These are my favorite lemon cupcakes. They are moist, tender, have the perfect balance between sweetness and tanginess, and are bursting with lemon flavor. This is an easy, simple recipe with amazing results!
My palate has changed rather drastically in the last couple of years, and while I didn’t like cupcakes and lemon desserts that much, now lemon cupcakes are one of my favorite desserts. Lemon has actually become one of my favorite flavors, and I’ve made several other lemony dessert recipes, like lemon Bundt cake and lemon truffles. Plus, in cupcakes especially, it helps to cut down on the sweetness quite a bit.
These cupcakes are moist, delicate, and full of lemon flavor. The frosting is a simple classic buttercream made with fresh lemon juicy and lemon zest and pairs perfectly with the delicate cake.
How to make lemon cupcakes
This recipe makes enough batter and frosting for 12 standard cupcakes.
- Combine the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In another small bowl, toss together sugar and lemon zest until combined.
- Cream the butter and sugar. Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and lemon-sugar mixture on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula.
- Add the eggs and vanilla extract. On medium speed, beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and beat until combined.
- Alternatively add the dry and wet ingredients. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients and beat just until combined. Add milk and lemon juice and beat until combined. Add the other half of the dry ingredients and beat slowly until just combined. Do not overmix – the less you mix, the lighter the cupcakes will be.
- Bake. Divide batter evenly between the cups, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake at 350°F/180°C for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. Allow cupcakes to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Optional cupcake filling: If you want to make these cupcakes even more delicious and lemon-y than they already are, you can add fill them with lemon curd. To do this, once the cupcakes are completely cool, use a knife to cut a hole in the center of each cupcake, 1/2-1/4-inch in diameter. Then, use a piping bag to fill each with lemon curd. Then, frost the tops of the cupcakes as you normally would, covering up the hole in the middle.
Homemade lemon curd can be prepared ahead of time and frozen for a couple of months. I always make a double batch, freeze it, and thaw as much as I need to use for filling cakes, pavlovas, doughnuts, and more.
Frosting lemon cupcakes
I top my lemon cup cakes with my favorite lemon buttercream. It’s rich and creamy and made with fresh lemon juice and lemon zest for amazing fresh flavor. Here’s how to make it:
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.
- Add 3/4 cup (90 g) powdered sugar and beat well until smooth. Add cream, lemon juice, and lemon zest and beat until combined and smooth. Add another 3/4 cup sugar and beat until completely smooth and fluffy.
- Beat in more sugar as needed, until it’s thick enough to pipe. Frost cupcakes once they’ve cooled.
If you want to try another type of frosting, you can also use:
To make any of these lemon flavored, add either lemon curd or lemon juice and zest to the frosting until you reach the desired taste. I find that 2 teaspoons of zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice or a few tablespoons of lemon curd will do the trick, but feel free to play with the ratios.
Tips for making lemon cupcakes
- Mix the lemon zest with the sugar before creaming with the butter. This is my little trick for bringing out lemon flavor in baked goods. Doing this causes the lemon zest to release its natural oils, which will absorb quickly into the sugar, helping to distribute the flavor throughout the batter. Just be sure when grating the zest that you only grate the yellow skin and not the bitter white pith beneath it.
- Don’t overmix the cupcake batter. This is the secret to light and fluffy cupcakes. Overmixing can make the cupcakes dense and tough. To avoid this, mix the batter as little as possible once you begin adding the dry ingredients. Use a rubber spatula to help incorporate all the ingredients in your mixing bowl.
- To store your cupcakes, keep them in the fridge lightly covered. However, I recommend removing them from the fridge 30 minutes-an hour before serving so the frosting is soft.
Can I freeze lemon cupcakes?
Yes, you can freeze the cupcake bases for up to 2 months, just keep the cupcakes in a closed, freezer-safe container. However, I recommend making the frosting fresh.
More of my favorite cupcakes:
- Funfetti Cupcakes: Made with lots of colorful sprinkles for a delicious, festive treat.
- Chai Cupcakes: Moist, full of chai spice flavor, and topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.
- Snickers Cupcakes: Just like the candy bar but in decadent cupcake form.
- Nutella Cupcakes: Rich chocolate cupcakes topped with velvety-smooth Nutella frosting and toasted hazelnuts.
These moist vanilla cupcakes are bursting with tangy lemon flavor! Made with fresh lemon juicy and lemon zest, these cupcakes are topped with creamy lemon-vanilla buttercream. They're easy to make and a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
- 1 1/3 cups (185g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/2 cup (1 stick/113g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (90 ml) whole milk
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup (1 stick/113g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 cups (180-280g) powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream (or whole milk)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
For the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In another small bowl, toss together sugar and lemon zest until combined.
Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and lemon-sugar mixture on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. On medium speed, beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and beat until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients and beat just until combined. Add milk and lemon juice and beat until combined. Add the other half of the dry ingredients and beat slowly until just combined. Do not overmix – the less you mix, the lighter the cupcakes will be.
Divide batter evenly between the cups, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. Allow cupcakes to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
For the frosting:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until smooth, creamy, and the consistency is similar to mayonnaise, about 2 minutes. Add 3/4 cup (90g) powdered sugar and beat well until smooth. Add cream, lemon juice, and lemon zest and beat until combined and smooth. Add another 3/4 cup sugar and beat until completely smooth and fluffy. Beat in more sugar as needed, until desired consistency (thick enough to pipe). Frost cupcakes once they’ve cooled.
To add lemon curd filling:
Once the cupcakes have cooled, cut a 1/4-inch – 1/2-inch hole in the center of each cupcake using a knife. Use a piping bag** to fill each hole with lemon curd, then top the the cupcakes with buttercream as you normally would.
Unfrosted cupcakes can be kept tightly covered at room temperature or in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw, still covered, on the counter or overnight in the fridge.
*This amount of frosting is enough for me to frost exactly 12 cupcakes, but I don’t use a lot of frosting for each cupcake (as you can see in the photos above). If you want more frosting, multiply the frosting recipe by 1.5.
**If you don’t have a piping bag, you can use a large Ziploc bag instead. Fill the bag with lemon curd then snip the corner to easily fill the cupcakes.
LANMarch 5, 2015 at 11:20 am
Thank you so much for the recipe. The lemon cupcakes look so beautiful and delicoius. I like the way you decorate the cupcakes. It is so elegant and stylish.
ShiranMarch 5, 2015 at 11:56 am
Thank you so much!
Thalia @ butter and briocheMarch 5, 2015 at 3:51 pm
Just perfect Shiran! I always love coming & visiting your site to see what sweet creations you have created this week. Pinned!
ShiranMarch 6, 2015 at 3:26 am
That’s so sweet of you Thalia, thank you so much!
TobyJanuary 11, 2019 at 7:08 am
This is awesome I love these lemon cupcakes with lemon icing it’s delicios
Lokness @ The Missing LoknessMarch 5, 2015 at 6:48 pm
We read each other minds! I just posted a lemon cupcake recipe yesterday! Mine is with raspberry buttercream. I also love lemon, especially with desserts! That tanginess balance perfectly with sweets. Your cupcakes look stunning! Love the fresh flower on top.
ShiranMarch 6, 2015 at 3:25 am
Thank you, Lokness! I love lemon cupcakes because it balances the sweetness perfectly, and one of my favorite things to add to it is raspberries! They are the perfect combination!
Lynn | The Road to HoneyMarch 5, 2015 at 8:02 pm
Ha! Ha! Three cupcakes eh? I can see why though as these look so yummy and I bet they went down oh-so easy. But then again, I am partial to lemon and I love the idea of adding a little bit of lemon curd to these already lovely treats.
ShiranMarch 6, 2015 at 3:31 am
At least three cupcakes 😉 I add lemon curd all the time and it’s so good!
Allie | Baking a MomentMarch 5, 2015 at 8:05 pm
These are the prettiest lemon cupcakes ever! I just love the way you’ve garnished them, and your trick for tossing the zest in with the sugar is brilliant!
ShiranMarch 6, 2015 at 3:27 am
Thank you Allie! I’m so glad you like them! 🙂
MonicaMarch 7, 2015 at 2:43 pm
Hi there, what a beautiful space you have here! It’s like getting lost in a delicious world of desserts. : ) These lemon cupcakes are lovely…I also use the trick of rubbing the zest into the sugar, a great tip I first read about from Dorie Greenspan. : ) Citrus zest is amazing stuff and brightens everything up.
ShiranMarch 17, 2015 at 2:09 pm
The flavor of the lemon is so much better with this trick! Thank you so much Monica! 🙂
WinnieMarch 9, 2015 at 4:50 am
חחחח עושה רושם שיש לך את הגנים של המשפחה של החצי שלי, כי גם הם אוהבים כל דבר עם לימון
הם מאדדדדדדדד יאהבו את הקאפקייקס האלה (גם אני!), רק שהם מוזרים ומעדיפים ללא קרם למעלה.
[email protected]March 9, 2015 at 7:24 pm
Hi Shiran, I haven’t had lemon cupcakes in a while, I think I need to change that. Your cupcakes look so perfect and I just want to scoop some of that buttercream frosting my way…I’m with you, why wouldn’t anyone love that buttercream? Beautiful pics!
SophieMarch 10, 2015 at 12:50 pm
Wow，lemon!These lemon cupcakes must taste fresh graceful,and your pics are beautiful as always.Happy springtime,Shiran!
ShiranMarch 16, 2015 at 10:06 am
Thank you so much Sophie!
KarenFebruary 14, 2016 at 9:01 pm
Lemons, lemons everywhere. What to make? These cupcakes, simple and delish. Frosting is amazing. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
MarkApril 21, 2016 at 1:41 am
Looks great, and I’m going to make these for my daughter’s 1st birthday party this weekend. I like the flower touch, but I have no idea what kind they are (the white and the yellow). Could you tell me what they are please? Thank you.
ShiranApril 21, 2016 at 4:53 pm
Hi Mark! Actually I don’t know much about edible flowers, my friend gave me them that day. Sorry I couldn’t help!
Happy birthday to your daughter! 🙂
MarkApril 21, 2016 at 5:24 pm
Thank you! I’m going to show the picture to someone in a flower shop. I’m sure they can identify it. It might be as simple as baby’s breath or something similar.
ShiranApril 22, 2016 at 9:45 am
Or you could just use different flowers, I’m sure they would all look beautiful!
Michael BrooksDecember 16, 2018 at 11:56 am
Made your lemon cupcakes today they are lovely ,but I only got 9 cupcakes out of the mix could you tell me what size cup cases you use
ShiranDecember 18, 2018 at 8:09 am
Hi Michael. I don’t know the exact size, but this might happen because the size can be different across different brands. It also depends on how much you fill the cups with batter.
LoredanaMarch 9, 2019 at 9:30 pm
Your recipe was lovely and I enjoyed making the lemon cupcakes.
I should tell you that there is a mistake in the spelling of the word “palate” in the very first sentence after the introduction of the recipe. It says: “My palette has changed…” I’m sure you were referring to taste and not an array of colors. You may want to correct that. 🙂
Keep up the good work!
Lisa BOctober 26, 2019 at 10:29 pm
Her spelling is actually correct. Yours is referring to long, wood boards.
Dave DMarch 10, 2019 at 4:35 pm
Just found this and SO need to make them. I don’t know if I missed it somewhere, but what are those flowers you decorate with, absolutely love the work of art of the decorating! I will be doing cupcakes for an 80th birthday party in a few months, and would like to add these as one of the varieties.
ShiranMarch 12, 2019 at 5:27 am
Hi Dave! I actually don’t know much about edible flowers, it was a gift from a friend 🙂
AoifeApril 28, 2019 at 6:45 pm
ReikoApril 16, 2019 at 12:40 pm
Hi I love your recipe:)
I made those cupcakes and loved it.
My question is can I make it with cake pan instead of cupcake pan?
AoifeApril 16, 2019 at 5:54 pm
I’ve made these cupcakes lots of time and every time everyone loved them but it i was wonder how many calories would a batch of 12 have
AoifeApril 17, 2019 at 7:22 am
I love these cupcakes and when ever I made them everyone loved them but it would be great to know how many calories would be in a batch of 12 .
ConnieApril 19, 2019 at 10:08 am
Thank you for this cupcake recipe-it is amazing!, I’ve made these three times now and they have met rave reviews! The zesty lemon flavor is perfect and the cake is incredibly moist. Frosting is equally decadent. I added extra lemon juice for an extra kick. Thanks again!,
AoifeApril 21, 2019 at 6:36 am
Love this recipe
DianeApril 22, 2019 at 2:53 pm
I made these for Easter dinner yesterday. Unfortunately I didn’t check my pantry well enough and I didn’t have enough confectioners sugar to make the frosting. I made a glaze of lemon juice and confectioners sugar and brushed it on the cupcakes then filled them with the lemon curd. They were simple and oh so tasty! Luckily I had baked the cupcakes in some tall flower cupcakes liners so they were still pretty and the lemon curd circle made them look more flower like. Thanks for the great recipe.
Emily copradaMay 30, 2019 at 5:09 am
Amazing!!! I baked this last sunday for a baby shower party everybody enjoyed the cupcakes. Thank you for sharing your great recipe . I wish I can email to you the pictures of cupcakes that I baked.
AmyJune 11, 2019 at 12:34 am
Would it turn out alright without the mixer? Could I do it by hand?
PatriciahJuly 5, 2019 at 4:19 pm
Followed the recipe but my cupcakes cracked at the surface, what could I have done wrong?
AspenOctober 27, 2019 at 3:50 pm
I am only 13 years old and making your cupcakes makes me love cooking even more!!! I use sooooo many of your recipes and I love them! So does my school
ָעמליהJuly 9, 2020 at 6:10 pm
Wow!! These cupcakes are amazing – they haven’t even been out of the oven for twenty minutes and three have disappeared lol (not by me). Will definitely be keeping this recipe for the future – I love that you can taste the butter and the lemon in perfect harmony! תודה רבה לך!
ShiranJuly 12, 2020 at 4:28 am
I’m glad you like them! 🙂
MayaSeptember 4, 2020 at 12:53 pm
I’ve made these as stated in the recipe before and they came out delicious, but today I tried something new! Removed the lemon zest and swapped the lemon juice for 3 tbs of passion fruit juice and got delicious passion fruit cupcakes! They taste like the passion fruit cake that my husband and I had for our wedding. Planning on baking another batch for Rosh Hashana! Thanks for the lovely and delicious recipe!
KatDecember 10, 2020 at 1:00 pm
I’ve made these cupcakes twice before using your recipe, and both batches were DELICIOUS, but also both pretty dense. Would using the egg foam method instead of just mixing the eggs into it fix this?
Also, what would happen if I tried 1 tablespoon lemon extract with water instead of lemon juice? Could that improve the lemony flavor?
But density aside, these cupcakes taste amazing, and I often use your site whenever I feel like baking something.
Please keep posting more recipes!
ShiranDecember 20, 2020 at 7:07 am
I’m glad you like them 🙂 Whipping up the eggs/egg whites will make the cupcakes more airy, so you can try this method if you’re familiar with it. I prefer using lemons rather than lemon extract but it’s a matter of taste. You can add lemon extract if you want a stronger flavor.