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

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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!!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. Kathleen Liu says:

    It was so good I’ve decided to make a 6″ three layer cake with this recipe and am wondering if you would you still use all purpose flour or substitute it with cake flour? Thanks!

  16. Made these for my sister’s birthday. They are so light and have such a bright clean flavor! She always says she doesn’t like sweets, but she saw these and gobbled. Thanks for another wonderful recipe and a great family memory.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Thank you so much for making this recipe, Dianne! We’re so glad these cupcakes were a hit.

    2. Is the battery supposed to be thick?

  17. Margaret B. says:

    Honestly the best lemon cupcakes I’ve ever made!

  18. My cupcakes keep falling and turning into Donuts what is going on?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lotty, cupcakes can collapse if they’ve been under-baked or overfilled – both easy fixes for next time! Make sure to only fill cupcake liners 2/3 full with batter.

  19. I’ve never made cupcakes from scratch before. This recipe was so easy and they tasted oh so good.I made them for a farewell to a coworker. I filled them with a lemon filling , made the lemon cream cheese frosting and then candied some lemon and cut them into lil wedges for the top. Everyone liked them. Making them again for a potluck otmorrow. Thanks Sandy!

  20. These cupcakes were delicious! So light and lemony. We had them for a familybirthday celebration and everyone loved them. Has anyone made this into a Layer cake before?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cindy, so glad you enjoyed these cupcakes! This batter makes the perfect amount for a 3 layer, 6 inch cake, or for a larger size, we recommend following our Lemon Layer Cake recipe.

  21. Could u make these gluten free?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Anne, we haven’t tested a gluten free version of this recipe, but let us know if you give anything a try.

  22. Has anyone tried to replace the sugar with a healthier sugar substitution such as monkfruit sweetner? Will it work in this recipe? Is it a 1:1 replacement?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi LN, we’d love to help but we are not trained in baking with sugar substitutes. For best taste and texture (and so you don’t waste your time trying to adapt this recipe since it may not work properly), it may be more useful to find a recipe that is specifically formulated for sugar substitutes. Thank you!

      1. Okay, no worries. Thank you for your reply, Trina!

  23. Hi Sally, I’m making these for my sister and under your recommendation, adding a cup of blueberries to the batter to make them lemon and blueberry cupcakes. She’s gluten free and I was wondering what flour would work best. I know different flours give different textures, flavours ect. and I’m unsure of which one to use. Do you know/have any advice? Thanks.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sam, we aren’t trained in gluten-free baking and haven’t tried this recipe with any gluten free flours, so unfortunately we can’t make a confident recommendation here. Many readers have reported success using gluten-free all-purpose flours like Bob’s Red Mill or Cup4Cup, at a 1:1 swap. If you give anything a try, we’d love to know how it goes!

  24. I used this recipe to make a 6″ cake (3 pans) as you have mentioned as a tip to use a cupcake recipe. However, it didn’t rise and I did measure the leavening correctly. What went wrong?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kari, how was the texture? If the texture was fine, you didn’t necessarily do anything wrong! They are thinner layers, but check to make sure your baking powder is fresh (we find it loses it’s strength after about 3 months). Also, be sure you’re not over mixing the batter, which can lead to dense, squat cake layers. Let us know if we can help to troubleshoot further!

  25. Hello,
    I am planning on baking these cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday. If I bake them the night before, how do I store them without frosting so they stay moist?

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sabrina, Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature.

  26. I used this batter recipe for a 3 layer 6” cake as suggested and it turned out perfectly! I followed every single step, no substitutions and couldn’t be happier. The texture was soft but moist, and not overwhelmingly lemon but just enough. Thanks for reliable recipes, as always!

  27. Hi, I was thinking of making your lemon layer cake but I only have 5 inch cake pans! Do you think using this recipe would fit better instead? Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lin, this should work perfectly for 3, 5 inch pan layers. You can follow the bake time and temperature from this 6 inch cakes post — but bake time will be a little bit longer due to the slightly thicker layers.

  28. Sally, I can’t thank you enough for all the wonderful recipes you have. Who needs a recipe book when you have “Sally’s BakingAddiction”? I made these cupcakes for my daughter’s engagement party and they were a big hit. The cake was light and moist with the perfect amount of lemon flavoring and the vanilla butter cream icing was a delicious pairing. I will definitely be making them again!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We’re thrilled these cupcakes were a hit at your daughter’s party, Donna — thank you for including our recipe in the celebrations!

  29. Made these for my daughter’s birthday sleepover, and they are wonderful. I made the lemon layer cake for her actual birthday and was surprised that these actually have more zest & the same amount of juice as the 3 layer cake. I have to say, I think these had just the right amount, & the zest for the cake recipe probably could be doubled or even tripled.

  30. My cupcakes had sort of a cornbread consistency, do you know how that occurred, or how I could fix that?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jayla, Cakes can take on the texture (and even the flavor) of cornbread if the ratio of ingredients are off. Additionally, pay close attention to your mixing methods as well as the types of ingredients you’re using. Never reduce the sugar, either. If you’re ever curious to read more, here are all of our tips to prevent your cakes from tasting like cornbread!

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