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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, 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. Wonderful with an old fashion lemon pound cake baked in a Bundt can. I used the piping bag to frost the cake and filled the center to the top. You can never have too much buttercream frosting. I sprinkled the frosted cake with yellow colored sugar for a special glimmering effect.

  2. Hi…i am looking for an American Buttercream to frost cut-out sugar cookies and then take them in boxes. In another recipe you recommended a lemon recipe for developing a mild crust, enough to transport decorated cookies and maintain their appearance….
    Is this the one? I know you also mentioned that for mild crusting you should use some shortening…but was unsure if I have the wrong one since this doesn’t call for shortening…thanks. Love your recipes, they are so yumy and SO reliable!! Thanks for all of them…

    1. Hi Martha! This icing is creamy, but it can set on top of cookies. To ensure even more crusting, you can replace half of the butter with shortening. That promises a stiffer frosting.

  3. Hi Sally, I’m thinking about making this a lemon/orange frosting for my 5 year olds birthday cake and using lemon and orange extract. Do you think this would work and if so what quantities would you recommend using. Thank you

    1. Hi Rachel, For frostings I find that fresh juice and zest are much better than extracts in both aroma and flavor. I haven’t tested this with orange but you could certainly try using half of each or using the lemon juice but orange zest. Let me know what you try!

  4. I can’t say enough about this frosting. The lemon flavor is perfection and it has the perfect balance of sweet and tart. I do add some marshmallow extract to it and I love the flavor. As someone whose normally not a huge lemon fan, it’s a wonderful flavor. It goes great with a white cupcake.

  5. Amazing! Perfectly smooth and tangy. Will absolutely make this again! Thank you for posting this recipe.

  6. Very good lemon buttercream. I doubled the recipe but didn’t use double the sugar since I wanted a less sweet frosting with more lemon zing. This will be my go-to frosting recipe no matter what the flavor.
    Thanks!

  7. You are brilliant! This is the best frosting I think I ever made. The consistency is just right. Thank you!

  8. Fantastic recipe! I used this combined with the lemon layer cake….. amazing combination.

  9. Could strawberries be added to this? If so, how much would you recommend so that it doesn’t overpower the lemon?

  10. Hey Sally, I am planning to make this frosting with your ”The best vanilla cake I ever had” recipe. Will this quantity suffice for two layers of frosting plus outer covering or should I increase it? If yes, by how much should I increase? Thanks in advance. With love from India.

  11. This frosting is absolutely delicious. I loved it so much I liked the mixer paddles when it was done. It has the perfect density and fluffiness for my cupcakes. It will be my go to from this point forward. If you are a lemon frosting lover look no further.

  12. Made this yesterday – with a few modifications and still was delicious. First, doubled the amount of lemon juice (because I love the zip and tang that much), and second I halved the amount of sugar (because half was plenty for sweetness). I also used a coco/almond milk blend, instead of cream. Maybe just one tbs. The result was light, fluffy, tart, sweet and delicious!! No curdles.

  13. I halved the recipe and used this frosting for a mini three-layer cake. The result was amazing!!!! My family enjoyed it for Easter. Thank you for your awesome recipes!!!

  14. I made this lemon buttercream to top your lemon cupcakes. I added a little corn syrup to the icing to make it more glossy and…I added a pipette of Lemoncello to squirt into the center before eating. My coworkers said they were one of the best things I’ve made!

  15. Made this for a birthday cake, giving it a 10/10!! This recipe is definitely going to be making more appearances in our home. It’s perfectly citrusy and sweet, light and delicious.

  16. Tried this recipe tonight with a strawberry cake, it was amazing! I called it strawberry-lemonade cake. Huge hit, good consistency on the cake and not too sweet or tart. PERFECT!

  17. I’m looking for something to use as filling for lemon macarons. Would this buttercream be good for that, or would it not hold up in that kind of application?

  18. Could I use this frosting on your lemon cake recipe? Will it go well? I’m planning to bake for my daughter’s 1st birthday and I’m super nervous.

  19. Holy moly! I generally dislike buttercream frosting made with powdered sugar and have been experimenting with a less sweet, whipped buttercream frosting recipe that uses granulated sugar with a magical flour & milk paste that takes away the grainy-ness.
    However, thanks to the shut-in I’ve had more opportunities to bake and used this to cover my lemon layer cake with raspberry filling. I reduced the powdered sugar by half a cup, doubled the whipped cream and doubled the lemon juice (I like it tart) and voila! A lemon buttercream to rival The Buttercup Bakeshop in NYC!

  20. Hi Sally. Can i make this in a swiss meringue buttercream? Just replacing the vanilla with the lemon? Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Ean, I suggest using my recipe for Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I haven’t successfully tested this Swiss Meringue Buttercream with fresh lemon juice. The texture is always off. I prefer lemon extract (see the section called “Can I add flavors?”), though a little lemon zest as well would be tasty.

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

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

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

  24. 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.

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

  25. 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!

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

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