These Lemon Cupcakes are soft, fluffy, and so refreshing! Naturally lemon flavored (no pudding mixes or lemon extract in the cupcake bases!), the lemon flavor comes through bright and clear in these sweet cupcakes! We’re topping them off today with a lemon cream cheese frosting!
Another lemon recipe for you today! 🍋
Between all of the testing I’ve been doing for my lemon brownies, lemon curd, lemonade, and now these lemon cupcakes, it’s a miracle my grocery store has been able to keep up with the amount of lemons I’m going through.
Today’s recipe comes by request. I’ve had a lot of fans of my vanilla cake ask me how to make a lemon variation of that recipe, and while I’d love to have an easy fool-proof response to that question, I really don’t know the answer until I get in the kitchen and try it myself. So, into the kitchen I went, and I didn’t leave until I had a dozen perfect lemon cupcakes.
We’re topping these off with a lemon cream cheese frosting (which is a variation of my cream cheese frosting), which really puts gives us a great, tart, lemon flavor.
How to Get the Best Lemon Flavor in Your Lemon Cupcakes
When I started developing this lemon cupcake recipe, I knew that I did not want to use lemon extract. I have nothing against it (and even use it in my lemon brownies) but I know that not everyone keeps all different kinds of extracts stocked at all times, and I like to keep my recipes as pantry-staple-friendly as possible. We’re halfway there with this recipe (no extract in the cupcakes, but I do recommend it for the frosting).
It only took a few attempts before I found that slightly tart, sunny, lemon-y flavor I was looking for, no extract necessary.
To get there, we’re using lemon juice and fresh lemon zest. You’ll need two Tablespoons of lemon juice, which you’ll stir in with your buttermilk (or buttermilk substitute). This helps to brighten up that bright lemon flavor a bit, but what really packs a powerful punch is the lemon zest (pro-tip, make sure you zest your lemons before you juice them!).
We’re also using two Tablespoons of lemon zest. When zesting your lemon, it’s very important that you just use zest from the outer layer of the rind (the yellow part!). If you grind too deeply into your lemon, what you’re actually grating is the “pith” of the lemon. The pith is white and bitter and doesn’t have the same citrus flavor that the zest does. If you end up with two Tablespoons of pith rather than zest, your cupcakes will be bitter and not nearly as lemony as they ought to be.
When developing the lemon cream cheese frosting, I found that I wasn’t happy with the flavor derived from just using lemon juice and zest, so I do recommend using lemon extract there for a bolder lemon flavor, if you have it.
Other Recipes You Might Like:
- Homemade Lemonade
- Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes
- Carrot Cake Cupcakes
- Confetti Cupcakes
- More Cupcake Recipes
Be sure to check out my Lemon Cupcake video at the bottom of the recipe! If you enjoy watching, make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel where I’ve already uploaded over 150 recipe videos that you can watch for free!
Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
- ¼ cup unsalted butter softened (56g)
- ¼ cup canola oil¹ (60ml)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar (150g)
- 2 Tablespoons lemon zest²
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten, room temperature preferred
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (185g) may substitute cake flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup buttermilk (118ml)
- 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened (113g)
- 8 oz cream cheese softened (brick-style, not spreadable) (226g)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon lemon extract optional
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 4 cups powdered sugar (500g)
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and line a 12-count muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.
- Place butter in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer) and use an electric mixer (or stand mixer) to beat until creamy.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add oil, sugar, and lemon zest and beat again until creamy and thoroughly combined.
- Add eggs and vanilla extract and stir well until completely combined.
- In a separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large measuring cup, briefly stir together buttermilk and lemon juice.
- Using a spoon or spatula, gradually stir about a third of the flour mixture into wet ingredients until just-combined (don’t use an electric mixer here or you’ll be more likely to overmix the batter, resulting in dense/dry cupcakes). Add about half of the buttermilk mixture into the batter and stir until just combined. Repeat adding flour and buttermilk in this way until ingredients are completely combined, but don’t mix more than you need to. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl so all ingredients are combined.
- Evenly divide batter into prepared cupcake tin, filling each liner ⅔ of the way full. Transfer to 350F/175C oven and bake for 17-18 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Allow to cool completely before topping with lemon cream cheese frosting.
LEMON CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- Combine butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and use an electric mixer (or stand mixer) to beat until well-combined.
- Add lemon zest, vanilla extract, lemon extract (if using), salt, and lemon juice and beat well.
- Gradually, with mixer on low speed, add powdered sugar until completely combined. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl to make sure ingredients are well incorporated.
- Once cupcakes have cooled, spread or pipe³ lemon cream cheese frosting over cupcakes. Enjoy!
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
I can’t wait to try these for my sister’s baby shower next month. I was wondering if you have ever tried freezing the cupcakes ahead of time?
Hi Nerissa! I have not personally frozen them, but I don’t foresee any issues in doing so. I would probably wait to frost them until they have been defrosted. 🙂
These cupcakes and frosting are SO delicious! The frosting reminds me quite a bit of lemon cheesecake – but fluffier and lighter. I ended up using the lemon extract and absolutely loved how it added a bit more lemon flavor without it tasting artificial. Thank you for the recipe!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Thanks so much for your review, Ashley! We’re so happy they were such a hit for you 😊
very light and fluffy! I used yogurt instead of buttermilk (didnt have any) and this worked. I added an extra teaspoon of lemon zest to the frosting and that was good as well, I might add even more next time, I LOVE lemon. My kids loved these, even without the frosting!
I’m so glad everyone enjoyed them so much, Samantha! 🙂
I haven’t made these cupcakes yet. Every recipe I have made from you has been a keeper! Can they be filled with your lemon curd? Can they be made several days in advance?
Hi Bridget! They will be good at room temperature for several days. You could fill them with lemon curd as well. I’m not sure if the curd would make them soggy sitting for a few days so you may want to wait to fill them. 🙂
Your recipe is amazing. I
Was wondering if I could double the recipe to make it into cake. Everything else is ok I was just concerned about doubling the baking powder ?
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Hi Arusha! We suggest you try our lemon cake instead 😊
can’t wait to make these cupcakes!
I hope you love them, Julianne! 🙂
I wanted to make a cream cheese filling and streusal topping but do u think the filling would stay in the cupcake when baked or would it dissolve into the cupcake and disappear 🤔?
My filling would be cream cheese, egg, flour, touch of sugar and vanilla.
Hi Jody! Honestly without having tried it I can’t say for sure how it would work. I think I would make the cupcakes normally, core them, then pipe in my no bake cheesecake as a filling. 🙂
Hi Sam, We love cupcakes here, but I’m wondering if I could double this receipt to make the jumbo size cupcakes? Thank you for all your advise- I love your recipes. 🙂
Hi Jennie! While the recipe should double just fine, I haven’t tried making these jumbo before so am unsure on exactly what the baking time will be for them.
These were amazing! Soft, fluffy and delicious!
Hi Sam – this recipe has fast become a family favourite!!!! Thank you so much. Can you please tell me if I can store this icing for a few days in the fridge? I made too much today but will need more in 3 days.
I am so glad everyone is enjoying it so much, Jennifer! You can store the frosting in the refrigerator for a few days. Just store it in an air tight container. It may need to be briefly stirred before using after removing from the refrigerator. 🙂
Ok, so I added a little bit to this recipe and just family loves it! I added 2 tsp of lemon extract to rye batter snd one to The icing. I also put blueberries on top! Yum!
I made this and I absolutely loved them they turned out UBER tast and fluffy. I was wondering if you could tell me the calories of a single cupcake without frosting? Thank smmm😁😁😄
I am SO happy to hear you enjoyed them so much, Alisha, thank you for trying my recipe and for commenting! Unfortunately I have not yet calculated the calories without the frosting, I know there are some calorie counters online that could do this, like myfitnesspal, if that is helpful! <3
I just tried your recipe and it’s amazing! Could I add a cup of blueberries to this recipe and turn it into lemon blueberry cupcakes?!
Hi Denise! I haven’t tried it, but it should work. The only thing I would be worried about is the blueberries sinking to the bottom. 🙂
Can you substitute gluten free flour for regular flour? The recipe sounds delicious, but my daughter in law can only have gluten free
Hi Harriet! Unfortunately I am not very familiar with using gluten free flour. If you try it I would love to know how it turns out for you. 🙂
Sam for a strawberry cream cheese frosting. Do i substitute the lemon juice with strawberry baking emulsion?
Yes you can use the emulsion instead of the lemon juice! I am not sure how potent the emulsion is, though, so start with just 1 teaspoon and then taste-test and increase as needed. Enjoy! 🙂
I LOVE your vanilla cake! I need to make a lemon cake. I trust your recipes. Can I just double this recipe to make an 8” layer cake?
Hi Maggie! I am actually publishing a recipe for a lemon cake on Thursday. 🙂
So I made the icing but mine came out a bit runny even after putting it in the fridge. Would this be because I added the lemon extract? Also, is there any way to lower the sweetness of the icing? It is very delicious for sure but too sweet for some people in my family and I wasnt sure if using less powdered sugar would affect the texture. Hopefully you can help me out. Thanks for the recipe!
Hi Claudia! If you add extra liquid to the frosting it will make it thinner. The only way to balance that out is by adding more sugar to thicken it. That being said, you won’t be able to leave out any sugar and not change the consistency of the frosting.
Just an idea – maybe you could cut this icing with 1/2 stiff whipped cream? It may change the consistency so you would not be able to pipe but you could just scoop on top.
I haven’t made the recipe yet but I have a question for you Sam do you think I could put lemon curd into the middle of this cupcake?
by the way I made your lavender Rosemary cake for my daughter’s wedding it was a huge hit!
You could definitely put lemon curd in the center of these cupcakes after baking and letting them cool. I don’t have a lavender rosemary cake though, but I hope you love these cupcakes. 🙂
Although the cupcakes did not rise as normal, they were absolutely delicious!!
I am so glad you enjoyed them, Simone! 🙂
hi sam! if you were to convert this recipe to 6inch cake pans, around how many pans would it fill? thanks! trying to decide if i need to double the recipe or not.
Sugar Spun Run
Hi, Amanda! This recipe makes 12 cupcakes. Depending on how thick your 6″ pans are, I would say that it SHOULD be enough to fill two successfully. 🙂
Hi, These look delicious.. One question, can I use cheese spread for frosting ?
Spreadable cream cheese will not work for this frosting unfortunately. 🙁