Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Bowl with lemon frosting
The Spruce / Diana Rattray
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 16 servings
Yield: 2 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
183 Calories
8g Fat
28g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 183
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 10%
Saturated Fat 5g 23%
Cholesterol 22mg 7%
Sodium 68mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 28g 10%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 27g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 1mg 3%
Calcium 15mg 1%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 22mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This lemon cream cheese frosting balances the tangy flavor of the cream cheese with the pleasant tartness of the lemon juice and zest to make the perfect topping for just about any flavor cake or cupcakes. Use it to frost lemon cupcakes, carrot or zucchini cake, or butternut squash cupcakes. It would be excellent on a hummingbird cake!

The frosting recipe makes enough to cover a 9 x 13-inch cake or about 24 cupcakes. Double the recipe for a filled and frosted two-layer or three-layer cake.


  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened

  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups confectioners sugar (about 1 pound unsifted)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    ingredients for lemon cream cheese frosting
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  2. In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy.

    beating cream cheese and butter together
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  3. Gradually sift the confectioners' sugar into the cream cheese mixture and continue to beat until smooth.

    adding the powdered sugar to the lemon frosting
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  4. Add the vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest to the frosting mixture. Mix until well blended.

    adding lemon zest to frosting
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  5. Spread lemon cream cheese frosting over a rectangular cake or up to 24 cupcakes.

    cupcakes frosted with lemon cream cheese frosting
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

How Many Cups of Frosting Do I Need for a Layer Cake?

To frost and fill a two-layer cake, plan on at least three cups of frosting. For a three-layer cake, you'll need about four cups of frosting.


Do You Have to Refrigerate a Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting?

A cake with cream cheese frosting should be refrigerated within two hours. Make sure it is well covered so it won't absorb other refrigerator odors. Remove only the slices you plan to serve and return the whole cake to the fridge.

How Can I Use Leftover Frosting?

  • Use leftover frosting to make sandwich cookies with your vanilla wafers or graham crackers.
  • Cut a v-shaped pocket into the pointed end of large cleaned and hulled strawberries. Place them on a plate, cut-side down, and pipe leftover frosting into the pocket.
  • For extra sweetness and flavor, blend some into a milkshake.
  • Stir some into your morning oatmeal or cream of wheat.
  • Use leftover cream cheese frosting as a dip for fruit or pretzels.

How to Store and Freeze

  • Refrigerate cream cheese frosting in an airtight container for up to three days.
  • Freeze cream cheese frosting in an airtight container for up to one month.


  • The frosting can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to three days. Bring it up to room temperature and beat it again before spreading or piping.

Recipe Variations

  • Orange Cream Cheese Frosting: Replace the lemon zest with finely grated orange zest and replace the lemon juice with orange juice or an orange liqueur. For more orange flavor, add a few drops of orange oil or pure orange extract, to taste.
  • Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze: For a Bundt cake, make the frosting with 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and add hot water, a few teaspoons at a time, until you have a glaze consistency.
  • Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting: Omit the lemon juice and zest and use 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla.
  • Lemon Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting: Add 2 teaspoons of finely grated fresh ginger or ginger paste.