These easy lemon cupcakes from scratch are moist, tender, and bursting with bright, citrus flavor. They’re a quick, easy lemon dessert — perfect for Spring, Easter, Mother’s Day, a Baby Shower, and more.
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There’s just something about that bright burst of lemon flavor.
A couple years ago, my best friend bought lemon cupcakes for my birthday. I was OBSESSED. They were seriously SO good. Such a fun change from classic vanilla cupcakes (which I also love).
I’ve been trying to create homemade lemon cupcakes that taste just like those cupcakes… and I think I finally did!!
I’m excited to share this easy lemon cupcake recipe with you. It’s way better than boxed cake mix!
It can also be used to make a lemon cake by using a cake pan and increasing the baking time.
Delicious Lemon Cupcakes
This lemon cupcakes recipe is incredibly easy. It can even be made in one bowl for quick clean-up.
I do recommend using a zester, like this Stainless Steel and Dishwasher Safe one, to zest the lemon. It makes the process SO much easier. I have used a flat grater, like this Stainless Steel Flat Cheese Grater. It gets the job done, but it’s a little tougher.
This recipe uses 2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon zest and 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice. One LARGE lemon can yield this. I’ve done it.
BUT, it’s probably better to have TWO lemons ready to zest and juice. This will guarantee that you’ll have enough to make moist lemon cupcakes that are the perfect balance of tangy and sweet.
I have not tried this homemade lemon cupcake recipe with cake flour yet. If you do, I’d love to know how it came out.
Tips for the BEST Lemon Cupcakes
- Use FRESH lemon juice. I know it can be a pain to squeeze lemons. I personally like to use this Lemon Squeezer/Citrus Juicer to make it easier and get every last bit of juice. The plastic bottles of lemon juice do NOT taste the same AT ALL. I have ruined perfectly good recipes by using them.
- Room temperature ingredients are always the best to use. If you add cold eggs or milk to the warm butter mixture, the batter will curdle. You can still use the batter, but it will negatively affect the texture of the cupcakes.
- It is best to soften butter naturally. I take it out of the fridge about an hour before I start baking. If softening it in the microwave, be careful not to melt the butter. Melted butter will change the texture of the final cupcakes.
- Beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture is a creamy texture and pale color. This is called “creaming” and it takes a few minutes. Creaming the butter and sugar leads to light, fluffy lemon cupcakes.
- Mix everything until just combined for tender cupcakes. Overmixing the batter can lead to tough, dense cupcakes.
Save and organize your recipes with this adorable Recipe Card Printable. Available HERE.
A Perfect Lemon Cupcake
- If you want yellow cupcakes or buttercream, add a couple drops of yellow food coloring to the cupcake batter before baking or the buttercream while whipping. I like to use gel food coloring, like Betty Crocker Classic Gel Food Colors.
- I also like to use cupcake liners when I make cupcakes from scratch. These Wilton Dots and Stripes Cupcake Liners are my favorite. They’re so bright and fun.
These Floral Watercolor Cupcake Wrappers are GORGEOUS. They’re perfect for a spring brunch, a tea party, a bridal shower, or Mother’s Day.
I found the following Easter cupcake liner at my local grocery store. Isn't it adorable?
- Oven times vary. Check to see if the cupcakes are done by inserting a toothpick into the center of a cupcake. If it comes out clean, they are done. If it has some batter on it, return the cupcake pan to the oven for additional baking.
- Please allow the cupcakes to cool before frosting, especially if you’re using American Buttercream (the frosting recipe included). It is sensitive to heat, so it’ll start melting.
- Please also allow the cupcakes to completely cool before storing them in an airtight container. Storing them while still warm can lead to sticky tops. If this happens, do not worry. It can easily be covered by delicious buttercream. No one will know. 😉
- An easy way to store these lemon cupcakes from scratch or any of your other favorite cupcake recipes is in a cupcake caddy like this Top Shelf Elements Cupcake Carrier. I absolutely LOVE mine, especially if I need to travel with cupcakes.
What kind of frosting should I use on these easy lemon cupcakes from scratch?
There are so many flavors of buttercream that go well with these cupcakes. Which one to use is a matter of personal preference.
Some people prefer vanilla buttercream, creamy lemon frosting, raspberry buttercream frosting, lemon cream cheese frosting, or blackberry buttercream frosting.
The last time I made these easy lemon cupcakes from scratch, I topped them with this Blackberry Buttercream Frosting Recipe. It is one of my favorite flavors! The combination of lemon and blackberry for a lemon blackberry cupcake is the perfect spring dessert.
My Blackberry Buttercream Recipe also explains how to make raspberry buttercream frosting, so you can make lemon raspberry cupcakes! Which is another bright lemon recipe that is perfect for spring, Easter, Mother’s Day, a baby shower, a bridal shower, or a fun brunch.
With Lemon Buttercream Frosting
On the recipe card below, I share how to make creamy, fluffy vanilla buttercream. It is the perfect base for other flavors of buttercream, like lemon.
If you would prefer lemon buttercream frosting on your homemade lemon cupcakes, make the following adjustments to the simple recipe:
- Instead of 2 Tablespoons of whole milk, add 2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.
- Instead of 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, add only one teaspoon of vanilla extract.
- Add at least 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon zest. After this, I recommend tasting it. If you want more zingy lemon flavor, add an additional half of Tablespoon of fresh lemon zest.
Frosting Tips for a Delicious Cupcake
My post - Blackberry Buttercream Frosting with Fresh Blackberries - includes more information on how to make the best buttercream frosting. Please go there for more details, explanations, and additional tips.
- Once again, it’s best to use ingredients that are room temperature.
- For the best texture of buttercream frosting, I recommend using an electric mixer, like this stand mixer or this hand mixer.
- If using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment. If using a handheld mixer, I recommend using the beaters.
- Always start an electric mixer on low speed. This will prevent the powdered sugar from billowing up into your face and all around the kitchen.
- When mixing, add the powdered sugar to the large bowl in increments. Add a small measuring cup of powered sugar, mix on low speed, add more powered sugar, mix again, repeat. This is mostly to prevent a huge mess. I have created some epic messes. 😂
- If piping buttercream on cupcakes with a piping bag, the easiest way to fill it is to put it in a glass.
- For piping tips, I like this Wilton Cupcake Decorating Icing Tips Set. It includes two of the most popular piping tips - 1M and 2D. 1M is the star tip. The set also includes a large round tip (2A).
Moist Lemon Cupcakes
For the Lemon Cupcakes:
- 1/2 cup Unsalted Butter softened
- 1 cup Granulated Sugar
- 3 Egg Whites large
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 tsp Lemon Extract
- 1 1/2 cups Flour all-purpose
- 2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/2 cup Milk (preferably whole milk)
- 1/4 cup Lemon Juice fresh
- 2 Tbsp Lemon Zest fresh
For Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (for Lemon, see the section above labeled "With Lemon Buttercream Frosting"):
- 1 cup Unsalted Butter softened
- 4 cups Powdered Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Whole Milk
- 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1/4 tsp Salt
How to Make Lemon Cupcakes from Scratch:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
- In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar together until pale and creamy.
- Add the egg whites, vanilla extract, and lemon extract. Mix until combined.
- For best results, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in another bowl.*
- Pour half of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix some. Then add the other half of the flour mixture.
- Add the milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Mix until just combined. Do not overmix the batter.
- Spoon batter evenly into the cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3 full. I like to use an ice cream scoop to do this.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes or until done (an inserted toothpick comes out clean).
- Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.
How to Make Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened butter until smooth.
- Add the powdered sugar, one cup (or less) at a time, on low speed.
- Add the milk, vanilla extract, and salt. Increase to medium speed. Stop to scrape down the sides, with a rubber spatula, to the bottom of the bowl as needed.
- Beat at medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy.
- With the rubber spatula, press the frosting against the sides of the bowl to eliminate any air bubbles.
- Spread or pipe on completely cooled cupcakes. Or refrigerate until ready to use.**
Did you make this lemon cupcake recipe? Which buttercream frosting did you choose to make? Which frosting would you like to try next?
If you made this recipe or one of my others, I’d love to see it! Please tag or mention @lovemischka on instagram, fb, or Pinterest. Thank you!