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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 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


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


  • 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


  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.


  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 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

  1. 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!

    1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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?

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

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

    1. 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.

  8. 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. 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!

  9. This frosting is amazing! I’m not a very good baker for sure, but I do make one very basic vanilla cake. Store-bought icings are horribly sweet, but I’ve had no luck making my own buttercream icing.

    I made this and it’s so good I’m going to have to lock it in my car so I can go need it all.

    Creamy comma smooth, buttery, but not too sweet & just a lovely bit of tangy goodness, the zest is like little boosts of delicious.

    Thank you so much for this recipe!

  10. Excellent! Tastes fresh and right amount of lemon. Made with yellow box cake mix and it was amazing!

  11. We made it for my birthday and it tasted really yummy!

  12. Thank you for this recipe!! I just made lavender macaron shells and was searching for the perfect mix of tart and sweet lemon buttercream to fill them with. This is just what I wanted!! Perfect recipe.

  13. This recipe is very good. I did get 4 cups yield instead of 2.5 cups as stated in the recipe.

  14. Tastes good but I wanted more lemon flavor actually. I omitted the heavy cream and added more lemon juice but it’s still not quite there for me. And don’t mind to have something to jazz it up. I thought to add some saffron, maybe next time.

  15. OMG! This was soo good. I added a TBSP more lemon because I had it left over and it was smooth and creamy. Will definitely make this again. Thanks

  16. Paired a version of this with Sally’s Lemon Layer Cake and it was delicious. I love icing, but I find homemade stuff generally way too sweet. I actually cut the amount of confectioners sugar in half and increased the lemon zest (I think I doubled it, but wasn’t measuring exactly so not sure). There was a lovely zing of lemon and the texture was still very creamy. Agree with Sally’s point – the heavy cream was necessary for keeping it smooth! Lovely!

  17. This was amazing! I added just a little more fresh lemon juice. Thank you for a great recipe!

  18. Hi Sally,

    I live in a hot humid country which is the Philippines to be exact if I will add an equal amount of shortening to this lemon buttercream recipe and add the lemon juice & zest afterward will the entire buttercream be curdled? & its very hard to find heavy cream here can I also use full cream milk or any milk to suggest?


    1. Hi Christine, You can use half butter and half shortening for a buttercream frosting that is more stable in the heat. You can use a different milk or cream in a pinch! Enjoy!

  19. This is so delicious! Thank you for a great recipe! My granddaughter and I are making a lemon birthday cake with your delicious frosting right now.

  20. Love the recipe! Easy and simple to make! I did add more lemon juice and lemon zest to get the lemon flavor desired…Personally, I love it but for people like my husband and my family might be too sweet for them…already made the frosting any tips on what I can add to take away some of the sweetness flavor?

    1. Hi Cristina! A pinch of salt can help even out the flavor profile, but there’s not much else you can do to reduce sweetness. Hope it’s a hit!

  21. I have a question. I have learned tons from your recipes, but will adding the cream and lemon juice at the same time not make it curdle? I’m learning, thank you!

    1. Hey Ashley! I just made this frosting with milk and it turned out wonderful! I didn’t have time to get cream ….I was also worried but it worked out great and no curdling!

  22. May 7, 2021
    Just made this frosting for a lemon cake and followed the recipe exactly. Delicious! My husband said it was the best I have ever made. (43 years of marriage!)

  23. I added 1 tsp vanilla extract, subbed half-and-half for the heavy cream as it is what I had on hand, and used the zest (Microplaned) and 2.5 of the 3 tbsp yield of juice of two medium backyard Eureka lemons. Also added 1 packet of McCormick plant-based yellow food covering, about 1 tsp.

    Flavor was perfect – light, lemony but not overpowering. Color was a gorgeous light yellow. Consistency was light and foamy, which was beautiful but caused the frosting to have substantially less coverage than I am used to in buttercream – this recipe barely covered a 2-layer 9 inch round box cake, and I wished I had more left as it took some creative scraping to finish the sides. Still it didn’t curdle, the zest wasn’t visible, fam loved it and I’d make it again!

  24. Can I substitute heavy cream with milk in this recipe? Does it change the piping consistency?

    1. Hi Garima, the frosting will be slightly less fluffy with milk but will work in a pinch!

  25. Absolutely the best homemade lemon buttercream I have ever made. I used a home-grown Eureka lemon and went a little heavier in the zest. My family loved it. I did make an extra half of a recipe to cover 2 10” round cake layers. I added sliced fresh strawberries in the middle layer and it was amazing!

  26. I made the frosting exactly as instructed for a batch of cupcakes … HUGE success! Everyone loved it and asked for the recipe. My only “problem” is that it yielded much more than I needed, and now I have 2 cups of frosting left over. Can I freeze it for later use?

    1. Hi Joanne, absolutely! 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.

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