★★★★★

Lemon Cupcake Recipe

The ultimate cupcake recipe for lemon lovers! These Lemon Cupcakes topped with light and fluffy lemon buttercream are easy to make and better than any store bought cupcakes.

Our readers are obsessed with fun cupcakes! These Ferrero Rocher Cupcakes are the epitome of sophistication, with the delicious, fudgy flavor that’s easy to make!

Lemon cupcake topped with lemon frosting on white plate.

What makes this recipe the BEST

Look, I’m devoted to chocolate. The catalog of chocolate dessert recipes on this site is proof.

But I also have a good thing going on the side with all things lemon. If I’m not making a dessert with chocolate, it’s probably because I got distracted by an idea for a lemon-filled treat. In this case: Lemon Cupcakes!

When it comes to lemon cupcakes, lemon breads and lemon cookies, I have some requirements: I need to TASTE the lemon.

I also need them to be plenty sweet to balance out the sour citrus.

These Lemon Cupcakes deliver on all counts. And they’re topped with the best ever fluffy lemon buttercream, just to seal the deal.

Based off my favorite lemon cake recipe, this cupcake delivers!

  • You use both the zest and the juice from real fresh lemons in these cupcakes. This gives them a satisfying zing that you just don’t get from using just the zest or artificial lemon flavoring like I’ve seen in some recipes.
  • I didn’t use any yellow food coloring here, so if you’re sensitive to food dyes you can still enjoy lemony goodness. It’s all in the taste!
  • From scratch, but perfectly easy enough for a beginning baker!

Ingredient Notes

Ingredients needed to make lemon cupcakes.
  • Cake Flour. This kind of flour is finer than all-purpose and makes the cupcakes so light! You can use all purpose flour if cake flour isn’t available but the texture will be quite different. (learn more about how to measure and substitute flour here.)
  • Lemons. Using fresh lemons for the zest and juice will give you the best flavor! Learn how to zest a lemon here.
  • Milk. Use whole milk or replace with buttermilk for a little more tang in your cupcake! Try my buttermilk substitute if you don’t have any on hand.
  • Egg Whites. You’ll only need the whites for the cupcake recipe. Save the yolks and make a batch of easy lemon curd. You can also add a spoonful of curd to the baked cupcake using a technique similar to these wedding cake cupcakes.

Because I didn’t add any food coloring, the lemon cupcakes are white rather than the traditional yellow of many lemon desserts.

If you want them yellow, go ahead and ad a drop or two of yellow food coloring gel to the batter.

To Make the Cupcakes

Step by step photos showing how to make lemon cupcakes.

Mix the wet ingredients. Mix egg whites with 1/4 cup of the milk and lemon zest together in a small bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the dry ingredients. Add the cake flour, baking powder and kosher salt to the butter mixture. Mix until combined. Slowly add in egg white mixture then beat in the remaining milk.

Bake. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Fill the liners with the batter to halfway full and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Cool. Remove and let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the lemon buttercream.

Frost. To frost the cupcakes, fill a pastry bag with the lemon buttercream frosting. Pipe desired amount of buttercream onto each cupcake.

If you don’t have a frosting bag, you can fill a ziploc bag with the buttercream instead. Snip off one corner of the bag and use it to pipe frosting. You can also use a flat spatula to frost the cupcakes if desired, but the swirls of frosting make the cupcakes look so pretty!

Frosting being piped onto a lemon cupcake.

Storage Tips

Store lemon cupcakes at room temperature if you plan to eat them within a couple of days. Cupcake containers make it easy to keep the cupcakes from drying out without squishing the frosting.

You can also use an extra large tupperware container. Place the frosted cupcakes in a single layer and make sure it’s large enough that the lid won’t sink into the frosting.

For longer storage, keep buttercream frosted cupcakes in the fridge. They taste best if eaten within 4 days.

In my book, lemon desserts are for all times of year! I hope there are more people like me out there. People who eat lemon cupcakes while putting out Christmas decorations with Thanksgiving centerpieces on the table.

If you’re NOT that person, then save this recipe for a more fitting time in your life. That’s cool with me. Just be sure to give these a try when you’re in the mood for something lemony!

Recipe FAQs

How do you separate egg whites from the yolk?

Using a cold egg, crack the egg across the middle of the shell. Break in half and transfer the yolk from one shell to the other shell, allowing the whites to drip into a small bowl. Repeat for all the eggs.

Can you freeze lemon cupcakes?

Yes you can freeze lemon cupcakes before or after adding the frosting. If freezing without frosting, slide cooled cupcakes into airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. If freezing with frosting, place on baking tray and freeze for 30 minutes. Slide partially frozen cupcakes with frosting into airtight container for up the 3 months.

How can I tell if cupcakes are done baking?

I typically use the bounce-back test. Touch the top of a cupcake with your finger tip. If it leaves a dent, it needs more time. If it bounces back they are done baking. You can also insert a toothpick into a cupcake and if it comes out clean they are done baking.

Lemon frosted cupcakes on a wooden board.

More Easy Dessert Recipes

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Lemon Cupcake Recipe

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

The ultimate cupcake recipe for lemon lovers! These Lemon Cupcakes topped with light and fluffy lemon buttercream are easy to make and better than any store bought cupcakes.

Ingredients

For the Cupcakes:

  • 5 large egg whites, room temperature
  • ¾ cup whole milk, divided
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 ½ cups cake flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

For the Frosting:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 Tablespoon heavy cream

Instructions

  1. In small bowl, mix egg whites, ¼ cup whole milk and lemon zest. Set aside.
  2. In mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add in dry ingredients and mix until combined. Slowly add in egg white mixture. Beat in remaining milk.
  3. Prepare cupcake tins with paper cupcake liners. Fill liners half full and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove and cool in pan 5 minutes then transfer to cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. For the frosting, beat butter for 3-5 minutes until pale in color. Add powdered sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice (about 2 Tbsp from fresh lemon) and cream. Beat for 3-5 minutes until fluffy.
  5. Frost cupcakes by filling a pastry bag with tip and pipe on the frosting. ENJOY.

Notes

  • If you prefer a yellow cupcake, add 1-2 drops of yellow gel food coloring to give it a bright color!
  • Lemons. You will need about 2 Tablespoons of lemon zest for the cupcakes. For the frosting, you'll need about 1 Tablespoon of zest, and 2 Tablespoons of juice.
  • Cake Flour. This kind of flour is finer than all-purpose and makes the cupcakes so light! You can use all purpose flour if cake flour isn't available but the texture will be quite different. (learn more about how to measure and substitute flour here.)
  • Milk. Use whole milk or replace with buttermilk for a little more tang in your cupcake! Try my buttermilk substitute if you don't have any on hand.
  • Egg Whites. You'll only need the whites for the cupcake recipe. Save the yolks and make a batch of easy lemon curd. You can also add a spoonful of curd to the baked cupcake using a technique similar to these wedding cake cupcakes.
  • Storage. Store frosted cupcakes in container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

24

Serving Size:

1 cupcake

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 313Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 38mgSodium: 127mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 0gSugar: 33gProtein: 2g

*Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietitian for special diet advice.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Perfect Lemon Cupcakes. Perfect Lemon Buttercream. Put them together and you have the best ever handheld lemon dessert!

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About Aimee

Aimee is a dessert lover (specifically rice krispie treats), workout enthusiast, self-taught foodie, and recipe creator.

Learn more about Aimee.

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Posted on March 20, 2021

Comments & Reviews

  1. I made these just now. The cake is VERY dry. I had to bake for 18 min because the centers were still raw dough at 15 min. I’m sure my husband will eat these but i need a giant glass of milk just to get the dryness out of my mouth.

  2. I made these cupcakes for my grandmother’s 89th birthday!! She and I both have an affinity for lemon sweets, and these were perfect! I made regular sized cupcakes and mini cupcakes. The mini cupcakes I cooked for 11 minutes. I topped all with the fantastic lemon buttercream frosting and either a blackberry or raspberry, then served with a choice of red raspberry or blackberry ice cream. The family LOVED them!! I will definitely be making these again soon!!

  3. Hello !! I live in Germany and i can’t find the Cake Flower here 🙁 can i used the normal one ( all Purpuse Flower )

    1. Clelia, Cake flour is lighter than AP (all purpose) flour….if you have access to corn starch you can use the following substitution: 1 cup cake flour = 3/4 cup (12 tbsp) AP flour + 2 tbsp cornstarch, sifted together. However if you don’t have access to cornstarch, many baking tips online even suggest substituting 1 cup – 2 tbsp AP flour & sifting it 2-3 times to lighten the texture. Hope this helps!

  4. I am making these tomorrow for bible study and I am so excited to see how they turn out!! They look absolutely gorgeous in the pictures! Hope mine turn out like that! haha 🙂

  5. I just made these beauties. I find I don’t really like buttercream frosting. My parent loved the frosting. My mom ate out of the bowl. And my dad had 3 already. For me all I could taste was butter. The cake was AMAZING. Definitely spongy. Loved the cake.

  6. I made these last night and they are so yummy! I, also, had some lemon flavored sugar that I just sprinkled on top after they were frosted. Thank you for sharing your recipes.

  7. Love love love everything Lemon!!! These look divine! Will definitely be picking up ingredients for these! Yummmmm! 🙂

  8. I just came across your blog — I L-O-V-E all kinds of citrus, and these lemon cupcakes look delish!! I can’t wait to try them out. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Very good recipe. The cake was a little spongy and sweet. The buttercream frosting was amazing with the hint of lemon. Thanks!

  10. Hello! I have one quick question-it appears that the lemons for the cupcakes themselves are zested only-the juice isn’t used-am I right? The only actual lemon juice you use is for the frosting-right?

    Thanks-these look just LOVELY!

    ~R~

    1. Correct. You will have some naked zested lemons from the cake portion. I usually slice them up and put them in a big pitcher of water. But, you are correct. The only juice is in the frosting.

  11. Looks great. I love lemon desserts any way they can be fixed. Lemon and chocolate is my favorite . These I will be trying this week. Thanks for sharing

  12. Hello! Love the looks of this recipe. QUESTION…..can this bater be made WITHOUT the lemon? Used as a white cake? Maybe just adding a little vanilla? Looking for a great white cake recipe! I make Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate cake and I LOVE the batter, but wish sometimes that I could make it without the cocoa. Not sure if it would turn out right. Thanks. Can’t wait to hear from you.

    1. Lisa, YES. This lemon version is based off my white cake recipe. Just omit the lemon and you will LOVE it!!! Let me know what you think.

  13. These cupcakes are beautiful. Do you whip the egg whites separately or just mix the egg whites, buttermilk and lemon zest?

    1. Hi Bev, I don’t whip them. I just give them a little mix to combine them with the buttermilk and lemon zest. Enjoy the recipe 🙂

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