Cream cheese frosting is a classic topping for red velvet cake, carrot cake, cinnamon rolls, and more. This small batch cream cheese frosting is perfect for when you’re craving that creamy, tangy goodness but don’t want to make an enormous batch of frosting. This recipe for cream cheese frosting has just five simple ingredients and endless flavor variations. You’re less than 10 minutes away from the best cream cheese frosting, in a small, convenient package. 

Use this small batch frosting to top my Small Batch Brownies or loaf cakes, like my Cinnamon Swirl Bread or Lemon Poppy Seed Bread. Alternatively, skip the extra baking and simply spread it on a graham cracker, use it for a fruit dip, spread it on toast…whatever sounds delicious to you!

A blue spatula with a scoop of Small Batch Cream Cheese Frosting on it.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Easy cream cheese frosting recipe. This easy recipe has just five ingredients you probably have in your house right now. Because it’s a small batch, it also takes less time to whip up than a recipe that contains a full block or two of cream cheese.
  • Versatile. I’ve flavored this cream cheese frosting recipe with vanilla, but you can add any flavorings you like. I’ll list ideas for flavor variations in the recipe tips below. 
  • Convenient. In addition to being easy to make, making a small batch of homemade cream cheese frosting means it takes up less space in your fridge and it will be used more quickly before it has the chance to lose its freshness. It’s a win-win-win!

Ingredient Notes

  • Cream cheese: There isn’t really a need to explain this ingredient, is there? Tangy cream cheese elevates this frosting beyond plain small batch vanilla frosting. I recommend using regular cream cheese instead of lowfat or Neufschatel. Full fat cream cheese provides structure and stiffness that is ideal for things like cupcakes or small layer cakes, whereas low fat cream cheese may result in a more runny frosting.
  • Unsalted butter: A lot of people ask if you can make cream cheese frosting without butter. I don’t recommend it. Butter helps create a spreadable cream cheese frosting and adds richness. Cream cheese frosting without butter would likely be too thick and heavy. 
  • Vanilla extract: As I mentioned, this frosting is flavored with vanilla to give it a little oomph. You can use any flavoring you like, however, depending on what you plan to use this frosting for. 
  • Powdered sugar: This provides the necessary sweetness for our frosting. Using powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar also helps the frosting to be smooth and creamy instead of gritty. 
  • Salt: Just a pinch of salt gives the perfect balance to this classic cream cheese frosting.
Ingredients used to make Small Batch Cream Cheese Frosting recipe on a baking sheet: cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Mix the first four ingredients. Using the paddle attachment in the bowl of a stand mixer set to low speed, cream together 4 tablespoons of room temperature butter, 1¼ cup of sugar, a ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides as needed. Mix until all ingredients are combined. You could also use an electric hand mixer for this process, but ti may take longer.
  2. Add cream cheese. Cut 5 oz of cold cream cheese into 1 oz pieces. With the mixer still on low, add the cream cheese, 1 oz at a time. 
  3. Continue mixing. Once the cream cheese has all been added, continue to mix ingredients for 2-3 minutes. This is also a good time to taste test and decide if you want to add more powdered sugar for a sweeter frosting.
  4. Enjoy! Use your small batch cream cheese frosting to frost loaf cakes, small layer cakes, and so on.
Four photos showing the process of adding ingredients to make a Small Batch Cream Cheese Frosting recipe.

Recipe Tips

This recipe can be doubled. Doubled, it makes enough for small layer cakes (any of my 6-Inch Cake Recipes would be perfect), or to add a small amount of frosting to 12 cupcakes. 

To make this cream cheese frosting more of a cream cheese icing, add milk a tablespoon at at time until you reach your desired consistency. 

Now, to have some fun with flavors! Here are just a few variations I think would be delicious:

  • Brown butter cream cheese frosting. Brown the butter for this recipe then cool it in the fridge or freezer until it’s just soft enough to use. If you’ve never browned butter before, check out my guide on How to Brown Butter.
  • Raspberry cream cheese frosting. Add a handful of fresh raspberries, or crush an ounce of freeze-dried raspberries into a powder. You could also make a strawberry cream cheese frosting the same way.
  • Lemon cream cheese frosting. Add the zest of half a lemon and a squeeze of lemon juice for a citrusy take on cream cheese frosting. Maybe try adding raspberries AND lemon? That would be incredible! Other citrus zest and juice can also be used.
  • Honey cream cheese frosting. I wouldn’t entirely replace the sugar in this recipe because it would become very loose and difficult to work with, but you could start with just one cup of powdered sugar and add a few tablespoons of honey for flavor. You could make cream cheese frosting with maple syrup using the same method, but keep in mind maple syrup is runnier than honey.
  • Chocolate cream cheese frosting. For a chocolate version, add 1-2 tablespoons of cocoa powder along with the powdered sugar. 
  • Use extracts. Add any kind of extract you like either in place of the vanilla or in addition to the vanilla – but make sure to start small, as extracts are very strong. Make almond cream cheese frosting with almond extract, peppermint cream cheese frosting with peppermint extract…you get the idea.

Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing

Make Ahead: This cream cheese frosting recipe can be made 2-3 days in advance, as it will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days. Take it out and let it come to room temperature before using.

Storing: Store leftover frosting in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days.

Freezing: Good news, you can freeze cream cheese frosting! Because of the high fat content, it will freeze and retain quality for up to 3 months. Make sure to store it in an airtight container.

A banana cupcake topped with cream cheese frosting.

Recipe FAQs

Can this be made vegan?

I have not experimented with making this a vegan cream cheese frosting. I imagine if you used your favorite vegan cream cheese and butter substitute, it would work – but I can’t be sure.

Does cream cheese frosting need refrigeration?

Yes, cream cheese frosting needs to be refrigerated, because it contains dairy.

How long can cream cheese frosting sit out?

You can leave cream cheese frosting out for two hours without it spoiling, but afterwards it needs to go in the fridge.

Can I freeze cream cheese frosting?

Yes! Freezing cream cheese frosting is simple. Store it in an airtight container or zip top bag, and leave it in the freezer for up to three months.

What can I use small batch cream cheese frosting for?

Use this cream cheese frosting for brownies, cookies, cakes, snacks – anything you like! The sky’s the limit.

More Cream Cheese Recipes

More Frosting Recipes

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Small Batch Cream Cheese Frosting recipe on a turquoise rubber spatula over a bowl of cream cheese frosting.
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Small Batch Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

Tangy and sweet cream cheese frosting pairs beautifully with your favorite cakes, cupcakes, brownies, or cookies.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Mix time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 8 minutes
Servings: 1 serving

Ingredients
 

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter - softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar - can add more, up to about 1 3/4 cups depend on how sweet you like it
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 5 oz cream cheese - chilled and cut into 1 oz pieces

Instructions
 

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt on low speed until combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed.
  • With the mixer on low, add the cream cheese, 1 oz at a time.
  • Once all cream cheese has been added continue mixing for 2-3 minutes. 

Notes

If powdered sugar is clumpy, sift it before adding to the frosting.
This recipe makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes, but not piped super high. 
Store frosting in the fridge, covered, in an airtight container for 4-5 days. Before using, remove from fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. 
This recipe can easily be doubled if you want more frosting for your cookies, cakes, brownies, or cupcakes. 
 

Nutrition

Calories: 1487kcal (74%)Carbohydrates: 158g (53%)Protein: 9g (18%)Fat: 94g (145%)Saturated Fat: 57g (285%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 24gTrans Fat: 2gCholesterol: 264mg (88%)Sodium: 454mg (19%)Potassium: 207mg (6%)Sugar: 152g (169%)Vitamin A: 3303IU (66%)Calcium: 153mg (15%)Iron: 0.3mg (2%)
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
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