Lemon Buttercream Frosting

cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting topped with blueberries and lemon slices on a blue plate

How was your weekend? Kevin’s birthday is this week, so we celebrated on Saturday. It was one of those effortlessly beautiful weekends where you just want to stay outside. Completely the opposite of every other weekend so far this summer where you feel like you’re holed up in a sauna. Practically Z-E-R-O humidity, so we took full advantage and spent most of the time out of the house. But I also did some “nesting” which doesn’t really feel like nesting? Baby laundry, organized baby toiletries, some bath stuff, etc. Does nesting feel like nesting? Was that even nesting…?

I also worked in the kitchen with a new piping tip– the leaf tip. Wilton #352. Trying to work on my piping skills. Now that I have a solid background of basic designs using these 6 tips, my goal is to learn making more intricate frosting designs!

(Note: I used Wilton 8B for today’s frosting!)

overhead image of lemon buttercream frosting piped onto cupcakes and topped with lemon slices

But let’s talk frosting. I’m trying to build out the frosting section on Sally’s Baking Addiction with some of my basic frosting faves and a few fun ones like creamy strawberry and rainbow chip frosting (holy heck, that one!). My latest success is lemon buttercream frosting. This is a tricky one to master because lemon juice + zest can produce a curdled-looking buttercream, quite the opposite of anyone’s agenda. Have you ever tasted curdled fros… I can’t even finish that question. Gives me the heebie-jeebies.

To overcome that curdled situation, you have to make sure you have enough confectioners’ sugar to battle the additional liquid. And, most notably, you want to stick to fresh lemon instead of artificial lemon flavoring. Lemon extract is wonderful and all, but it doesn’t even compare to fresh lemons in both the aroma and flavor categories.

lemon buttercream frosting in a glass bowl

But here’s the common dilemma! Adding extra confectioners’ sugar is an easy solution and all, but you can add *too* much. Overly sweet and artificial frosting follows, which is everything you were hoping against.

We want REAL lemon flavor. And:

  • Tangy + creamy, sweet but not overly so.
  • Easy to pipe, fresh, and silky.
  • NOT curdled.

Tall orders when it comes to lemon buttercream, but I cracked that code. The secret is in the balance of confectioners’ sugar to liquid. With the precise recipe below, you’ll enter lemon frosting nirvana where you have the texture and consistency of vanilla buttercream, with fresh lemon flavor.

Besides adding enough confectioners’ sugar, my secret is the ratio of lemon juice to heavy cream. I used to skip the heavy cream completely and only use lemon juice as the liquid. Hence the curdling situation. Cream ensures a CREAMY and THICK (hey, who woulda thunk?) consistency. I don’t suggest subbing it out!

cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting swirled on top

overhead image of lemon buttercream frosting piped onto cupcakes and topped with lemon slices

The pictured cupcakes are my lemon cupcakes. If lemon is your soul sista, this frosting and the lemon cupcakes are a combo you’ve gotta try. And, again, I used Wilton 8B for today’s frosting! Love that one, definitely a fave.

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cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting topped with blueberries and lemon slices on a blue plate

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 2.5 cups
  • Category: Frosting
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Lemon buttercream frosting is tangy, sweet, and creamy. It tastes delicious on everything and is so easy to make!


Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks; 230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 and 1/2 cups (540g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 and 1/2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • pinch salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy – about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, heavy cream, and zest with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Taste and add salt as needed. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick.
  2. Cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing or refrigerating, thaw in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature then beat the frosting for a few seconds so it’s creamy again. You may need to add a little milk or heavy cream if it’s still too stiff.

Notes

  1. Quantity: This recipe is enough to frost 12-16 cupcakes or one 9×13 quarter sheet cake.

overhead image of lemon buttercream frosting piped onto cupcakes and topped with lemon slices and blueberries

191 Comments

  1. Robyn Dinse says:

    Simply amazing, the tart and sweetness together you just can’t beat!!! This will be my go to recipe for lemon frosting

  2. Diane French says:

    Made these for my friends birthday. Easy and we’re so good. I like anything lemony. Will make again.

  3. Paige Reeves says:

    This recipe is great it turned out so lushes and smooth, I would totally recomend this recipe.

  4. Would this work to frost a cake and could it be colored? My daughters birthday is coming up and she wants a lemon flavored cake, but wants it to be blue & purple…

    1. Hi Kellie, tinting this frosting shouldn’t be a problem.

  5. Too sweet, not enough lemon, and makes way too much for 12 cupcakes. Not difficult to make, but buttercream never is. A big disappointment after making the same author’s lemon cupcakes, which worked well.

  6. hi sally can you use milk and butter instead of heavy cream?

    1. You can replace the heavy cream with whole milk. No need to add additional butter.

  7. I made this frosting for a birthday and everyone loved it!! Now I am totally making it again for more people! I make it for lemon raspberry cakes and it is a big hit!

  8. Can you use additional lemon juice in place of milk/cream?

    1. For a stronger lemon flavor, absolutely! The buttercream won’t be as creamy though.

  9. Aditi Kadur says:

    Can this recipe be doubled or tripled?

    1. Absolutely!

  10. Can this be set out at eoom temp for several hours?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Heather, After decorating anything with buttercream or cream cheese frosting, it’s fine for 1 day at room temperature. After that, I would definitely refrigerate it. But, use your best judgment and whatever you are comfortable with- We’ve never had any problems leaving frosted desserts at room temperature for a day

  11. Hi!!! I made this recipe a little while ago with your vanilla cake and lemon curd and it turned out amazing!! Could I use the exact same recipe but with orange zest and orange juice instead of the lemon? If not, what could I do to make it orange buttercream? Thank you so much!
    Eddie

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Eddie, We haven’t tested this with orange but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work! You can also turn the lemon curd into orange curd if you wish by using the same amount of orange. Let us know if you try it!

  12. Hi Sally, If I only have 3/4 cups of butter, how much of confectioners sugar and liquid do I need? For my mothers birthday, and I really wouldnt like a curdled frosting. (Also I love reading your articles, such a special tone, choice or words, really like hearing you talk out loud through your creative writing :))

    1. Hi Mercy! Thank you so much for the sweet comment. Though I haven’t tested these exact amounts, try using 3/4 cup of butter, 3 cups of confectioners’ sugar, and maybe about 2 Tbsp of lemon juice and 1 and 1/2 Tbsps of heavy cream. These aren’t perfect measurements as I’m only guessing here, but that’s what I would do. (Add lemon zest and salt to taste.)

      1. Thanks for such a quick and helpful reply, the amounts cerainly save me from guessing. I have been looking for a good lemon cake recipe other than pound cake, which never seems to rise. I was very delighted to find this one. Your recipes are perfect.

  13. Hi Sally,
    Can I reduce the amount of sugar?
    Thanks!

  14. Love it! Perfect balance of sweet and lemony to go on a lemon cake, and a great creamy texture. I used half & half instead of heavy cream just because that’s what I had on hand, but it still whipped up into fluffy, creamy texture. Other than that, I followed precisely. Can’t wait to try one of your other recipes!

  15. Hi Sally!
    I only need enough of this frosting to fill a few of your French Macarons (maybe 7-8 of them?)How much of this frosting should I make?
    Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Elizabeth, You can decrease the amount of frosting you make as long as you keep the ratios of ingredients the same (so cut all of the ingredients by half, etc). And if you happen to have leftover frosting it does freeze well! See the recipe notes for freezing instructions.

  16. Can you use this to frost a cake is it enough?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cassie, This recipe is enough to frost 12-16 cupcakes or one 9×13 quarter sheet cake. I recommend doubling or 1.5x this recipe for a 3 or 4 layer cake.

  17. Hello! This will be my first time making a buttercream frosting. I’m attempting to make a two layer birthday cake. Can you please help me figure out how much I will need? I will be making a 6″ round (maybe 3″ thick) and an 8″ round (maybe 3-4″ thick). Do you think the amounts on this recipe will be enough? Should I double it? Any guidance is greatly appreciated.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Liz, This yields 2.5 cups of frosting which is enough to frost 12-16 cupcakes or one 9×13 quarter sheet cake. You can definitely double it for your layer cakes.

  18. I used this recipe and it made baking a lot easier. From now on I will always go to Sally’s baking Addiction if I want to bake. Thanks!

  19. Hi Sally!
    I’m a beginner at baking so I don’t really have any experience. I have a question that doesn’t really have to do with this recipe but I just wanted to know. Many recipes say to “mix” or “stir” ingredients together. Which tool would I use–a whisk or spatula or something else? I’m really not sure. When a recipe says to whisk, I know to use a whisk. But then comes the part where they say to mix or stir. That I don’t know. Please help!
    Thank you so much!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Heidi, To mix or stir by hand usually means using either a spatula, wooden spoon, or similar. A recipe will usually state if it needs to be mixed with an electric mixer or can be mixed by hand using one of these. We are always happy to help or clarify if you have a question on a specific recipe!

  20. This was an amazing recipe! I decided to make half the recipe because I was short on sugar, and even after halving the recipe, there was still not enough sugar. I had just shy of 2 cups, so I used the two cups and didn’t bother to buy more, and it turned out perfect! I’m not a big buttercream fan, but this recipe was so good that I ate the remaining frosting off the paddle attachment (something I would never dare to do). Thank you Sally for this amazing recipe.

  21. Amazing recipe. Can I drip white chocolate ganache on this and also use some gold luster painting on it? Will it hold?

  22. Can I use half shortening? If yes how much as I am shipping.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Marsha, you can sub half of the butter for shortening. You don’t want to loose all of the butter flavor. It should still be plenty sturdy.

      1. Thank you so much , I did make this before without the shortening and it was delicious

  23. Hi Sally! I want to use this recipe for a 3-layer cake but I want to fill the cake with lemon curd and raspberry jam as well as a bit of frosting so how much of this frosting would you recommend I use?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alishba, we’d recommend doubling or 1.5x this recipe for a 3 layer cake, depending on how much frosting you’d like for covering and decorating the cake. Hope this helps!

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