We just got back from Texas, from the hottest place on earth, from my brother’s wedding, where my sister and I made enough cake to feed 230 people. With just enough time to put on makeup, dresses, and knot our hair up into an up-do, we pulled it off. Mostly thanks to this sturdy cream cheese frosting recipe. It sounds like an oxymoron, I know. Sturdy and cream cheese frosting in the same sentence. But it’s real. And it’s pipeable.
My sister-in-law wanted Italian Cream for the bride’s cake and Red Velvet for the groom’s cake. I said yes, not knowing if I’d be able to find a stable, pipeable cream cheese frosting recipe. Cream cheese frosting is well known for its tendency to sag. But since the flavor of both cakes were highly dependent on the cream cheese, I had to find something.
So I scoured the internet and eventually landed on this recipe promising sturdiness. After skimming every last review, there were 850 in total, one review in particular addressed the common issues of the recipe. I took a screenshot and tweaked the recipe slightly from there. It’s pure gold!
After making this recipe for sturdy cream cheese frosting well over 16 times in the last month, the kinks have been worked out, so much so that I’d like to say it’s fool-proof. Though, the humidity and heat can make a fool of us all. In the Texas heat, even in an air-conditioned kitchen, it took us twice as long to whip the heavy cream to sturdy, stiff peaks. So rather than giving exact beating times for this recipe, I’ve given visual cues, the same way I give driving directions.
What is the texture of this sturdy cream cheese frosting?
Miraculously, this frosting is light yet sturdy and yields that classic cream cheese flavor you’d hope for. It’s not too sweet, but just right. Most importantly, it holds its shape for several days at room temperature. When decorating, it can be smoothed to a crisp, hold romantic swoops, or maintain piped swirls.
How to make sturdy cream cheese icing
Unlike most frosting recipes, you’re going to use cold, straight out of the fridge, ingredients. First, make sturdy whipped cream by adding cream of tartar and powdered sugar to heavy cream. This will keep the frosting pipeable yet light. In another bowl, beat the cold cream cheese to a spreadable consistency until no clumps remain. Then add the cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream mixture and beat until smooth and sturdy.
Note: if your cream cheese and whipped cream are at different temperatures, they will work hard to reach the same temperature once together, causing one to sweat and one to chill, weakening the structure.
May your cream cheese frosting be sturdy, sweet enough, and perfectly pipeable. Amen.
It’s real—a light yet sturdy cream cheese frosting that will hold its shape. Pipe it or pull it smooth. It can hold both without sagging.
2 c. heavy cream, chilled
1 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
8 oz. cream cheese, chilled
In a stand mixer with a completely cleaned bowl, add cream, powdered sugar, cream of tartar, and extract. Beat on high using the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form, as if you were making whipped cream. It should be stiff yet smooth. If you accidentally beat the cream too long to where it starts to curdle towards butter, add a tablespoon or so more of heavy cream to bring it back to the correct consistency. Slowly incorporate. Set aside.
In a separate bowl using a hand mixer, beat the chilled cream cheese until it’s a spreadable and creamy, about 2 minutes. Test spreadability by dragging a spatula through it.
Add cream cheese into the whipped cream mixture and beat at medium speed until completely smooth, still using the whisk attachment. Frosting will be light be very sturdy. Ice cooled cakes or cupcakes immediately.
Recipe yields enough to naked ice a 9-inch 2-tiered cake.
Common questions about Sturdy Cream Cheese Frosting
Q: Can I freeze it? A: I wouldn’t recommend this as it will sweat trying to come to room temperature, adding moisture and weakening the structure.
Q: Can I use this cream cheese frosting as a filling between cake layers? A: If you’re only making a double layer cake, it’s fine. But if you’re looking for a thick filling on a multi-layered cake, I’d recommend making a different filling. This pipeable frosting is light weight from the whipped cream and may not stand up to the weight of multiple layers.
Q: What if my cream cheese isn’t spreadable after 2 minutes? A: Beat it a bit longer until it is spreadable.
Q: Why is my frosting lumpy? A: Splurge for high quality cream cheese here. I’ve had poor results with lower quality cream cheese. Also, make sure you’re using cream cheese and not cream cheese spread. Finally, make sure you cream cheese is spreadable before adding into the whipped cream.
Q: What if my whipped cream curdles? A: I’m a serial over whipper of whipped cream, walking away for just a second. If this happens, add a splash of additional heavy cream and fold together with a spatula to loosen. Try not to beat it as this may cause further curdling.