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.

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.

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!

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!



Homemade Lemon Cupcakes

Yield: 12 cupcakes

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


Lemon Cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g)granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature preferred
  • 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 (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
  • additional lemon zest for decoration, if desired3


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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Spoon 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Additional Notes:

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

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


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 desserts.

See all cupcake recipes.


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

  1. #
    Kelly Martinezposted December 14, 2014 at 12:59 am

    Hey Sally! Your recipes just wow me! They are too good! I had a question. Can i use these lemon cupcakes for your cream cheese frosting? Thanks!!


    • Sallyreplied on December 14th, 2014 at 9:51 am



  2. #
    Peaceposted December 23, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Hello Sally,
    can I use oil instead of margarine? if so, how does the preparation method change?


  3. #
    Trixie in CTposted December 27, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Happy Post-Xmas Sally!

    Have I lost my mind? (Don’t answer that!)

    Where is the list of ingredients? Is it there and I’ve not cracked the code? Should I click on a link?

    I came here after reading about your yummy Blueberry Lemon Cake, so maybe I can just split that recipe in half…..

    ….maybe I need new glasses….

    with love, in-the-dark Trixie


    • Trixie in CTreplied on December 27th, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      ok, never mind…I AM losing my mind!!!! Refreshed page and BINGO, recipe shows up….now I’m off to make them…..smooches and just ignore me…


    • Sallyreplied on December 27th, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      Hey Trixie! I was in the middle of updating my website– the recipe should be showing for you now. ;) Merry post Christmas!


      • Trixie in CTreplied on December 27th, 2014 at 3:44 pm

        Hahahaha!!!!! Thanks Sally….you have eased my mind because I seriously kept scrolling up and down looking for the recipe….I thought maybe a sugar-induced “episode” was coming on…..

        Love you, girl! Off to bake!

  4. #
    Blissposted January 15, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Hi Sally
    Was wondering is there a reason you use granulated sugar instead of caster sugar in your recipes?
    And if I was to use caster sugar…would it be the same measurement?
    Can’t wait to try this recipe x


  5. #
    Jessicaposted February 22, 2015 at 9:36 am

    My 11yr old daughter and her two friends had a “baking challenge” last night and I selected your lemon cupcakes as one of the recipes they had to make. These cupcakes were BY FAR the best of the three made. They have great flavor are are nice and moist. I’m so glad to have stumbled upon your website and can’t wait to try more of your recipes!


  6. #
    Angieposted March 20, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    Hi Sally,
    Would this cupcake batter work in a cake tin? I absolutely love these cupcakes and would really like to make them into a cake. What do you suppose would happen?


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