This lemon buttercream frosting is easy to make, sweet and puckery, and light and fluffy. Perfect for you cakes and cupcakes to frost with!
Pucker up, baby we’re talking lemon buttercream frosting today. Mmm, lemon. <– Have to admin…that is a funny sentence for me to say. I didn’t used to be such a “lemon girl”. Growing up it was chocolate or forget it.
But I guess I’m getting all sorts of sophisticated now and my palette is expanding. Or I got a little wiser? Because I was missing out as a kid! Lemon desserts might just be my new favorite thing.
Is it any surprise then that I actually started this blog with sharing a lemon pound cake recipe? I suppose not as I look back. And here we are again. Another lemon recipe. Lemon buttercream frosting that is fresh and bright and bursting with lemon flavor. It starts with my simple vanilla American buttercream frosting and then I add to it some fresh lemon juice and lemon zest for a puckery punch to your taste buds.
What Is American Buttercream Icing?
American icing or American buttercream (ABC) is probably that buttercream you had at that last kid’s birthday party you went too. Or that kind you grew up on.
Sometimes it gets a bad rep for being too sweet. Or grainy. Ugh. But I promise you this recipe is not. American buttercream is one of the beaten butter types of buttercream. Flour buttercream (ermine frosting) and German buttercream also fall into this category. This type of buttercream is made by first beating the butter and then adding in a sweet base. In this case, powdered sugar.
What Are The Main Types Of Buttercream Frosting?
There are 6 main types of buttercreams and they fall into two categories – creamed butter and cubed butter. In fact, if you want to learn how to make all 6 buttercreams, and master making frosting once and for all be sure to check out my Buttercream Basics Guide
American buttercream falls into the creamed butter category is by far the easiest of all the buttercreams to make. German buttercream or ermine frosting are two more creamed butter buttercreams similar to American buttercream. A little more involved but less sweet.
You can read about all the different Types Of Frosting here.
- Unsalted butter: I always recommend using unsalted butter vs. salted butter so you can control the amount of salt.
- Powdered sugar: Or confectioners sugar (or icing sugar). I don’t sift mine in as I find that as long as I mix it long enough I don’t have lumps.
- Heavy cream: This helps thin out the frosting, and add some richness, but milk would also work
How Do You Make This Lemon Buttercream Frosting?
So simple, you ready? Ok here is a step by step photo tutorial of how to make this buttercream.
Step 1: Cream butter
You want to do this first before adding any powdered sugar. You can make this in your stand mixer (which is what I prefer) but you can use a hand mixer as shown below. I like to add my zest at this point to help break up the zest and infuse the lemon flavor throughout.
Step 2: Add powdered sugar
Do this a 1/2 cup at a time. Then mix until incorporated. Be sure to start your mixer on low or otherwise you will have it everywhere!
Step 3: Add remaining ingredients
Now add the lemon juice, heavy cream and vanilla. Sometimes I found the buttercream would curdle when the juice was added but it smoothed back out.
Step 4: Mix on high speed
You want to do this for 8 minutes. Yup 8! But it’s worth it 🙂
Step 5: Frost and enjoy!
I used my perfect vanilla cupcake recipe for these. But it works great on these easy one bowl chocolate cupcakes as well. If you need some help baking the perfect cupcakes here are 15 tips to help you bake them a like a pro.
And if you need help frosting, then check out this post on how to frost the perfect cupcake (+ video!).
You can also learn how to master all 6 buttercreams in my Buttercream Basics Guide!
- Use softened butter to achieve the best consistency. You can soften your butter quickly if you forget to take it out ahead of time. Click here for 3 ways to soften your butter quickly.
- Scrape down your bowl. Be sure to scrape down the bowl from time to time so it’s all being incorporated.
- Mix for a long time. Make sure to whip this buttercream for a full 8 minutes to get a light airy fluffy consistency. If you are using a hand mixer this will take longer.
For Cupcakes – This recipe will generously frost 12 cupcakes. I like to pipe a pretty tall amount of frosting on each cupcake. So if you don’t use as much as I do as in the photos, then you might get more frosted (around 24 cupcakes). For help on decorating cupcakes, be sure to check out my The Ultimate Guide To Baking Cupcakes At Home and The Ultimate Guide To Making The Best Buttercream Icing.
For Cake – This frosting will cover a 9 x 13 sheet cake or a 2 layer 8-inch. For a larger cake like a 9-inch cake I’d make a double batch.
This can happen when adding the lemon juice, just keep mixing it and it will smooth back out.
Your lemon buttercream frosting if left at room temperature will be fine and not melt. In fact if you frost a cake with it, it will form an outer crust while still being soft in the middle and keeping the cake fresh. If it’s too hot or humid though the buttercream will melt, so best to store in the refrigerator.
You can also store this lemon frosting in your fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer as well for up to 3 months. When ready to use, allow it to thaw then re-whip until it’s light and fluffy again!
Yes! For up to 3 months. When ready to use, you want to thaw it overnight in the fridge and then rewhip for best consistency.
What can I use this Lemon frosting on?
You can add this to any thing you might want a big old layer of frosting on top! Here are a few recipes that I think would be perfect to pair with it:
More Buttercream Recipes
Tools Needed To Make To This Lemon Frosting Recipe:
- Kitchenaid Mixer– I use my Kitchenaid Mixer to make my frosting because it takes 8 minutes to mix.
- Mixing Bowls- (I have an assortment of mixing bowls but these bowls are my go to)
- Good quality whisk and spatula. These are a must and something you will use all the time!
- Angled spatula (if you do not want to use a piping bag for your frosting)
- Piping Bags- I like to use disposable 18-inch pastry bags
- Piping Tips- I use Atecco tips (for this cupcake I used the closed star tip)
If you love this tutorial, then let me know by leaving me a comment and star rating below! And if you want to learn more, then you be sure to check out my Buttercream Basics Guide where you will learn how to master 6 buttercream recipes, how to fill a piping bag, customize a vanilla buttercream, and so much more!
Lemon Buttercream Frosting
- 1 1/4 cups (283 g, 2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter softened
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 4 cups (452 g) confectioners sugar
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoona vanilla extract
- Cream the butter and zest together on medium speed for about 1-2 minutes.
- Then add in the powdered sugar, with the mixer off 1/2 cup at a time. And the mix on low until combined.
- Then increase the speed for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Add the heavy cream, lemon juice, and vanilla. Mix on low until combined. It may curdle at this point but will smooth out during mixing.
- Mix for 8 minutes until light and fluffy.
- When ready to use, with a pastry bag and tip attached, pipe the frosting on each cupcake.
- Tools: Kitchenaid Mixer | spatula | Angled spatula | disposable 18-inch pastry bags | Atecco tips
- Storage: If not using right away, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Whip Again. If you store the buttercream in your fridge, then you will need to rewhip the frosting until fluffy again before you use it.
- Freezing: Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and then rewhip for best consistency.
- For Cupcakes – This recipe will generously frost 12 cupcakes. I like to pipe a pretty tall amount of frosting on each cupcake. So if you don’t use as much as I do as in the photos, then you might get more frosted (around 24 cupcakes). For help on decorating cupcakes, be sure to check out my The Ultimate Guide To Baking Cupcakes At Home and The Ultimate Guide To Making The Best Buttercream Icing.
- For Cake – This frosting will cover a 9 x 13 sheet cake or a 2 layer 8-inch. For a larger cake like a 9-inch cake I’d make a double batch and freeze any leftover buttercream.
- Lemon: You could make this recipe with any citrus your heart desires! Try orange, lime, or grapefruit!