Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Homemade lemon buttercream is a light and delicious topping for many of your favorite treats. Use this fluffy frosting for lemon cupcakes, layer cakes, sheet cakes and so much more.

One lemon cupcake with lemon slice garnish placed on top of the muffin tin.
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Lemon Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Easy lemon buttercream on top of a fresh lemon cupcakes is just *chef's kiss* delicious! Lemon lovers know how a creamy fresh frosting is the perfect addition to a yummy dessert on a hot day.

Now that warmer weather is on the way, I'm gearing up to make all of my light and refreshing treats that we just can't get enough of! From peach lemonade to lemon blueberry muffins, our spring and summer days are always full of tasty sweet treats.

Classic buttercream is extremely versatile and so easy to make. This easy recipe uses real ingredients like fresh lemon juice and fresh lemon zest to create a bright lemon flavor.

Whether you are making summery lemon desserts or fun creations like confetti cupcakes, you can use this light and fluffy frosting as the perfect topping!

Overhead photo of six lemon cupcakes with lemon slice garnish on a round wooden serving platter.

Why You'll Love this Recipe

Depending on what you are using the frosting for, you can double or triple the recipe as needed. This recipe will perfectly frost a dozen cupcakes or a small cake. We love it so much! It is truly a treat for the taste buds:

  • Homemade lemon buttercream is the easiest way to make your from-scratch goodies taste like bakery quality treats. And it's much more affordable than buying a dozen cupcakes from the bakery!
  • You can make a full batch of lemon frosting in just a few minutes. It really won't add much time to your baking schedule and the flavor is worth it.
  • Making frosting from scratch ensures you have the best ingredients possible. It's great for those who have dietary restrictions or allergies because you will know exactly what's in the bowl of lemony goodness!

Ingredients

With just these few simple ingredients you can make this delicious lemon buttercream. Here's what to have on hand:

Softened unsalted butter, sugar, egg, sour cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest (from one medium lemon), all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and milk separated into individual bowls and measuring cups.
  • unsalted butter
  • pure vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar
  • heavy cream
  • zest from one lemon
  • juice from half a lemon

Substitutions and Variations

If you don't have fresh lemons for lemon zest, you can use a small splash of lemon extract.

You can use half and half or whole milk in place of heavy cream, just keep in mind that the texture make change a bit.

While this recipe is specifically for lemon buttercream frosting, you can easily swap out the flavor to create a different frosting. Fresh squeezed orange juice and orange zest would create a beautiful orange frosting.

How to Make Lemon Buttercream

I love the bold lemon flavor that this homemade frosting has! But what I love more is how easy it is to make. Follow these step by step instructions to create a showstopper frosting:

Butter and vanilla extract in a glass mixing bowl.
Butter and vanilla extract are mixed together in a glass mixing bowl.

In large mixing bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together softened butter and vanilla extract.

Then, pour the fresh lemon juice and lemon zest into the creamed butter mixture. Mix together until combined.

Lemon zest added to butter and vanilla extract mixture.
Lemon zest mixed with butter and vanilla extract mixture.

Add about a ½ cup of powdered sugar and then mix again. Continue adding powdered sugar ½ cup at a time until the frosting has thickened.

Powdered sugar is added to the lemon zest, butter, and vanilla extract mixture.
Powdered sugar is mixed to the lemon zest, butter, and vanilla extract mixture.

Then add in the heavy cream and mix until the icing is smooth but can still hold its shape.

Heavy cream is added to the powdered sugar, lemon zest, butter, and vanilla extract mixture.

Scoop the frosting into a piping bag with a star tip and then pipe onto cupcakes, cake layers, or any other treat you've baked!

Hot Tip: Always make sure baked goods have cooled completely to room temperature before adding buttercream frosting!

Lemon cupcake with lemon slice garnish unwrapped from the liner.

For an extra lemon pop on your cupcakes or treats, garnish with lemon slices, sanding sugar, sprinkles, or even candied lemon slices.

How to Store Leftover Lemon Buttercream

Leftover buttercream frosting can be stored for later! Transfer the leftover frosting to an airtight container and then store it in the refrigerator for up to a week. Be sure to stir the frosting well before using it.

You can also freeze leftover lemon frosting! Just transfer it to an airtight container and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you are ready to use it, allow to thaw in the fridge overnight.

Lemon cupcakes with lemon slice garnish in a cupcake tin.

How to Thicken Lemon Buttercream Frosting

If you follow this recipe well, you shouldn't have to thicken up the frosting. However, every now and then frosting just thins out or needs more structure for various reasons. If that is the case, there a couple things that you can try.

One of the most simple tricks is simply leaving the frosting in the fridge for a bit to chill. This makes it a bit more sturdy, but keep in mind that it will still soften in a warmer temperature.

You can also simply add more confectioner's sugar! Mixing in more confectioners’ sugar will thicken the frosting well. Just be sure you don't add too much because it could make a frosting too dry and grainy.

Cornstarch is also an easy way to make a stiffer buttercream. Just add about ½ teaspoon and mix until the icing reaches the texture needed.

Lemon cupcake with a bite taken out of it.

Tips for Success

Check out these simple tips to make sure you make the best lemon frosting:

  • To create the best flavor, be sure to only get the yellow part of the peel when zesting a lemon. The white part will be quite bitter and will likely effect the flavors of your frosting.
  • Carefully scrape the sides of the bowl and bottom of the bowl as you are making this lemon frosing recipe. This will help ensure that all ingredients get thoroughly incorporated together.
  • Always let butter soften well before creating frosting. If you try to start with cold butter, this process will take forever and end result may not end up as creamy and luscious.
Lemon cupcakes with lemon slice garnish in a cupcake tin. Lemon cupcakes on a wooden serving platter in the background.

FAQ

Does lemon juice cut the sweetness of buttercream?

The tangy flavor of lemon juice does help to balance the sweetness of a sugary buttercream. It is one of the many reasons why people love to bake with lemon! Sugar and tart citrus are a match made in heaven.

What piping tip should I use with buttercream?

Buttercream works well with many different piping tip shapes. I personally use the star tip, but you could also use a petal tip, round tip or anything else that you think would be fun!

Six lemon cupcakes with lemon garnish slices on a wooden serving platter.

More Lemon Dessert Recipes

Did you make this recipe?

If you make and love this recipe, please leave a ★★★★★ review below! It means so much to me when you try my recipes, and I'd love to know how it goes. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions.

Lemon cupcakes with lemon slice garnish in a cupcake tin. Lemon cupcakes on a wooden serving platter in the background.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

This sweet and tangy lemon buttercream frosting is so tasty! Just whip it up in about 10 minutes and use it on top of any delicious baked good.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 3 cups
Author: Madison Wetherill

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted butter softened
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • zest from one lemon
  • juice from half a lemon

Instructions

  • Use a hand mixer or stand mixer to cream butter and vanilla together.
  • Add ½ cup of powdered sugar and mix.
  • Then add in lemon zest and juice.
  • Continue adding powdered sugar ½ cup at a time until the icing is thickened.
  • Add heavy cream and keep mixing until icing should be smooth but hold its shape fairly well.
  • Then pipe icing onto room-temperature cupcakes, cakes, or cookies!

Nutrition

Calories: 193kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 22mg | Sodium: 14mg | Sugar: 30g

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