This healthier cream cheese frosting uses a fraction of the sugar in traditional recipes and tastes really similar to cheesecake batter!
With it being carrot cake season, I thought I ought to share this amazing frosting recipe. Because carrot cake and cream cheese frosting just belong together.
Below you see it on my Healthy Carrot Cake – my family’s favorite Easter-time treat.
Frosting is hard to make healthy and have it actually taste just like regular frosting. My Paleo Chocolate Frosting is delicious, but I definitely wouldn’t call it healthy – just healthier. Like this cream cheese frosting!
Why not Greek yogurt or low-fat products?
I used to add Greek yogurt to make my frostings a little healthier, but then I realized I needed to add more sugar to make up for the extra sourness from the yogurt. So that was kind of pointless.
Looking at other healthier cream cheese frosting recipes, I noticed people using 1/3 less fat or even fat-free cream cheese. If you haven’t heard, low-fat diets can make you overweight and unhealthy, so I don’t see any point in reducing the amount of fat unless your worry is calories.
But even then, I wouldn’t want to use low-fat products, because unhealthy ingredients are often added to make up for the lack of fat. So I figured the only thing I could really do to make it a little healthier is to reduce the amount of powdered sugar.
Why not use a natural sweetener?
Quite simply, none of them work the same way in cream cheese frosting.
- Honey – the frosting has a weird texture and a very strong honey taste. A bit too runny.
- Maple syrup – same as above but with a strong maple flavor. It’s also too runny to spread.
- Maple sugar – this works the best. Good texture, maple flavor (I’d only use it on something that pairs well with maple. So not lemon or orange cake, but yes to pumpkin cake) and it’s firm enough to spread. However, it’s SUPER expensive and not readily available outside of the US and Canada. And it needs to be powdered, or at least very fine. Big granules won’t dissolve nicely, which would result in a crunchy frosting.
- Coconut sugar – better texture, but the frosting is more coconut sugar-flavored than cream cheese-flavored. Also needs to be very fine in texture.
- Sugar subs – I’m not a big fan of these, so I haven’t tried them. I would like to try a keto version one day, but can’t recommend anything for now.
I have tried doing half liquid sweetener + half powdered sugar, but the result was still too runny to spread on top of anything.
So this is why I went with powdered sugar but massively reduced the amount.
Only 1/6th the sugar!
This popular cream cheese frosting recipe on Allrecipes calls for 8 ounces of cream cheese and 4 cups of powdered sugar. That’s kind of crazy.
My recipe calls for 12 ounces of cream cheese and 1 cup of powdered sugar. If you used 8 ounces of cream cheese, that’d be 2/3 cup of powdered sugar. That’s 1/6 the amount of sugar!
So instead of super sweet frosting with some cream cheese taste to it, you have something that’s more like cheesecake filling.
It is richer, but not overly so, and I think way more satisfying.
Also, there’s a range in the amount of butter. You only need 3 tablespoons if you want it a bit softer and you’re not planning on piping it. If you want to pipe it, then use 6 tablespoons of butter.
How much does it yield?
Because there’s so much less sugar, the yield is a lot smaller.
This recipe yields a little more than 2 cups of frosting, which is enough for 2 tablespoons (32 grams) of frosting on 16 cupcakes or for about 12 piped cupcakes.
The below pumpkin cupcakes had a nice dome to them, so it actually looks like more frosting than it really is. I tried to make the mound of frosting as small as I could.
Doing it this way yielded enough frosting for 16 piped cupcakes.
I normally don’t like cupcakes with a huge mound of piped frosting on top, because it’s just too sweet, but I didn’t have that issue with this icing. Go ahead and pile it on! 😀
It really tastes a lot like cheesecake batter before you add the eggs. I couldn’t stop eating it.
I actually had to remake this frosting because I kept going back to the fridge to sneak bites as it was firming up.
If you’re just slathering on the frosting, you can do that immediately after making the frosting (and when your cake has completely cooled). If you want to pipe it, I recommend refrigerating it for about an hour so that it firms up a bit more.
Don’t let it chill too long before frosting your cake, though, because it gets quite firm, like a cream cheese tart filling. If that happens, just bring the frosting to room temperature and then frost.
That also means you should bring your cupcakes to room temperature before serving if you want the frosting soft. Don’t heat them up, though! The frosting would melt really quickly.
Cupcakes to slather your frosting on
That’s it! I hope you enjoy this frosting. If you make it, I’d love for you to leave a comment below and let me know what you think!
Healthier Cream Cheese Frosting
- Prep Time: 10 min
- Cook Time: 0 min
- Ready in: 10 min
- Yield: just over 2 cups
- 12 ounces (340 grams) cream cheese, room temperature1
- 3-6 tablespoons (42-84 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature2
- 1 cup (120 grams) powdered sugar (you can add more, if desired)
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together with an electric hand mixer at medium speed until well combined. It’s okay if it looks a little crumbly.
- Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until totally combined and then beat in the salt and vanilla. If it’s firm enough for your needs, frost your cake / cupcakes.
- If you want it firmer, refrigerate for about an hour, stirring the frosting after about 30 minutes. Don’t let it chill too long before frosting your cake, though, because it gets quite firm, like a cream cheese tart filling. If that happens, just bring it to room temperature and then frost.
- Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days and refrigerate anything you frost with this frosting. The frosting firms up once refrigerated so if you want the softer frosting texture (rather than a cream cheese tart filling kind of texture), let the cupcakes come to room temperature before serving.
- If you live outside of North America and have the kind of cream cheese that’s meant for toast (that comes in a little plastic tub) rather than American style brick cream cheese, then get 450 grams of cream cheese, place it in the center of a cheesecloth, and wring out the liquid until you have 340 grams of cream cheese left.
- If you want to pipe this frosting, use 6 tablespoons of butter and if you just want to slather it on, use 3. Or 6 if you just want it a little firmer!
- This recipe yields a little more than 2 cups of frosting, which is enough for 2 tablespoons (32 grams) of frosting on 16 cupcakes or for about 12 piped cupcakes.