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

155 Comments

  1. I made this recipe this morning to use with Sally’s lemon cupcake recipe (I added frozen blueberries to the cupcakes, too). Both turned out great! The cupcakes are light and moist, plus they are extra yummy with the blueberries. The frosting is lightly lemon flavored but creamy and delicious. I didn’t have cream so I used half and half, and it worked great. Will definitely make both recipes again!

  2. I made this frosting and it was super easy and delicious! One question – if I store it in the fridge, how would you recommend getting it warmed up and loose enough to pipe? 

    1. Just let it sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes or until pipe-able 🙂

  3. I want to use lemon frosting on a piped succulent cake I’m going to attempt soon. Would this recipe be okay for piping something like that? Not as detailed as a rose, but close. Saw succulent cakes online and thought they were just BEAUTIFUL!

    1. This would be great for piping succulents!

  4. Hi Sally! 
    How will you know if the frosting has curdled? When I took the frosting out of the mixer it looked perfect, but as I was spreading it on the cake it seemed like it wasn’t as smooth as I thought. Not huge chunks, but just not as smooth as my usual buttercream. Would it be very obvious if curdling has occurred? 
    Thanks so much for your help! 

    1. It would be very obvious, yes. How did your lemon buttercream taste?

  5. Hi Sally,
    My almost 5 year old requested a strawberry birthday cake with lemon frosting. I’m planning on making your double layer homemade strawberry cake with this lemon buttercream. Would 1 batch of this frosting be enough or too much for that recipe?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Jessica! Yes, this lemon buttercream recipe is enough to frost a 2 layer cake.

  6. Betsy Saunders says:

    I was so excited to find this recipe and excited to make it! It did not disappoint! I could not stop eating it!!! Awesome! I will make again!!

  7. Hi,
    I’m wondering, will this frosting hold color well? I want to use a lemon buttercream to decorate a cake, but I’m worried that adding food coloring to it will make it look almost “granular”. If that makes sense? I don’t know how the food coloring would react to the lemon juice/zest in this frosting. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Kim! This is a great question. I’ve lightly colored this lemon buttercream with 1 drop of gel food coloring and had no issue– texture, taste, and appearance were still great. I can’t speak for liquid food coloring though.

  8. Going to use this on a two tier, naked cake. Not covering in fondant, so I’m not concerned with sagging, and I will use a dowel to ensure that it doesn’t slide, but do you think it will hold up to very warm weather? Or, should I add shortening?

    1. I would use the lemon buttercream recipe as written, but for extra insurance, replace some of the butter with shortening.

  9. Lori Lee Spillman says:

    A-ma-zing! This recipe was for a lemon birthday cake. It turned out to be an especially yummy cake. This icing was perfect! It tasted creamy-sweet with a tang of lemon flavor and melted in your mouth. *****

  10. Really a very nice lemon frosting. Wish I had used your lemon cake recipe. Next time for sure. Thank you!!!!!

    1. Will this recipe work with Russian Piping tips? Should the cream be reduced?

      1. Yes. I would leave out the cream so it’s a very thick buttercream.

  11. Hi Sally,

    I made this frosting today and OMG it’s delicious!
    Thank you for sharing the recipe.
    Just a question though if the frosting can be coloured if I want to pipe coloured flowers using the frosting?
    Thank you

    Suzi

    1. Hi Suzi! So glad you love this lemon buttercream! You can definitely add some food coloring to it.

  12. Joana Charters says:

    Hey, hope everything is going well!
    I’ve been wondering if instead of lemon I could use lime with the same quantitites, what do you think?

    1. Yes, you can use limes instead. Yum!

  13. Very easy and simple recipe. My go-to lemon buttercream recipe. It’s been a big hit every time I’ve made it! Try to avoid eating it by the spoonful!

  14. I used lemon extract instead of juice to prevent breaking. Also used zest to garnish. Terrific recipe.

  15. Fantastic! Just the perfect amount of lemon flavor! It was a hit!

  16. What tip did you use to frost the cupcakes?? Love all your cake recipes! And also your buttercream

    1. This was the Wilton 8B.

  17. Tried it and it was delicious!

  18. It was absolutely perfect!

  19. Hi! Excited to try this recipe! Should I double the buttercream recipe if I’m going to be using it to cover and fill a cake (8″ round with two layers)?

    1. Hi LeeLee, this recipe should be enough for a 2 layer 8-inch cake.

  20. Amazing lemon frosting!!! This recipe was so easy and delicious! Perfect combination of sweet with lemon!

  21. Will this be enough frosting for your lemon layer cake(three 9 inch layers)?

    1. Hi Miriam! I recommend doubling or 1.5x this recipe for a 3 or 4 layer cake.

  22. Great recipe! Easy to follow and outstanding result.

  23. Lynn Faulkner says:

    Added 1/4 cup cream and used fresh orange juice /zest. Outstanding results. Pulled no crumb on frosting a very moist and soft cake. Thank you!!

  24. Sally, this might just be the yummiest frosting I have ever made! The lemon flavor was outstanding, and the frosting was creamy and smooth. I used it to frost a lemon cake, and it was nice and sturdy, perfect for piping frosting dams and giving the cake a smooth finish, I haven’t quite mastered the use of my new bench scraper yet; you know, I would love a post about how to frost cakes! Your cakes always look stunning, and it would be so interesting to have a post about frosting techniques and decorations, etc.

  25. Evi Greece says:

    Dear Sally, i have a passion fruit curd that i would like to add in a frosting , how would that be possible? Actually i am interested in filling the cake with that and cover it with your vanila buttercream frosting.
    Thank you in advance

    1. Hi Evi! If the curd is thick enough, you can use it as a filling. To add it to buttercream, you can use this lemon buttercream recipe for a lemon passionfruit flavor OR my vanilla buttercream recipe. Add a couple spoonfuls of curd to both, but reduce the heavy cream by 2 Tablespoons. So leave it out of this lemon buttercream altogether and only use 2 Tablespoons (1/8th cup) in the vanilla buttercream.

  26. Does the cake with lemon buttercream need to be refrigerated? Or can it sit in room.temp overnight?

    Thank you!

    1. Honestly, room temperature is fine but if it’s longer than 1 day, I recommend refrigerating.

  27. The first time I made this recipe, I was also making two other desserts and without thinking used regular granulated sugar. *smacks forehead*
    Second time going, it was delicious and turned out really well, but I used the correct sugar that time.
    Only problem I am facing now is what to do with the sugar, heavy cream, and butter mixture I created.
    Its been a week since then and I am at such a loss. I dont want the ingredients to be wasted! 🙁

    Any suggestions?

  28. Hope Whaley says:

    I saw a lemon Texas sheet cake recipe that called for a glaze. However, after seeing this recipe I decided to use it instead. My pan was 18 x 13 so I made 1-1/2 recipes. Oh my goodness!! This lemon buttercream is like heaven on earth. I took this to a church pot luck and it was totally gone!! My husband is totally in love with it. Truly amazing!! When you said you cracked the code, you sure did. Now to improve my piping skills to make your beautiful cupcakes!! Thanks for sharing!!

  29. What can I sub the heavy cream with? I have coconut milk and almond milk.

    1. Either would be great.

  30. Made this with my granddaughter for her 8th birthday. It is delicious. She wanted lemon cake with lemon frosting. Used this as an opportunity for her to learn how to zest a lemon.

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