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Recipe: Lemon Buttercrean Cupcake Frosting

November 22, 2008
Lemon Frosted Cupcake
For Illustration Purposes Only

Suggested cupcake:

Zen Cupcake: Recipe: Velvety White Cupcakes

or whatever you fancy.


Lemon Buttercream By Eileen Talabian
(Makes about 4 cups)

Classic French Buttercream is the premier frosting. It is what is used by the finest chefs, and what you get when you eat desserts in a 4-star restaurant. If you have never made classic French Buttercream before, don’t be alarmed. It is a simple process as long as you follow the directions. It takes more time to make than American Butter Frosting, but it is worth the effort. Read through the recipe completely first, to be sure you understand the process, and be patient while the Buttercream whips. Once you start this recipe, you must not stop until it is complete. The technique used here is one that is used in Flo Braker’s book The Simple Art of Perfect Baking.

While classic Buttercream recipes call for pouring the hot syrup into the mixing bowl with the beater running, this technique calls for whipping it by hand for a few seconds, then quickly beating it with a mixer. This method keeps the syrup from being sprayed all over the sides of the bowl. You will need a candy thermometer for this recipe. They are available in kitchen shops and on the web.


1/3 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
6 egg yolks from eggs graded large
12 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
4 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice, plus 2 teaspoons pure lemon oil OR 6 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice


Set your mixer as close as reasonably possible to your stovetop. Place the water first, then the sugar, into a one-quart heavy saucepan. Set a medium sized wire whisk next to the saucepan. Beat the egg yolks with a heavy-duty electric mixer on medium speed (setting 5-6) using the whisk attachment, until the yolks are light in color, thick and very smooth. This will take 5-7 minutes.

While the eggs are beating, shake the saucepan with the sugar and water gently over low heat, swirling the ingredients, until the sugar dissolves. Then turn up the heat to medium high and insert the thermometer. Do not stir the mixture while it cooks, but use a wet pastry brush to wash down any sugar crystals that are on the sides of the pan from swirling the sugar and water.

Watch the thermometer carefully. This syrup will cook pretty quickly. When the temperature reaches 238 degrees Fahrenheit, turn off the heat, then quickly remove the bowl from the mixer and place it next to the saucepan.

Immediately pour the syrup into the center of the egg yolks, and without haste pick up the whisk and beat the egg yolk/sugar syrup mixture rapidly for several seconds.

Immediately return the bowl to the mixer and beat the mixture on medium (setting 5-6) for about 8 minutes, or until it is body temperature.

Then turn down the speed to setting 2 and beat for about 5-7 more minutes, until it is at room temperature. When it is cooled to room temperature, turn the speed back up to 5 and start adding the room temperature butter in amounts of 1 tablespoon at a time.

Let the butter beat into the mixture, then add another tablespoon, continuing until all of the butter is used up. After all of the butter has been added, stop the mixer, scrape the bowl, and beat again on medium while you slowly add the lemon juice, the zest and the oil (if you are using the lemon oil).

Beat until the mixture is uniform in texture. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and scrape any zest that might be clinging around the wire beater. Use a rubber spatula to be sure the zest gets evenly mixed into the Buttercream.

The Buttercream can be used immediately, or can sit for up to an hour or so before using it. It can be refrigerated and then warmed to room temperature and used, but it has the lightest texture when it is used before it is refrigerated. You can also freeze the Buttercream for future use.

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