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

159 Comments

  1. Sally, if I wanted to make an orange buttercream to pair with a chai-spiced cupcake, could I sub in orange zest and juice to this recipe, do you think?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Absolutely!

  2. debbie hickey says:

    This is delicious! The consistency was wonderful. I didn’t have heavy cream so I left it out. I beat the butter with the lemon juice together for 8 minutes, then added the powdered sugar and no curdling! I also didn’t add the zest as I don’t like that texture in frosting so I upped the lemon taste with lemon paste. I used some to frost a cake and some to fill French macaroons.

  3. Fantastic recipe! I followed it exactly and it turned out perfectly, no need for any deviations! Thank you for creating this blog and giving me this go-to recipe so I don’t have to listen to random people on the internet, am so grateful.

  4. Rosalind B. says:

    This is fantastic! Loved, loved, loved it!!! Made per instructions and I’m a “happy camper”. Sent my sister a snapshot and now she’s going to make it, too.

    Question: Does my cake need to be refrigerated or can I leave it out at room temperature?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rosalind, After decorating anything with buttercream or cream cheese frosting, it’s fine for 1 day at room temperature. After that, it’s best to refrigerate it. As always, use your best judgment and whatever you are comfortable with.

  5. Rosie Pitosey says:

    I made this following the recipe exactly. (Well, I only had salted butter, so I used that) Came out so delicious ! Everyone loved it! Thank you!

  6. How long will this frosting keep in the fridge? I need to make it 4 days ahead of cake day.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jeanne, Cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer.

  7. Hello Sally,
    Can I use lemon extract instead fresh lemon juice and how much of lemon extract should I put for this recipe?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dorota, for frostings we find that fresh juice and zest are much better than extracts in both aroma and flavor. If you were to use extract instead, we’d recommend starting with about a teaspoon, then tasting and adjusting as you’d like. You’ll need much less than the lemon juice and zest called for.

  8. This sounds delicious! I don’t have heavy cream, so how much Greek Yogurt and Milk should I use instead?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lux, the frosting will be slightly less fluffy with milk but will work in a pinch! (No need to add Greek yogurt)

  9. I made this recipe and it turned out absolutely delicious thank you so much for sharing

  10. Hi can I use vegitable oil instead and cake four ?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Racheal, we don’t recommend vegetable oil here — it will not cream together with the confectioners’ sugar like butter does. We also do not recommend cake flour in place of the confectioners’ sugar.

  11. It was extremely sweet even though I already added less sugar than it says in the recipe. Otherwise the taste was good and the consistency perfect, but just way too sweet, so I wouldn’t make it again.

  12. Can I substitute the lemon zest with more lemon juice? If so, how much?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Nakmi, Adding extra lemon juice would result in a thinner frosting. It’s possible, but just know the consistency will be different. You can add just enough until you are happy with both the taste and the consistency.

  13. I’m working on a b-day cake for a friend, lemon blueberry cake with lemon frosting, but wants a galaxy theme. Will this frosting hold up well with the addition of food coloring?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amanda, Yes you can add food coloring to this frosting. We use and recommend gel food colors as you don’t have to add as much to get brighter colors.

      1. Thank you so much, I look forward to trying this, I love your recipes!

  14. supper delicious cupcakes

  15. Is this easily spreadable for a naked sponge cake? I am a novice and making my own wedding cake so I need something easy to work with!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lacey! Yes, definitely. You can always play with the ratios of sugar and cream to reach the perfect consistency (add a tiny bit more cream for a looser frosting if needed). Happy baking!

  16. Hello, Sally! Is it ok if I half the recipe for a lesser yield? I mean, I know who wants less frosting, right?! But I end up with so much extra frosting than I usually need.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Joey, absolutely — simply halve all the ingredients. Enjoy!

  17. Is this a good frosting to ice cakes with?
    And can I sub the heavy cream for almond milk?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sophia, absolutely, this recipe is great for frosting cakes. You can use almond milk in a pinch, but the frosting won’t be nearly as rich and creamy.

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