaspoon beet powder. And to the fourth bowl add 1 teaspoon beet powder. Stir each bowl well, adding more color if you like (the color continues to intensify as the frosting sits). Layer the frosting into a large piping bag fitted with a large star tip, starting with the white frosting and ending with the most vibrant frosting. Pipe the frosting over the top of your cake in rows for a natural ombré. Since this frosting contains less powdered sugar than most, it can look slightly curdled when finished. See the post above for troubleshooting any frosting woes.This recipe makes about 2 cups of frosting, enough for a 9x9-inch sheet cake, a 6-inch layer cake, or 1 dozen cupcakes.Double the recipe to frost an 8- or 9-inch layer cake or a 9x12-inch sheet cake. Don't miss the variations above, or try my vegan & dairy-free cream cheese frosting recipe.Nutritional values are based on one of two cups.