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 complement each other wonderfully.

Feel free to use cream cheese frosting instead!

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

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • 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) milk*
  • zest + fresh juice of two medium lemons*
  • topping: vanilla buttercream and additional lemon slices


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). 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.


  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. 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.
  2. Milk: I use whole milk, but any milk is fine.
  3. Lemons: About 1 and 1/2 Tbsp zest and 1/4 – 1/3 cup lemon 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

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


  1. Can I turn this into a layered cake by doubling it? Also, would you suggest the vanilla buttercream or cream cheese frosting for a cake?

  2. Hi
    just wanted to know if there is an exact amount of lemon zest and lemon juice we need to use or if we just add as much as we like

  3. My neighbor gave me meyer lemons from his tree so I made lemon cupcakes for the neighborhood. The cupcakes were light, soft and pillowy. I was so proud! Instead of vanilla frosting I added same amt of lemon zest and a small amt of the juice to the frosting. They are pure, lemony goodness! Thx, Sally! Making blueberry/lemon cupcakes today!!!!

  4. So you do add baking soda and they still come out fluffy and soft? I thought baking soda was a must when using acid like lemon juice? I’m making lemon cupcakes today so may give this a try!

  5. The recipes of lemon cupcakes I made for my mom it really helps and it so delicious and cool. It taste really lemon. Thanks Mrs. Sally. I will make this tomorrow again.

  6. Could I take out the lemon juice and just make these as vanilla cupcakes? The texture was incredible when I made them as lemon cupcakes so I want to try them as vanilla!

  7. I needed to make lemon cupcakes for a birthday today, and am really glad I tested this recipe before making the batch last night for today’s party. I used two lemons in the first batch, measuring the juice and zest to see if it was as noted in the recipe. They were quite tart, which completely masked the sweetness you’d normally expect in a cupcake. I looked at your lemon layer cake recipe, and saw it also calls for two lemons, so I decided to try the second batch of cupcakes with just one lemon. The second batch is so much better. Shouldn’t all the cupcake recipe ingredients be half the layer cake ingredients? I also cut down the baking powder and salt, and used buttermilk like the layer cake uses. They turned out so much better with those changes. This is a great recipe!

  8. I made these for mothers day and they turned out incredible! The lemon flavour was just the perfect little punch to go with the buttercream frosting!

  9. These cupcakes with the recommended vanilla buttercream frosting are delicious. Follow the recipe ingredients and instructions and I think you will be pleased. I will be making these again soon.

  10. Do you know how many cups of batter this recipe makes? I am trying to make a 3 layer 6inch cake and each layer needs about 2 cups per cake tin?

  11. Hello! Can whole wheat flour be used in place of all purpose? Will the cupcakes still taste okay?
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Katie! I don’t recommend it- the cupcakes will be very dense. You could try half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour. I haven’t tried it this way so if you do, let me know how it goes!

    1. Hi Dani! I have little experience baking with GF flours, so I’m afraid I’m not much help here. Let me know if you try anything!

      1. So here’s my feedback, i used Bobs Red Mill gluten-free all purpose flour 1 to 1, is a gluten-free all purpose flour that replaces the flour in the cupcakes for the exact same amount, it does take a litte longer to bake though but it comes out just as great as the regular ones! I made this for a baking sale at work and everyone LOVED IT! Thank you!

  12. I made these for my family a few days ago and they did not last very long, they were so delicious! I loved the tarte lemon taste which constrasted well with the sweet store bought vanilla icing I used; it was a perfect flavour for spring time. I definitely will be making these again!

  13. Hi Sally! I made both these cupcakes and your lemon layer cake (in a 9 x 13 pan) yesterday, and though the layer cake post says that these two recipes should taste identical, I did not find this to be true. I thought the cupcakes had a much stronger lemon flavor, perhaps on the line of being too much. Now, since I use organic lemons, which tend to be on the smaller side, I went with the measured amount of zest called for in the recipe (1-1/2 TBSP) rather than just zesting two lemons…I believe I used close to five small lemons to get that amount of zest. I used somewhere between 1/4 cup and 1/3 c lemon juice, as your recipe notes suggested. Do you think perhaps the lemon zest was too packed in the spoon, thereby adding too much? I never know how packed zest should be when measuring! On the other hand, I used the measured amounts of zest and juice suggested in the lemon layer cake recipe but felt that the cake could have use a bit more lemon flavor. Any idea where I might have gone wrong? I’m just wondering because I did not find those two recipes to taste the same. Thank you!

    1. Hi Rachel! Perhaps the zest was packed too tightly? Regardless, which flavor do you prefer? Because if you’re looking for a lemon flavor somewhere in between the two recipes, adjust the zest as needed. (I wouldn’t adjust the lemon juice as added/reduced liquid can affect the texture.) Feel free to reduce the amount in the cupcakes and increase the amount in the layer cake. So sorry you had trouble with the flavor!

      1. Thank you for the input! I will be making the cupcakes again later this week for a party, so I will just reduce the zest a bit. I mean, both recipes were still delicious, of course, but I’ll adjust the zest accordingly next time–one can never really go wrong with your recipes!

  14. Hello from India!
    I made this recipe when I had guests visiting us. It is a quick and easy recipe that one can make with the readily available ingredients at home. The outcome was a nice textured moist cake with a lemony twist. For lack of time, i poured the batter to a loaf pan and skipped frosting. It tasted good. Frosting would literally be icing on the cake, will try it that next time. Thank you Sally!

  15. Hey Sally,
    I made these cupcakes and they were delicious. So moist and fluffy. Thank you!! Greetings from Germany

  16. Sally can these be made with oil in place of the butter? I made your chocolate cupcakes and they were the best ive ever had. Was so impressed with how moist they were so wondering if it would work for the lemon ones?

    1. Hi Jo! I don’t recommend replacing butter with oil. That creaming step is crucial! I’m thrilled you enjoyed my chocolate cupcake recipe 🙂

  17. Hi Sally! I’m hoping to make this for my sons birthday party, in a sheet cake form. Would a jelly roll pan work? Also, would adding half shortening half butter to the frosting make it slightly less prone to melting for an outside party? I want to make the cake a light blue with blue berries in inside.

  18. Could I sub orange for the lemon? My son has been begging for orange cupcakes and finding a successful recipe is proving difficult!

  19. Hi Sally!

    Thank you for all the yummy recipes. Does this recipe yell a 2 or 3 layer 6in cake? and what would the timing be?

    Thanks in advance 🙂

  20. This recipe is amazing!! I just tried it and the flavor is just perfect!! I only had one problem: when I try to take them out, the surface cracks, I’m not sure if I over mixed the batter or if my oven’s temperature is too hihg… Is there any way to fix them?

    1. Hi Ariana! I haven’t tried these cupcakes with gluten free flour- I do know many readers have had success with 1:1 GF flours. If you do try it, let me know how it goes!

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally