Lemon Cupcakes

updated Nov 22, 2022
Lemon Cupcakes Recipe

Say hello to spring with these lemony cupcakes that taste like pure sunshine. The tender moist-crumbed lemon cupcakes are topped with a buttercream frosting and for extra dazzle, you can sprinkle on yellow or gold sparkling sugar.

Makes12 cupcakes

Prep30 minutes

Cook15 minutes to 25 minutes

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Credit: Laura Rege

Chocolate and vanilla may be the perennial cupcake flavor favorites, but in my house zingy lemon cupcakes are our top pick for celebrations. These homemade lemon cupcakes have a delicate, moist crumb that’s infused with the bright flavor of fresh lemons. Finish these tender cakes with just enough of a perfectly (not-too) sweet lemon buttercream, and they’re ready for birthday parties, bake sales, and year-round holiday celebrations.

Top Tips for Baking Moist Lemon Cupcakes

  • Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature before baking begins.
  • Use a combination of fats — unsalted butter and a neutral-flavored oil — to add flavor and ensure a moist crumb.
  • Properly creamed butter and sugar has a fluffy texture and lighter color.
  • For a light and tender crumb, mix the batter until it is just combined and no dry bits of flour remain. Do not over-mix, as this will toughen the cupcakes and cause tunneling.
Credit: Laura Rege

Key Ingredients for Lemon Cupcakes

Homemade lemon cupcakes are easy to bake at a moment’s notice, as all of the ingredients are staples that you may already have on hand. You’ll need all-purpose flour, baking powder, plus a bit of baking soda to balance the acidity of the lemon juice. Granulated sugar and kosher salt mixed with freshly grated lemon zest infuse every bite with a bright citrus flavor. Softened unsalted butter and vegetable oil give the cupcakes the ideal buttery flavor and a moist and tender crumb. You will also need a pair of large eggs, milk, and vanilla extract for the batter.

What Type of Frosting Is Best for Lemon Cupcakes?

Light, citrusy cupcakes made from scratch deserve a homemade frosting. Luckily, the classic cupcake topper, American buttercream, is a no-cook frosting made from softened butter and powdered sugar that comes together quickly. I give it a lemony lift by flavoring it with fresh lemon zest and juice.

How Long Do Lemon Cupcakes Last?

Enjoy lemon cupcakes for up to three days after baking and frosting. Store the cupcakes, covered, at room temperature.

More of Our Best Lemon Baking Recipes

Lemon Cupcakes Recipe

Say hello to spring with these lemony cupcakes that taste like pure sunshine. The tender moist-crumbed lemon cupcakes are topped with a buttercream frosting and for extra dazzle, you can sprinkle on yellow or gold sparkling sugar.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes to 25 minutes

Makes 12 cupcakes

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1/2 cup

    whole or 2% milk

  • 12

    paper muffin liners

  • 1 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 2

    large lemons

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup

    vegetable oil

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

For the frosting and decorating:

  • 3/4 cup

    (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

  • 3 cups

    powdered sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon

    whole or 2% milk

  • Yellow or gold sparkling or sanding sugar, for decorating (optional)

Instructions

Make the cupcakes:

  1. Place 1/2 stick unsalted butter, 2 large eggs, and 1/2 cup whole or 2% milk on the counter. Let sit at room temperature until the butter is softened, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-well muffin pan with paper liners.

  3. Place 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine and remove any lumps.

  4. Finely grate the zest from 2 large lemons until you have 2 tablespoons zest. Juice 1 1/2 of the lemons until you have 5 tablespoons. Quarter the remaining lemon half and cut 12 thin slices from two quarters for topping the cupcakes if desired.

  5. Place 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon of the lemon zest, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer) and rub together with your fingers until combined and fragrant.

  6. Add the butter and 1/4 cup vegetable oil to the lemon sugar. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Use a flexible spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

  7. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on the lowest speed until just combined, about 20 seconds. Add the milk, 4 tablespoons lemon juice and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and beat on the lowest speed until just combined, about 10 seconds. The batter will appear curdled at this point. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat on the lowest speed until just combined, about 20 seconds. Divide the batter evenly between the wells of the muffin pan (a heaping 1/4 cup each), filling almost to the top.

  8. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean and the edges begin to brown, about 20 minutes.

  9. Use a butter knife or mini offset spatula to help to remove cupcakes from the pan. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, wash and dry the stand mixer bowl and paddle attachment (or electric hand mixer’s beaters and bowl). Place 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter for the frosting in the bowl and let it sit at room temperature until softened.

Make the frosting:

  1. Place 3 cups powdered sugar in a large bowl and whisk to remove any lumps.

  2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt to the bowl with the butter. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating on low speed and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

  3. Add 1 tablespoon whole or 2% milk and the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Beat on medium speed until the frosting is lightened in color and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes more. Spoon the frosting onto the cupcakes, or transfer to a piping bag fitted with a tip and pipe onto the cupcakes. Garnish with the reserved lemon slices and sparkling or sanding sugar if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The cupcakes and frosting can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept separate. Keep cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature and the frosting covered in the refrigerator. Let the frosting sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before frosting the cupcakes. Alternatively, unfrosted cupcakes can be wrapped tightly and frozen for up to 2 months. Let thaw to room temperature before frosting.

Storage: The frosted cupcakes can stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.