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Lemon Cupcake Recipe

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These homemade lemon cupcakes are so moist and fluffy! They’re topped with a creamy lemon buttermilk frosting. These can be paired with fruit toppings or filling for the perfect summer time cupcake. 

Do you love lemon desserts? Try my favorite lemon blueberry cake or this lemon coconut cake.

An unwrapped cupcake sitting on a wire rack with a big swirl of lemon frosting and a lemon garnish on top

Easy lemon cupcakes

I always surprise myself with the lemon desserts. It isn’t my usual go-to dessert but after one bite, I’m hooked.

You’ll love these lemon cupcakes, they’re moist, spongy and dense but fluffy. These are topped with a creamy lemon buttermilk frosting that is to-die-for. It’s the perfect balance of tangy and sweet.

The cupcake recipe is quite simple because it’s an oil-based recipe and therefore you don’t have to spend time waiting for the butter to soften or creaming it together with the sugar. It comes together in a snap.

A cupcake is sitting on it's open wrapper with a big bite taken out of it, showing the air bubbles inside the cupcake and the creamy frosting on top.

ingredients and substitution

For these cupcakes, the flavor is coming from three places. Lemon extract, lemon zest and lemon juice. Plus, instead of using regular milk, the recipe uses buttermilk which adds to the tangy flavor as well.

  • Granulated sugar
  • Vegetable oil
  • Eggs
  • Lemons- zested and juiced
  • Lemon extract can be substituted with pure vanilla extract
  • Sour cream this keeps these cupcakes especially moist. Substitute with Greek yogurt or plain yogurt
  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Buttermilk– If you don’t have buttermilk, you can use my buttermilk substitute with lemon juice or vinegar. Otherwise use regular milk.

You’ll need 4-5 lemons for this recipe, because we’re zesting lemons for the cupcake and the frosting. After zesting, we’re also going to juice a couple of the lemons for the cupcake batter.

A gorgeous lemon cupcake sitting on a wire rack with a sliced of lemon for garnish on top.

How to make lemon cupcakes

  • Combine the granulated sugar with the eggs, oil, lemon zest and extract and beat until combined.
  • Add the sour cream and mix until well combined.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients.
  • Next alternate adding the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients (lemon juice and buttermilk) and beat until everything is well combined. I always recommend giving the bowl a good scrape down.
  • Bake, cool and frost.

Lemon Buttermilk Frosting

I absolutely love this frosting, I think I need to make more buttermilk frostings in the future. Usually I use heavy whipping cream in my frosting so this time I just substituted some of the heavy cream with buttermilk. It gives this frosting a slight tangy flavor.

Just as you did with the cupcakes, I also used lemon zest and lemon extract in the frosting and I also used a touch of vanilla extract to cut some of the sour flavor.

My recipe calls for cold butter. This is not a mistake! It’s my secret to making the perfect frosting consistently. Instead of waiting for the butter to soften, let your mixer do the work. Be sure to follow the instructions and beat the butter for several minutes until it’s whipped and fluffy before adding any powdered sugar.

This frosting is such a nice balance with the lemon cupcakes. You could even top these with some fresh fruit.

A close up shot of a lemon cupcake with a big swirl of buttermilk lemon frosting on top and a thinly sliced lemon for garnish

How to freeze and store cupcakes

Store frosted cupcakes at room temperature in an airtight container. If you live in a hot and humid environment, then I recommend refrigerating these once frosted. Serve at room temperature. These are best served within 2 days of preparation but will proper storage they can stay fresh for several days.

If you need to freeze, flash-freeze the cupcakes on a baking sheet for 15 minutes than transfer them to an air-tight, freezer-safe container. Thaw in the refrigerator for several hours then bring to room temperature prior to serving. If possible, it’s best to store them unfrosted.

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An unwrapped cupcake sitting on a wire rack with a big swirl of lemon frosting and a lemon garnish on top

Lemon Cupcake Recipe

  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 26 cupcakes

Description

These homemade moist lemon cupcakes are topped with a creamy lemon buttermilk frosting. This  can be paired with fruit toppings or filling for the perfect summer time cupcake. 

Ingredients

For the Cupcakes:

  • 2 cups (380g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (118ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 Lemons, zested
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) lemon extract, or pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (118ml) light sour cream
  • 2 1/2 cups (350g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons (11.2g)  baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) salt
  • 1/4 cup (59ml) lemon juice, (23 small lemons)
  • 1 cup (236ml) buttermilk

For the Frosting:

  • 1 1/2 cups (339g) unsalted butter, cold
  • 5 cups (650g) powdered sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) lemon extract
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) heavy whipping cream

Instructions

For the Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and lemon extract. Beat on medium speed until the eggs and oil are well incorporated and the batter is lighter in color, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Next, add the lemon zest and the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Alternate adding half the dry ingredients followed by half of the liquid ingredients (buttermilk and lemon juice) and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  4. Using a large cookie scoop, divide the batter evenly, filling each liner 2/3 full. Careful not to overfill. Bake at 350°F for 15-18 minutes. Test the cupcakes for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cupcake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cupcakes are done. Cool Completely.

For the Frosting: 

  1. Cut the butter into pieces. Using the paddle attachment, whip butter for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat until butter look light in color.
  2. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated into butter then add the lemon extract and lemon zest and mix to combine. Beat for about 60 seconds.
  3. Next, add an additional 2 cups of powdered sugar and the buttermilk and beat on low speed until sugar is incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 3 minutes.
  4. Add last 1 cup powdered sugar along with the heavy cream. Beat on low until ingredients start to mix together. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for another 3-5 minutes to whip additional air into the frosting.
  5. Use a large open star tip to frost these cupcakes. Top with a slice of lemon or fresh berries.

Notes

  • Sour Cream: You can substitute the light sour cream for Greek yogurt. You can also use full-fat sour cream if needed.
  • Buttermilk: To make homemade buttermilk use 1 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar and then add enough milk to make 1 cup. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes and then stir.
  • Storage suggestions: If you live in a hot and humid environment then I would suggest that you refrigerate cupcakes that are frosted and allow them to come to room temperature before serving. Otherwise they can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature.
  • Make-ahead: These are best served within 2 days of preparation but will proper storage they can stay fresh for several days.
  • Freezing: If needed, flash-freeze the cupcakes on a baking sheet for 15 minutes than transfer them to an air-tight, freezer-safe container. Thaw in the refrigerator for several hours then bring to room temperature prior to serving. If possible, it’s best to store them unfrosted.
Nutrition Information:
1 cupcake
347
38g
170mg
16.4g
10.8g
49g
.4g
2.6g
52mg
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Lemon Cupcakes, Cupcake Recipe, Easy Cupcake Recipe, Lemon Dessert,

This homemade lemon cupcake recipe can be paired with a fresh fruit topping and if you really love lemon, consider adding a lemon curd filling.

More lemon desserts

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating

48 Responses
  1. Lisa

    The buttercream was WAY too soft to hold shape when piped. I added another cup of powdered sugar and called it quits. Frosted with a knife

      1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
        Beyond Frosting

        Hi Jaclyn- was your butter cold, straight from the fridge? In the future, you can try adding another cup of powdered sugar, or skip the heavy cream if the frosting is already too soft. But the way the frosting is designed, with cold butter should not be soft

  2. Georgia Morris

    𝕀 𝕝𝕠𝕧𝕖 𝕥𝕙𝕚𝕤 𝕣𝕖𝕔𝕚𝕡𝕖. 𝕀𝕥 𝕙𝕒𝕤 𝕝𝕠𝕥𝕤 𝕠𝕗 𝕗𝕝𝕒𝕧𝕠𝕣. 𝔻𝕠 𝕪𝕠𝕚 𝕙𝕒𝕧𝕖 𝕒 𝕤𝕞𝕒𝕝𝕝 𝕓𝕒𝕥𝕔𝕙 𝕣𝕖𝕔𝕚𝕡𝕖?

      1. Georgia Morris

        Thanks. I’ve made these before and they’re delicious, so I need to make a smaller batch.

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