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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup milk (cow, almond, soy)
- zest + juice of two medium lemons
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3-4 cups powdered (confectioners') sugar
- 1/4 cup heavy cream (see note about substituting milk or half-and-half)
- 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 tin 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.
*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.
Recipe source: sallysbakingaddiction.com
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Lemon desserts are totally my thing. I need to make them more often! Here are a couple from my recipe archives:
Oatmeal Lemon Creme Bars (one of my favorite recipes, ever.)
The frosting I used today is practically the same frosting I used for my Easy Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes.
And my Homemade Funfetti Cake.
Hi, I love cupcakes. See all of my cupcake recipes.