This Lemon Buttercream is sweet but packs a punch when it comes to the fresh lemon flavor — which is completely fresh thanks to using fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and NO artificial lemon extract. 

Where are my lemon lovers at?! You have got to try this amazing lemon buttercream on my homemade lemon cupcakes and on my Lemon Bar Cake. I’m a big fan of lemon desserts because they taste SO fresh! My Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies is another winner. The cookies are filled with The Most Amazing Lemon Curd that makes me crave spring time with every bite. 

Lemon cupcakes topped with Lemon Buttercream and a fresh lemon wedge on a white background.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Fresh ingredients. This fresh lemon buttercream has absolutely no lemon extract in it! It’s all just fresh lemon juice and lemon zest — providing a bright lemon flavor. 
  • Easy lemon buttercream recipe. This recipe only calls for butter, powdered sugar, fresh lemon, heavy cream, and salt. It comes together really easily and makes a deliciously smooth and zesty frosting. 
  • No food coloring. This lemon buttercream is naturally colored from the lemon juice and lemon zest — no artificial coloring here! 

Ingredient Notes

Lemon Buttercream frosting ingredients portioned into glass bowls on a white marble table.
  • Unsalted Butter: Use room temperature butter to make beating the frosting a bit easier. 
  • Powdered Sugar: If you want to sift the powdered sugar, you’ll get an extra smooth texture. Measure the sugar, then sift. 
  • Fresh Lemons: You’ll want fresh lemons for this lemon buttercream recipe! You’ll use the lemon juice and the zest of the lemons. Using fresh lemon in lemon recipes is always a winner! 
  • Heavy Cream: I recommend using heavy cream over milk to give a creamier texture to the lemon frosting recipe. 
  • Salt: The salt adds a nice balance to the lemon buttercream frosting recipe and helps marry the sweet and zesty flavor profiles.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Beat the butter. Add 1 cup softened butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream on medium speed until nice and smooth. 
  2. Add the remaining ingredients. Add 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons heavy cream, 1 tablespoon lemon zest, and 1/4 tsp salt. Beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Frost. Place the lemon buttercream in a piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes or cake. Enjoy! 
Three images side by side: left photo is 2 sticks of butter in glass bowl. Middle image is powdered sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice in glass bowl. Right photo is lemon frosting in glass bowl.

Recipe Tips

This recipe makes enough lemon frosting to frost 16 cupcakes. 

If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use an electric mixer and a large bowl. 

Feel free to add more heavy cream if needed, to help the consistency of the frosting.

Since the lemon juice is really liquidy, I recommend using heavy cream and not milk to ensure a creamy lemon buttercream. 

You can use yellow food coloring if you want, but I love the natural color from the lemon juice and lemon zest. Adding yellow food coloring will make it a very bright yellow color. 

If you’re wanting an even punchier flavor, I would add extra lemon zest. You don’t want too much lemon juice or else you’ll have a harder time getting the right consistency due to excess liquid and a risk of curdling. 

Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing

Store this lemon frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

After freezing or refrigerating, bring the leftover frosting back to room temperature and mix for a few seconds until the frosting reaches a fluffy consistency again. Add a splash of heavy cream or milk if it’s still too stiff.

Recipe FAQs

Can I add lemon extract?

Technically, yes. But I find that using fresh lemon juice and fresh lemon zest provides a zestier lemon flavor that doesn’t taste fake at all. 

What if I don’t have lemon zest?

You really want fresh lemons for this recipe! I don’t recommend substituting the lemon zest. You won’t get as fresh of a lemon flavor — plus if you get the fresh lemons, you can use the juice and the zest — win win! 

Can I use bottled lemon juice?

Yes, but again, you want the fresh lemon zest, so you might as well use the fresh juice of the lemons! 

Why is there so much sugar?

First, it is a frosting, so it will be sweet! But what we’re also trying to combat is the sour nature of the lemon and reduce the risk of the lemon curdling the frosting. The ratio of powdered sugar in this recipe helps us not get a curdled frosting, provides that sweetness, without removing the tart, zesty lemon flavor. 

A lemon cupcake topped with a swirl of Lemon Buttercream.

More Frosting Recipes

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A lemon cupcake topped with a swirl of Lemon Buttercream.
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Lemon Buttercream

This lemon buttercream frosting is sweet but also packs a punch when it comes to lemon flavor. This frosting tastes fresh (not artificial) thanks to the fresh lemon juice and lemon zest in this recipe.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Mixing Time: 4 minutes
Total Time: 9 minutes
Servings: 16 servings


  • 1 cup unsalted butter - softened to room temperature
  • 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest - feel free to add more if you want an even strong and more pungent lemon flavor.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or using a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar, lemon juice, heavy cream, lemon zest, and salt and mix on low until combined, then mix on medium speed for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add additional heavy cream if the frosting is too stiff, and if the mixture is too thin add powdered sugar a spoonful at a time. 
  • This lemon frosting can be covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator for 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. After freezing or refrigerating, bring the frosting back to room temperature and mix for a few seconds so that the frosting is smooth and creamy again. You may need to add a splash of heavy cream or milk if it’s still too stiff. 


For an even punchier lemon flavor, add more zest. Don’t add more lemon juice or the consistency will be off. 
You want the right ratio of sugar to lemon or else the frosting will curdle. 
This recipe makes enough frosting to frosting 16 cupcakes.


Calories: 240kcal (12%)Carbohydrates: 34g (11%)Protein: 0.2gFat: 12g (18%)Saturated Fat: 8g (40%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 33mg (11%)Sodium: 39mg (2%)Potassium: 10mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 33g (37%)Vitamin A: 383IU (8%)Vitamin C: 2mg (2%)Calcium: 6mg (1%)Iron: 0.03mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
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