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!

lemon cupcake topped with vanilla buttercream and a lemon slice

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

lemon cupcake with vanilla frosting cut in half showing the inside

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.

lemon cupcakes with vanilla buttercream

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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lemon cupcake topped with vanilla buttercream and a lemon slice

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 (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


  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

lemon cupcake topped with vanilla buttercream and a lemon slice with a bite taken from it


Comments are closed.

  1. Wow, these look so moist and delicious! My mom loves lemon things… wish I could go make these for her! 🙂 Also the pictures are so fun and colorful. Love ’em.

    1. Thanks for the photog compliment, Erin (as always!) 😉

  2. Mary Frances says:

    Mmmmm lemon is one if my favorites too. Glad I’m not the only one who eats chilled cupcakes! I’m not a huge cake person (give me a brownie;) but a chilled lemon cupcake with that heavenly frosting sounds too good to pass up!

    1. These are unbelievable when chilled, Mary Frances! Glad you enjoy a cold cupcake like me.

  3. Megan @ For the Love of Cookies says:

    I’ve never had lemon cupcakes before but they sound great, especially for spring, and they are too cute 🙂

  4. Erin | The Law Student's Wife says:

    la, la, la, lemon love is in the air! These cupcakes are truly a handful of sunshine Sally. And I’m totally onboard the lemon-cupcakes-for-breakfast train. We can do lemon zest on top for the morning, lemon candies on top for later. Deal?

    1. Now that sounds like a deal!

  5. these look great! i’ll try making these as soon as I’m done with my LID 🙂 speaking of which, is it possible to request for a recipe for people on LID or low iodine diet? i’ve still got more than 2 weeks to go with this diet and I can’t take it anymore! I am seriously craving some homemade goodness! I tried baking something without butter, salt, milk and eggs but it was a disaster!

    1. Hi Riva – I am not at all familiar with what an LID diet is. The majority of my recipes include the dairy products you mentioned and salt.

  6. Kelly @HIdden frutis and veggies says:

    Lemon cupcakes are my fav kind to buy from a local cupcake bakery, excited to have a recipe to try out at home!

  7. Cassie | Bake Your Day says:

    I truly love lemon desserts too, especially this time of year. I love the fluffy frosting!

  8. Sally, you have inspired me to put lemon in my cupcakes!! I never thought I would like it cause it is pretty much all chocolate all the time around here, but these just look so good!

    1. Hey Tieghan! If you try these, let me know! I think they are better than chocolate 😉

  9. I have been DYING for lemon cupcakes, I am very excited to make these! Also, your vanilla buttercream frosting is my favortie 🙂

    1. He Jackie – your favorite? That’s pretty awesome to hear. Thanks for sharing! Enjoy these cupcakes 😀

  10. After chocolate, lemon desserts are the next best thing, I think! These lemon cupcakes sound delicious and I love that you enjoy eating them chilled! Would love to try that. I’ve made lemon tarts and bars but not cupcakes – need to add that to the list!

    1. A lemon tart sounds so good right now. I need to make those!

  11. What size cake would this yield? What would be the baking time? These look delicious.

    1. Hi Darlene – it would yield a 9×9 cake. Not sure of the baking time since I’ve never tried it before.

  12. Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking says:

    I love, love, love lemon cupcakes! These look incredible, Sally! I’m so ready for spring and summer parties outside, and I know for sure I’ll be serving up these cute, lemony cupcakes. They look delish!

  13. Eva @ Eva Bakes says:

    Yes, this is a perfectly acceptable breakfast item. And the lemon (fruit) cancels out anything bad. Not that there is any, of course. 🙂 Yay for lemon flavored desserts!

  14. Waaaaay to cute !! I thought I was full from my huge lunch but suddenly my stomache feels empty!!:) and any desserts with lemon …..thrs always room for one more sunshiney cupcake!

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Etta!

  15. When life gives you lemons, you don’t make lemonade. You make Sally’s lemon cupcakes with vanilla frosting 😉

    1. Hahaha Hansi, I love that!!

  16. Hi Sally,
    Your cupcakes are really sweet, lemon is one of my favourite flavours for spring and summer. I read that your looking for a lemon buttercream recipe, I’ve my own recipe on my blog, bakinginpyjamas.com that you may be interested in.
    Best wishes,

    1. I’d love to check out your lemon buttercream recipe. Can you send me a link? Thanks Laura!

      1. Sure Sally, here it is http://bakinginpyjamas.com/2013/03/24/lemon-cupcakes/ . I paired with my own Lemon Cupcakes.

      2. Yum! Thanks for sharing Laura. 🙂 Will check them out tonight!

  17. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says:

    These look soooo good!!

  18. Joy @ Baking-Joy says:

    These look lovely Sally, lemon and vanilla go so well together. I think that’s why I’ve been baking baking everything with lemon recently; I’m trying to force spring to appear here! It seems to be working (just :-))

  19. I’m usually not a lemon girl, but your pictures and recipe have me re-thinking that!

  20. Yum, these look so light and fluffy, Sally! You’re lucky you’re getting warm weather…we’ve got one last (hopefully) winter storm headed for us in Toronto >_<
    But looking at these cupcakes makes me feel brighter cause they're so spring-y and pretty 🙂

    1. Stay safe in the storm, Ikhlas!

  21. Anne ~ Uni Homemaker says:

    This looks delicious! I love desserts with lemon in it. Lovely post!

  22. Elaine @ Cooking to Perfection says:

    Perfect for the weather we are having! It’s funny, because I’m actually going to post lemon bars soon. Lemon is definitely one of my favorite flavors at the moment…can’t say that I always prefer fruit over chocolate though! Gotta switch things up and get a little chocolate and peanut butter in your life every once in a while. 🙂

  23. Gloria @ Simply Gloria says:

    Sally, I love how your recipe will only make 12. That always seems to be just right! I love lemon desserts…and this is reminding me of the season coming ahead! (=

    1. Gloria – I’m the same, I don’t need 18-24 cupcakes in my kitchen unless I’m headed to a party or something! I favor small batch recipes.

  24. Caroline @ Pass the Cocoa says:

    These are so pretty, Sally! I’m also super excited for spring (:

  25. Meagan @ Scarletta Bakes says:

    Seriously? Every time I drive up to this blog in my droolcar, I get pulled over by the droolcops for droolspeeding. Then I have to pay a droolfine and it’s just getting ridiculous. Could you stop making me drool so hard? Please? Have mercy, lady! (these cupcakes are going on my must make list ASAP!)

    1. Hahahahahahaha I’m dying of laughter. Droolcops lol

  26. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes says:

    Lemon desserts are definitely something that’s grown on me over the years! I used to not be a fan and now can’t get enough!
    I’m jealous of your weather…it’s 32 degrees here right now and hailing!

  27. It’s like you’re reading my mind! I was just thinking of making lemon cupcakes to go with some leftover coconut icing and I check my instagram and right there in my face are these beauties ahah…I think I’m going to make mini cupcakes this time thought because it’s exam time and a full batch of regular cupcakes disapears real fast around exam time

    1. Good luck during your exams! Coconut frosting + lemon cupcakes sounds wonderful. 🙂

  28. Nicole @ The Marvelous Misadventures of a Foodie says:

    These are oh so perfect for spring Sally! I love the cute little bits of lemon zest on top – to die for!!

  29. Mr. & Mrs. P says:

    We just love lemon in baking.. These cupcakes not only looks delicious, we bet they taste amazing!! The cake looks really moist and flavorful!

  30. Reba- Not So Perfect Life says:

    I love everything lemon as well. I wonder how very vanilla soy milk would work in the icing. Have you ever tried it? To me it’s like liquid vanilla ice cream!

    1. I’ve never tried it before, Reba. I stick to cream because it lends the creamiest, fluffiest texture. Let me know if you try it!

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