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November 29, 2022 3 min read


Whether you are a seasoned baker or have only recently taken up baking as a hobby, decorating a cake requires a lot of expertise. When decorating cakes, it's critical to understand which toppings perform best. Despite their stark differences, buttercream and cream cheese frosting are two fundamental cake toppings that are frequently mistaken for one another. Before learning how both of these toppings differ from one another, let's first explain each of them.


What Is Buttercream?

A vanilla cupcake with some frosting ontop


Credit: Envato Elements/ tataks


Buttercream is a popular cake topping whose essential ingredients include butter and sugar along with additional ingredients including cream, milk, and eggs. Although egg isn't always added, when it is, buttercream gains a silky, airy texture.

Buttercream can be classified as American Buttercream, Swiss Meringue Buttercream, Italian Meringue Buttercream, French Buttercream, or German Buttercream depending on the ingredients and methods used in its preparation. Additionally, to complement the baked cake, buttercream can also be sweetened with a variety of flavorings including chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, etc.


What Is Cream Cheese Frosting?

 A vanilla cake with frosting and berries

Credit: Envato Elements/ Tati_Honey


Cream cheese frosting or cream cheese buttercream frosting is a versatile cake filler and topping that includes powdered sugar, butter, and cream cheese. It can also include other ingredients like mascarpone, vanilla extract, heavy cream, flavorings, and food coloring.

 Because it is less dense and tangier than buttercream, this form of frosting is an excellent substitute for cakes that must be consumed immediately after being frosted. Cream cheese frosting goes great with a red velvet cake, chocolate cake, or carrot cake.


Buttercream vs Cream Cheese Frosting


Buttercream and cream cheese frosting are popular cake toppings. Now that we know what they are, let's look at how they differ from one another:


1)  Texture

 Some pink frosting in a swirl

Credit: Envato Elements/ kathkarnowski


The first obvious difference between cream cheese frosting and buttercream frosting is the texture. Since the main ingredient of buttercream frosting is butter, the texture is smooth and does not have any lumps.

In contrast to buttercream, cream cheese frosting is lumpy and not as smooth. This is because cream cheese is a form of cheese that contains cheese curds. Despite using whipped cream cheese or spreadable cream cheese in its production, cream cheese frosting will never have the same silky, velvety texture as buttercream frosting.


2)  Appearance


At first glance, both cream cheese frosting and buttercream frosting appear to be similar. If you pay close attention and are experienced at making frostings, you can see a subtle difference in the appearance of the two. Due to the amount of butter used, cream cheese frosting is white while traditional buttercream icing is ivory in color.


3)  Flavor

 A lady eating a cake with some frosting and fruit

Credit: Envato Elements/ 9_fingers_


The flavors of buttercream and cream cheese frosting are one of their key distinctions. Buttercream icing is sweet and rich. On the other hand, cream cheese frosting has a tangy flavor in addition to sweetness.


4)  Ease of Use


When it comes to ease of use, buttercream is the winner. This cake topper will adhere to the cake wonderfully, freeze well, solidify beautifully, and is just a delight to work with. On the other hand, since cream cheese frostings are heavier and can occasionally slip off the cake, it is a little trickier to use.


5)  Combinations And Uses

 A variety of different cakes with different frosting

Credit: Envato Elements/ nikki_meel


In terms of pairings, buttercream frosting is unquestionably more versatile than cream cheese icing. This is due to the fact that while cream cheese frosting may be overly tangy in some recipes, buttercream has a neutral flavor.

Cream cheese frosting is widely used on moist sponge cakes including carrot cakes, red velvet, hummingbird cakes, and many others. However, buttercream frosting can be used on practically any cake, cupcake, and sheet cake, depending on the flavoring combinations used.


Which Is Better?

 A person putting frosting onto a cake in layers

Credit: Envato Elements/ Yulia_Panova


This is totally a matter of preference. To decide which one is best for you, make a batch of each and compare the results. When properly mixed, buttercream has a tendency to be more firm and have a smoother finish.

On the other hand, cream cheese frosting can be a little greasy, prone to lumps, and have an unusual texture. However, both cake coatings are good options, depending on the recipe used and your preferences.




Pastries taste great when topped with either buttercream or cream cheese icing. Despite their many commonalities, both these cake toppers have certain differences. For a complete baking kit to help you with your baking endeavors, check out the Pepe Nero shop.


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