German Buttercream Cream Cheese Icing

I’ve learned a few things about frosting over the years, one being that I really don’t care for true buttercream frosting. And by that I mean true Swiss buttercream – the kind made with eggs, granulated sugar and butter and which to me, is just too buttery.  As a sandwich cookie filling it’s okay, but for topping cupcakes it’s just too rich and I’ve gone back to making the usual variations on American buttercream with confectioners sugar and butter. That is, until now!

German Buttercream Frosting

Thanks to my pastry chef hero over at Brave Tart, I have discovered German Buttercream. It’s fairly easy to make (though you do have to prepare a basic pastry cream), has a dreamy, light texture, and is way less sweet than American style. Today was my first time to try it and while I loved the texture, I thought it could use a little more sweetness. However, for those of you who like the idea of a less sweet cupcake icing, you have to try it. This is the cream cheese variation. For the regular butter version or caramel, be sure to check out Brave Tart. Heck, check out Brave Tart anyway so you can read all the comments.

Note, this makes a very large batch. Unless you are sure you’ll like a less sweet frosting, you might want to halve it or even quarter it. I actually had great results making just a quarter batch. For the weird quarter batch egg measurements, check the notes at the bottom. Otherwise, go all out and make the full or just half batch. And remember, if you DO find it not-quite-sweet enough, you can beat in some confectioners’ sugar.

German Buttercream Cream Cheese Icing
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
German Buttercream Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 90
  • 16 ounces whole milk
  • 10 ounces granulated sugar (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 ounces cornstarch (about 6 tablespoons)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 16 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract
  • Confectioner's Sugar (in case you feel like it's not sweet enough)
  1. In a large sauce pan, bring the milk to a simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, eggs, and yolks.
  3. Whisk about a half cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture. Whisk in a little more hot milk until the egg mixture is fluid and warm (this tempers the egg). Pour the egg mixture back into the pot of hot milk with the heat set to medium and keep whisking.
  4. Once the mixture starts to thicken and bubble, continue whisking and cooking for one minute more to remove the starchy flavor. Remove from heat and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Cover with a small sheet of plastic wrap or parchment and let cool completely. This is important.
  5. When completely cool, beat the mixture well. Add the butter and cream cheese one tablespoon at a time with the mixer going. Beat in the salt and vanilla. Taste test. If it’s not sweet enough for you, you might want to add a little confectioner’s sugar.
  6. Chill for about 15 minutes. Return to mixer and beat again, then put into your piping bag and pipe cupcakes.
  7. Makes about 10 cups
For a small batch (about 2 1/2 cups), you can actually quarter the recipe. Weigh out ¼ of all ingredients and for the eggs, use 1 large egg, but very carefully discard about half the white. My icing had the perfect texture, but I wanted more sweetness and ended up adding about 1/4 cup of confectioners' sugar at the end. Also, for testing purposes I managed to get away with using 2% milk. For a full batch, I'd stick with whole.


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  1. says

    Good to know/hear about this option because the reason Kevin really hates cake and especially/mostly frosting is because he hates how sweet buttercream is. I’ve always thought Swiss buttercream was almost too eggy (and sweet). Will have to find an occasion to try this.

  2. Mela says

    Anna, I love Brave Tart, I think she’s very knowlegeable when it comes to recipes. And she always answers whatever questions you throw at her. This looks like something I’d like to try next time I make cupcakes. I’m thinking of making carrot cupcakes for Easter with this icing. Thanks for posting it.

  3. Jennie says

    Hey Anna! Did I overlook this in your post, sorry if I did, but which of your Red Velvet recipes did you pair with the frosting?

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