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. Can self rising flour be used?

  2. I made this and it was delicious! Moist, fluffy cupcakes. Really love it!
    I doubled the recipe but me and my family are not type of sweet tongue, so i reduce the sugar to 1 and 3/4 cup and still delicious. Top it with lemon cream cheese frosting! Yummy. Definitely make this again soon!

  3. Made this for my coworker’s birthday. Everyone loved it! Paired it with the suggested buttercream frosting, too.

  4. I’m new to baking but LOVE your site. Is it normal for the mixture to look a bit curled after mixing the lemon and milk? My oven is awful (and is hopefully being replaced this week) but they came out short and brown on the sides but light on top. I don’t know what I did wrong or if it’s just my broken oven

    1. Hi Jackie, Were all of your ingredients room temperature? When ingredients are different temperatures they won’t mix well and the mixture could look curdled. Here are my best baking tips for cupcakes that I think you will find helpful!

  5. These cupcakes are so soft and fluffy and for once after sooooo many cupcake recipes I’ve tried these turned out PERFECT!! My picky brother LOVED them. Thanks Sally!! 😀

    1. These turned out AMAZING!!! Super simple recipe, great cupcakes! They were soft and fluffy, my dad who doesn’t like sweet stuff…LOVED THEM!! They were absolutely PERFECT!! I am 100% using this recipe again. Thank you so much Sally!

  6. Can i use plain flour instead of all purpose flour?

    1. They are the same thing.

  7. These were amazing. It is the best cupcake recipe I have tried yet. The only change I made was buttermilk instead of whole milk. They are the perfect combination of sweet & tangy. I used your lemon buttercream & it was a perfect compliment. Thank you.

  8. Hi Sally,
    i was wondering if i did this recipe with mini cupcakes do you know how long the bake time would be or should i just do the toothpick test? thanks!

    1. Hi Simra, for around 30 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature.

  9. SALLY,
    I loved your Lemon Cupcake recipe so much that I want to thank you for sharing it!!
    I have been trying different lemon cupcake/muffin recipes and hadn’t found one worth remaking. Yours is a definite do again!!
    Both my husband and I thought the lemon cupcake tasted just fine without the frosting. They were plenty sweet enough on their own.
    Thanks again.

  10. Lauren A Woodley says:

    Hey Sally I don’t have lemons I just have the lemon juice that comes in a bottle.. can I use that?

    1. Fresh is always best, but that definitely works too.

  11. Was hesitant to Use wholemeal spelt flour as plain flour is not available in the shops and it turned out perfect, did not sink. Thank you for your recipe it was my first time to add lemon juice in a cupcake mixture. Great taste. Happy Easter

  12. Deborah Cade says:

    I’ve made this a couple of times in a 9×5 loaf pan, and am making it today for Easter. It’s truly one of our favorites. I can’t remember how long I baked it, but I’m thinking it’s close to 40 minutes. I keep a close eye on it from 30 minutes. I slice it into three layers, fill with Sally’s lemon curd (made with three yolks and one whole egg), and frost with vanilla Swiss meringue butter cream. Last time I think I made half of the SWMB recipe, which was plenty. We both love lemon desserts, and this is one of the best!

  13. so good!

    1. I just attempted this recipe yesterday, it was amazing, but I was using cake flour, batter seemed too wet. In South Africa where I live, all purpose flour is not stock. We use cake weat flour. Please advise on measurement to use for cake weat flour in any of your recipes.

      Next week I’ll be doing coconut carrot cake

      Thank you

  14. Very delicious! super fluffy and sweet! I was making 1 and a half batches but it made 24. (Not that that is a bad this because they are super good)

  15. Rhonda Patterson says:

    Great recipe! Came out great on the first try. I did add a little almond flavoring to the icing as well.

  16. Hi Sally, these are delicious, thanks for sharing! I’m just wondering, can we add some poppyseed into the recipe as is? Do we have to do anything different? And do we have to toast the poppyseed?

    1. Definitely. I would add a couple teaspoons of poppy seeds to the dry ingredients. No need to toast them prior to using.

  17. Can I use unbleached all purpose flour?

    1. Yes, definitely.

  18. I made these twice today, and I found them to be too moist and they sank after being out of the oven. I thought I under baked them at first so I tried again. I’m wondering if my texture problem could have been caused by too much lemon juice?? I can’t think of what else it would be? I love all of your recipes and never have had any problem with any of them – and I actually normally cut 1-2 minutes off of your baking time to work in my oven, so I was surprised that they seem under baked? (and the flavor of these is AMAZING. So amazing that I will gladly try a third time)

    1. Hi Jenn, I’m glad you enjoy the flavor so much! For the lemon juice if you measure it you should be using between 1/3 and 1/4 cup of juice (see recipe notes). Another cause of cupcakes that rise up and then sink in the center is over-filling the cupcake liners. For more troubleshooting tips see my 10 Tips for Baking the BEST Cupcakes.

  19. These were really good. I left out the zest because they were for kids, and used the lower end (1/4 cup) for the juice in the cupcakes. I frosted them with your Lemon Buttercream. They were soft and fluffy, with a nice lemon flavor.

  20. This is my go-to cupcake recipe. In my family in the “Baker” but I’m not really a good baker I just have excellent recipes from Sally’s baking addiction… thank you for helping me keep up the facade.

  21. Sally, this looks amazing! I’m wanting to do this as a 6-inch layer cake but do you think I could get away with reverse creaming method in with this recipe?

    1. Thanks Diana! I haven’t tested the reverse creaming method with these cupcakes, but you can certainly try it.

  22. Pooja Sikka says:

    Hey Sally, Have seen in this recipe and a few others, that for cupcakes you use whole milk but for cakes you use buttermilk(like the lemon cake recipe uses buttermilk), why is that and what will be the difference in texture because of that.

    1. Hi Pooja, no difference at all in texture. The buttermilk adds a tangier flavor and can easily be used in the cupcake version as well.

  23. Hi Sally, first time trying cupcakes and absolutely love this recipe to start with!! Gave to all my family and they love it! But my husband, being not much of a fan for sweets, thinks the frosting is just too sweet for his taste, so is there a way to reduce the sweetness in the frosting?
    Also, I followed throughout the recipe and the useful tips (I made sure 2/3 filling in the liner) but when the cupcake came out of the oven, it went down like it’s one size smaller, slightly detaching the cupcake liner, but it was not a sink in the middle, the shape held up, it’s just like it has shrunk. Any suggestion how this happened?

    1. Hi Dorothy! For a less sweet frosting, try my Swiss Meringue Buttercream or Cream Cheese Frosting. I’m unsure about the shrinking– the only thing I can think of, without knowing exactly what happened, is that the cupcakes were under-baked. Also, make sure you don’t over-mix the batter. I hope this all helps!

  24. This recipe is really good! I baked my cupcakes and it’s vanished before I even make the frosting! I used self raising flour and reduced the amount of baking powder. It turned out well! Especially with a cup of tea!

  25. Liz Jackson says:

    Hey Sally,
    Do you have the nutrition for these cupcakes?

    1. Hi Liz, 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

  26. Easy and delicious. I used gluten-free all-purpose (plain) flour and a dairy-free butter substitute and they were STILL delicious! This has instantly become my go-to recipe. Thanks so much!

  27. Hi Sally! I’ve been learning how to bake for a while with you! Thanks so much for your amazing blog! I tried this using buttermilk instead of milk, put 3/4 cup sugar instead of 1 (always do that) and… it did not work. They did not rise at all, browned on the bottom and sides, and had a tad bit weird flavor. What might I have done wrong? Both baking powder and buttermilk were fresh and good quality. Ingredients at room temperature. Should I have added some baking soda? I will be grateful for your thoughts…

    1. Hi Evelyn, Buttermilk should have been ok but will give these a tangier taste. For the best results I do recommend following the quantities in the recipe exactly. For help troubleshooting you can check out my post 10 Tips for Baking the BEST Cupcakes.

  28. Hi Sally,
    I have never made anything from scratch before. The Coronavirus has made money tight and cancelled graduation plans for the kids. I made these cupcakes instead of ordering a cake and my girls loved them! Thank you so much

  29. I make your recipes all the time and love them! I made a batch of these today for a refreshing dessert, love the lemon-y flavor! They puffed up perfectly and didn’t fall (I was sure I filled them too much). My husband and I thought the frosting was a bit on the too sweet side but the kids enjoyed it! What are some less sweet frostings that could go with these for next time or can I reduce the amount of sugar used in the frosting?

    1. Hi Anita, I’m so glad you all enjoyed the cupcakes. For a frosting that isn’t as sweet I think you would enjoy Swiss Meringue Buttercream!

  30. Hi Sally made these last week and they were delicious, do you think I could swap the lemons for oranges for a different flavour?

    1. Hi Edel, While I haven’t tested it with this recipe I believe it should work. Let me know if you try it!

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