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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 frosting 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. But it’s equally as delicious on strawberry cupcakes, lemon blueberry cupcakes, and even vanilla cupcakes, or as an alternative filling and frosting for a 6 inch citrus cake or lemon layer cake.

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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 1x
  • 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

Scale
  • 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.

Keywords: lemon buttercream frosting

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

Reader Questions and Reviews

    1. Hi Jazmin, we have not had any issues with curdling, but you could bring the heavy cream to room temperature before adding if you wish.

  1. This was probably the best buttercream I ever had! Lots of lemon flavor but also sweet and creamy!!!! Soooo amazing!!!!

    1. How much would I need for filling and crumb coat of a 9-inch, 2 tier cake please?

      1. Hi Caley, we would 1.5x or 2x the recipe depending on how heavily you want to frost your cake.

  2. Hi ! Thank you for this recipe ! I have a question :
    Will this buttercream stay up during warm /hot weather ? Thank you !

    1. Hi Christin, yes, although it really depends on the temperature, humidity, and time in the sun. For longevity, we recommend keeping the frosting (or decorated cake/cupcakes) out of direct sunlight and the refrigerator before serving.

      1. So these shouldn’t be put in the refrigerator??? I love keeping my cupcakes in the refrigerator!

  3. Sally’s Baking Addiction does it again. I needed a lemon frosting recipe that didn’t taste too weak, too fake, or too lemony. This one is great. I’ve written in my ‘keeper’ book. Thanks Sally!

    1. Hi Jo, this recipe should be enough for a 2 layer 8-inch cake, but feel free to 1.5x or double the recipe if you prefer more frosting on your cakes.

  4. I have made this several times and it is always a hit. So creamy and refreshing with the lemon. Great summertimes icing!

  5. Hi! I am looking for an orange flavored frosting. Would it work if I used orange juice and oragne zest instead of the lemon?

    1. Hi Jennifer, we haven’t tested this with orange but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work!

  6. Could this be made a few days in advance? If yes, how would you recommend storing and anything needed to get it ready to pipe? Thank you very much. Excited to make this for a friends’ birthday.

    1. Hi Anne! Cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting on medium speed for a few seconds so it’s creamy again. After thawing or refrigerating, beating in a splash of heavy cream or milk will help thin the frosting out again, if needed.

    1. Hi Kathy, we freeze cupcakes with good results often – let us know if you give it a try!

      1. Hi Sandy, half and half should work in a pinch for this recipe.

  7. Yummy and very lemony. I made the lemon cupcakes and used this frosting. Very good.

  8. Will this recipe work with on top of your Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream as frosting?

  9. I happened onto your site while looking for a lemon buttercream. I made it to crumb coat my o s lemon Doberge cake. It was my favorite part of the whole cake! I can’t wait to try more of your recipes!

  10. Im looking to frost a lemon coconut cake. Have you tried subbing the milk with canned coconut milk?Curious if it would curdle

  11. Just made lemon cupcakes and knew to come to you for the lemon frosting. I did not add the cream, just extra lemon juice.
    Fantastic frosting. Creamy lemony perfect.
    Thank you!

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