Tuesday, July 7, 2009

the miracle of cream cheese frosting or "why i'm not a scientist"

I've been working on finding or developing a great carrot cake recipe, and as anyone will tell you, the only reason for eating carrot cake is the cream cheese frosting. Cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla - what could be easier, right? Except that most of the ones I've experimented with have yielded a gloppy, if tasty, frosting that practically drips off the cake, even after refrigerating. Fine if you're spreading it on a cake and eating it out of the pan, but hardly professional-looking. Adding more powdered sugar may or may not have the desired thickening effect, but then all you taste is sugar.

So I turned to Google. A number of searches yielded little new info, but finally I hit upon this post on how to make perfect cream cheese frosting from How to Eat a Cupcake. Interesting: it suggests that cold cream cheese, not softened or room temp, is the way to go. Even more interesting: a comment from a reader about the method used at their bakery. Rather than creaming the cream cheese and butter, then adding the powdered sugar, Pinky said they cream the butter and the sifted powdered sugar, then add the cream cheese, in chunks. Beat, and add vanilla to taste. The end result is thick enough to pipe, which is exactly what I want. Best yet, it's not so sickly sweet that you can't taste the cream cheese, and you can use full-fat cream cheese, Neufchatel, or a mix.

I don't know how to explain it scientifically, but it works like a dream and tastes great. I took advice from the post and used cold cream cheese, and mine was smooth and lovely. Pinky broke down their proportions into home baking amounts, and here's the lowdown:

Pinky's Bakery's Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks)
4 cups (16 ounces) powdered sugar, sifted after measuring
12 ounces cream cheese (full-fat, Neufchatel, or a mix)
vanilla to taste - about 1 teaspoon

Cream the butter and powdered sugar. Add the cream cheese, a chunk at a time, beating after each addition. (I didn't go crazy with the beating - just enough to work it in.) Add vanilla to taste. I actually added just a little more sugar to mine - maybe a few more ounces - to lighten it. I didn't want to risk using milk, cream, or sour cream to thin it. Delicious, and great with carrot cake!

34 comments:

Sandra Dee said...

Yum. Carrot cake is one of my (And Drew's) favorites......

The Food Librarian said...

Love the cold cream cheese method! I have got to try this!!!

liiibby said...

Do you need to soften the butter or use room temperature at least? Thanks!

jami said...

@liiibby, I don't think you really do. I would cut it in chunks so you don't kill your beaters, but it should be fine cold (or coldish) from the fridge. I think the consistency is improved in this recipe by it all being from cold ingredients.

Unknown said...

Hope I'm not too late to the party :) So is this best done well in advance? For example, I'm frosting cupcakes. Is it best to make right before serving or may I make it the night before. Hopefully no moisture resulting in the "slimy look" occurs in overnight refrigeration?

Jami Messinger said...

You can frost in advance! Just put 'em in the fridge until you're getting close to serving. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Am I confused - or is 4 cups of powdered sugar = to 32 oz ... not 16?

Jami said...

Powdered sugar weighs 4 oz per cup. So it's 16 oz for 4 cups.

Fiona said...

I use the internet for about 80-90% of all my recipe needs (savoury and sweet) and I can honestly say, without a shadow of a doubt, this is the single best recipe ever!!! I have fought with CC frosting for years and was on the verge of never going near the stuff again when I found your wonderful page. Thank you so, so, SO much!!! xxx

Jami Messinger said...

Fiona - so glad it worked for you! CC frosting is delicious. Enjoy!

Junkie. said...

does this have to be chilled after frosting? i intend to frost some red velvet cupcakes for a school bake sale and there are no fridge available. i live in a fairly humid country so how long can this hold in room temp?

Jami Messinger said...

junkie, it really does because it's dairy-based. It can certainly sit out for a few hours, but not overnight. Hope you can work it out!

Junkie. said...

Thanks for your advise! btw, will this frosting taste like its butter dipped in sugar when eaten cold from the fridge?

Jami Messinger said...

Nope - it will be really creamy and have that slightly tangy cream cheese taste that's sugary as well. It's really good!

Anonymous said...

Does the brand of cream cheese make a difference?

Jami said...

That's a great question. I'm not sure it does, but at the same time, I would buy something of decent (known) quality. Since there's so much of it, make sure it's a taste you like! I usually buy Philadelphia. Occasionally, I will also buy Trader Joe's brand. But I usually splurge and buy one of those rather than grocery store brand.

Deborah Henderson said...

Hi there

Iv had soft cc frosting just last night I didnt understand what was wrong ow I know thanks trying it tonight. Does anyone think that a buttermilk glaze on a carrot cake before cc frosting makes that much difference? Would love to know your comments on this.

Jami said...

Hi Deborah - I've never had a buttermilk glaze on carrot cake. I'm sure it would add extra ooey-gooey goodness but it is probably not strictly needed. My guess is that like brushing a cake with simple syrup, it adds moisture, but carrot cake isn't usually dry. I'm guessing you could go either way both in terms of saving on effort and calories. :-)

Pau said...

Hello, after much struggle with nothing firm cream cheese, I think this is the solution, thank you for sharing. I have doubts, would weight amounts, 453 grams of sugar, 430g of cream cheese, and how many grams bring your stick of butter? I hope your answer to try this recipe. Thank you! Greetings from Venezuela.

Jami said...

One stick of butter here is 4 ounces or about 113 grams. Enjoy!

Pau said...

Excellent. And in the amounts of sugar and cream cheese if I'm right? Thanks for your time, I'm dying to make roses with cream cheese and decorate my cupcakes.

Jami said...

Yes on the powdered sugar. On the cream cheese, I'm not sure. I think it's actually 340 (using an ounces to grams calculator online).

Pau said...

oh, yeah! Haha invested numbers, is 340g. Again thank you very much, I'll try. I will not hesitate to recommend your page kisses!

Jami said...

Terrific, @Pau - thank you!!

Mockie said...

I've constantly had the same problem. I've tried using this method before, with the cold cream cheese, but i always get left with lumps that refuse to break down! Any ideas? (I use regular Philadelphia cream cheese)

Thanks!

Jami said...

@Mockie - my only recommendation is to beat the heck out of it. I haven't had any issues with cream cheese lumps - if anything, I have had more trouble with powdered sugar lumps, which of course can be solved by sifting. You could run it through a sieve, but I think that would compromise the consistency of the beaten frosting (and take time). I guess the other best option is to look through the frosting just for any lumps and run just those thru the sieve. Good luck!

jessylsm said...

Hey,my school is having a charity fun fair.so,i'm gonna bring some red velvet cupcakes and i wanted to have cream cheese frosting on it.i wanted to know will the frosting melt and if i put it in the fridge,am i suppose to put it in the freezer or the cooler.

Jami said...

@jessylsm: the fridge is perfect. once you go to the fun fair and are outside, keeping them chilled is still a good idea if it's hot out.

Anonymous said...

Greetings from Ireland Jami, I just wanted to thank you for this wonderful recipe I tried it tonight and it turned out just as you described.. Amazing ! Many thanks Linda

Jami said...

@Linda - so glad you liked it!!

kittenslgb said...

Jami thanks so much for posting this recipe and the extra tips. I have a killer carrot cake recipe that's my staple and have been getting dissapointed with my results.... several batches down the drain. THANKS AGAIN FOR POSTING. Btw this is the first time ever I've posted a comment on a blog. <3 this recipe!!!

Jami said...

@kittenslgb - glad you enjoyed!!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to try this recipe! Can I ask how much it yields?

Jami said...

Good question - I haven't measured it, but I would guess at least 3-4 cups? I'll try to add a measurement next time I make it!