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Small Batch Lemon Buttercream Frosting

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Zesty small batch lemon buttercream frosting to brighten all of your cakes and cupcakes!  This easy recipe combines a few simple ingredients to make light and fluffy lemon frosting.  With fresh lemon juice and zest, this buttercream frosting is lip-puckering delicious!

Creamy small batch lemon buttercream frosting on a whisk surrounded by fresh lemon sliced.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

If you have been here a while, you may know I adore lemon.  Mini lemon cakes, iced lemon loaf, lemon cupcakes … and I am delighted I now have a bright lemony frosting to crown these small batch bakes!  

This frosting is a slight departure from my go-to butter-free vanilla frosting.  But, I decided to spread my wings and embrace the velvety goodness of true buttercream.  And with this recipe, I think I have found the best way to make frosting that is light and fluffy with an almost whipped-like consistency.

My method for light buttercream involves 2 key components:

  1. Add more heavy cream than you would normally think.
  2. Mix the frosting for longer than you would normally think.

The end result with be a light, yet stable, frosting that is easily piped onto cakes, cupcakes, or dolloped on top of lemon cookies!

Pretty lemony buttercream on a single cupcake on a mini stand.

Easy Ingredients For Lemon Frosting

  • Fresh Lemon – We use the juice and zest from the half of 1 lemon.  
  • Unsalted Butter – I opt for unsalted since I add my own salt.
  • Powdered Sugar – The real key to buttercream frosting.
  • Heavy Cream – I recommend heavy cream for a true creamy texture and flavor.  You can sub in milk if that’s all you have.
  • Salt – Salt is almost a must to balance the sweetness of the frosting.

The Best Equipment To Make Buttercream

Even though this is a small batch, I highly encourage you to make the lemon buttercream frosting with your stand mixer.  The caveat – you will want a smaller mixing bowl for the mixer.  If you use a tilt-head stand mixer, a 3-quart mixing bowl will fit the mixer and you can use the standard attachments.

The reason to use a stand mixer:  we mix the frosting for upwards of 5 minutes.  

You certainly can use your hand held mixer.  Just keep in mind your arm will get quite a workout with the long mix time!

Smooth lemon buttercream swirled in a pretty glass jar.

Tips To Make Lemon Frosting

  • The butter should be cool room temperature.  We don’t want to use butter that too warm because it will make the frosting greasy.  If you touch the butter with your fingertip, the butter should feel cool to the touch, while leaving a subtle imprint.
  • Use fresh lemon.  This way you get pure lemon flavor in your lemon buttercream frosting.  Plus, the lemon zest will really take the lemon flavor to the next level!
  • Beat the butter until it is creamy.  You do want to take the time to beat the butter by itself until it gets smooth and creamy.  This will yield the smooth and creamy frosting.
  • Beat the frosting for 3 to 5 minutes.  The more the frosting has time to mix, the more air that is incorporated and the lighter it will be.  I’ve seen chef’s mix the frosting for upwards of 10 minutes!  But I have cupcakes to eat!
  • Adjust to get your desired consistency.  More powdered sugar will mean a thicker frosting.  A couple extra splashes of cream will mean a lighter frosting.
  • Don’t forget the salt.  Make no mistake – the frosting is sweet.  Salt will balance the sweetness.
Zesty frosting swirled on a small batch of cupcakes on a cupcake stand.

Serving Suggestions

The sky is nearly the limit on what you can use the lemon buttercream frosting for.  But, to save you time researching, bookmark these delicious bakes!

Lemon frosting on top of a fluffy cupcake on a mini cupcake stand.

Lemon Frosting FAQ

How many cupcakes and/or what size cake will this recipe frost?

You can easily frost 4 to 6 cupcakes, or a small 6-inch cake.

How long can I leave the frosting at room temperature.

On a cake or cupcake, the lemon buttercream frosting is fine at room temp for up to 2 days. I do recommend covereing your baked good though to keep it from drying out.

Does the frosting dry hard?

Not really. It is a stable frosting that will stay creamy. Though you may notice a slight crust on the outside, especially if you live in a dry climate.

How long will the frosting last?

If not using right away, keep the frosting covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Then bring to room temperature and mix it again to use.

Can I freeze buttercream frosting?

You can. Place in a tightly covered container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, then follow the above steps to use. Just note, the consistency may not be the same as when it was fresh.

Fluffy lemon buttercream frosting on a mixer whisk arranged on a table with lemons.
Creamy small batch lemon buttercream frosting on a whisk surrounded by fresh lemon sliced.
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Small Batch Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Yield: 6 Servings
Zesty small batch lemon buttercream frosting to brighten all of your cakes and cupcakes!  This easy recipe combines a few simple ingredients to make light and fluffy lemon frosting.  With fresh lemon juice and zest, this buttercream frosting is lip-puckering delicious!
Prep15 minutes
Total15 minutes


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar (sift for best results)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest (optional; about 1/2 a lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (from 1/2 a lemon)


  • In a medium mixing bowl, add the butter. Using a hand held mixer with beater attachments, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar, salt, and cream and beat on medium speed until combined and the frosting begins to get creamy. Add the remaining powdered sugar continue to beat until combined. Tip – See Notes for how to use your stand mixer.
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
  • Switch to the whisk attachments on your mixer. Add the lemon zest to the frosting. Turn the mixer on medium-high speed and drizzle in the lemon juice. Continue to mix for about 3 to 5 minutes – the frosting will start to get fluffy and light. At this point, you can add a little more cream or powdered sugar to get your desired frosting consistency. I prefer my frosting lighter and often add a splash more cream.
    ½ teaspoon lemon zest, 1 tablespoons heavy cream, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 pinch salt
  • The frosting is ready to use immediately, or can be stored in a covered container and refrigerated for up to 1 week. If refrigerating, bring the frosting to room temperature to use. I also recommend giving it another mix to lighten and loosen.
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  • Serving Size – This is a small batch recipe that can easily be doubled.
  • Yield – As written, the recipe will make enough frosting for 4 to 6 cupcakes (depending on how much frosting you like), or a small 6-inch cake.
  • Stand Mixer – You can use your standard tilt-head stand mixer and attachments with a small 3 quart mixing bowl.  Note that when creaming the butter, you will want to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Even though it is a smaller bowl, the butter may want to stick to the sides.
  • Frosting Consistency – I prefer a lighter, fluffier frosting.  I usually add a splash or two more of the cream to make the frosting lighter.  Otherwise, as written, the frosting will be sturdy and easily piped.  Feel free to add more powdered sugar if you like a super-thick frosting.
  • Mix Time – After adding all the ingredients, you will want to mix the frosting for at least 3 to 5 minutes to achieve a light and fluffy frosting.  This is where using your stand mixer comes in handy!
  • Storage – The frosting is room temperature stable for up to 2 days.  If you are not using the frosting right away, I recommend refrigerating it in a covered container for up to 1 week.  When ready to use, bring to room temp and mix it again to get it fluffy.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Erin Cernich


Calories: 176kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 0.1g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 18mg | Sodium: 2mg | Potassium: 7mg | Fiber: 0.03g | Sugar: 29g | Vitamin A: 212IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 0.03mg
Nutrition information is calculated by a third-party and should only be considered an estimate and not a guarantee.
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about the author ...

I'm Erin and I'm all about desserts - and a little bit of butter!

I've tested, written, and photographed hundreds of recipes on my website. Here you'll find the tastiest small batch gluten free and traditional desserts - all homemade, all simple, and all for you! Click here to learn more about me!

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