Originally published in 2013 (and loved ever since!), these 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!
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. We also used this as a starting point and experimented with different citrus flavors in our 6 inch citrus cake.
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
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.
Want to add berries? Use my recipe for lemon blueberry cupcakes.
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 (pictured below), or drizzle with raspberry sauce.
More Favorite Cupcake Recipes
- Chocolate Cupcakes
- Vanilla Cupcakes
- Strawberry Cupcakes
- Peanut Butter Cupcakes
- Yellow Cupcakes
- Carrot Cake Cupcakes
- Banana Cupcakes
Homemade Lemon Cupcakes
- 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 (188g) 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
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days.
- 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.
- Milk: I highly recommend whole milk for a rich and moist tasting cupcake, but any milk (dairy or nondairy) works in a pinch.
- Lemons: You need about 2-3 medium lemons to yield this amount of zest and juice.
- Garnish: Instead of a lemon slice, decorate the cupcakes with sprinkles, white chocolate chips, or even crushed hard lemon candies.
- Try my lemon blueberry cake next. It is the same exact recipe, only doubled to make a layer cake.
- Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!
Keywords: homemade lemon cupcakes, lemon cupcakes
Reader Comments & Reviews
I’ve made these once before for a shower and doubled the recipe with great results. I just made them again today (doubled the recipe) around 5 PM and I’m wondering if my shower is at 2 PM on Sunday (nearly 72 hours from now) is it worth the effort to freeze them? My goal is for them to taste as fresh as possible and I didn’t have time to make them the day before. What would you recommend or would they be OK just sitting out at room temperature until Sunday? I’m willing to freeze tonight if that’s best. Thanks in advance for your opinion.
Hi Dawn, these cupcakes are best stored in the refrigerator for up to three days, so we would likely recommend freezing them to help seal in some of that freshness before the shower on Sunday. Hope they’re a hit!
They came out dry…
Hi Jean, we’re happy to help troubleshoot. Make sure to spoon and level your flour when measuring and be very careful not to over-bake (always use a toothpick test to check for doneness and keep on eye on cupcakes in the oven!). Thank you for giving these cupcakes a try.
Hi! Love your recipes! Can I add green food coloring to the buttercream to get in the St Patrick’s Day spirit? Thanks for thoughts on this.
Absolutely! I would use gel food coloring, just a drop or 2 depending on the shade of green you want.
My daughter really wants orange cupcakes for her birthday and I really want a recipe from Sally. Do you think I could substitute orange juice and zest for lemon?
Hi JE, While we haven’t tested it with this recipe, it should work. Let us know if you try it!
Hi! Can I downsize this recipe to make half the amount for mini cupcakes?
Hi Lena, you can halve this recipe for a smaller amount. Enjoy!
Can I double this to make a layer cake? If so, would it make two 9″ round layers?
Hi Alison, I recommend this lemon layer cake instead. You can use 2 9-inch cake pans instead of 3.
Hi Sally, I’d like to make this as a 6 in cake. Can I make your lemon curd as the filling? Do you think it’s sturdy enough to be squished between layers? Thank you
Hi Sarah, absolutely, lemon curd would be delicious between the layers. You may find it helpful to make a frosting “dam” like we do when using raspberry cake filling. It helps prevent the filling from oozing out. Enjoy!
Do you think I can use full fat evaporator milk?
Hi Ashley, we haven’t tested this recipe with evaporated milk, so are unsure of the results. From what I’ve read, you’ll need to add an equal amount of water to the evaporated milk, so that would mean 1/4 cup of each to total the 1/2 cup of milk the recipe calls for. Hope they turn out great!
I made these cupcakes and they sunk in the middle before they were completely baked. I did not open the oven until 18 minutes the check. I think there was too much lemon juice.
The cupcakes did not come out right. They sunk in the middle half way during baking. I think there was too much liquid -1/3 cup of lemon juice, which is the same amount for your lemon cake. Flavor was good, but texture was bad. Disappointed.
This recipe has become my families go to, granted I’m the one that bakes it every time but I do not mind. Thank you Sally
OMG! Another winner from Sally! So delicious!
Have you ever made these with your lemon buttercream frosting? I’m thinking of making these with a blend of your vanilla buttercream And lemon buttercream frosting, since I’m already making and serving your vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream frosting. I imagine both lemon cupcakes And lemon buttercream would be too lemony, which is why I’m assuming you recommend it with your vanilla buttercream? But please let me know your thoughts if I did all lemon, or a blend. Thank you so much!! First time user of your recipes but the vanilla buttercream we’ve made thus far is finger-licking yummy! Looking forward to all our finished results!
Hi Summer, these would be great with lemon buttercream! Enjoy!
Hi, I was wondering if it is safe to double this recipe at one time to make 24 cupcakes? Thanks!
Hi Ren! We always recommend making separate batches for best results. Hope they’re a hit!
Thank you for sharing the recipe, I would like to try it!
I’m vegan, May I ask about any replacement for the eggs?
I’ve found there are different ways but not sure which one could work with the muffin.
Thank you in advance!
Hi Rocio, we haven’t tested this recipe with any egg replacements, so we’re unsure of the results. If you’re interested, here are all of our egg-free recipes.
Any idea how ma h mini cupcakes this recipe would yield? Thank you!!
Hi Dave, this recipe should make around 30 mini cupcakes, give or take. Bake for 11-13 minutes. Enjoy!
I wanted to love these cupcakes , but I followed the recipe closely and my cupcakes sunk in the middle. And were really buttery on the bottom. I left the butter and milk out 2 hours to soften. I did use flaxseed eggs instead of regular eggs. Could this have caused the issues?
Hi Amy! Yes, making any substitutions will change the outcome of the recipe – especially with delicate cake and cupcake recipes. We usually recommend letting butter soften for about an hour – room temperature butter is cooler than we typically think. Thank you for giving these cupcakes a try!
Hi, I made these cupcakes with your cream cheese frosting and added lemon extract. They were delicious and everyone loved them. I was wondering if you could make it the recipe into a 2 layer cake using either 8 or 9 inch pans? Thanks again for a delicious recipe!