Perfect Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream Cheese FrostingThis week I’ll be posting three of my best frosting recipes, a basic frosting for every occasion.  Today’s topic:  Perfect Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting.

Perfect Crusting Cream Cheese FrostingI’m always getting ornate and impractical ideas, usually in the middle of the night, of desserts/designs I’d like to try and make.  The fun part is trying to figure out what I can make look good with the limited skills and materials I have.  I can’t make a buttercream rose, I don’t know how to get razor-sharp corners on my cakes and can’t even fathom some of the gorgeous hand-painting of the true sugar arts professionals.  I just need to make a pretty good, pretty smooth cake to try out my newest decorating idea on.  This crusting cream cheese frosting does just that.

Perfect Crusting Cream Cheese FrostingI’m not good with fondant.  I’m not good at using it and I’m not good at eating it.  It’s gummy, it’s bland and I also think it’s sort of cheating.  No one eats it, right?  Your cake looks nice and smooth but you’ve had to cover it with something basically inedible to get it that way.  I want something that looks and tastes delicious.  But I also want everything to look smooth and precise and, if possible, extremely perfect.  The only way for me to get a nice smooth cake with buttercream is to make one that crusts.

Perfect Crusting Cream Cheese FrostingA crusting buttercream will set up, or cure about 15 minutes after you pipe it out.  This dry-to-the-touch outer layer makes it possible use this technique for a perfectly smooth cake.  It also allows you to pipe ornate decorations that will stay exactly where you put them.  Any crusting buttercream has these advantages but I love to use a cream cheese frosting for these types of cake because I think it’s much more forgiving and has a nice white appearance that takes food coloring well.  Ever try to make baby pink frosting with a buttercream and end up with something that looks more like a salmon or peach?  Well I have and it made me real sad.

Perfect Crusting Cream Cheese FrostingIt’s heaven with red velvet cupcakes or sandwiched between two red velvet cookies.  But it also pairs well with so many other flavors and fillings like blueberry, almond, or chocolate.  It was outstanding with a negroni-inspired blood orange cake.  I’ve never used this frosting and thought later, “I wish I had just used a regular buttercream.”  I’m pretty sure cream cheese makes everything taste better.  Whenever I’m at a party and I complement the hostess on a dish and ask for the recipe and they say “Oh you don’t want to know what’s in there!” and you make them tell you anyway, it’s always cream cheese.  Lots of cream cheese.

Perfect Crusting Cream Cheese FrostingOver the years I’ve adapted this fine recipe by upping the salt and extracts, simplifying the method and skipping some of the measuring.  Like the Best Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream and Rich Chocolate-Almond Buttercream, for this frosting you just cream the butter, cream cheese and shortening for awhile then dump in everything else and beat the heck out of it.

Some tips:

  • You really do have to use fully room temperature cream cheese.  I don’t worry about this as much with butter but if your cream cheese is too cold you will end up with unappetizing little blobs of cream cheese lurking in every bite.
  • If you’re super-concerned about super-white frosting you can also switch out the regular vanilla extract in this recipe for some clear imitation vanilla extract.
  • Actually beat it for at least four minutes.  That’s just the kind of direction I would read, get impatient after two minutes and say, “Meh.  That’s probably good enough.”  But unfortunately the magic happens between minutes 2 and 4.  Wait for it.
  • Always make sure that your frosting is warmer than your cake or cupcakes.  Put the it/them in the fridge for a bit (or make it a week ahead and freeze it!) then frost with the room temperature frosting.  It will be so easy to get it just how you want it.
  • If you’re making a cake, fill the layers then put on a crumb coat.  Put the whole thing in the fridge for 15 minutes.  You will be amazed at how much nicer the end result is when you’re working on a nice firm foundation.
  • An offset spatula and a nice big piping tip (like a 1M) are really all you need to make a beautiful cake.  Use the spatula to straighten and level the top and sides then pipe wide rosettes on the top and you’re done!
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Perfect Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting
This is your go-to recipe for cream cheese frosting. Of course it's delicious with carrot cake and red velvet anything. But it's best feature is how suitable it is for piping and decorating special occasion cakes. Use this for the cake that you want to make ahead of time, for the cake that needs to withstand sitting out for the entire party and for the cake that needs to really show off your decorating efforts.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
cupcakes
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
cupcakes
Ingredients
Cream Cheese Frosting
Instructions
  1. Cream the butter, cream cheese and shortening on medium speed until it's creamy, about a minute.
  2. Add the the rest of the ingredients beat slowly until combined and then beat the heck out of it for 4-6 minutes until it's fluffy and smooth. You may want to scrape the bowl down halfway through.
  3. Scoop into a ziplock, either with a tip or with the corner of the bag snipped, and get piping.
  4. This will keep for about a week in the fridge and for about three months in the freezer. Just let it come to room temperature and fluff it up again in your mixer before you use it.
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13 thoughts on “Perfect Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. I wonder if I’m alone here, but I read the “fill the layers then put on a crumb coat” direction on this one and the other frosting one, and I made crinkle-brow. I think I *kind of* understand: bottom layer goes on the bottom, then slop some frosting in there, then the next layer — and “filling the layer” probably involves spackling that space between them. But what is this “crumb coat” business? Should I whack off a hunk of cake, crumble it up, and then throw fist-fulls of crumbs onto the side where I’ve just frosting-spackled? How do I… um… do that?

  2. Howdy! There’s a tutorial here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkojXCWh3zw
    The crumb coat is a very thin layer of frosting that you put on the cake to trap all the unsightly crumbs. Then you pop it in the refrigerator or just let it set a little and when you go back and add more frosting you won’t have any of the crumbs visible. Especially important if you have a dark cake and a light frosting. Good question, I’ve added a clickable link to the tutorial in the recipes 🙂

    1. Sorry about the delayed reply Brandi. Absolutely! If you look through the post you’ll see a light blue and white cake where the white tier is rosettes, that’s made with this frosting.

  3. Hey Jane! So even though you don’t pipe BC roses do you know if this frosting will work for roses? Sometimes cream cheese takes the structure out idthe BC and won’t pipe flowers well. I need a good cream cheese frosting for an apple cake but I’d like to use the same frosting for the piping, filling and final coat.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Paula 🙂 Yes, this will absolutely pipe roses. It’s a great decorator frosting in my experience. I’ve used it for 1M rosettes, basket weave, etc. It keeps its shape very well. Good luck and let me know if it works for you <3

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