I'm having an issue making decent cream cheese frosting.

I have a recipe that says to use:

1 pound (450g) cream cheese, at room temperature
4 oz (110g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2-3 cups (240-360g) powdered sugar, sifted
a few drops of vanilla extract

and then to

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar (do this on low speed to avoid a dust cloud) and mix until light and silky. Add the vanilla.`

The problem I have is that it comes out way too runny to frost anything with. I've tried adding a bit more powdered sugar and it still maintained it's runny state. I'm using the K paddle for my Kenwood mixer to mix the frosting.

I've put the icing in the fridge for the moment to see if it will harden up a little. Is this standard or am I doing something wrong?


So after putting the cream cheese in the fridge for a few hours, it still didn't harden up, just turned a cold runny goo.

One thing I have noticed is that the supermarkets in the UK sell "Soft Cheese" as opposed to "Cream Cheese" which makes me think there is a difference between cream cheese and soft cheese. Philadelphia in the UK is sold as Soft Cheese, and many UK based recipes that include a cream cheese frosting often include lemon juice.

  • It sounds like there is something you have not mentioned.... cream cheese is not very much softer than butter. There should be nothing "runny" in this recipe. The canonical cream cheese is the Philadelphia brand. Is this what you are using?
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Aug 3, 2013 at 16:30
  • I used Philadelphia and a supermarkets own brand cream cheese. all the ingredients were at room temperature (which being British summer time is around 25C at the moment).
    – Jarede
    Commented Aug 3, 2013 at 16:33
  • 1
    Let us know how it comes out of the fridge... In my experience cream cheese frosting can get more "gooey" than buttercream if it warms up while beating.
    – SourDoh
    Commented Aug 3, 2013 at 17:06
  • I had exactly this problem a couple of weeks ago. I ended up putting the frosting in te freezer for about ten minutes. This got me enough frosting to do two or three cupcakes, then it got runny again. :/
    – Marti
    Commented Aug 3, 2013 at 17:17
  • 2
    @Jarede : there's water in the cream cheese? That doesn't sound right to me. American cream cheese is similar to chèvre in consistency. It's possible that the UK sell all of what Americans call 'farmer's cheese' as 'cream cheese'.
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 16, 2013 at 9:44

7 Answers 7


My current favorite cream cheese frosting recipe comes from Thomas Keller's book Under Pressure - page 218. The proportions of the major ingredients include:

cream cheese: 100%, butter: 68%, sugar: 132%

Your recipe uses:

cream cheese: 100%, butter: 24%, sugar: 80% (using the maximum recommended amount).

It may be that you just need a lot more sugar (or more sugar and butter), or it may be that the cheese being sold in your part of the world is not the "cream cheese" we know of here in the USA.

  • Can you please explain your measurements? Is this like Bakers' Percentage, but using the cream cheese for 100%? Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 10:54
  • Some of us prefer it if our cream cheese frosting doesn't send us straight into a sugar coma, not to mention tasting of something other than pure, unadulterated sugar. Hence the perpetual quest for a dependable, minimally-sweet cream cheese frosting recipe. The issue is that the same exact recipe will sometimes work just fine, and will sometimes turn into a soupy mess.
    – Marti
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 1:18

A fabulous cream cheese frosting recipe that stays firm enough to pipe. 125g butter at room temp, 150g cream cheese straight from the fridge (Must be full fat, not a reduced fat variety, my favourite being Philadelphia) 500g icing sugar.

Beat the butter till soft, add the cream cheese and beat briefly. Add the icing sugar and beat slowly until incorporated, then give a very quick blast with the beaters. Do not overbeat. The more you beat the softer it will become. Beat until you get it soft enough to pipe.
I use this recipe all the time to fill large cakes and also to pipe on to cupcakes. You can add flavour to it for example, vanilla seeds, orange or lemon zest, cinnamon etc


Sometimes this happens to me too but not always, and I always use the same recipe! I just came across this post on Nigella's site. This seems to be an adequate explanation as to why it happens and how to avoid it. http://www.nigella.com/kitchen-queries/view/Cream-Cheese-Icing-Turned-Runny/2531

Unfortunately occasionally cream cheese frosting does liquefy and this mainly comes from the liquid in the cream cheese mixing with the icing (confectioners') sugar and dissolving it, leading to a runny icing.
We would suggest reducing/omitting the lemon juice as this adds extra liquid - you could use finely grated lemon zest instead if you want to add a lemon flavour
There is a chance that the cream cheese was over beaten before the sugar was added [...] You could try making the frosting in a food processor, putting the sugar and cheese in together and whizzing for about 1 minute, until the ingredients are just combined.

We would also suggest using a recipe which contains part butter and part cream cheese. This is usually a bit more stable since the butter adds slightly more fat and is less likely to dissolve the sugar.


The way to do cream cheese frosting is to separately cream the butter and the cream cheese. Cream cheese tends to get runny if overmixed, while butter keeps on adding volume. So beat them separately and then combine. That way, you can arrange yourself on how "cheesy" you want your frosting to taste.



I know this is an old thread but seems like no one has found the solution. I had the same problem for over 6 years, living in France and was very frustrated. Found this solution and I have no issues whatsoever now.

Beat butter and icing sugar together FIRST. You can add as much or as little sugar as you want to taste - this will not affect the result.

Beat the cream cheese in LAST. You cream cheese frosting will be delicious, not too sweet and totally pipe-able. You're welcome.

  • Hello SeeSeeCat. Welcome to Seasoned Advice!
    – Cindy
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 13:07

On the episode of Good Eats about Devil Food's cake, Alton Brown mentions that for cream cheese icing, the cream cheese must never have been frozen, which may result in the runny texture.


It's the proportions. I had a bad recipe as well and ended up with about 3 servings of the frosting when I was finished because of all the powdered sugar that had to be added. I eventually had to split the bowl and continue to add the sugar. My experience is for one 8 oz package of cream cheese, you need 1 stick of butter and about 3-4 cups of sugar and vanilla flavoring to taste.

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