Lemon Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

Sunshine sweet homemade lemon cupcakes are soft and moist, bursting with lemon flavor, and topped with my favorite vanilla buttercream. You’ll love the refreshing zest of citrus flavor in each bite!

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

How can you not smile sinking your teeth into one of these? The happiest cupcake in the world! Today’s homemade lemon cupcakes are incredibly soft and bursting with lemon, just like my lemon cake. Not too much lemon 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 top them with my favorite vanilla frosting. Sweet vanilla and zesty lemon complement each other wonderfully, though cream cheese frosting would also be delicious!

If these cupcakes look familiar, they probably are– we double this recipe to make lemon blueberry cake, and we use the exact same base recipe for my lemon cupcakes with blackberry cream cheese frosting. The gorgeous purple frosting is naturally colored and flavored with blackberries– and is absolutely divine.

These Lemon Cupcakes Are

  • Sunshine sweet
  • Made with basic ingredients
  • Bursting with lemon flavor
  • A perfect balance of sweet and tart
  • Easy to make
  • Moist and buttery
  • Fun to decorate
  • Topped with vanilla buttercream
  • A great lemon muffin recipe, too

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

Overview of Ingredients in Lemon Cupcakes

You need simple, everyday ingredients for today’s cupcakes. The ingredient list is similar to my lemon cake. Let’s review:

  • Flour: All-purpose flour is the base of these cupcakes.
  • Baking Powder: Baking powder helps the cupcakes rise.
  • Salt: A little salt adds flavor.
  • Butter: 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!
  • Sugar: We use all granulated sugar in this cupcake recipe.
  • Eggs: 2 eggs add structure and richness.
  • Vanilla Extract: Pure vanilla extract adds flavor. Try homemade vanilla extract.
  • Milk: Milk adds moisture. I use whole milk, but any milk works.
  • Lemons: We need 2 lemons for the cupcake batter– the zest of two lemons & the juice of two lemons.

These would be so good filled with homemade lemon curd! See my chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes for how I fill cupcakes the easy way.

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

Frost With Vanilla Buttercream

When deciding what to frost these lemon cupcakes with, I turned to my trusty vanilla buttercream. It’s wonderfully soft and creamy, pipes beautifully (I used a Wilton 1M frosting tip for today’s cupcakes), and pairs perfectly with just about every flavor. I love how this sweet vanilla frosting complements the citrusy lemon cupcakes.

Sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting or a dollop of homemade whipped cream would also be wonderful choices. For even more lemon flavor, try my lemon buttercream. You could even top these with my favorite strawberry frosting, too! Pictured here:

unwrapped lemon cupcake with pink strawberry frosting on top

More Favorite Cupcake Recipes

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Homemade Lemon Cupcakes

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours (includes cooling)
  • Yield: 12 cupcakes
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


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


  • 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) whole milk*
  • 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons lemon zest*
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) fresh lemon juice*
  • topping: vanilla buttercream and additional lemon slices


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  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 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add eggs and vanilla extract, then beat on medium-high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, start the mixer on low speed, then slowly add the milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Once combined, stop the mixer. Do not overmix this batter.
  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 they’re done. For around 30 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting. I usually let them cool completely in the muffin pan.
  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.
  6. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days.


  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: 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. Vanilla buttercream can thicken and stiffen in the refrigerator overnight, so use an electric mixer on low speed to beat in an extra splash of milk. Decorate cupcakes before serving. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Milk: I highly recommend whole milk for a rich and moist tasting cupcake, but any milk (dairy or nondairy) works in a pinch.
  3. Lemons: You need about 2-3 medium lemons to yield this amount of zest and juice.
  4. Garnish: Instead of a lemon slice, decorate the cupcakes with sprinkles, white chocolate chips, or even crushed hard lemon candies.
  5. Try my lemon blueberry cake next. It is the same exact recipe, only doubled to make a layer cake.
  6. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!

Keywords: homemade lemon cupcakes, lemon cupcakes

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


Comments are closed.

  1. These were really great! Some lemon flavoured baked goods can be dry, but these were just perfect. I followed the recipe exactly.

  2. Hi Sally! I have a gluten intolerance, so when I made this, I subbed with gluten free flour. They were delicious! Thanks so much!

  3. I usually do not comment on recipes. I think this is a first for me. I like lemony dessert and this one is spot on! The texture was just perfect. I am french so it is hard to find the right words. Yummy!

  4. Angela porch says:

    would this be enough for a 3 layer 6 inch cake?


    1. Yes! See my post on 6 inch cakes for baking instructions 🙂

      1. Approximately how thick should my layers be when they come out of the oven? I’m making a 6 inch 3 layer cake.

      2. They are fairly small layers – somewhere between 1 and 1.5 inches tall.

  5. Preveena Nair says:

    Fluffy, light cupcakes with a lovely lemony flavour! Loved it!! Thank you Sally!

  6. I made these and topped with your strawberry frosting (a CONSTANT coworker request)…needless to say they were a HUGE hit!

  7. Can I substitute whole milk for 2% milk?

  8. I followed the recipe…ended up with a bland, underbaked, piece of bleh. But ill give you some credit because they were not the best tasting but at least edible. The buttercream was weird but no saying it was terrible.

  9. The cupcake was excellent in taste and texture. I made the same author’s lemon buttercream, which was a big disappointment. I’ll make the cupcakes again, but with a different icing.

  10. I want to make this in a 11×7 or 9×9 square pan instead of cupcakes. How long should I bake it for?
    I love all things lemon!

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kristal, we haven’t tested this recipe in either of those pans so I’m unsure of bake time. A toothpick inserted in the middle will come out clean when they’re done.

  11. Ummm wow! These are delish. I have never attempted lemon flavored anything so this was a first. Amazing!!! Great recipe! Can’t wait to make more of your recipes

  12. These cupcakes consistently fall in the middle. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kynada, Cupcakes that fall in the center are often either just slightly underbaked or the cupcake liners are overfilled. Both are easy fixes for next time!

  13. this recipe is not great- i followed it to a t, and my cupcakes turned out full of air bubbles and with little taste. i’ve used this website a lot for baking and cupcakes, and honestly i’m really disappointed in how these turned out

  14. Super fluffy, soft, lemony deliciousness! I made them to snack on with afternoon coffee, so I didn’t make the frosting and just glazed them with a mixture of confectioner’s sugar and leftover lemon juice. I also used salted butter because that’s all I had, but I omitted the salt and it worked out perfectly. The tops were a little flat but I think it might be because I have a small oven and overfilled while trying to get all the batter baked in one muffin tin. I’ll try filling the cups less next time.

    1. Is too much batter in each cupcake why my cupcakes also deflated as I brought it out of the oven and I was left with super flat cupcakes?

      But apart from a lackluster appearance otherwise, these cupcakes are the best ones I’ve made so far! Super super lemony which I love and soft, fluffy, airy and moist!

      Will definitely be trying these again but perhaps I’ll put less batter per cup

      Oh, I also reduced the sugar by half but it was sweet enough for me!

  15. Just made these! So good. Moist and super fluffy!! I only had buttermilk on hand but it worked great! I always use your awesome recipes. I used a vanilla buttercream which I added some sour cream to and lemon zest. Perfect for the icing!!

  16. Way too much batter for 12 cupcakes. I made 23 using my normal leveled oval scoop (2 1/2 tablespoons) that I use for all my cupcakes and muffins. They rose just to the tops of the papers and looked just like the photo.
    I have published two dessert cookbooks and edited some others, so I am pretty familiar with baking. I can’t explain the discrepancy in the number of cupcakes.
    I used my own lemon butter frosting and added a bit of food coloring to the cupcakes, just so they screamed “lemon”. I was happy with the results.

  17. Like the recipe, great taste, great texture, my family loves it, and say it’s the best cupcakes they’ve ever had. However, for everyone who ate the cupcake, it fell apart when they were peeling off the top of the paper cups. Therefore, I suggest bring the amount of baking powder down (i haven’t tried this change yet, but i think it’ll work), to maybe around 1 tsp instead of 2. Apart from that, great recipe, i loved it, my family loved it, my mother loved it (my mother is very hard to please when it comes to cupcakes) and i would bake it again.

  18. I made these cupcakes last night and this was the lemon cupcake recipe that i’ve been searching for!! Perfect balance of sweet and tang. One question- I noticed that your recipe says to decorate right before eating. Is it because the cupcake gets dried out at room temperature? I normally can keep my cupcakes at room temp for at least 2 days with no issues. Just wondering why for this recipe it needs to be refrigerated if not eating immediately?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Emma, Frosted cupcakes are fine covered at room temperature for a day. If you are topping with lemon zest, then we suggest adding the zest right before serving.

  19. Would it turn out okay if I take away one of the eggs and add in two egg whites and substitute the all purpose flour with cake flour?

  20. I have a small oven so I use a 6 cupcake mould pan. What should the bake time be?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rashmi, Are they still standard size muffin pans? If so, same bake time.

  21. Hiya was just wondering if you know how many calories is in the cupcakes . Thanks x

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Niamh, I’m unsure of the nutritional info of this recipe, but there are many great online calculators like this one: https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp

  22. Harriet Kaczmarczuk says:


    Please could I ask what muffin pan you use please? Thanks 🙂

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Harriet, we really like using USA Pan brand pans. You’ll find a link to the cupcake pan in this post: Stock Your Kitchen with These 8 Baking Pans.

  23. Would I be able to sub canola oil for the butter? What is the ratio if I did this? I’ve read that using oil creates a moister cupcake. Please let me know!

    1. I don’t recommend it. You need softened/creamed butter for this cupcake recipe.

  24. Lemony, light and delicious! We made these as part of our impromptu date night in treat. We used plain whole milk greek yogurt thinned with 2% milk because we didn’t have any whole milk on hand. We also baked them in a brownie squares pan sprayed with oil because we didn’t have cupcake liners and things stick less in the brownie squares pan. A few in the back came out with lightly golden edges but all came out of the pan easily and held their shape with only negligible flattening while cooling. We are not frosting people, so we had them plain and they were perfect to us just like that! Thanks for a tasty recipe using all fresh lemon and common pantry ingredients.

  25. Hi, can I cut the recipe in half? And also, can I swap the milk to buttermilk? Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Avie, You can cut the recipe in half. Buttermilk is ok but will give these a tangier taste.

  26. Love love love this recipe. Came out so moist. I added extra lemon zest which made it extra lemony. Tried Sally’s chocolate cupcake last time and just as good so came back for lemon cupcakes because I had 6 lemons left and didn’t know what to do with it.

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