Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

5 from 1 vote

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This lemon cream cheese frosting is thick, creamy, tangy, and not overly sweet! Make this easy, 3-step recipe in just 5 minutes, using only 6 ingredients! 

Why you’ll love this frosting recipe:

My favorite silky smooth cream cheese frosting gets a light and citrusy upgrade with fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. 

While just as indulgent as my chocolate cream cheese frosting, this cream cheese lemon frosting is perfect for spring and summer desserts.  

  • Flavor – Lemon adds a bright and refreshing taste that balances the richness of the cream cheese. 
  • Texture – Creamy, fluffy, and absolutely no lumps! Plus, it’s thick enough to pipe. 
  • Versatile – Spread it on lemon cupcakes, carrot cake cupcakes, layer cakes, muffins, and more!   

This lemon cream cheese frosting calls for less sugar than most recipes found online, but still satisfies your sweet tooth!

Squares of yellow cake topped with lemon cream cheese frosting.

Key Ingredient Notes:

Before you get started on the frosting, let the cream cheese and butter come to room temperature for about 1-2 hours. 

  • Cream cheese – Full-fat, brick-style cream cheese is key here! Low-fat, whipped, or spreadable varieties won’t result in a sturdy, thick frosting. 
  • Butter – Unsalted butter allows you to control the salty taste. However, if you only have salted butter on hand, that’s okay too. Just omit the added salt in the recipe.  
  • Powdered sugar – Also known as confectioners sugar or icing sugar. It sweetens the lemon cream cheese frosting but doesn’t make it overly sweet! You’ll notice that my lemon cream cheese frosting only calls for a fraction of the sugar found in similar recipes.  
  • Fresh lemon juice adds a tangy, tart taste and brightens the flavor of the frosting. 
  • Fresh lemon zest intensifies the lemony flavor! 
  • Kosher salt enhances the sweetness and balances the overall taste of the cream cheese lemon frosting. 
Ingredients to make lemon cream cheese frosting.

How to make this lemon cream cheese frosting recipe:

Just 3 simple steps and 5 minutes are all you need! 

  • Beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed using an electric hand mixer. Beat until the mixture becomes light and fluffy, about 1 minute. 
  • Add the powdered sugar, and continue to beat on low speed for another minute. Increase the speed to medium-high, and continue to beat until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. 
Four images showing the process of beating ingredients to make lemon cream cheese frosting.
  • Stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest, and kosher salt. Whip the frosting for about 30 seconds or until all of the ingredients are blended together. 
A liquid measuring cup full of lemon cream cheese frosting with flakes of lemon zest.

Avoid overwhipping

Whip the ingredients just until they’re blended and smooth. Any longer, and the frosting can become runny, which is not what we want! 

Tips for Success:

For the ultimate troubleshooting guide, review this post on how to make cream cheese frosting

  • Ensure your butter and cream cheese are at room temperature. Cold cream cheese will result in lumpy frosting, and warm butter will result in soupy frosting. Room temperature butter is around 68°F and should dent when you press into it. If your finger sinks right through, your butter is too warm! 
  • Use fresh lemons for the best taste! Toss the old, wrinkly lemon sitting in the back of your fridge. Fresh lemons are firm with bright yellow rinds and no brown spots. 
  • Avoid the white pith when zesting your lemon. The white pith is bitter-tasting and won’t provide that strong, lemony flavor we’re looking for. 
  • Double the recipe if needed. This lemon cream cheese frosting recipe makes 2 ½ cups, enough to frost 1 dozen cupcakes. You’ll likely need more if you’re frosting a 2-3 layer cake. 
A yellow cake topped with lemon cream cheese frosting.

Make-Ahead Tips:

  • Cream cheese lemon frosting will stay fresh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days
  • When you’re ready to frost your cupcakes or cake, bring the frosting to room temperature. Then, re-whip it back to a smooth and spreadable consistency. 

Storing Tips:

  • Refrigerate lemon cream cheese frosting until you’re ready to use it. Cream cheese will spoil if left at room temperature for too long! 
  • The frosting will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 3 days
  • Any cakes or cupcakes frosted with cream cheese frosting need to be refrigerated. 
  • Lemon cream cheese frosting is freezer-friendly! Freeze the frosting for up to 3 months. Let it thaw overnight in the fridge before you plan on using it.
A yellow cake topped with lemon cream cheese frosting and lemon zest curls.


Why is my lemon cream cheese frosting runny?

This might be due to too much liquid or overly soft butter. Extra liquid melts the sugar, resulting in a soupy frosting consistency. Butter that is softer than room temperature causes the frosting to become too loose.      

Is there a difference between cream cheese icing and cream cheese frosting?

While both icing and frosting contain cream cheese and powdered sugar, they have key differences. For instance, cream cheese icing is thin, glossy, and easy to drizzle over desserts. You’ll commonly find cream cheese icing drizzled over cinnamon rolls and pound cake. Meanwhile, cream cheese frosting is thick and fluffy, and it needs to be spread or piped onto desserts.     

Can you overbeat cream cheese frosting?

Yes! Overbeating can heat up the cream cheese and butter, which can melt the sugar. Melted sugar results in runny, soupy frosting instead of thick and sturdy frosting. 

A yellow cake topped with lemon cream cheese frosting and lemon zest curls.
5 from 1 vote

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Make lemon cream cheese frosting in 5 minutes with 6 ingredients. It’s sturdy, pipable, silky, and contains half the sugar of most recipes!
Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 5 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Yields: 2 ½ cups (540g)


  • 8 oz (225 g) cream cheese at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (55 g) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups (260 g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • teaspoon kosher salt


  • Using an electric hand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 1 minute.
    8 oz cream cheese, ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed for a minute. Then increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
    2 cups powdered sugar
  • Stir in lemon juice, zest, and salt. Whip again until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, zest of 1 lemon, ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt

Tips & Notes

Storing Tips: 
– Keep cream cheese frosting in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. 
– Freeze leftover frosting for up to 3 months. 
– Thaw frozen frosting in the fridge overnight. Then, whip it until smooth and fluffy again. 
– Any cakes or cupcakes frosted with cream cheese frosting will also need to be refrigerated!


Servings: 1 serving
Calories: 178kcal
Carbohydrates: 21g
Protein: 1g
Fat: 10g
Sugar: 20g
Sodium: 85mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Hi, I’m Shinee!

Welcome! I’m so happy you’re here! I believe anyone can cook restaurant-quality food at home! And my goal is to help you to become a confident cook with my easy-to-follow recipes with lots of tips and step-by-step photos.

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