Homemade Lemon Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

You’ll also love my lemon cupcakes with blackberry cream cheese 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 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!

Love lemon? Make these lemon-y sweets next:

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
  • vanilla buttercream and additional lemon slices for topping

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 12-count muffin pan with paper liners. Set aside.
  2. 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, filling them about 2/3 full. 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. Frost cooled cupcakes with vanilla buttercream. 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. 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

432 Comments

Comments

  1. Lani on February 21, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    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!

    • Karen on May 17, 2017 at 10:16 pm

      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. Melinda on March 14, 2017 at 3:40 pm

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

    • Sally on March 15, 2017 at 9:21 am

      Yep, that would be just fine!

  3. Gina on March 20, 2017 at 7:12 pm

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

  4. Fatima on March 22, 2017 at 3:40 am

    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

    • Sally on March 22, 2017 at 7:04 pm

      I can’t see why not!

  5. Lexie on April 14, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    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? 

    • Lindsey on April 21, 2017 at 9:19 am

      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 🙁

      • Lindsey on April 23, 2017 at 9:08 pm

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



      • Sally on April 24, 2017 at 9:10 am

        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. Deijah on May 8, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    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.!!

    • Sally on May 9, 2017 at 4:17 pm

      1 day in advance would be best! See my make ahead tip.

  7. Karen on May 17, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    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!

    • Sally on May 18, 2017 at 10:48 am

      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. Wendy on May 18, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    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?

    • Sally on May 19, 2017 at 9:49 am

      The flavor won’t be as fresh, but you can. See my recipe note for how much you need. Enjoy!

  9. Stacey on May 23, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    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?

    • Sally on May 24, 2017 at 10:43 am

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

  10. Noor on June 13, 2017 at 12:33 am

    Hi Sally,
    I was wondering, if I were to add in buttermilk rather than milk would there be any difference ?

    • Sally on June 13, 2017 at 11:59 am

      You can use buttermilk, yes!

  11. Cora on June 14, 2017 at 11:38 am

    I was a bit apprehensive to try this recipe due to the first few reviews I read. I was PLEASANTLY surprised to see these cupcakes were NOT gummy…at all. Instead, they were slightly tart, perfectly sweet and as fluffy as they get. Thank you for another solid recipe. 

  12. Marcy on August 11, 2017 at 12:53 am

    Made these this weekend and added a lemon Oreo to the bottom before baking. Then frosted some with your white chocolate frosting (taken from your white chocolate brownie recipe) and others with your regular buttercream and then added freeze dried blueberries. They were super easy and turned out perfect. Thanks for another perfect recipe – you never steer me wrong. Oh and thanks for always including measurements…makes baking so much easier. 

  13. Kandice on September 25, 2017 at 11:54 am

    I have made these cupcakes a couple of times, and I LOVE the flavor, I think they are the best lemon cupcakes I have ever had by far, but I am doing them for an event in a couple weeks, and I find that the regular cupcake papers pull off them really easily, so sometimes they look a little goofy. I have never minded when I was handing them out to family, but these ones are going to be sitting in an assortment 12 pack on each table – any tips to keep the papers more firmly attached so they look a little tidier in the boxes?

  14. Clarissa on October 9, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    Is there any need to use cake flour in this recipe? I’ve made the lemon blueberry layer cake multiple times (which I LOVE!) but wanted to make these for a birthday. I’m planning to use buttermilk, but was curious about the cake flour which I generally don’t use but have some on hand.

    • Sally on October 10, 2017 at 8:22 am

      I suggest sticking with AP flour for this lemon cupcake recipe.

  15. Tanu on October 14, 2017 at 7:20 am

    Can I use light brown sugar instead of castor sugar. Hope no change in taste. 

    • Sally on October 14, 2017 at 8:17 am

      Light brown sugar in the cupcakes is just fine– the cupcakes will have a very slight molasses flavor in addition to the lemon. Should be wonderful!

  16. Sarah M on December 8, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    I’m making this recipe now but tripled it. Since it says “spoon it evenly” and I only have one muffin tin, I don’t know how full to fill each liner. Can you please add how full so future readers know? I read your chocolate cupcake recipe and that one said to fill only 1/2 of the way up. I’m going to fill mine 2/3 and hope they turn out!

    • Sally on December 9, 2017 at 11:17 am

      2/3 full is perfect for these 🙂

      • Sarah on December 10, 2017 at 11:28 pm

        2/3 ended up working well and they were a huge hit at the party. Thanks for the recipe!



  17. Helly on January 2, 2018 at 2:04 am

    These are – hands down – the BEST lemon cupcakes! I love how soft and velvety the batter is. The lemon flavor is absolutely perfect. I love zest in cupcakes, and this was a definite hit.

    I paired these with white chocolate buttercream and drizzled with raspberry sauce. Freaking amazing.

    The first batch I took to work, and everyone loved them. The second batch I’m making right now, because my boss requested more!

    Thank you, Sally!!

    • Sally on January 2, 2018 at 10:53 am

      Oh my gosh – what a great flavor combo!! Glad they were a hit!

  18. Ila on May 15, 2018 at 8:43 am

    Hi Sally! Do you think i could make this into a normal round 8inch cake instead?

    • Sally on May 15, 2018 at 1:24 pm

      If you look for my recipe for my Lemon Blueberry Cake it is the exact same recipe, just doubled for a layer cake!

  19. Amy on May 31, 2018 at 9:59 am

    Hi,

    Would i be able to add a little oil to the recipe to make them stay moister for longer?

    • Sally on May 31, 2018 at 1:02 pm

      I don’t recommend it, Amy. The butter and milk keep these moist!

Reviews

Questions

  1. Ila on May 15, 2018 at 8:43 am

    Hi Sally! Do you think i could make this into a normal round 8inch cake instead?

    • Sally on May 15, 2018 at 1:24 pm

      If you look for my recipe for my Lemon Blueberry Cake it is the exact same recipe, just doubled for a layer cake!

  2. Amy on May 31, 2018 at 9:59 am

    Hi,

    Would i be able to add a little oil to the recipe to make them stay moister for longer?

    • Sally on May 31, 2018 at 1:02 pm

      I don’t recommend it, Amy. The butter and milk keep these moist!

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