Icings, Frostings & Sauces/ Recipes

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Tart, sweet, this lemon buttercream frosting is dessert heaven!

I knew this was coming.

I knew this was coming and I just stood there like a deer in the headlights, waiting. Because when I perfected my icing recipe to my taste and liking, we all knew that I had to add lemon. Because that’s what I do to everything and anything I can. Add lemon.

Because lemon makes life better.


You’d better hold on to your spoons.

Because this one is irresistible.


Ingredients needed:

1 cup of salted butter

4 cups of icing sugar

2 tablespoons lemon zest

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons cream

Whip your butter with the paddle attachment if you have one, or just a general beater with your mixer.

Add in your icing sugar, one cup at a time, beating continuously. Now 2 tablespoons lemon zest worked wonderfully for me. Zested peel should not be done on a regular grater, by the way, you need a smaller size, a zester grater, in fact. The size is perfect without being overwhelming chunks in your cooking.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

The 3 tablespoons of lemon juice was just perfect for my tastes, zingy and zippy with a sweet background of pure sugar and butter. I then added the 2 teaspoons of cream to thin it out.

And THEN….then, I put it on my lemon blueberry coffee cake, (recipe coming in the next couple of days) took half to my work, where the ladies promptly raved over the icing and demolished it all, and half went to my son’s school for the teacher’s lunchroom.

Happy baking everyone!

Make sure that you also get my recipe for the Best Buttercream Icing Recipe Ever!


The BEST lemon buttercream frosting ever! One taste of this tart and sweet delight will have you in dessert heaven!


5 from 2 votes
Lemon Buttercream Frosting
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
1 min
Total Time
6 mins
Delicious lemon buttercream frosting, the perfect topping for any cake or cupcake.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Frosting
Calories: 3544 kcal
Author: Karlynn Johnston
  • 1 cup of salted butter
  • 4 cups of icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cream
  1. Whip your butter with the paddle attachment if you have one, or just a general beater with your mixer.
  2. Add in your icing sugar, one cup at a time, beating continously. Now 2 tablespoons lemon zest worked wonderfully for me. Zested peel should not be done on a regular grater, by the way, you need a smaller size, a zester grater, in fact. The size is perfect without being overwhelming chunks in your cooking.
  3. The 3 tablespoons of lemon juice was just perfect for my tastes, zingy and zippy with a sweet background of pure sugar and butter. I then added the 2 teaspoons of cream to thin it out.
Nutrition Facts
Lemon Buttercream Frosting
Amount Per Serving (6 g)
Calories 3544 Calories from Fat 1683
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 187g 288%
Saturated Fat 118g 590%
Cholesterol 501mg 167%
Sodium 1635mg 68%
Potassium 100mg 3%
Total Carbohydrates 484g 161%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Sugars 471g
Protein 2g 4%
Vitamin A 116.4%
Vitamin C 39.9%
Calcium 7.1%
Iron 1.6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.



  • Reply
    Barbara O'Carroll
    August 31, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    “A pint is a pound the world around” was taught to my mother in HomeEc class almost 100 years ago. She taught me. Comes in handy to know though I often wonder if it is ALWAYS true.

    So, 1 cup should be 8 oz and in fact works with butter.

    A 1 pound package of butter has 4 sticks wrapped separately.
    Each stick is 1/2 cup.
    Hence 1 cup is 2 sticks And is also 1/2 the pound of butter or 8 ounces.

  • Reply
    Sarah Kathryn Mann
    August 6, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    Hi Karlynn!
    I love our website, especially your buttcream icing, which I make all the time! I recently tried your lemon version and it was fantastic! Just wondering if you have ever tried it with orange? I would assume I could use the same measurments…?

  • Reply
    June 25, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    Outstanding! Bright and fresh tasting, well-balanced. I put this on a lemon cake with raspberry filling and it was a huge hit at a birthday celebration. Afterward I sat myself down in the kitchen with the leftover frosting in a bowl with a smudge of raspberry filling stirred in and finished it off with a spoon.

  • Reply
    Kathy Pardell
    May 6, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    I have been looking for a great buttercream icing recipe and this was just perfect. So easy and delicious. I plan to use it on a lemon/raspberry layer cake that I’ll bake later but I wanted to make sure the icing would work out first.
    I’m with you…lemon flavor is the best!

  • Reply
    April 16, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    I used a microplane to zest my lemon, the zest kept putting tiny holes in my piping bag… any suggestions??

  • Reply
    Alexandra Richards
    April 5, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    Can you please clarify how much “1 cup of butter” is in grams or ounces?

  • Reply
    June 26, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    This recipe is WONDERFUL, Karlynn!  Thank you for sharing.  I’m experimenting with a lemon poppyseed chiffon cake and this icing looks like the perfect compliment.  Truly, I’d like to serve dallops of the icing on its own as a tea sweet; it’s just that  delectable!  I decreased the zest to approx. 1 Tbsp. (what I got off one med-lg. lemon)…and juiced the same lemon (juice measured 1/4 inch down from the top of my 1/4 cup measuring cup).  Super yummy!!!

  • Reply
    June 14, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    My sweetie asked me to bake her a lemon cake – I found a recipe I liked but wasn’t thrilled with the icing specs – yours sounds like it might be just right 🙂

    Can’t wait to try it on my lemon cake!

  • Reply
    April 13, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Just made this for a birthday cake – fabulous!! The only changes I made were I added the lemon juice to the butter as I was beating it first, so it was totally incorporated before I added the sifted sugar, so absolutely no curdling, and then I just folded the zest through at the end. No need for milk or cream as it was beautifully soft and spreadable. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Reply
      November 3, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      I never, ever, ever use milk or cream in my icing for food safety. Water works, just beat the heck out of it. That way, the cake doesn’t need to be refrigerated. (Butter really can sit out for a few hours, milk – not so much)

  • Reply
    March 19, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    Some great variations!

  • Reply
    March 19, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Easiest way to eliminate possibility of runny or curdled is leave out the half and half/milk. You don’t need it. Regular buttercream has 2 to 4 TBS milk and 1 tsp vanilla. Sub your lemon juice for milk and rind for vanilla. It is delicious.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2016 at 2:22 am

    YUMMY!!! I have been looking for the perfect lemon buttercream frosting. I have tried 3 other recipes and none are what I want. Can’t wait to try yours. Question : where do I get icing sugar? Is it the same as powdered sugar? What size and kind of lemon zest do i buy?

    [email protected]

    Love your blog.!♡

  • Reply
    February 7, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    She said “hold onto your spoon” and you better do just that! This is fantastic and lemony and not overwhelming. I added walnuts and frosted a spice cake with it. Delicious – thank you so much!!

  • Reply
    November 12, 2015 at 1:38 am

    Mine curdled too. I added flaked coconut to mask that. But dang it!

  • Reply
    October 14, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    I’ve since made this icing twice and it’s turned out perfectly. However I omit the cream (lactose intolerant) and add a dash of Vanilla extract. In fact, I used it yesterday to ice a cake for a woman at work. They love this icing and this cake. Lemon cream cheese butter cake with lemon buttercream icing with a swirl of raspberry/lemon icing in the middle.

    • Reply
      October 17, 2015 at 12:13 am

      NicoleElverd That sounds amazing! 

  • Reply
    October 14, 2015 at 4:35 am

    I tried this, and followed word for word and the icing turned out terrible. Its runny, looks curdled and you can only feel the sugar upon tasting. I do not reccomend trying.

    • Reply
      October 14, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      @Disappointing IF you can feel the sugar, you’ve absolutely used the wrong kind. Icing sugar is smooth as silk. Sounds like you used normal white sugar.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    first of all, loved loved the lemon cake & lemon frosting combo! my question is how did you get your frosting to turn out yellow, did you add food coloring? I just like the idea of yellow frosting to go with lemon cake.

    • Reply
      September 9, 2015 at 12:19 am

      @mommy_in_fl Yup just a little coloring!

  • Reply
    August 24, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Quick question, how much (in weight) is a cup of butter?  

  • Reply
    June 6, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    How do you prevent the buttercream from splitting? Mine has always split the moment I added lemon juice, no matter how well it was blended before the addition of the juice. Also, if I add whipping cream, the result has always been a complete disaster. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

    • Reply
      June 8, 2015 at 7:43 am

      @loplover Try making sure that everything is room temperature, that should help! And keep on beating it, sometimes just beating it until it comes together actually works!

    • Reply
      November 3, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      Try just using water to get the icing a good consistency. A teaspoon at a time. Teaspoon.

  • Reply
    May 31, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    Do you have to use icing sugar, I want to make this now but don’t have that type of sugar.

    • Reply
      June 8, 2015 at 7:42 am

      @arica612 Yes, it has to be icing sugar!

    • Reply
      November 19, 2015 at 1:57 am

      @arica612 it is also called powdered sugar, or confectioners sugar….  and if, on the longshot, you have a NutriBullet or similar, you can powder regular sugar in it.

  • Reply
    April 6, 2015 at 4:43 am

    I cut the sugar and the butter in 1/2 and omitted the cream.  Left the rest the same for a strong lemon taste for someone who loves a lot of lemon.  I had extra left after covering an 8 x 8  GF Betty Crocker that I turned into Lemon cake.  I warmed a little butter at the end and added to smooth it out.  Great flavor.  Used Trader Joes Powdered Sugar.

  • Reply
    March 12, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    I wish I could tell you how amazing this was, but it was completely disgusting. Probably twice the amount of butter I needed. The amount of grease in this was awful, and I followed this recipe to a T. I will never again use cream to thin out frosting, because it adds even more fat, unlike milk that has very low fat. It completely ruined my cupcakes, and I will never let frosting touch cupcakes again until I’ve tasted it. 

  • Reply
    February 18, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    Holy cats!!! this was absolutely perfect! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m excited to explore your site and try more recipes.

  • Reply
    January 28, 2015 at 12:29 am

    Hi, I was going to make a double layer 12 inch vanilla cake for my sisters shower and thought this would be great for a change. How many batches you think I would need? I’ve never made a cake this big before. I was also going to cover in fondant if this changes the amount of batchs I know you don’t need quiet as much on the out side.

  • Reply
    January 24, 2015 at 9:32 am

    This is such a great receipe 🙂 perfect all around texture and taste

  • Reply
    Sandy B
    January 3, 2015 at 6:01 am

    Love this cake, plan to make for a friend coming home from thenhospital

  • Reply
    Sandy B
    January 3, 2015 at 6:00 am

    [email protected]

  • Reply
    December 3, 2014 at 3:23 am

    Love it! Always trying to find the perfect lemon icing as its my hubbys fav with banana cake and this one is definitely my new go to!

  • Reply
    November 25, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Why salted butter? I’d like to make that frosting just want to make sure I’ll use the right better. Thanks 

    • Reply
      November 26, 2014 at 2:17 am

      PaskalinaFaro ALWAYS salted butter in icings to cut the sweet! That’s why most recipes just aren’t quite right, you need the salt to foil the sweet.

  • Reply
    November 6, 2014 at 4:23 am

    So glad I found your site and this amazing receipt, I made vanilla magacascar cupcakes and this icing was made for it. Thank you!!!!

  • Reply
    October 15, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    This is PERFECT! At first I thought, “Whoa! 2 Tblsp (4 small lemons) of zest!”….but it was exactly right. I am sooo picky about frosting, and I’ve been terribly disappointed with so many lemon recipes, but I could not have been more absolutely DELIGHTED with this. THANK YOU!!  (P.S. I didn’t need the cream. Maybe because my butter was reeeally soft…..in my hot climate.)

    • Reply
      October 16, 2014 at 3:22 pm

      onefootinfrontoftheother I am super glad that you liked it!!! I am a lemon addict so this is my very favorite icing! Thanks for letting me know!

  • Reply
    October 7, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    the lemon flavoring was to die for, i loved it! i thought it might taste to sweet or buttery but no, it was pefectly balanced. Thank you!

    • Reply
      October 8, 2014 at 1:01 pm

      @Jess I am SO glad that you liked it! Thanks for letting me know, I love hearing from readers!

  • Reply
    Lovin Life
    September 1, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Wow – so, so good. 5 stars.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2014 at 4:35 am

    Most awesome lemon icing ever! I followed recipe exactly and so happy with results! The one who commented saying it wasn’t like buttercream?? I don’t understand… They must have measured something wrong! This is the most wonderful lemon buttercream ever! The lemon zest made it very tasty! Thank you for sharing this!!!!

    • Reply
      July 4, 2014 at 3:02 am

      Maxsmom So glad that you liked it! Welcome to the site!!

  • Reply
    Patrick Wemitt
    March 16, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    This recipe is relatively easy to make and the directions are spot on. I wanted to add another shot of lemon juice to lend a bit more flavor but opted not to stay true to the recipe. When I added the lemon zest it made it really pop lemony! I’m going to use a lime filling for the cupcakes and frost with a light green lemon icing for St. Patty’s day!

  • Reply
    Patrick Wemitt
    March 16, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    This recipe is relatively easy to make and the directions are spot on. I wanted to add another shot of lemon juice to lend a bit more flavor but opted not to stay true to the recipe. When I added the lemon zest it made it really pop lemony! I’m going to use a lime filling for the cupcakes and frost with a light green lemon icing for St. Patty’s day!

  • Reply
    January 21, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    I made this recipe last night, I found this to be way too sweet.  It seemed to be more like traditional icing, rather then a rich butter cream.  No Complaints from my taste testers, but I think I will keep looking for a real butter cream.

    I followed this recipe exactly, don’t believe in modifications before I have tried the original.

  • Reply
    Kelly Baker
    December 14, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    I doubled the recipe to frost a layer cake and it was amazing.  I added more lemon because I wanted it a little tarter.  The texture was spot on fluffy and creamy.  Perfect!

    • Reply
      December 14, 2013 at 9:34 pm

      @Kelly Baker So glad you liked it!

  • Reply
    Karlynn Johnston
    August 14, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Thank you! It is one of my very favorites!

  • Reply
    August 14, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    This frosting is fabulous! Made it today to practice making a ‘rose cake’  next time I will have to at least triple this but it is definitely one of my favorite frostings…next to your chocolate one of course! Thanks for a great recipe!

  • Reply
    August 4, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    I dont have cream can i do it without cream?

  • Reply
    Karlynn Johnston
    April 6, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Coffee cream is a dairy cream, about 18% milkfat. Get close to that amount of fat if you can!

  • Reply
    April 5, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Hi karlynn,what kind of cream u use, non dairy cream ,dairy cream or cream that i never know? Tq

  • Reply
    March 23, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Hi! I made this icing today, but it seemed to curdle weirdly . It was smooth at first, but when I added the cream it curdled and looked lumpy. Was I just not mixing it enough? Not sure if the lemon juice curdled the cream or what, and how to make it better. Let me know what I can do!

  • Reply
    February 25, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    Used this on my lemon lavender cupcakes, came out amazing!! Good recipe!!

  • Reply
    August 14, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Oh YUMM-O!!!! Looks fabulous! I’ve made your regular buttercream icing and I’m trying out your chocolate one tonight. I seriously LOVE your creations. I haven’t been able to find a tip that looks like that when I pipe my icing onto my cupcakes. I first saw it on your grape cupcakes. PLEEEEASE tell me which one you use!!! 😛

    Big fan from Winnipeg! 🙂

    • Reply
      October 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm

      @Amanda I missed this question! Sorry about that ! It’s a wilton #8 tip!

  • Reply
    May 3, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    This sounds so yummy,I wanna make it, but I’m missing the cream. Do u think it’d be ok to add whipping cream instea?

  • Reply
    April 3, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Going to try this for Easter….will let you know but sounds yummy!

  • Reply
    Barbara Imes
    March 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    cannot wait to try it:)

  • Reply
    December 20, 2011 at 12:47 am

    Absolutely OUTSTANDING!!!!!!!!! icing!!!!!

  • Reply
    October 20, 2011 at 7:04 am


    Why did you use salted butter in this recipe.

    • Reply
      October 20, 2011 at 1:41 pm

      I use salted butter in all my icings. Salt cuts the sweet, adding another taste dimension to what usually is far too sweet for most people’s tastes. Works amazing!

      • Reply
        September 22, 2012 at 8:40 pm

        @Karlynn Is icing sugar the same as powdered sugar?

  • Reply
    October 6, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    I used this on my son’s rainbow birthday cake and it was seriously the best frosting I have EVER had. It will definitely be my go-to frosting from here on out. A million thank you’s!

    • Reply
      October 6, 2011 at 1:27 pm

      Glad it worked out! The lemon version is my favorite.

  • Reply
    October 1, 2011 at 5:37 am

    Just made your recipe but used lime instead (my fav!) Really a great icing. Thanks!

    • Reply
      October 1, 2011 at 2:36 pm

      You’re welcome, I am glad you liked it! The icing base lends itself to so many creations, lime sounds fantastic!

  • Reply
    August 8, 2010 at 5:15 am

    I used your “Lemon Buttercream Icing” recipe today for my lemon cream cake, and it turned out great!! Thank you so much! This is the first time I have made icing from scratch. I actually added 1 tsp. of vanilla, only because I LOVE vanilla extract. I will definitely use this for my icing again and again.


  • Reply
    July 30, 2010 at 5:20 am

    Made this frosting today for a velvet cake I made. It is so delicious and it goes well with the velvet cake. In fact I prefer this frosting over the traditional cream cheese frosting. It does need to be refrigerated when you are done at least where I live because it gets really hot (summertime). I like the texture both refrigerated and at room temperature. In fact while posting this comment I was eating my velvet cake with this frosting on it. Love the tangy fresh flavor. I did not have to add the cream as I decided to add 4 tablespoons of lemon juice and it brought the frosting to my desired consistency. Thanks so much.

  • Reply
    July 19, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    Awesome, I have been learning to decorate cakes for 4 months now and would love to have a change from plain butter cream just something to mix it up. This sounds yummy.

  • Reply
    April 26, 2010 at 3:44 am

    I can not wait! to try this recipe 🙂 I looove lemon and I have the perfect cookies to sandwich it with 🙂 I’ll make sure to tag you in my blog when I make them!

  • Reply
    February 6, 2010 at 5:53 am

    I rarely have time to bake, but since we are snowbound in Western Maryland, I’m going to play with your recipe on my 4 layer buttermilk cake. My family wants me to alternate layers of whipped cream, vanilla ice cream and lemon frosting, and after checking out a LOT of lemon icing recipes, this one looks just perfect! (The photo didn’t hurt either!) Thanks a bunch!

  • Reply
    January 26, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    This looks amazing and I’m always interested in a recipe with lemon. I’ll be trying this out very soon. I can even buy those exact same brands in my grocery stores.

  • Reply
    January 26, 2010 at 8:53 am

    This buttercream looks and sounds fantastic. I love the additions you made. I make a similar buttercream, so I’m sure I can remember the lemon part.

    @Melinda – you could also use milk. I’ve used whole and skim milk in buttercream frosting.

    P.S. I have the same mixer as you! I won it on pioneerwoman.com.

  • Reply
    January 25, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    I’m drooling over this…but I cannot make it because I will eat it all!

  • Reply
    melinda kumar
    January 25, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    just what i was looking for…but do you think i could add buttermilk instead of cream? i don’t want to make a trip to the store just for 2 teaspoons of cream…

    • Reply
      January 25, 2010 at 9:23 pm

      To be honest, I used SO little cream ( a mere two teaspoons, not tablespoons!) because the lemon juice really thins it out beautifully. I would think it would work just fine. You might not even need it, depending on the consistency you arrive at.

  • Reply
    chocolate shavings
    January 25, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    What’s not too like about lemon buttercream icing? Looks delicious!

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