The Perfect Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting

It’s handy to have a basic frosting for every occasion and this Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting is a decorator favorite. It holds it’s shape perfectly to show of ornate designs.   It smooths easily for a finish as crisp as fondant and is sturdy enough to weather warmer temperatures.  And the flavor! Yum!Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting

This 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.  This frosting is made for decorating.  I’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 I 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.  Something that is easy to pipe, has just the right consistency and is absolutely foolproof.  This crusting cream cheese frosting does just that.

Perfect Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting

Why Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting > Fondant

I’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 Frosting

To Crust or Not to Crust?

A 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.  I love to use a crusting cream cheese frosting for these types of cake because I think it’s more forgiving.  It 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 Frosting

Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting Is Never Wrong.

It’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.  Add a little molasses and make this Pumpkin Cake with Molasses Cream Cheese Frosting.  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.  When they say “Oh you don’t want to know what’s in there!” you make them tell you anyway.  And 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 crusting cream cheese 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 tip) 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!Happy baking!  This Perfect Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting makes me happier than any other frosting ever.  If you try it, please comment below and let me know what you think.  If you’re looking for another great basic frosting, check out the links below.  XO.

More Yummy Bakers Brigade Frostings:

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Perfect Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting
This is your go-to recipe for crusting 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.
Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting
  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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17 thoughts on “The 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:
    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

  4. Cake size you said, use a 8 inch pan. What should the height of the pans be? 3 inch or 2 inch? Thank you, the recipe sounds delicious. … Becky

    1. Hi Linda :). I think this would be yummy on valentine cookies. Maybe some red velvet roll-outs shaped like hearts? You could make sandwich cookies! I would definitely decorate sugar cookies with this frosting. They won’t dry hard and shiny like royal icing so I wouldn’t plan on stacking them on top of one another. But since the frosting does crust (become dry to the touch) they will be a lot tidier to eat than a non-Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting or a traditional buttercream. Hope that answers your question!

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