Vegan Lemon Buttercream Frosting
This vegan lemon buttercream frosting is DIVINE. I recently created a new cupcake, vegan and gluten-free blueberry zucchini cupcakes (with a surprise spice!) and I needed a frosting to go with them. I was originally going to post the recipe as a muffin recipe but thought oh what the heck, let’s add some frosting to these! The secret ingredient in the vegan lemon buttercream frosting is fresh lemon zest. Don’t skip this! I am someone who has always skipped putting this in recipes, and you know what, I was missing out. While the lemon juice gives the buttercream a nice lemony flavor, it’s the lemon zest that makes it pop. Plus, it adds delicate visual details to the frosting. You can purchase dried lemon zest in a bottle. But if you don’t use it often, you’re better off making your own. And as always, there is a lot more flavor in fresh lemon zest versus dried. Let’s make some frosting!
You can either use a zester or a very fine grater to make lemon zest from the peel of a fresh lemon. Let’s talk lemon anatomy for a second. The bright yellow exterior, called the flavedo, is the zest. This is what we want. Underneath the flavedo is the white pith, which is white in color and bitter. To get lemon zest, all you do is lightly grate the exterior of the lemon until you are down to the white pith. I like to grate lengthwise along the lemon. If you don’t have a zester or a very fine grater, you can use an engineering hack. Use a peeler to peel the bright yellow part off, then use a sharp chef’s knife to chop it into smaller pieces.
Yes and no. While they both refer to the flavedo part of the lemon, the lemon peel and the lemon zest basically refer to different sizes of it. The lemon peel refers to the entire exterior of the lemon whereas the zest is what is created when you grate the peel into much smaller pieces.
Yes, you can buy dried lemon zest. But the flavor is not as potent. Also, if you aren’t going to use it that frequently, it will likely end up going to waste. Best to zest as you go!
Step-by-step instructions in a video format for this recipe are available on my YouTube channel.
Step 1. An hour before you get started, set 1/2 cup of shortening and 1/2 cup butter of your choice out on the counter to soften and come to room temperature. Zest 2 teaspoons of lemon peel. Then cut open the lemon and juice it. One large lemon generally yields around 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. It’s ok if it’s a little under. If you find the taste isn’t satisfactory, you can always add more at the end. In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter of your choice, shortening, lemon juice, and lemon zest with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy.
Step 2. Measure out 3 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar into a small bowl. Add confectioner’s sugar in three separate, but equal, additions. Mix thoroughly after each addition with the electric mixer on low until most of the sugar is incorporated then increase speed to medium to finish combining. If you start the mixer off at a high speed, the sugar will go everywhere. Some of the confectioner’s sugar might be left on the side of the bowl after you are finished mixing. If this is the case, use a wooden spoon to scrape it down and manually mix it in. From here, you can either eat the frosting plain or use it to frost some cupcakes. I would highly recommend using it to frost vegan and gluten-free blueberry zucchini cupcakes. The flavor combination is phenomenal. You can either frost with a knife, or if you are up for some piping, you can pipe some on. If you are new to piping, check out my YouTube tutorial on how to set up and fill a piping bag, and how to pipe frosting.
Use this frosting on:
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Vegan Lemon Buttercream Frosting
- 1/2 cup butter of your choice
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter of your choice, shortening, lemon juice, and lemon zest with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy.
- Add confectioner's sugar in three separate, roughly equal, additions. Mix thoroughly after each addition with the electric mixer on low until most of the sugar is incorporated then increase speed to medium to finish combining. If you start the mixer off at a high speed, you will find that the sugar goes everywhere. Some of the confectioner's sugar might be left on the side of the bowl. If this is the case, use a wooden spoon to scrape it down and mix it in.
- You can either use the frosting immediately, store in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze it for up to a month.
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