Lemon buttercream made from grated lemon zest and freshly squeezed lemon juice. This buttercream frosting is zesty and bursting with flavour. It's perfect for icing cakes, cupcakes or macarons.
Making lemon buttercream from scratch is very easy and uses 4 simple ingredients. All you will need is unsalted butter, icing (powdered) sugar, lemons and a little double cream or milk.
The resulting buttercream is full of lemon flavour and the perfect creamy consistency for filling, topping and icing. It would also go really well with a layer of lemon curd.
This is a classic buttercream using fresh ingredients to flavour it. You could, in a pinch, use lemon extract but since good quality fresh lemons are available just about anywhere I don't see any reason you would need to use extract.
You might think the acidity of fresh lemon juice in buttercream would curdle it. If you use the ingredients in the quantities listed I promise you it will be beautifully smooth, easy to pipe and won't curdle.
What you need
- Unsalted butter: Make sure you take the butter out of the fridge and let it soften before you make the buttercream.
- Icing (powdered) sugar: Also known as confectioner's sugar, depending on where you live. This type of sugar is used because it is very fine and dissolves leaving the buttercream smooth and not grainy.
- Lemon zest and juice: the buttercream is flavoured with fresh lemons which makes it taste bright and zingy.
- Double (heavy) cream: the double cream gives the buttercream a thick and creamy texture and helps to stop it from curdling. You can use milk if you don't have double cream.
How to make it
Scroll down to the bottom of the page for quantities and full instructions. Use the images below and the recipe video above to help you.
Making fresh lemon buttercream is really quick and easy. You can use a handheld whisk (plus elbow grease!), an electric whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Step One: Put the softened butter into a mixing bowl and beat until pale and creamy.
Step Two: Add the icing sugar a little at a time - otherwise, you'll end up in a cloud of sugar! Beat in between each addition.
Step Three: Add the lemon zest and juice and beat well.
Top tip: roll the lemons on the surface to release the juice before you zest them. Once zested cut the lemons in half and extract the required amount of lemon juice. Leftover lemon juice can be added to ice cube trays and frozen to be used another time.
Step Four: Finally, add the double cream (or milk) and beat until smooth, fluffy and creamy.
Is your buttercream too thick or runny? Don't panic! Do the following:
- Too thick: Add double cream or milk a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.
- Too thin: Add icing sugar a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.
Does lemon buttercream harden?
To begin with, the lemon buttercream will be smooth and creamy. Eventually, it will harden, this usually happens if it's exposed to the air or put in the fridge.
Someone once wrote to me to complain that the Nutella Buttercream from my Kinder Cake recipe went hard after putting the cake in the fridge. Well...
As buttercream is made up of butter it will definitely harden when it gets cold! Imagine taking a block of butter out of the fridge, it will soften at room temperature, right? Then when you put that butter back in the fridge it will harden.
The same thing will happen with buttercream, whether it's spread over a cake or kept in a container. All you need to do is take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature before you eat it.
Lemon buttercream Q&A
A perfect alternative to buttercream is Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It doesn't use icing sugar so is not as sweet. A good example is this Lotus Biscoff Cupcake recipe.
Not if you use the correct quantity of icing sugar and add a small amount of double cream or milk.
No, increase the amount of icing (powdered) sugar instead.
Add milk or cream a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.
Yes, you can replace the butter and milk used in the recipe for plant-based versions.
You can spread it on using an offset spatula or use a piping bag fitted with a piping nozzle. My favourite tips for piping buttercream are a large open star nozzle, a Wilton 1M or 8B.
More Lemon Recipes You'll Love
- Lemon Cake
- Lemon Drizzle Cupcakes
- Easy Lemon Tart
- White Chocolate and Lemon Truffles
- Lemon Cheesecake
- Lemon Cordial
- Lemon Possets
- 220g (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 500g (2.25 cups) icing sugar, (powdered, confectioner's sugar)
- 2 lemons zested
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons double cream, (heavy cream) or milk
- Put the soft butter (220g) into a large mixing bowl and beat until pale and creamy.
- Add the icing sugar (500g) a little at a time beating well in between each addition.
- Add the lemon zest (of 2 lemons) and juice (2 tbsps) and beat well.
- Add the double cream (2 tbsps) or milk and beat until smooth, fluffy and creamy.
- Use to fill and top a two layer 8" cake or to ice 16 cupcakes.
This recipe makes enough to ice 16 cupcakes or 2 8" (20cm) cakes.
I used this buttercream to fill and top my Lemon Cake.
Storage: Buttercream can be stored in a container in the fridge for 1 week. It can be frozen for up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature or thoroughly defrost before using/eating.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 227Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 7gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 32mgSodium: 3mgCarbohydrates: 31gSugar: 31gProtein: 1g