Homemade Lemon Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

These sunshine sweet homemade lemon cupcakes with vanilla frosting are incredibly soft and bursting with lemon flavor! Try my Lemon blueberry layer cake next!

These sunshine sweet homemade lemon cupcakes with vanilla frosting are incredibly soft and bursting with lemon flavor! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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. 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 calls for sunshine lemon cupcakes. How can you not smile sinking your teeth into one of these? They are the happiest cupcake in the world. 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.

Delicious and simple Homemade Lemon Cupcakes with creamy vanilla frosting! These are always such a big hit. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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. 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.

The recipe makes 12 standard size cupcakes. The lemon cupcakes take about 20 minutes to bake at 350F. Easy as pie. Well, easier than pie.

These sunshine sweet homemade lemon cupcakes with vanilla frosting are incredibly soft and bursting with lemon flavor! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

As the cupcakes cool, make my go-to fluffy vanilla frosting recipe.

I used a Wilton 1M 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. It all tastes FAB!

These sunshine sweet homemade lemon cupcakes with vanilla frosting are incredibly soft and bursting with lemon flavor! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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 lemon… and cupcakes. Spring has sprung and lemon cupcakes, made completely from scratch, are on the dessert menu!

Homemade Lemon Cupcakes

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

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (190g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) milk (I use whole, but any milk is fine)
  • zest + fresh juice of two medium lemons1

Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3-4 cups (360-480g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream2
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • lemon slices for decoration, if desired3

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 12-count muffin pan with paper liners. Set aside.
  2. Make the cupcakes: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed in a large bowl until creamed. About 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until everything is combined, about 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 additions, beating on low speed after each addition. Batter will be thick. Beat in the milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice on low speed until just combined. Do not overmix this batter at any point.
  4. Spoon batter evenly into 12 cupcake liners. Bake for about 18-22 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the middle will come out clean when done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.
  5. 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 confectioners' sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more confectioners' 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.

Make ahead tip: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Decorate/assemble cupcakes immediately before serving. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 3 days. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Recipe Notes:

Try my Lemon Blueberry Cake next. It is the same exact recipe, only doubled to make a layer cake.

  1. About 1 and 1/2 Tbsp zest and 1/4 - 1/3 cup lemon juice.
  2. Heavy cream is highly recommended over milk or half-and-half for the frosting to obtain the creamiest, fluffiest texture.
  3. Instead of a lemon slice, decorate the cupcakes with sprinkles, white chocolate chips, or even crushed hard lemon candies.

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Try my Lemon Blueberry Cake next!

This is the same exact recipe, only doubled to make a layer cake.

Deliciously sweet and light Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake. Tangy cream cheese frosting gives each bite a sweet touch!

See all lemon recipes.

See all cupcake recipes.

Delicious and simple Homemade Lemon Cupcakes with creamy vanilla frosting! sallysbakingaddiction.com

413 comments

  1. Has anyone tried to sub lemon extract for the vanilla in the frosting? I want a light and fluffy buttercream like this one, but with an extra hit of lemon. Maybe half lemon half vanilla? Thanks!

    • I have not used extract, but I did make a batch adding the strained juice of one organic lemon to the accompanying vanilla frosting. I believe I added a tiny amount of sifted powdered sugar to make the consistency right after adding the extra liquid. 

      It turned out wonderfully with a delicate lemon flavor to the buttercream. I was going for a mild flavor, as I did not want the frosting too sour. Also, I did not add lemon zest, which would have produced a more pronounced lemon flavor, because I did not want the bits in the texture of the buttercream, but that would work, too. 

      If you would like a stronger lemon flavor, then using either lemon extract or zest would probably work just fine. I would add a small amount, taste, and correct. 

  2. If I make these cakes and frost them the night before I need them, can I leave them out on the counter overnight? Thanks!

  3. Sally – do you ever use Meyer lemons for your desserts?  

  4. Can i whip the egg whites and incorporate them at the end like in your yellow cupcakes? I loved the airy texture of those and want the same thing in lemon flavor

  5. I cooked my cupcakes for 18 minutes, when I checked with a toothpick the toothpick came out clean. Although I feel they are a bit gummy, can this mean I didn’t cook them enough? 

    • I baked mine for the full 20 and inserted toothpicks came out completely clean. “Gummy” is a great description for these cupcakes. I’ve been baking for years but wanted to try a new lemon cupcake recipe; I wish I’d stuck with my old one. Sally’s are moist but the consistency is so strange and off putting. Plus, they were adorable and then lost half an inch after a minute cooling on the counter. I’m sooo disappointed. These were for a friend’s birthday party. What a waste of time and ingredients 🙁

      • Update: The cupcakes are much better after resting for a day. Dense, but no longer gummy. Yay!

      • That’s wonderful! I was going to say– I never experience a gummy texture 🙂 I usually like making them in advance. I find their lemon flavor is stronger on day 2 as well.

  6. I can’t wait to make your cupcakes, they sound wonderfully good. I have to make them for school. Would it be ok to make them Wedsnday and bring them into school Friday?- Thanks, can’t wait to hear back from you soon.!!

  7. I love these cupcakes so much I’ve made them several times. They’ve been a hit each time. I have made them with the vanilla frosting, exactly in the recipe, which was lovely, as well as with the addition of the juice of one lemon to the buttercream. That gave the frosting a subtle, light, lemony flavor.

    I am obsessed with the summery flavor, so much so that I want to make a layer cake with this recipe, but with raspberry preserve between the layers. I saw your note about the blueberry lemon cake being the exact same recipe, just scaled up, but that recipe called for brown sugar. This one did not. What’s the difference in flavor (besides obviously the blueberries), between that and this recipe? And if I wanted to use this exact recipe, but scale it up for an 8 or 9 inch layer cake, how much do I need to increase the ingredients for both the layers and the frosting? I want to make the cake for my son’s baseball season end party, and I don’t think I’ll have time to do a trial run.

    Help me, Cupcake Obiwan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!

    Oh, and I also wanted to tell you that I get compliments on my cupcakes all the time. I always tell people that I use your recipes, and your website has never once let me down. Some of my friends are now fans of your website, too! I’ve never had a fail, and I’ve used recipes from your site that I’ve never tried before and brought them to events, confident they will taste fabulous. You are fabulous!

    • Hi Karen! The light brown sugar in the cake is really just for moisture. You don’t taste much of the flavor anyway 🙂 I suggest just using the layer cake recipe if you want to make a layer cake 🙂

  8. Hi Sally,

    I am out of lemons 🙁 and I am wondering if I can substitute lemon juice (the bottle kind from lemon concentrate) instead of juice from the real lemons?

    If so how much lemon juice should I use?

  9. I just baked these, and they came out completely flat 🙁 I know that my baking powder is good, so what else would cause that to happen?

    • Did you alter the recipe at all? Cream the butter/sugar long enough? Underbake? Those are a few things that can cause flatness.

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