Lemon cupcakes are perfectly light and fluffy. They are filled with citrus flavor that is complemented by a sweet lemon buttercream frosting.

lemon cupcakes with frosting and lemon wedges as garnish
lemon cupcake ingredients in bowls labeled with text

How to make lemon cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. Make the cupcake batter: Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside. In a separate bowl, rub sugar and lemon zest together, then beat in the sugar followed by the eggs and lemon juice. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk, mixing just until combined.
  3. Bake the cupcakes: Divide batter among prepared muffin tin. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with little to no crumbs. Cool cupcakes completely.
  4. Prepare the frosting: Beat butter until light and fluffy. Add confectioners sugar and mix until combined. Add lemon juice and mix again. If necessary, add milk for a thinner frosting consistency.
  5. Frost cupcakes: Transfer frosting to a piping bag with desired tip. Frost cupcakes and garnish with lemon zest or lemon slices.
photo collage demonstrating how to make lemon cupcakes steps 1 through 4
photo collage demonstrating how to make lemon cupcakes steps 5 through 9

Helpful tips

The best tip for lemon cupcakes is to use fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. It makes all the difference in the flavor. To increase the lemon flavor, rub the lemon zest into the sugar using your fingers. It’s a trick I picked up in my years of baking and I use it for every lemon recipe!

As with any cupcake recipe, I encourage the use of a kitchen scale when measuring ingredients. Weighing ingredients is far more accurate than measuring them. Make sure all your ingredients are room temperature and when preparing the batter, alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients and mix just until combined. Finally, allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting!

High altitude adjustments

This recipe was created and written for sea level. However, I tested it at both sea level and in Denver, CO (altitude 5,280 ft). If you are baking at a similar altitude, make these changes. Use a high protein flour such as King Arthur all purpose flour. Decrease the baking powder to 1 teaspoon and decrease the sugar to 2/3 cup. Add an extra 2 teaspoons milk. Oven temperature will remain the same. Check cupcakes at 18 minutes to see if they are done.

photo collage demonstrating how to make lemon buttercream frosting
lemon cupcake with lemon buttercream frosting and a lemon slice next to another lemon slice and cupcake

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use store-bought lemon juice?

I do not recommend store-bought lemon juice. Fresh lemon juice has a lot more flavor to make better tasting cupcakes.

Why is my cupcake batter look curdled?

This happens when lemon juice is included in a recipe. Don’t worry! The batter will smooth out when the flour and milk are added.

What frosting goes well with lemon cupcakes?

I prefer lemon buttercream frosting with lemon cupcakes for plenty of citrus flavor. However, you can also make a classic buttercream frosting.

Can you freeze lemon cupcakes?

Yes. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, store the cupcakes (unfrosted) in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 1 month. Defrost in the refrigerator before bringing to room temperature and frosting.

bite taken out of lemon cupcake sitting on top of paper cupcake liner with lemon slice in front

Lemon desserts are loved by many. My mom’s lemon bars are a favorite of mine and my friends. They have the perfect shortbread crust and gooey lemon filling. Another popular recipe is for lemon poppy seed muffins, which you can also make into a lemon poppy seed bread. If you just want a nice and simple cookie, try these soft lemon crinkle cookies coated in confectioners’ sugar.

Lemon cupcakes are great to make all year round, but especially in winter when citrus is in season. I also enjoy lemon desserts in the summer when I want something light and refreshing or there’s a birthday coming up! What occasion will you be baking lemon cupcakes for? Let me know by tagging @ifyougiveablondeakitchen on social media and leave a review if you enjoyed the recipe!

lemon cupcake topped with lemon buttercream frosting and a lemon slice next to more cupcakes and a lemon

Lemon Cupcakes

Lemon cupcakes are perfectly light and fluffy. They are filled with citrus flavor that is complemented by a sweet lemon buttercream frosting.

Ingredients

Cupcakes

  • 1 ½ cups (187 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons lemon zest
  • ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup (120 ml) milk, room temperature

Frosting

  • 1 cup (226 g or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups (300 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1-2 Tablespoons milk, optional

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer), combine sugar and lemon zest. Rub the lemon zest into the sugar to increase its flavor. Add butter and use an electric mixer to beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and mix until combined. Add lemon juice and mix again (it's okay if the batter looks slightly curdled at the point).
  • Add half the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix just until combined. Add the milk and mix until combined. Add remaining flour mixture and mix just until combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.
  • Use an ice cream scoop to transfer batter to prepared pan, filling each cup about ¾ full. Bake cupcakes at 350 F for 20 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with little to no crumbs. Allow cupcakes to cool in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • To make the lemon buttercream frosting, beat butter on medium-high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar and mix until combined (it may look dry at first, but it will come together). Add lemon juice and mix until smooth. If a thinner consistency is required, add milk one tablespoon at a time.
  • Transfer frosting to a piping bag with desired tip and frost cupcakes. Garnish with lemon zest and serve.

Notes

Lemon juice: Use fresh lemon juice for the best flavor. Store-bought lemon juice does not provide nearly enough flavor.
Store lemon cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for 5 days.
Can you freeze lemon cupcakes? Yes. Let the cupcakes cool completely, then store in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 1 month. Defrost in the refrigerator before bringing to room temperature and frosting.
Recommended tools: Muffin tin, kitchen scale, hand mixer or stand mixer, ice cream scoop, frosting bag and tips
Serving: 1cupcake, Calories: 425kcal, Carbohydrates: 51g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 24g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 89mg, Sodium: 140mg, Potassium: 111mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 38g, Vitamin A: 763IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 51mg, Iron: 1mg

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