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This lemon buttercream frosting has serious flavor to it! It’s made with both lemon juice and lemon zest for that extra flavor punch. This icing is perfect to add to all your favorite Spring desserts!
Buttercream is seriously so easy to make and even easier to flavor! All you need are some simple pantry basics and flavoring and you can make any frosting, like this lemon buttercream frosting!
When I was in pastry school we did a whole session on making buttercream and frostings, and we were able to make them in any flavor we wanted. I remember being so overwhelmed with the possibilities that I couldnt pick just one flavor!
Lemon desserts are one of my absolute favorite things to make so I’m super excited to share this easy and bright recipe with you. This lemon icing is light and fluffy and is bursting with lemon flavor. Its also easy to make and absolutely divine over lemon cupcakes or strawberry lemon cupcakes.
Pro tip- When making frosting, its important to get the consistency right. Learn how to thicken frosting quickly for the best results!
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Not only do you have fresh lemon juice but you also have a ton of zest mixed right into the icing. I wanted to really make sure you would get that bright lemon flavor and not just a dull hint to it.
- Also this recipe only takes 5 minutes to make!
- It’s also the perfect frosting to go on top of my vanilla cupcake recipe.
Ingredients you need
- 2 lemons- for bright fresh flavor
- Confectioners sugar- this is the base of the frosting
- Unsalted butter – at room temperature- to make it all creamy
- Milk- to loosen it up
- Pinch of salt (optional)- to bring out the flavor
How to make Lemon Buttercream Frosting
- Combine the butter and confectioners sugar in a stand or hand mixer bowl and beat on low speed working your way up to medium as it gets incorporated. About 2-3 minutes.
- Scrape down the bowl and turn the mixer back on low speed.
- Add in the lemon zest, juice, milk, and salt if using and beat for 2-3 minutes on medium speed, thats it!
Whats the difference between buttercream and frosting?
Put it this way- all buttercream is frosting, but not all frosting is buttercream.
There are many different types of buttercream out there. You can have Swiss meringue, French, Italian, American, and even others! Swiss, French, and Italian buttercream all have the addition of egg in it.
For these types you will heat the egg with the sugar to form a type of meringue which you’ll turn into buttercream.
American buttercream does not use an egg in the recipe and is composed of mainly confectioners sugar, butter, milk, and flavoring. This recipe is an American buttercream recipe.
There can be other types of frosting too. You can have whipped cream frosting as well as ganache as a frosting, but they are not buttercream!
Hope that makes sense! I am always happy to answer you buttercream questions so feel free to ask in the comment section!
This recipe makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes or to fill and frost an 8″ 2 layer cake.
Storing and Freezing
You can keep the frosting on the counter at room temperature sealed in some plastic wrap. This way you don’t have to clean up a bowl!
You can store the buttercream in an airtight container for 2-3 months. Let it defrost in the fridge before using.
Ways to use the frosting
- On one bowl lemon cupcakes
- As a filling and frosting for layer cakes
- To sandwich between lemon shortbread cookies
Faq for lemon buttercream
Can I use bottled lemon juice?
You can but I don’t recommend it as the flavor wont be as strong because you wont have the zest!
Can I use lemon extract?
Yes but you only need a little. Lemon extract I very concentrated so you only need a drop, maybe two. You might also need to add some more milk to make up for the loss of liquid in the recipe.
Will this recipe curdle?
It shouldnt! A buttercream can curdle if there is too much lemon juice in the recipe. Add 1/3 cup more powdered sugar if it looks curdled and then mix!
Does my butter really need to be room temperature?
The butter needs to be room temperature so that it creams well with the sugar. If it is too cold they wont mix well together and you will end up with a clumpy mixture instead of a creamy mixture. Learn how to soften butter quickly.
More frosting recipes
Zesty Lemon Buttercream Frosting
- 3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 2 tsp lemon juice fresh
- 1 tbsp milk
- pinch kosher salt optional
- In the bowl of a hand or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the 3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar and 1 cup softened butter. Mix on low speed working up to medium as the sugar combines with the butter. About 2-3 mins.
- Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Add the 2 tsp lemon zest and lemon juice.
- Turn the mixer back to low speed and add 1 tbsp milk, and the pinch of salt if using. Mix on medium for 3 minutes and enjoy!
Ingrid Smith says
How long can you leave it “on the counter” before using? How long can it be refrigerated before use? Looking at making this weekend for next weekend.
Sam Adler says
Hi Ingrid! I would leave it on the counter just overnight or up to 12 hours. Otherwise I would refrigerate it and then take it out an hour or so before use so that it loosens up a bit. You can totally make it a week in advance and keep it in the fridge. You might need to rewhip it if its too hard when you take it out of the fridge. Hope this helps!