Lemon Cupcakes

Light and fluffy lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting. These classic cupcakes are perfect for spring and summer!

I don’t make cupcakes often, but when I do, I go all out! This recipe is one I’ll be making time & time again- it’s a classic. You can dress it up or down, the options are endless! Check out Carrot Patch Cupcakes, Tropical Pina Colada Cupcakes, or Cherry Almond Cupcakes for some additional delicious treats!

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Moist + Fluffy Lemon Cupcakes

If you haven’t noticed, I really like lemon! There’s something about its fresh, zesty flavor that goes well in both savory and sweet recipes. Today we’re talking all about cupcakes, more specifically, lemon cupcakes. It’s been several years since I’ve made lemon cupcakes so I thought it was time to fix that! These have a light, tender crumb, and a soft cream cheese frosting. They’re divine!

When my mom was in town a few weeks ago we decided to test a lemon recipe. Everything looked good going into the oven, however, when we pulled out the pan after 18 minutes the cupcakes were rubbery and sunken. Fail. I went back to the drawing board, adjusted a few things and we tried again. Thankfully they turned out, because after testing 3 recipes that day, I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to try again.

I’m sure you’re all wondering what made this batch better? Or is that just the geeky recipe developer in me? Let’s find out!

Homemade Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

How to Make Lemon Cupcakes

Here’s why this recipe worked:

  1. Using all-purpose flour AND cake flour gave these that nice tender crumb.
  2. Adding lots of fresh lemon zest along with lemon juice and vanilla extract made these cupcakes taste amazing!
  3. Using an egg plus egg whites helped keep these cupcakes nice and fluffy.
  4. Sour cream or Greek yogurt added some much needed moisture. No one wants a dry, crumbly cupcake!
  5. The batter was gently mixed and the cupcakes were baked for the proper amount of time.

BATTER. Beat the butter, sugar, and zest together on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes) Add vanilla, egg and egg whites. Beat on medium speed until combined (about 1-2 minutes).

In a medium bowl, whisktogether the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice and sour cream.

With mixing speed on low, gradually alternate adding the dry ingredients and sour cream mixture to the wet ingredients **do not overmix.

FRUIT. Fold in fresh fruit, if desired.  (TIP: Coat your blueberries in the flour that you are going to use for the cupcakes. Just roll them around in the flour and then they will float better in the cupcakes, rather than giving you soggy bottoms.)

BAKE. Using a large scoop (#20 or 3.5 tablespoons), divide batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 18-22 minutes (until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean). Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lemon Blueberry Cupcake with a bite missing

The Frosting + Recipe FAQ

This frosting isn’t just any cream cheese frosting, it’s a Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting! It’s sweet, buttery, lemony, and slightly tangy, but in a good way! It pairs perfectly with plain lemon cupcakes or with berry-filled cupcakes.

BEAT. Cream the butter, lemon zest, vanilla and salt for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy With mixing speed on low gradually add the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Beat until it forms a thick paste. Add the cream cheese and mix on the lowest speed possible for 1½ minutes, then STOP!

CHILL. Place in refrigerator to chill for at least 15 minutes, or until cupcakes have completely cooled.

PIPE. Allow to stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before placing in a bag to pipe on cupcakes. Using a large piping tip, pipe the frosting on top of the cooled cupcakes

Top with a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint, if desired. You can also save a few berries to press into the top of the cupcakes after they’re frosting… you know, because that makes them look so much cuter!

Lemon:

  • Can you use lemon oil? Adding lemon oil to a baked good would make up for using fresh lemon zest. It is that potent of a flavor! If you would like you can just use lemon oil in place of fresh lemon juice.
  • Fresh lemon juice or bottled? Fresh lemon juice is obviously preferred because it will give more of a potent tang, but if all you have is bottled lemon juice then that should work just fine. Bottled lemon juice may seem stale but it will give the right basic flavor.

What makes a cupcake moist and fluffy? We prefer using sour cream to get the needed moisture into our cupcakes to make them moist and fluffy. You can make the cupcakes using greek yogurt if sour cream is unavailable. You could also use buttermilk to get a tender crumb. 

How do I make my cupcakes look professional? Make sure that you don’t overfill your liners, because they bake over the edge and make a whole mess. At this point, it won’t look very professional. You can also get a real piping bag to do the frosting work; at some point a ziploc bag doesn’t cut it. 

Lemon cupcakes with frosting and lemon slices on top

Storing Tips

Storing/freezing? Store frosted cupcakes in the fridge since they have dairy in them. They will dry out quicker in the fridge because of the cold air. But typically cupcakes will last 3-5 days.

To freeze, wrap each individual cupcake in plastic wrap and then in foil. Place them in a freeze safe bag and keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let them thaw for about 2-4 hours at room temp before serving. Store unfrosted cupcakes at room temp in an airtight bag. 

If you give these lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting a try, let me know what you think!

For more lemon treats, check out:

 

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

4.71 from 17 votes
Pin Rate
Course: Cupcakes
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 12 mins
Total Time: 45 mins
Servings: 1 dozen
Author: Natalie
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg + 2 egg whites
  • 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. cake flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher sea salt
  • 1/2 c. full-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt - plain, vanilla or lemon
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 c. fresh fruit - optional - small blueberries, diced strawberries, etc.
For the frosting:
  • 1/2 c. 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher sea salt
  • 3 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 8 oz. block original cream cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners, set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and zest together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add vanilla, egg and egg whites. Beat on medium speed until combined, about 1-2 minutes.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice and sour cream.
  • With mixing speed on low, gradually alternate adding the dry ingredients and the lemon juice and sour cream mixture to the wet ingredients, do not overmix. Fold in fresh fruit, if desired.
  • Using a large scoop (#20 or 3.5 tablespoons), divide batter evenly into the prepared pan.
  • Place in oven and bake for about 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The edges should be slightly golden brown in color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely..
  • Meanwhile, to prepare the cream cheese frosting, using the paddle attachment cream the butter, lemon zest, vanilla and salt for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. With mixing speed on low gradually add the powdered sugar and lemon juice, beat until it forms a thick paste. Add the cream cheese and mix on the lowest speed possible for 1½ minutes, then STOP! Place in refrigerator to chill for at least 15 minutes or until cupcakes have completely cooled. Allow to stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before placing in a bag to pipe on cupcakes.
  • Using a large piping tip, pipe the frosting on top of the cooled cupcakes. Top with a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint, if desired.

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About the Author

Natalie

Wife, mother, baker and photographer. Recipe developer & author of Life Made Simple. A self-professed peanut butter lover and fond of anything that involves pumpkin, cookie dough, or sprinkles

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Comments:

  1. yes, these were heavenly . . . the ones with the blueberries actually made it home to California!!!

  2. I made these for my block party bake off this weekend–and won first place! Thanks so much for this recipe. I’ve now made them twice. The cream cheese frosting is divine. I added some finely chopped crystallized ginger to the frosting this second time, and it added some nice spice.

    1. 5 stars
      Hi Natalie,
      These cupcakes look too good to eat!
      I’m gonna try this recipe for the upcoming cake stall I’m about to put up. I have a couple of questions.
      Can I simply double this recipe for more cupcakes?
      And could you please clarify the quantity of the cream cheese used for the frosting?

      Thanks:)

      1. Thank you, they are! Yes, you can for sure double the recipe & for the cream cheese, it is one 8oz block, so you would need 2 to double.

  3. Hi, I don’t usually comment on recipes, but this one justified it! 

    I needed a lemon cupcake recipe that used what I had on hand at home, but that would deliver a light, springy, moist and flavoursome cupcake. This recipe delivered!

    I used 1 1/2 cups regular plain/all-purpose flour because I didn’t have any cake flour. I also used 0% “high protein” greek yoghurt. Otherwise, I made the recipe exactly as written. They weren’t oily, they rose beautifully but with a perfect flat top for icing, and the flavour was amazing! I filled them with homemade lemon curd and iced with a lime cream cheese frosting (I usually make up the frosting from memory). They were a huge hit with my family!

    Thank you for a wonderful recipe. This has become my go-to lemon cupcake recipe now!

  4. I jus have to say my thanksgiving day was a hit with my honeybunny and children they could not askin and wanting more and the frosting A++ , thanks so much for sharing your recipes my 13 year old made the batter and my 9 year old made the frosting a keeper for sure

      1. Awesome, I’ll try it, Thanks!  One more question….did you use course kosher sea salt?  I could only find course.  Otherwise, I have regular kosher salt.  

  5. These look so good!! I’m thinking about making them for a friends birthday. How many does the recipe make? I want to know if I should double or not. Thanks! 

  6. I made them for my daughters birthday and she loved them! I thought they turned out well…my only wondering is they seemed a little dense/dry. Are they supposed to be more that way or is there a technique I shoud’ve used to get them more moist and fluffy? Thanks for the great recipe (and your other responses to my questions about the salt/mixing)! ;o)

    1. Next time try beating the egg whites separately and folding them in at the end, and maybe increasing the sour cream to 2/3 cup?

  7. I made these with gluten free flour for my son’s girlfriend. They came out great and were a big hit. The frosting is awesome!

    1. 5 stars
      II have made these several times, they are always perfect. I sometimes give them to the two hardworking ladies at the tiny post office where I live. They love them! Everyone loves them. Thanks for the recipe!

  8. The third batch is going into oven now. These are amazing! No need for frosting really since they’re so flavorful and fluffy! I made them with a “Royal wedding” twist – I added elder-flower syrup both in the batter (decreased amount of yogurt) and I will add it to the frosting as well. I also made small holes on the top, to fill with lemon curd. I am still not sure about butter in the frosting though (I might change it for the cream, but as said, whatever I do, it will be “royal” – we were fighting for the crumbs while I was hollowing them! Thank you, thank you, thank you for this recipe! I will use quite a lot!

    1. Yes, they definitely could. I personally would wait as long as I could to frost them, but that’s just me. 100 is a lot! Good luck & hope they are a hit!

  9. 5 stars
    Omg !!! this recipe was absolutely perfect and created a memory I’ll never forget thank you ! On short notice I found out that my neighbor had a birthday party she wanted me to attend, I was happy but not sure what to bring or buy her knowing I am on a major budget atm (I was living on the streets 3 weeks prior to this) and was embarrassed to show up empty handed. At that moment I was rummaging for food in my new apartment and I came to the conclusion that I would use my skills that my grandmother taught me and bake her something, I had almost all the ingredients needed for baking all ready in front of me but no recipes. I knew she liked lemon cupcakes but never made them before. Your recipe saved me and made a huge hit at the party. I came to find out that night no one had ever baked something for her birthday before and she thanked me personally which deep down meant a lot to me. I haven’t done anything for anybody in years, I hadn’t even been invited to into anyone’s house let alone invited in years because of the way I looked lol and this lady was truly thanking me! I’ll be making these every year for someone from now on thank you

    1. That makes my day!! I am so happy to hear this! I am glad you have your own place & that you were invited! It’s great to have good neighbors! Thank you so much for sharing this!

  10. This recipe looks great, but it just didn’t turn out for me! I’m so bummed. My cupcakes deflated and are extremely moist, almost greasy? They taste amazing and my kids agree, they’re just ugly and falling apart. I wish I knew what I did wrong LOL. I think your frosting will make up for my ugly cupcakes 🙂

    1. I am so sorry they turned out that way. I am not really sure why they did. Did you change anything with the recipe? Yes, the cream cheese should be room temp.

  11. 5 stars
    Your cupcakes are so pretty! I love lemon cupcakes. These were so delicious, and loved the frosting. We ate the icing straight from the bowl.

  12. Hi! i dont understand the amount of butter needed! is it 1/2 AND a stick? thank u in advance and i cant wait to try them

  13. Hello, I used this recipe to make cake pops and they turned out well. However, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to use two 3/4 cups of cake flour because I don’t use regular flr when I bake, so I used 1 1/2 cups of cake flour. What is the correct measurement for the cake flour?

    1. Cake flour weighs more than all purpose, so you could probably use just a tad less than 1 1/2 cups. If you use the 1 1/2 cup, I am sure they will still be great.