Your taste buds are going to fall in love with this delicious lemon buttercream frosting. It’s similar to a classic buttercream frosting but has just the right amount of lemon flavor to pair with your favorite desserts. It’s ready in just 10 minutes, all while being thick, creamy, and fluffy.
I love that this frosting recipe is full of fresh lemon flavor without having to use fresh lemons or lemon juice. Sometimes lemon juice can curdle the frosting, so by using lemon extract we can avoid that without compromising the flavor.
Lemon lovers can’t resist my creamy lemon curd, lemon custard pie, lemon cheesecake dump cake, or lemon tart. I decorated my strawberry lemon cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting, but you could definitely use this lemon icing as well. Instead of our standard glaze, try today’s lemon buttercream frosting over our strawberry lemon blondies or slathered on top of strawberry cinnamon rolls!
What do I Need for this Recipe?
- unsalted butter – room temperature butter works best for this recipe because it’s easier to mix.
- confectioners’ sugar – provides sweetness and helps with consistency.
- lemon zest – read the tips below for zesting.
- lemon extract – adds bright lemon flavor without having to use fresh lemon juice and risk curdling the frosting.
- Pinch of salt – marries the flavors together. If you use salted butter, omit the salt.
- heavy cream – adds creaminess and helps to get the frosting to the right consistency.
This fluffy frosting goes great on lemon cupcakes, lemon layer cake, raspberry lemon cakes, and blueberry cinnamon rolls. You can also decorate the tops of soft sugar cookies with it or pipe it onto regular white cupcakes.
Electric mixer – a hand mixer or stand mixer will work.
Variations and Substitutions:
- Food coloring – we love the pale yellow look from the natural ingredients, but you can also use yellow food coloring to make it more vibrant.
- Cream substitute – if desired use whole milk or another milk substitute.
- Vegan – to make this lemon buttercream recipe vegan-friendly, swap the butter for vegan butter and use unsweetened almond milk in place of the cream. Vegan margarine can also be used.
- Lemon juice – if you don’t have lemon extract, use 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (fresh or bottled lemon juice). Avoid using too much lemon juice, or else it will ruin the frosting.
- Lemon Oil – this can be used in place of the extract, just remember you will need less since it has a higher concentration of lemon flavor.
PREP: Soften the butter at room temperature.
Step 1: In the bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl, whip the butter until fluffy using the whisk attachment.
Step 2: Add the powdered sugar, half at a time, and mix on low to medium speed until combined.
Pro Tip: Drape a towel over the bowl after adding the powdered sugar to cut down on the mess.
Step 3: Whisk in the lemon zest, extract, and salt. Keep the mixer on low speed and pour in the heavy cream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Step 4: Add more cream until the desired consistency is reached. Whip on high speed until the buttercream is light and fluffy.
SERVE: Use the buttercream to decorate a small cake, your favorite lemon dessert, or a delicious strawberry cake.
- When zesting, be sure to only use the yellow part of the peel. Once you start seeing the white, you need to zest a different part of the lemon. The white rind is very bitter.
- If you choose to tint the lemon frosting, always go with gel food coloring. You can use less and get the best results, plus they do not add more liquid to the frosting.
- For stiffer buttercream, add more confectioners’ sugar.
- To thin the frosting out, add more cream.
- Softened butter is much easier to mix and makes the frosting smoother.
- Use my cake-decorating tips and tutorials to learn piping techniques.
American buttercream frosting is just one of the 4 types of buttercream, is the easiest to make, and is one of the best when it comes to decorating.
Keep leftover frosting in an airtight container or in a bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Before using, add it back to a large mixing bowl and beat with a mixer until fluffy again. If needed, add a little milk until the consistency of the frosting is right for decorating.
To freeze, place the leftover buttercream in a freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and bring to room temperature before using. Re-whip if needed.
Yes as long as you apply a thin crumb coat. Adding frosting under fondant helps to hold it in place and stick to the cake better.
It can do so if too much lemon juice is used. This is one reason we recommend using lemon zest and lemon extract in place of lemon juice.
Lemon Buttercream Frosting
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter softened
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 1 ½ teaspoons lemon extract
- Pinch of salt
- 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
- Prepare the frosting by whipping the butter until fluffy with the whisk attachment of a stand mixer. Add in the powdered sugar, half at a time, and whisk on low until combined.
- Whisk in the lemon zest, lemon extract, and pinch of salt. With the mixer running on low speed, whisk in 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Add more cream until desired consistency is achieved. Whip on high speed for several minutes until frosting is light and fluffy.