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.
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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!
- 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
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
More Easy Dessert Recipes
- Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake Bites– delicious cheesecake bites topped with a luscious lemon curd and fresh raspberries!
- Lemon Whipped Cream
- Lemon Meringue Pie
- Strawberry Cupcake Recipe
- Lemon Ricotta Cookies
- How to Make Macarons
Lemon Cupcake Recipe
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
- In small bowl, mix egg whites, 1/4 cup whole milk and lemon zest. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Frost cupcakes by filling a pastry bag with tip and pipe on the frosting. ENJOY.
- 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.
Perfect Lemon Cupcakes. Perfect Lemon Buttercream. Put them together and you have the best ever handheld lemon dessert!
Do these need to be refrigerated? I am making them in advance for a party. Thank you!!i
I don’t refrigerate them. Don’t make them too far in advance though, these are best fresh 🙂
I made two kinds of cupcakes for my husband’s birthday and this was one of them. They had an angel food type texture and you could see the lemon zest, so pretty. I baked them for 18 minutes but I may have over filled a little, didn’t realize how much they would rise with 1 Tbs of baking powder. The flavor was amazing. Next time, I would add the egg white/buttermilk mixture to the butter and sugar followed by the dry and then the remaining buttermilk. I don’t care for traditional buttercream but everyone loved it! The other frosting I made was cream cheese, white sugar, lemon curd, and whipping cream. That would be good on these too. I would definitely make these again, thanks for sharing your recipe!
Do these need refrigeration due to buttercream icing? Want to add to Easter gift trays I make for neighbors. Thanks. MO
I don’t refrigerate them. But they can be if you prefer.
Is this recipe adjusted for high altitude (7500)?
Unfortunately it is not, I’m not sure what adjustments need to be made in high altitude.
These lemon cupcakes look charming. Taste balance seems in harmony. Thanks.
This recipe is unbelievably tasty. I give it 5 stars!!
They look wonderful! My husband is turning 50 and he loves lemon, I thought about making these can I freeze them once I have put the icing on?
I have never tried freezing them!
These are delicious!!!!!! So light and fluffy!!!!
I made these this week for my son’s 6th birthday. This was the best recipe I found online due to its ease. They were moist and yum! Pinned! =)
Thanks so much for commenting! I’m so glad you loved the cupcakes, and thank you for pinning 🙂 Happy birthday to your son!
Made these for my Grandma’s 90th birthday party yesterday (filled with lemon curd). They were so delicious, light and fluffy! Thanks so much for the recipe…. Can’t wait to make them again and also try the white cake version!
Thanks for stopping over and letting me know you loved it!! So happy to hear 🙂
These cupcakes look heavenly! I love lemon cake!
Just made these, they are perfectly delicious! I did not get anywhere close to 30 though, did you use mini-muffins tins? Also for people not used to making their own buttercream, I had to add more powdered sugar, apparently I grabbed a very juicy lemon! Anyway, wonderfully moist cake with just the right amount of lemon topped with a great icing!
Yumm!!! I just made these and they are delicious!! Rich and lemony! The texture is great, super moist and the tops got a little crunchy. The icing is perfect. I will definitely be making these again! Love!
So glad you loved them. They are definitely a favorite around here!! Add some lemon curd to the centers after baking them next time, YUM.
How did you guys store these? Airtight on counter or in frig?
I store on counter in a cake/cupcake server.
Love at 1st taste – these are awesome! I added more lemon juice too. I could eat a bowl of the icing alone and I never eat the icing!!! Thank you! My new fave site!
So glad you loved them Hillary!!!! And I’m thrilled you found me! Happy baking!
Should I make any changes if I change lemon to orange? Can’t wait…I already have a lemon flavor for the dessert table so would like to try this as an orange flavor. Thanks. Your frosting piping is excellent.
No changes needed, I’ve made them orange too. And lime!!
Lemon in always in season in my book! These look incredible. Beautiful photos! Pinned and definitely going to try these!
These were delicious!!
Lovely, thank you! Do you know if these freeze well? I’d like to make them for my sister’s wedding… but not the day before!
I love lemon too! Just finished making these and enjoying one with a cup of tea. This is a really good recipe. I did substitute all purpose flour (forgot to buy the cake flour today)and they still are delicious. Love the frosting and enough to frost all the cupcakes . I don’ always find that to be the case with other recipes. Going to make these again with the cake flour, but can’t wait to share these with my family! I know they will love them too!