Dreamy lemon cream cheese frosting, sweet yet subtly tart, attractively flecked with bits of lemon zest — the perfect topping for your favorite cakes. 

Image of an electric mixer beater with lemon cream cheese frosting on it.

Who doesn’t love cream cheese frosting? Carrot cakes wouldn’t be the same without a thick layer of cream cheese frosting. Or how about those favorite pumpkin or banana bars? The addition of cream cheese to frosting gives it a subtle tang that is so indisputably delectable.

Try adding a touch of lemon to cream cheese frosting to really put the wow! into your frosting. The lemony taste perfectly complements and enhances the tanginess of cream cheese and balances the sweetness inherent in frosting. You get a sweet/sour thing going on. Kind of like SweetTarts.

I just love this recipe. I was first introduced to lemon cream cheese frosting by my mom who always frosts her famous banana cake with it (it’s the same as this banana cake, minus chocolate). Try lemon cheese frosting with this white layer cake with lemon filling.

Image of creamy lemon frosting in a large glass bowl, topped with lemon zest.

About this lemon cream cheese frosting:

Lemon cream cheese frosting is basically cream cheese frosting made even more delicious with the addition of lemon juice and lemon zest. It’s perfect for lemon cake, vanilla or white cake, banana cake, pretty much any kind of cake.

Except for chocolate cake, maybe. For that, there’s chocolate cream cheese frosting. So good!

This frosting recipe makes 2 cups of frosting, plenty to frost a 9×13 inch cake or 24 cupcakes. For a layer cake, make at least one and a half batches, more if you’re using it as a filling between layers. 

Image of lemon cream cheese frosting in a glass bowl. A beater is next to it, with frosting on it. In the background are powdered sugar and lemons.

How do you make lemon frosting from scratch?

You can make this frosting in about ten minutes. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to make fantastic frosting. It’s super easy and there’s nothing tricky about it. There’s no cooking involved and no fancy ingredients.

There is a little thinking ahead though. You need to take the cream cheese and butter out of the fridge to soften. How long? It depends on how warm your kitchen is. If it’s a hot summer day or if you have a warm place in your kitchen, it won’t take long! The butter and cream cheese should be close to room temperature.

Can you cheat if you forget? Sure, the microwave is your friend. Unwrap the cream cheese and butter, place them on a plate, and microwave at low power (30-50% power) in one minute intervals until both are softened, but not melted. Trust me, I’ve resorted to that process many times.

Zest a lemon and squeeze the juice from it. Set those two items aside. 

You can use a stand mixer, a hand mixer, a food processor, or your trusty arms to make the frosting. I usually use my hand mixer. 

Put the softened cream cheese and butter in a bowl and beat until the mixture is creamy and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and lemon juice, beating until the mixture is the right consistency. Too thin? Add more sugar. Too thick? Add more lemon juice. Fold in the lemon zest and you’re ready to frost.

Make sure your cake is totally cool before you frost it. Warm cake + frosting = a mess.

Overhead image of cream cheese frosting flavored with fresh lemon.

How to make this cream cheese frosting your own:

  • Don’t have a lemon? Use a teaspoon of lemon extract. Add a teaspoon or two of milk to get the desired texture. 
  • If you would rather make plain cream cheese frosting, omit the lemon and add one and a half teaspoons of vanilla extract and a teaspoon or two of milk. Or substitute maple extract or almond extract.
  • You can make cream cheese frosting without butter but it will have a different texture. Use 8 oz. cream cheese, 1-2 tablespoons milk or cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 3 cups powdered sugar. 
  • Frosting a bundt cake or a coffee cake? Make cream cheese frosting with only one cup of powdered sugar.  Mix in hot water a tablespoon at a time until you reach the right consistency for drizzling or pouring.
  • Looking for a recipe without powdered sugar? Hmm, maybe this isn’t the recipe for you today. If you have a good blender, you can turn granulated sugar into powdered sugar, but your blender will never be the same. Trust me. 

Image of cream cheese frosting with two beaters pictured. Lemons and powdered sugar are also pictured.

Make Ahead and Storage Tips

One of the really nice things about cream cheese frosting is that you can make it ahead. Prepare it up to a week in advance and store it in a tightly covered container in the fridge. Take the frosting out of the fridge an hour before you plan on frosting your cake so it has a chance to soften slightly. Give it a good stir and you’re ready to frost.

Want to keep your cream cheese frosting even longer? Store it in the freezer for up to a month. For best results, thaw overnight in the fridge.

Looking for more ways to top your cake?

Frosting and more! Try one of these delicious ideas:

 

Image of an electric mixer beater with lemon cream cheese frosting on it.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: 2 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Dreamy lemon cream cheese frosting, sweet yet surprisingly tart, attractively flecked with bits of lemon zest -- the perfect topping for your favorite cakes. 

Ingredients

  • 1 package (8oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, with electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and lemon juice; beat until light and fluffy. Stir in lemon zest.

Notes

  • Frosts a 9x13 inch cake, or 24 cupcakes. Make 1 1/2 batch for layer cakes, double batch to frost and fill layer cake.
  • Store in refrigerator for up to one week; in freezer, for up to one month.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 140Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 35mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 0gSugar: 27gProtein: 0g

RachelCooks.com sometimes provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietitian. Please consult a medical professional for any specific nutrition, diet, or allergy advice.

Did you make this recipe?

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Verdict: I mean, what’s not to love?
Husband’s take: Ben always prefers chocolate, but never complains about cake, or frosting.
Changes I would make: None! 
Difficulty: So easy!