Alternative Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream cheese frosting without cream cheese, I’m sure I’m not the only one who at some point wants cream cheese frosting but forgot to get cream cheese, and nothing else will do.

cream cheese frosting HACK, tastes just like cream cheese This delicious and totally fake cream cheese frosting tastes just like the real thing and it’s so simple to make!


cream cheese alternative frosting recipe

Why would you want to know about an alternative cream cheese frosting since cream cheese is so wonderful. Well, there are many times this frosting will come in handy. Let’s say you forget to buy cream cheese, or you can’t get it at a moments notice and don’t want to drive to the store. Maybe you want a vegan option. I’ve got you covered… 

Cream cheese frosting is a favorite of mine, it’s so versatile. Sometimes however I am short on the star ingredient, cream cheese! That’s where my Alternative Cream Cheese Frosting comes into play.    

Soft and creamy, I love using this frosting on cookies, cakes, cupcakes, and even scones. It’s perfect with my Fig Cake as a replacement for the goat cheese frosting. Or on top of cupcakes… these espresso cupcakes are so yummy. I have so many recipes to choose from to add this creamy delicious frosting the possibilities are endless and I have loads of tips and tricks for little cakes here! 

cream cheese frosting uses


So, what do I do if I don’t have cream cheese for cream cheese frosting?

This is a great alternative recipe made out of necessity, no cream cheese…that is a dilemma if you really want cream cheese frosting but I have great news and I myself have been desperate for cream cheese frosting… it’s a frosting emergency! Really what else do you really want on carrot cake…what would carrot cake be without cream cheese frosting I don’t intend to find out, this recipe works great! 

Another great use for this easy icing is to use it on red velvet cake. If you need options this is the frosting for you. Look no further, make this alternative to real cream cheese frosting and no one will know the difference. I tested it, and no one knew the truth!

And it’s been a staple over here ever since! And it tastes just like the real thing!

carrot cake recipes, different pan options createdbydiane.comIf you are looking for a carrot cake recipe be sure to check out this post.

Let’s get started, this is what you’ll need:

  • butter
  •  powdered sugar 
  • milk
  • vinegar
  • vanilla
  • fresh lemon juice
  • salt


This small batch recipe can be make with an immersion blener with whip attachment or in a larger mixer. Stand mixer, or hand mixer can be used or a food processor will work, you can mix my hand with a whisk and bowl, be ready to get your arm work out.


alternative cream cheese frosting, vegan frosting,


In the bowl of a mixer add your butter and begin to mix until the butter or butter alternative is smooth and well whipped.

 If you need or want more frosting, you can easily double, triple, or quadruple the recipe for a larger portion.

The next thing we’ll do is add in the powdered sugar.

Mix on low until it combines, then add in the milk, vanilla, vinegar, lemon, and salt (leave out the salt if you are using salted butter and add a little if necessary after you taste it).

Mix until silky smooth and well beaten.

If you want the frosting thicker or sweeter and a little more powdered sugar, if you want it thinner or to drizzle like a glaze add more milk to thin the mixture, add a tablespoon at a time of powdered sugar or milk, mix well, then add more if needed.

Alternative cream cheese frosting recipe

 If you need to firm up your frosting you can refrigerate it for an hour, then spread it onto the dessert.

Can I alter this recipe to fit a Vegetarian/Vegan diet?

Yes. Simply switch out your regular butter with a plant-based type, and switch out your dairy milk for almond, coconut, or your favorite alternative.

Can I soften the butter it in the microwave?

If you do try to soften the butter in the microwave be sure to heat it slowly and on a low temperature, use the “defrost” setting which is 30% power for 20 seconds, that usually does it, you don’t want it soft, melted or runny, just room temperature. But when you beat it, just let it mix until it is fluffy so it’s fully smooth, it’ll mix with the other ingredients better. A lot of time people don’t mix the butter well enough for frosting, especially if it’s colder butter and it really makes a difference.

If you’re looking for a vegan version, it’s simple just swap out the butter and milk for your regular alternatives. 

Vegan Cream Cheese tasting frosting:

  • butter alternative
  • powdered sugar
  • milk alternative
  • vinegar
  • vanilla
  • lemon juice
  • salt

whether you choose to use butter and milk or vegan alternatives the result is creamy tangy and delicious tasting cream cheese frosting…without the cream cheese.

Fun flavorful additions to cream cheese frosting are a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, or even instant coffee (grind real smooth by pressing it between two spoons or a rolling pin, and add it to the butter when you’re whipping it so it combines nicely and flavors the whole frosting)

Alternative Cream Cheese Frosting

A creamy delicious cream cheese tasting frosting without the cream cheese, perfect for when you don't have cream cheese but want that silky smooth yumminess. This recipe easily multiplies to frost as much cake as you want.
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes
Course: Dessert, Frosting
Cuisine: American
Keyword: dessert, frosting


  • 1/2 cup butter room temperature (or butter alternative if you’d prefer it vegan)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream or milk alternative if you’d prefer it vegan
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • In a bow of a mixer beat butter until whipped and smooth.
  • Add in the powdered sugar and begin mixing on low until it combines, then turn up to medium-high and add the milk, vinegar, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt.
  • Continue whipping until smooth.
  • Spread over your favorite desserts
  • Multiply to make more frosting, the small batch will spread over an 8" cake, if you want to fill a 2-layer cake be sure to double or triple the recipe. If you want to pile the frosting high and fill a layer cake you can use 4x's the recipe for plenty of frosting.


  • This is the conversion of the recipe in grams 
  • 1/2 cup butter room temperature (or butter alternative if you’d prefer it vegan) 115g butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar 226g
  • 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream or milk alternative if you’d prefer it vegan 15.3g
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar 5g
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 2.5g
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 5g
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 1.42g


8 single layer Carrot Cake

Be sure to give this HACK a try the next time you need a cream cheese frosting!

Carrot Cake Recipes



  1. I am lactose, egg and gluten intolerant and I thank you for this cream cheese substitute! I’m in heaven!!

  2. I am so excited to find this recipe! I had heard that using lemon juice and vinegar in frosting would make it taste like cream cheese, but I could not find a recipe. I will definitely be trying this one.

    1. Hi Rachel, this is a small batch, makes about 1 cup of frosting. You can easily double or multiply the recipe for as much as you need.

    1. If you are not serving cream cheese frosting the day it’s made. it’s best to refrigerate the frosting or frosted baked goods. Then bring frosted baked goods to room temperature to consume or mix the frosting smooth and spread or pipe onto the baked goods.

  3. Such a wonderful recipe! I needed a cream cheese frosting for my carrot cake and didn’t have any cream cheese on hand. This worked so well. Same consistency and taste as regular cream cheese frosting!

  4. Does this need to be refrigerated to be safe? I’d like to be able to have a shelf stable cream cheese tasting frosting for some cookies.

    1. Use it at room temperature for 3 days, then refrigerate (then bring to room temperature for best flavor and texture)

  5. Excellent! I did add about 1/4 cup extra sugar as it was very strong and I prefer a little bit sweeter, but it turned out creamy and delicious!

    1. I wouldn’t as I don’t think it tastes good at all. But if it’s all you have, give it a try and let me know. Another alternative would be to use twice as much vinegar and give it a taste and see if that works.

  6. Thank you for sharing this recipe. I’m so excited to try it!

    Do you think this buttercream would work to frost and fill a 4 layer cake?

    1. Yes, it will hold up to fill and frost layer cakes. Place it in the fridge if it seems soft as you’re layering the cake to keep the frosting from getting warm, especially in a warm kitchen. Happy baking!

  7. I am making red velvet cake pops for a wedding and want to use this recipe for the cream cheese frosting in the cake pops. I have to make the cake pops a few days before the wedding, wedding is on a Friday and I will be making them on Wednesday. Will this frosting be ok in the cake pops if not refrigerated ? Or any suggestions on what frosting to use in the cake pops that can sit at room temperature for a few days?

    1. This recipe will work well and can be left at room temperature. Alternatively you can use this buttercream, or use that recipe with vegetable shortening if the temperature is hot as it holds up well and won’t become soft like butter.
      When making items for such a big event, you could test it ahead of time to be sure the taste and texture are exactly as you wish.

  8. Thank you……I would like to use this “cream cheese” frosting on key lime cake. Can I substitute lime juice for the lemon juice?

    1. I haven’t tried it with lime juice, and since lemon juice tastes sweeter, I personally would try to use both lemon juice and lime juice for a key lime cake/pie item so that it will be sure to have a great taste.

  9. Hi Diane! I’m making a wedding cake and one of the layers is a red velvet. I can’t use a regular cream cheese frosting as I will have to leave the cake out because I’m covering the whole thing in fondant. Would this frosting be ok to be kept out of the fridge over night? Thanks a lot!

    1. It’s not as firm as American Buttercream, it’s like cream cheese frosting, softer but will hold a shape when piped.

  10. I was very impressed with this recipe! I just had to ask if I was to add the lemon juice and vinegar to batch of American buttercream that I’ve already made would it still turn out?

  11. Hi Diane,
    Thank you for your recipe. I was wondering if you use US cup sizes for your measurements. Also is there a metric conversion with your recipes? As I couldn’t find it. Thank you.

    1. I bake in US measurements, here are the measurements in grams
      * 1/2 cup butter room temperature (or butter alternative if you’d prefer it vegan) 115g butter
      * 2 cups powdered sugar 226g
      * 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream or milk alternative if you’d prefer it vegan 15.3g
      * 1 teaspoon white vinegar 5g
      * 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 2.5g
      * 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 5g
      * 1/4 teaspoon salt 1.42g
      Hope that helps!
      Happy Baking

  12. This recipe is outstanding. I was blown away at the taste. I actually made a batch of this and a batch of cream cheese frosting and I couldn’t tell the difference. On one of the many batches I made I added an extra 1/4th teaspoon of both the lemon juice and vinegar and it made it taste more tangy and so yummy.

    You actually saved me a lot of stress for the wedding I did yesterday. Everyone loved my cupcakes and no one had any idea that I didn’t use real cream cheese…and I didn’t tell them either. This recipe is a definite keeper. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    1. I’m so glad you liked the recipe, I love it too and agree no one knows it’s not made with cream cheese 🙂

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