With the ongoing popularity of baking shows on Netflix, there are those of us that relate more to Nailed It fails than Great British Baking Show triumphs. I’ve baked my share of cakes and cupcakes, and, unlike the internet has led me to believe, my skills have mostly gotten worse rather than better over the years. Becoming a mom and all that entails has slowly drained my interest in elaborate baking projects, and those early baking days full of motivation and experimentation seem to have escaped me. Yes, I want delightful baked goods around. No, I’m not that good at making them.

Despite this fact, there is one recipe I will always make. My friend taught it to me years ago, and it was life-changing. It is almost impossible to mess up and tastes like you’ve spent hours making stuff from scratch. Naturally, I use a box mix to make a quick batch of cupcakes and this even quicker batch of frosting to frost them.

The ingredients are a simple 1-to-1-to-1 ratio of cream cheese, butter, and powdered (confectioner’s) sugar. Seriously, that’s it. It’s a lazy baker’s dream! Here’s the recipe:

No-Fail Frosting for Bakers of All Skill Levels

Frosts 12 cupcakes

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 stick of butter ( 4oz)
  • 1 brick of cream cheese (8 oz.)
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar

1. Let the butter and cream cheese soften to room temperature to make blending easier. (Great time to make the box cake or listen to a really good podcast.)

2. Put the butter and cream cheese into a bowl (if using a hand mixer) or the stand mixer bowl with paddle attachment.

3. Mix butter and cream cheese together until evenly blended, approximately 1 1/2 minutes, on medium-high speed.

4. Sift the powdered sugar into the bowl and mix on medium-high speed for 1 minute, pausing to scrape the side of the bowl as needed. Continue mixing as needed until evenly blended.

5. Tint with food coloring if desired: Add a few drops, then blend until evenly distributed, about 30 seconds on high speed.

6. Frost to your heart’s content.

7. Lick the spoon.

Amber Guetbier/Scary Mommy

The other great thing about this frosting is that it’s easy to let the kids help because it’s really hard to mess up and doesn’t take much time. In fact, it’s a good recipe for independent bakers because there is no heat, melting, or anything too complex involved. I’ve found the ratio of 1 stick of butter to 1 package of cream cheese to 1 cup of powdered sugar to be the perfect blend of tart and sweet, but:

  • If you’re worried it will be too sweet, add just ½ cup powdered sugar at first, then add more to taste.
  • If it’s not sweet enough, add more powdered sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, until desired sweetness.

Other Tips & Tricks

  • Use full-fat cream cheese.
  • Add a little vanilla to the mix, but remember that liquid vanilla extract will thin the recipe out. Try using vanilla bean paste as an alternative.
  • Tint the frosting — things taste better when they’re pink or blue! I love these gel food colorings because they don’t change the consistency of whatever you’re making, and a little goes a long way. This box will last you years.
  • When in doubt, throw sprinkles on it. Kids love sprinkles.
  • To appear even fancier, look for extra-large piping tips like the ones in this kit. The kit comes with pastry bags, and you don’t need couplers for the larger tips. They are easier to pipe than the small tips.
  • Sometimes frosting with tips uses up more frosting. For example, this recipe should frost 12 cupcakes with a little leftover, but if you make big cupcakes and you like a lot of frosting, it may be more like 8.
  • If the frosting gets too soft while using, just throw it in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to firm it up.

Bonus? Now you have a quick and easy frosting recipe at the ready for the next time — there’s always a next time — your kid comes home and announces you need to bring two dozen cupcakes to school… tomorrow.

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