Homemade Lemon Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting.

These sunshine sweet homemade lemon cupcakes are incredibly soft and bursting with lemon flavor!

These sunshine sweet homemade lemon cupcakes are incredibly soft and bursting with lemon flavor!

Fact: I love lemon desserts more than I love these.  It’s true. I’m a fruity kind of girl. My favorite dessert ever is apple pie.  Or Apple-Upside Down Cake. Gosh, that’s a good cake.   I’ve been craving lemon cupcakes for awhile, but wanted to wait for spring to get here before I made them.  Well, in Baltimore – it actually feels like summer right now. 85 degrees in April? I’ll take it.

The warmer weather is just perfect for my sunshine lemon cupcakes.  Yep, that’s what I like to call these babies.  And how can you not smile sinking your teeth into one of these?  They are the happiest cupcake in the world.

These sunshine sweet homemade lemon cupcakes are incredibly soft and bursting with lemon flavor!

Lemon Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting by sallysbakingaddiction.com

The homemade lemon cupcakes are incredibly soft and bursting with lemon flavor. Not too much that you’ll squint your eyes and pucker up your lips, but just enough to give each bite a refreshing zest of citrus flavor.  I topped them with my favorite vanilla frosting.  Sweet vanilla and zesty lemon compliment each other wonderfully.

Feel free to use a cream cheese frosting instead.  Or even a lemon buttercream. If you find a nice lemon buttercream recipe, let me know! I’ve been searching.

These sunshine sweet homemade lemon cupcakes are incredibly soft and bursting with lemon flavor!

The lemon cupcake recipe is laughably easy. Like most of my recipes, I used simple, everyday ingredients. I didn’t even need to go to the store before I made them last weekend.  You’ll simply cream sugar and softened butter together, add 2 eggs, vanilla, and then your dry ingredients.  I favor using neutral oil in my cakes and cupcakes because it makes cakes exceptionally moist.  However, when I’m looking for a buttery taste, I use butter. Obviously.

In one bite, all you’ll taste is sweet lemon + buttery vanilla flavor.  Unbelievable.

The dry ingredients are standard: flour, baking powder, and salt. After mixing the wet and dry together, add some milk, lemon juice and lemon zest.  You’ll need 2 lemons for the cupcake batter.  The zest of two lemons & the juice of two lemons.

These sunshine sweet homemade lemon cupcakes are incredibly soft and bursting with lemon flavor!

The recipe makes 12 standard size cupcakes.  Be sure to fill the cupcakes pretty full – a little past 3/4 of the way full in each muffin tin.  Don’t worry, they won’t spill over the sides in the baking process.

The lemon cupcakes take about 20 minutes to bake at 350F.  Easy as pie.  Well, easier than pie. ;)

These sunshine sweet homemade lemon cupcakes are incredibly soft and bursting with lemon flavor!

As the cupcakes cool, make my go-to fluffy vanilla buttercream recipe.  This frosting has made an appearance on my website a few times before. And receives rave reviews. Trust me, it’s awesome.  It looks a little darker than normal in these photos because I used a super dark pure vanilla extract. And I used more of it than normal.

The vanilla buttercream is quite simple – perhaps even easier than the cupcakes, if that’s possible.  Mix together unsalted butter, powdered sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla extract. That’s IT.  Two very crucial notes that I’ve mentioned a few times before: (1)  make sure your butter is softened and not melted in the slightest.  I simply took my butter stick out of the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter for 45 minutes as I baked and cooled the cupcakes.  (2) Use heavy cream.  You may use milk or half-and-half, but heavy cream will give the frosting the thickest texture.  I highly, highly recommend it.

 Beat the butter by itself for about 3-4 minutes on medium speed.  This will give the frosting a nice creamy base for your other ingredients. Add your powdered sugar – I sifted the powdered sugar, but this step is optional.  The amount of sugar will vary depending how thick or sweet you want the frosting.  I used 3 cups of powdered sugar.  Next, add 2 tablespoons of heavy cream and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.  My vanilla extract is not clear – it is a very dark brown. Using two teaspoons of it makes the frosting an off-white color.

I used a Wilton 12 frosting tip (a round tip) to frost the cupcakes.  Frost the cooled cupcakes however you prefer – slathering on with a knife or piping on with a tip.  The Wilton 12 tip is my favorite.

These sunshine sweet homemade lemon cupcakes are incredibly soft and bursting with lemon flavor!

These sunshine sweet homemade lemon cupcakes are incredibly soft and bursting with lemon flavor!

I decorated the cupcakes with a little extra lemon zest.  Do this right before serving, as the lemon zest will dry out.  You can also use white chocolate chips, sprinkles, or even crushed lemon hard candies.  I’ll definitely be doing that last one next time I make these.

The homemade lemon cupcakes took me less than 1 hour start to finish.  I cheated and stuck the cupcakes in the refrigerator to speed up the cooling process.  I have zero patience when it comes to cupcakes. The cupcakes can be stored at room temperature (covered) for 1 day and then in the refrigerator (covered) for an additional 4 days. I loved eating one chilled! Such a refreshing treat.

Spring has sprung and lemon cupcakes, made completely from scratch, are on the dessert menu.  And breakfast menu.  Please? I mean they have eggs and milk in them… totally acceptable first thing in the morning. ;)

These sunshine sweet homemade lemon cupcakes are incredibly soft and bursting with lemon flavor!


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Homemade Lemon Cupcakes

These sunshine sweet homemade lemon cupcakes are incredibly soft and bursting with lemon flavor!

Yield: 12 cupcakes


Lemon Cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g)granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (190g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) milk (cow, almond, soy)
  • zest + fresh juice of two medium lemons*

Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3-4 cups (360-480g) powdered (confectioners') sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream*
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • additional lemon zest for decoration, if desired


Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 12-count muffin pan with paper liners. Set aside.

Using a handheld or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed in a large bowl until creamed. About 2-3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until everything is combined, about 2 full minutes. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 additions, stirring by hand after each addition. Batter will be thick. Add the milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix until just combined, do not overmix.

Pour batter evenly into 12 cupcake liners. Bake for about 20 minutes. Check at 18 minutes, then again at 20. A toothpick inserted in the middle will come out clean when done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for about 3-4 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add powdered sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Add more salt if frosting is too sweet. Frost cooled cupcakes. If topping with lemon zest, do so right before serving. There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake.

Makes 12 cupcakes. Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 day and then in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

*1 medium-size lemon = approximately 1 tablespoon of lemon zest = 2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon juice

*Heavy cream is highly recommended over milk or half-and-half for the frosting to obtain the creamiest, fluffiest texture.

*Instead of lemon zest, decorate the cupcakes with sprinkles, white chocolate chips, or even crushed hard lemon candies.

© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.


Lemon desserts are my thing. I need to make them more often!

Here are a couple from my recipe archives:


Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Blueberry lemon cheesecake bars


Oatmeal Lemon Creme Bars (one of my favorite recipes, ever.)

Oatmeal Lemon Cream Bars


Gingerbread Muffins with Sweet Lemon Glaze

Gingerbread Muffins with Sweet Lemon Glaze


The frosting I used today is practically the same frosting I used for my Easy Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes.

Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes




See all lemon desserts.

See all cupcake recipes.





257 Responses to “Homemade Lemon Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting.”

  1. #
    OTAposted November 29, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Decided to go with something tart to accompany the Thanksgiving meal. This was a simple recipe that yielded perfect, delicious cupcakes . Instead of the vanilla frosting, I cut out a small hole on the top and filled it with lemon curd.


    • Sallyreplied on November 29th, 2013 at 8:44 am

      Love the idea of lemon curd inside. I bet they were wonderful!


      • OTAreplied on November 29th, 2013 at 9:01 am


    • Nicolereplied on February 12th, 2014 at 7:42 am

      Hi Ota! How do you make this lemon curd you speak of? :)


  2. #
    Amberposted December 12, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Sally, I just have to say thank you for all of the great recipes! This is my go to blog for new sweet treats and they always turn out beautifully!

    I LOVE these lemon cupcakes, though I’ve added a cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream. I need to make three dozen this weekend. Do you think I can double the recipe to make two dozen or would you recommend making each dozen individually, as the recipe as written? Thanks!


    • Sallyreplied on December 12th, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Hey again Amber! I’ve doubled this cupcake recipe with success. No need to bake two separate batches. Love them with cream cheese frosting!


      • Jayne @ Tenacious Tinkeringreplied on December 24th, 2013 at 10:51 am

        I was just going to ask the exact same question! Baking a double batch to give away tomorrow. I think we need something zippy amidst all the meat and richness!

        • Sallyreplied on December 24th, 2013 at 10:54 am

          Perfect! And Jayne you are right – these are quite “zippy” if you ask me! Enjoy :)

  3. #
    Courtney Morrisposted December 26, 2013 at 10:37 am

    can I use lemon extract instead of the lemon zest and lemon juice?


    • Sallyreplied on December 27th, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      You sure could! Perhaps 1/2 teaspoon. I know that stuff is quite strong. Taste the batter and add more if need be.


  4. #
    Melissaposted January 1, 2014 at 11:29 am

    I just made these for New Years Day dessert at my parents house. I used medium sized paper liners, so I ended up getting 12 regular size cupcakes, and 12 mini cupcakes as well. They’re all frosted and ready to go, and so pretty, I just had to try one….quality control and all lol.
    OMG, they are Amazing! Soft, light, and fluffy, and with a wonderful lemon punch…..not too strong, just the perfect amount
    Your website has become my go to, when I’m looking for something basic and fun, and when I want to bake to impress. Every recipe I’ve tried so far (and that’s been quite a few lol) has been a winner!
    Thanks so much for all your hard work, and I can’t wait to see what recipes you come up with in 2014.
    Happy New Year!


    • Sallyreplied on January 1st, 2014 at 5:31 pm

      Hey Melissa! That’s so great to hear (read!) because I truly love these cupcakes! The perfect lemon flavor, I agree. Happy new year to you! :)


  5. #
    Michele D.posted January 19, 2014 at 10:43 am

    If u want to make lemon frosting put a little lemon zest and lemon juice in the frosting recipe above… U may have to add a little more sugar but really hust do it to taste. Works for me really well.


  6. #
    Inne S.posted January 25, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    I tried making cupcakes before but they were always a bit solid, these are very light and fluffy! Can’t wait to try some of the other recipes on this gorgeous website!


  7. #
    Sarahposted January 28, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    Made these tonight w/ a cream cheese buttercream to frost and they were incredible!!!!! I had one large lemon and just used that which came to probably around 4 TB of juice and added the zest. It’s intense lemon so I might take it down a notch next time but it tasted almost like a lemon meringue pie. Thank you!


    • Sallyreplied on January 29th, 2014 at 7:03 am

      Yes! They do taste like lemon meringue pie. One of my favorites. Thanks for reporting back Sarah!


  8. #
    Barbaraposted January 29, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    I just made these for my friends birthday amd I am so excited (but not surprised) at how awesome they turned out! I know this post is extremely delayed but I just had to tell you. I made a lemon buttercream by just substituting a little lemon extract for one tsp of the vanilla extract in ur recipe and I love how it tastes!


    • Sallyreplied on January 30th, 2014 at 10:11 am

      Barbara, I still have to try my hand at a lemon buttercream recipe. I’ve never had luck in the past. I’ll try your recommendation though! Sounds pretty easy, right? Thanks for reporting back!


  9. #
    tessaposted February 8, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    hi im wondering if substituting heavy cream with milk will work for the frosting? will it change anything?


    • Sallyreplied on February 9th, 2014 at 9:38 am

      Hey Tessa! The frosting will not be as creamy if using milk. Keeping that in mind, you may certainly use it.


  10. #
    alicia basspposted February 9, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    I made these again this weekend and they are JUST amazing… I used your vanilla frosting recipe and added zest and juice from the lemon to make lemon frosting. then I cooked down some strawberries to a puree and added a couple teaspoons to make strawberry lemon frosting..they were incredible..cant wait for your cookbook I have pre ordered it. when is it coming out again..? Alicia


    • Sallyreplied on February 9th, 2014 at 8:11 pm

      Official release date is March 1st, but if you pre-ordered – you’ll likely get it before!


  11. #
    Carolynposted February 10, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Hi Sally! Thank you SO much for this recipe. I recently tried it as part of a trial run for making cupcakes for my wedding, and these were the WINNER in absolutely every category, other flavors and other lemon recipes. (The only issue is that they didn’t freeze as well as other recipes – I wonder why that might be? I’d really like to make them something like 2 weeks before, freeze, and then frost day-of). Anyway, I’ll be sure to feature this on my blog and give you credit for such amazing work!


    • Sallyreplied on February 10th, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      Hey Carolyn! Unfortunately, these really aren’t an ideal cupcake to freeze ahead of time. But I’m so happy that you loved them! Congratulations on your wedding!


      • Carolynreplied on February 10th, 2014 at 1:44 pm

        Oh ok – thanks for your input! By the way, what makes a cupcake good or bad to freeze ahead of time? Is it the fresh lemon?

        • Sallyreplied on February 10th, 2014 at 3:40 pm

          It really just depends on the recipe. Most of my other cupcakes freeze just fine (though not recommended for ideal taste and texture) – but these just don’t work.

  12. #
    Melanie Tabbitasposted February 10, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    Hi sally- These look great! Do you think I could sub the lemon out for fresh orange juice and zest? and if so apx how much orange juice would you think? Thanks!


    • Sallyreplied on February 11th, 2014 at 8:28 am

      Definitely. And I’d say about 1/4 cup orange juice. Enjoy, Melanie!


  13. #
    Nicoleposted February 12, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Hi Sally! I would love to make these for my other half, but he is a diabetic. :( Do you know if I can substitute the sugar for honey or do you have any recipes that can be done for diabetics? Lemon is his absolute favorite…he wants lemon everything, and with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I would <3 to surprise him with some of these!! Thanks


  14. #
    Joposted February 13, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    tried them today and love them. the texture of this cake is something special! wish i could recreate for all the other flavours! perfect in every way!


  15. #
    shellyposted February 25, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    I want to make these for my daughter-in-law’s baby shower and really want a lemony flavor. If I add more lemon juice (say double) should I take out something or do you think it won’t make a difference? Also, I have not made lemon buttercream, but would like to try. Have you even made it with lemon flavoring. I don’t want it to taste “fake”! Thanks for your help!!


    • Sallyreplied on February 25th, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      Hi Shelly, I have never made lemon buttercream successfully. I don’t suggest adding more juice to this recipe, but doubling the zest would work!


  16. #
    Arianaposted March 7, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Hi! I was wondering if it was possible to make these into a cake instead of cupcakes? If so, what would you recommend the bake time to be for a 9×13 glass pan?


    • Sallyreplied on March 7th, 2014 at 6:38 pm

      This recipe will not fit into a 9×13 pan. You could make a layer cake (doubling the recipe) like I did here: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2014/02/09/lemon-blueberry-layer-cake/

      Doubling the batter of this cupcake recipe will fit into a 9×13 pan. Fill 2/3 full. If there’s extra batter, you can make a few cupcakes. I’m unsure of the baking time though. Enjoy!


  17. #
    Shirleyposted March 14, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Hello, I made these lemon cupcakes with the frosting and they were by far the best baked good I ever made! I was too proud to bring these to Sunday dinner last week. They were perfect just as the recipe is and I’m looking for an excuse to make them again. Thanks for sharing this!


  18. #
    Sarahposted March 20, 2014 at 2:59 am

    yum yum YUM! Oh my, how delicious?! I haven’t even done the topping but had to try one and they are so light and lemony! Love them, thank you Sally :)


    • Sallyreplied on March 20th, 2014 at 10:51 am

      They’re the best, Sarah – happy you’re enjoying them. Even without frosting!


  19. #
    Bernadetteposted March 20, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Hi Sally!
    Thank you so much for sharing your recipes, i have decided to bake my way through your blog and started on sunday by baking your lemon cupcakes with cream cheese frosting – they were AMAZING! I wanted to make orange cupcakes and was wondering if you had an idea how to make coconut cream cheese frosting. It would help me so much!
    Love from Germany


    • Sallyreplied on March 20th, 2014 at 7:42 pm

      Hi Bernadette! I’m unsure how to make coconut cream cheese frosting – I’ve never attempted before! But it would be delicious with orange, I’m sure.


  20. #
    Kristinaposted March 21, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    I had a boxed lemon cake mix to use up and Google led me here to your frosting. It is SUPER!!! Thank you!


  21. #
    Yeniposted March 22, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Hi, how much would you say the juice of 2 medium lemon? 1/2 cup? I want to make this for mother – daughter project since she likes her desert fruity :)


    • Sallyreplied on March 23rd, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      About 1/4 cup.


      • Yenireplied on March 23rd, 2014 at 1:33 pm

        Thanks Sally! We actually went ahead (too eager to make the cupcakes to wait for your reply) with 2 lemons, which equaled 1/2 cup or so. The cupcakes came out super lemony, super moist, super delicious! Easily the best cupcake I’ve ever made :)) you just made 3 happy faces in our household.
        Then I spent more time browsing your recipes… Oh not so good idea at 11 pm. I was itching to try many of the recipes already, mainly because the ingredients are easy – pantry staple. What a great find, your website!
        The next morning me and my daughter embarked on our first pretzel making, and we had so much fun! It came out a bit hard, not sure if I didn’t knead enough??
        Anyway, I will be lurking and stalking you from now :))) can’t wait to try the granola recipes, more cupcakes…oh my….
        Thanks a bunch for sharing your talent Sally!

  22. #
    Vikkiposted March 25, 2014 at 10:24 am

    These were delicious! I brought them into work and my colleagues loved them. The citrus flavour works wonderfully with a cup of Earl Grey tea x


  23. #
    Joposted March 29, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    HI, tried these cup cakes and they are just great, do you think it could work as a cake?


  24. #
    Kieraposted March 29, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Do you think I could make these with gluten free flour? I need to make a gluten free dessert for a gluten free coworkers birthday and these look delicious!


    • Sallyreplied on March 30th, 2014 at 1:43 pm

      I’m unsure – I have no experience with GF flours. Sorry!


  25. #
    Tinaposted March 31, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Random question, I wanted to make these for my friend’s wedding, but I wasn’t sure if I could frost them a day in advance. Would you say I could leave the frosted cupcakes out overnight at room temp or should they go in the fridge? Thanks!


    • Sallyreplied on March 31st, 2014 at 8:44 pm

      Hey Tina! I’d keep them in the fridge overnight – cover them tightly! Great wedding cupcake!


  26. #
    Cathyposted April 3, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    I want to make this frosting but I don’t have a mixer. Will it come out the same if I mix it by hand? Do I need to change anything in the recipe?


    • Sallyreplied on April 3rd, 2014 at 7:21 pm

      Hi Cathy! Unfortunately you need a mixer to beat this frosting.


  27. #
    Hannahposted April 5, 2014 at 12:55 am

    Hello, I just made these lemon cupcakes and they are so delicious! The only thing I did differently was use spelt flour instead of normal plain flour. What a great recipe! Thanks. x


  28. #
    Christinaposted April 10, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    I Love Love Love all your recipe’s thank you so much for sharing them you should have your own store I would be there every day! You have made my day over and over everyone loves your cookies too!


  29. #
    Bridgetposted April 13, 2014 at 9:11 am

    I want to make these for Easter, but I have three separate events to go to! Do you think I could triple the recipe without harming it?


    • Sallyreplied on April 13th, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      Yes, that would be just fine Bridget. Have fun at all your events!


  30. #
    Kateposted April 14, 2014 at 6:18 am

    except one teensy little problem…
    HOW MUCH JUICE IS IN A LEMON?!?!?!? I know that one lemon has 1 tablespoon of zest but HOW MUCH JUICE?!?! PLZ HELP!!!


    • Sallyreplied on April 14th, 2014 at 7:44 am

      1 medium-size lemon = 2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon juice


  31. #
    Kaitlyn Rodposted April 15, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    I made these cupcakes and they are great. I substituted peppermint for vanilla in the icing. Fantastic!!! Two of my favorite flavors are mint and lemon.


  32. #
    Leahposted April 18, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    I made these cupcakes a while ago and the cake was good, but I did not like the frosting. I thought it had way too much dairy and was greasy! I’ll use more of your cake recipes but my own frosting.


  33. #
    vintiposted April 20, 2014 at 5:57 am

    hi, i was wondering if the batter is supposed to be thin?


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