Buttercream vs Cream Cheese Frosting

Last Updated on April 17, 2023 by Aaron

Hey, fellow sweet-toothed friends! Today, we’re diving into the scrumptious world of frostings. If you’re like me, you know that a good frosting can elevate any dessert from great to absolutely irresistible.

Two of the most popular and mouth-watering options are buttercream and cream cheese frosting. So, let’s have a little fun and pit these two indulgent contenders against each other, shall we?

First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. Buttercream frosting has been a staple in the dessert world for ages. It is a fluffy, sweet concoction made from butter, powdered sugar, and sometimes a little milk or cream.

It’s a classic choice for decorating cakes and cupcakes and comes in a wide range of flavors and colors. There are several main types of buttercream often used:

  • American buttercream is the simplest to make, consisting of butter, powdered sugar, and a touch of milk or cream. It is sweet and dense, making it easy to work with.
  • Swiss meringue buttercream is made by whipping egg whites and sugar over a double boiler before adding butter, resulting in a silky, smooth texture and a less sweet taste.
  • Italian meringue buttercream follows a similar process but with sugar syrup heated to the soft-ball stage before being added to the whipped egg whites, creating a more stable and glossy frosting.
  • French buttercream, on the other hand, uses egg yolks instead of whites, creating a rich and velvety texture, perfect for a luxurious dessert experience.
  • German buttercream, also known as custard buttercream, combines a cooked custard base with butter for a creamy and delicate frosting that is less sweet than its counterparts.

you can learn more about other types here.

Cream cheese frosting, on the other hand, is a luxurious frosting twist made from cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and a touch of vanilla. It has a tangy flavor that balances out the sweetness, making it perfect for slathering on richer cakes like red velvet or carrot cake.

While there aren’t as many variations as buttercream, you can add flavors like lemon, orange, or chocolate to cream cheese frosting for a twist. It’s also delicious on cinnamon rolls or as a dip for fruit. Yum!

The Differences

Now that we’ve got the basics covered, let’s break down these frostings into bite-sized pieces and compare them based on taste, texture, versatility, and ease of use.

  1. Taste

In the flavor department, buttercream is the epitome of sweet, sugary goodness. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll adore buttercream’s velvety richness. It pairs well with virtually any cake flavor, and because it’s a neutral base, you can easily add extracts, zests, or chocolate to create your desired taste and to complement milder cakes, like vanilla or almond.

Cream cheese frosting brings a welcome tanginess to the table. The cream cheese cuts through the sweetness, offering a unique flavor profile that’s perfect for people who don’t want their frosting to be overly sweet. Its flavor pair wonderfully bold cakes like spice, pumpkin, and banana. However, it might not be the best choice for more delicate or fruity cake flavors.

  1. Texture

Buttercream is light, fluffy, and smooth. It’s easy to spread on cakes and pipe onto cupcakes, creating those picture-perfect swirls we all know and love. Depending on the recipe and technique used, you can achieve various consistencies with buttercream, ranging from soft and fluffy to stiff and firm.

Cream cheese frosting is denser and creamier than buttercream. Because of the added cream cheese, it has a thicker consistency, which can make it a bit more challenging to work with when it comes to decorating. However, its rich, velvety texture can be incredibly satisfying and makes for a fantastic cake filling.

If you’re a fan of thick and indulgent frostings, cream cheese frosting might just be your new BFF.

  1. Versatility

Both buttercream and cream cheese frostings are versatile in their own ways. Buttercream is the go-to choice for most cake decorators because it’s easy to color and flavor. It can also be easily manipulated into various textures for different decorating techniques, like piping, spreading, and creating intricate designs.

Cream cheese frosting, while not as malleable as buttercream, still offers a level of versatility. You can play around with flavors like adding citrus zest, spices, or even crushed cookies.

However, it is temperature-sensitive and doesn’t hold up well to heat, and can become too soft if not properly refrigerated. This limits its use in certain applications, such as outdoor events or multi-tiered cakes.

  1. Ease of Use

When it comes to ease of use, buttercream takes the cake (pun intended!). Its fluffy texture and ability to hold its shape make it a dream to work with, especially for novice bakers.

It’s also easy to adjust the consistency by adding more powdered sugar or liquid, making it forgiving for any mishaps.

Cream cheese frosting can be a bit trickier to work with. Its denser texture requires more finesse when spreading or piping, and achieving the perfect consistency might take some practice. Additionally, its sensitivity to temperature means you need to be mindful of storage and serving conditions to avoid a frosting meltdown.

Compare: Health and Nutrition

When comparing buttercream and cream cheese frosting in terms of health, it is important to remember that both options are high in calories, sugar, and fat, as they are primarily made from sugar and fat sources.

However, there are some differences between the two that may impact their relative healthiness:

  1. Fat content: Cream cheese frosting usually contains less saturated fat than buttercream frosting because it uses cream cheese, which has a lower saturated fat content than butter. Reducing saturated fat intake is often recommended for heart health.
  2. Sugar content: Buttercream frosting typically has a higher sugar content and calories per serving compared to cream cheese frosting due to the greater amount of powdered sugar required to achieve the desired sweetness and consistency. Consuming excessive amounts of added sugar can contribute to health problems, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
  3. Nutritional value: Cream cheese frosting may offer slightly more nutritional value than buttercream frosting, as cream cheese contains small amounts of protein, calcium, and other nutrients like phosphorus. However, these dietary benefits are minimal compared to the high calorie, sugar, and fat content of both frostings.

To make either frosting healthier, consider these options:

  1. Reduce the sugar: You can decrease the amount of powdered sugar used in both recipes to lower the overall sugar content. This may alter the texture and sweetness, so adjust according to your taste preferences.
  2. Use healthier fats: For buttercream frosting, you could try using a healthier fat source, such as a plant-based butter substitute made from olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil, which may contain less saturated fat than regular butter. For cream cheese frosting, you can use a reduced-fat or Neufchâtel cream cheese to lower the overall fat content.
  3. Add flavor with less sugar: Use natural flavorings like fruit purees, zests, or extracts to boost the taste without adding more sugar.
  4. Make smaller portions: By using smaller amounts of frosting or making thinner layers, you can reduce the overall calorie and sugar intake per serving.

Remember that frosting is a treat and should be consumed in moderation, regardless of which type you choose. Incorporate these healthier modifications if you’re looking for a slightly more nutritious option, but keep in mind that the overall nutritional value of both frostings remains relatively low.

Read our latest article on cream cheese vs. butter: a comparison. You’ll learn more about the nutritional differences between Philly Cream Cheese and Land O’Lakes Butter, and their impact on health.

So, which frosting reigns supreme?

Honestly, it’s tough to pick a clear winner because it truly comes down to personal preference and the type of cake you’re making.

If you’re a fan of light, sweet, and versatile frostings that can be customized to your heart’s content, buttercream is the way to go. It’s perfect for creating stunning cake designs and pairs well with a wide variety of cake flavors.

However, if you crave a tangy, rich, and creamy frosting that adds a unique depth of flavor to your baked creations, cream cheese frosting might just be your new best friend. It’s perfect for adding a touch of luxury to bolder cake flavors, and its creamy texture can be irresistible.

At the end of the day, there’s no need to limit yourself to just one frosting. After all, variety is the spice of life! So, why not experiment with both buttercream and cream cheese frosting in your baking adventures and find your own personal favorite?

Trust me; your taste buds will thank you for it.

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