Lemon cream cheese frosting is a creamy, silky-smooth frosting that's bursting with fresh lemon flavor. Top your next batch of lemon cupcakes with this easy homemade lemon frosting!
Fresh lemon and cream cheese frosting are a match made in heaven! This sweet and tangy frosting is the perfect addition to your next summertime cake.
This frosting is bursting with fresh flavor from the addition of fresh lemon zest and lemon juice. The best part? All you need are five ingredients and less than ten minutes to make this easy, no-cook frosting.
Ingredients and substitutions
For this recipe, it's very important to use the correct type of cream cheese. You'll need one 4 ounces of full-fat or "original" block-style cream cheese. Low-fat cream cheese or spreadable cream cheese in a tub will not work for this recipe. Using whipped or spreadable cream cheese will result in a runny frosting.
Unsalted butter can be substituted with salted butter if needed.
You'll need one medium lemon for this recipe - zest the entire lemon, then juice it into a small bowl. You'll use all of the lemon zest (where the most concentrated lemon flavor comes from), and part of the lemon juice.
Room temperature cream cheese
You'll need room temperature cream cheese and butter for this recipe. Set your ingredients out on the counter top about 1 hour before beginning and they should be the perfect consistency for mixing.
Room temperature does not = melted. Melted cream cheese and/or butter will make a thin, runny frosting. Your ingredients should be soft enough to press into with your finger and easily leave an impression, and should not feel cold.
Forget to set out your ingredients beforehand? Here are a few ways to bring your cream cheese to room temperature quickly:
- Unwrap your cream cheese and butter. Cut them into small cubes and set out on a plate for 15-20 minutes. This will help them come to room temperature much faster than if they were left whole.
- Place cold cream cheese and/or butter (separately) in the microwave and heat for 5-10 second bursts until warm (this should only take 15-20 seconds max). Do this very carefully and make sure that none of your ingredients begin to melt around the edges. Melted butter or cream cheese will make a runny frosting.
Does cream cheese frosting need to be refrigerated?
In short - yes, after 2 hours at room temperature.
If your baked goods are being prepared and served in the same day (within 2 hours), your lemon cream cheese frosting can sit out at room temperature. After 2 hours, it is recommended to store your cream cheese frosting in the refrigerator.
For any baked goods made ahead, store them in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. One hour before serving, remove them from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature.
How much frosting do I need?
This recipe makes enough frosting to frost the following cupcake quantities and cake sizes:
- 6-inch three layer cake
- 18 cupcakes with piped frosting
- 24 cupcakes spread with a knife
- 9x13 sheet cake
- 13x18 sheet cake
- 8-inch or 9-inch two layer cake (filling and top of cake, leaving the sides bare). To cover the sides of your layer cake, make an additional half batch of frosting.
In the recipe card below, hover over the serving size. Use the sliding bar to change the serving size and measurements.
Cake pairings (and more)
What can you frost with lemon cream cheese frosting? Here are a few of my favorite pairings:
- Lemon sheet cake
- Vanilla sheet cake
- Lemon cupcakes
- Strawberry cake
- Strawberry filled cupcakes
- White cupcakes
- Blueberry cake
Or, use to frost sugar cookies, blondies, or lemon sugar cookie bars.
Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 ounces block-style cream cheese room temperature
- ½ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 4 cups confectioner's sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a large bowl, add room temperature butter and cream cheese and beat until creamy, about 1 minute.
- Add confectioner's sugar, half at a time, and slowly mix until ingredients are fully combined. Then, whip at high speed for 2-3 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
- Add vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest, then whip until fluffy, another 1 to 2 minutes.
- Pipe onto cooled cupcakes or spread onto cooled cake and serve.
- Original, full-fat block-style cream cheese cannot be substituted with low-fat cream cheese, whipped cream cheese, or spreadable cream cheese in a tub. Any of these substitutions can cause your frosting to turn out runny.
- Cream cheese frosting needs to be refrigerated if it sits out for longer than 2 hours. Store frosted baked goods in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container. Remove and bring to room temperature 1 hour before serving.
- Leftover frosting will keep for 1 week in a sealed container in the refrigerator, or up to 3 months in the freezer. Bring to room temperature before spreading onto baked goods.
- Recipe will make enough to frost up to 18 cupcakes with piped frosting, 24 cupcakes spread with a knife, a 9x13 sheet cake, a 13x18 sheet cake, or the top and middle of a round 8 or 9 inch 2-layer cake (leaving the sides bare). To frost the sides of a 2-layer cake, make an additional half batch of frosting.