Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream

Lemon cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting will be your new favorite cupcake recipe! Made in less than 30 minutes, you'll love how fluffy, moist and fresh these lemon cupcakes are. Makes one dozen cupcakes.

Lemon cupcake with lemon slice garnish unwrapped from the liner.
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Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream

I have a bit of an obsession with lemon desserts. I think it started when we went to a bakery in North Carolina that served a lemon layer cake. It was the most delicious dessert I had ever had.

Ever since, I have loved baking with lemon, from lemon bars to lemon blueberry scones. Even though we have a lemon tree in our backyard, I never get tired of lemon desserts.

Lemon cupcakes are at the top of the list. I first made them for our housewarming party years ago and they were such a hit that they have become my go-to cupcake recipe. 

Zesty and sweet, these homemade lemon cupcakes have a double whammy of lemon, thanks to lemon cake and lemon buttercream.

Some lemon desserts have just a hint of lemon, but if I am going to make something lemony, I don't want it to be subtle. I want it to be obviously lemon! The lemon buttercream helps to bring it all together and balance the tart and sweetness. 

Lemon cupcakes with lemon slice garnish in a cupcake tin.

Why You'll Love This Recipe

Lemon cupcakes are the perfect summertime dessert. These cupcakes are so easy to make and are fluffy, sweet and bursting with fresh lemon flavor.

  • Lemon lovers will adore this tart, zesty recipe.
  • These easy lemon cupcakes come together in 30 minutes or less.
  • Customize them with your favorite flavors (like lime or orange) or another fruity frosting.

These cupcakes are so good for a party. You could serve them for any summer get-together, a baby shower, a wedding shower or a birthday party for any lemon lover!

Softened unsalted butter, sugar, egg, sour cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest (from one medium lemon), all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and milk separated into individual bowls and measuring cups.

Ingredients

Here is what you will need to make these lemon cupcakes with lemon frosting:

Lemon Cupcakes

  • unsalted butter
  • granulated sugar
  • egg
  • sour cream
  • vanilla extract
  • lemon zest - from one medium lemon
  • all-purpose flour
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • salt
  • milk

Lemon Buttercream

  • unsalted butter
  • vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar
  • heavy cream
  • lemon zest
  • fresh lemon juice

I recommend buying at least two lemons because you will need the zest from both and juice from one. You can use the leftover lemon to make strawberry lemonade.

Overhead photo of six lemon cupcakes with lemon slice garnish on a round wooden serving platter.

Substitutions

This cupcake base is the base recipe I use to make any cupcake. I love switching out the icing for variations like strawberry vanilla cupcakes or orange cupcakes. Feel free to come up with your own variations!

You could even substitute orange, grapefruit, blood orange or lime to make a totally different flavor of cupcakes!

This cupcake base has sour cream in it, which keeps the cupcakes light and fluffy! It also helps cut a bit of the sweetness of the cupcakes with a bit of tanginess! You can use Greek yogurt in lieu of sour cream.

These double lemon cupcakes with buttercream frosting make the perfect party treat or summer dessert. If you want them to be less lemon-flavored, omit the lemon zest from either the batter or the icing and you'll have a more subtle lemon flavor. Or you could use another frosting flavor, like strawberry or whipped cream frosting.

If you don't have fresh lemons to make lemon zest, you can add ½ teaspoon of lemon extract to the cupcakes.

How to Make Lemon Cupcakes

Putting these from-scratch cupcakes is so simple. They take less than 30 minutes of hands-on time, which is excellent when you have other things to do!

Here's how to make this lemon cupcake recipe:

Softened, unsalted butter and sugar in a glass mixing bowl.
Softened, unsalted butter and sugar mixed together in a glass mixing bowl.

First, preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a cupcake tin with paper liners or grease a muffin tin.

Then, in a mixing bowl with a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar on low speed.

Mixed butter and sugar with one egg, vanilla, and sour cream in a glass mixing bowl.
Mixed butter and sugar with one egg, vanilla, and sour cream mixed together in a glass mixing bowl.

Add egg, sour cream and vanilla and mix until smooth.

Flour and lemon zest in a glass mixing bowl.
Flour and lemon zest mixed together in a glass mixing bowl.

Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and lemon zest in a medium bowl.

Flour and lemon zest mixture added to mixed butter and sugar, egg, vanilla, and sour cream.
Flour and lemon zest mixture mixed completely with butter and sugar, egg, vanilla, and sour cream mixture.
Milk is added to the flour, lemon zest, butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and sour cream mixture.

In the mixer, alternate between adding the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in a stand mixer and slowly whisking in the milk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Mix on medium speed until batter is smooth, but do not over-mix.

Milk is mixed with the flour, lemon zest, butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and sour cream mixture.
Completed cupcake batter poured into lined muffin tin.

Pour batter into lined muffin tin, filling cupcake liners about halfway full.

Bake for 15-18 minutes until cupcake centers bounce back to the touch and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Allow cupcakes to cool on a cooling rack. Meanwhile, make the buttercream icing.

Six lemon cupcakes with lemon garnish slices on a wooden serving platter.

How to Make Lemon Buttercream Frosting

This lemon frosting is a buttercream frosting, which is delicious, creamy and fluffy. It has a strong lemony flavor, but the sweetness and creaminess bring balance to these cupcakes.

Here's how to make this homemade lemon frosting:

Butter and vanilla extract in a glass mixing bowl.
Butter and vanilla extract are mixed together in a glass mixing bowl.

In a clean bowl or separate bowl, use a hand mixer to cream butter and vanilla.

Lemon zest added to butter and vanilla extract mixture.
Lemon zest mixed with butter and vanilla extract mixture.

Then add in lemon zest and juice.

Powdered sugar is added to the lemon zest, butter, and vanilla extract mixture.
Powdered sugar is mixed to the lemon zest, butter, and vanilla extract mixture.

Add ½ cup of powdered sugar.

Continue adding powdered sugar ½ cup at a time until the icing is thickened.

Heavy cream is added to the powdered sugar, lemon zest, butter, and vanilla extract mixture.

Lastly, mix in the heavy cream. Icing should be smooth but hold its shape fairly well.

Lemon cupcakes with lemon slice garnish in a cupcake tin. Lemon cupcakes on a wooden serving platter in the background.

Add the frosting to a piping bag. (I used a star tip). Then pipe icing onto room-temperature cupcakes.

Decorate the tops of the cupcakes with lemon slices, lemon zest, yellow sprinkles or pieces of candied lemon.

How to Store Cupcakes

Store cool, decorated cupcakes in a food-safe, airtight container. You can store uniced cupcakes similarly to storing muffins.

For transporting, you can use a cupcake carrier — so helpful for keeping them from toppling!

Lemon cupcake with a bite taken out of it.

More Lemon Desserts

If you're looking for a perfect lemon dessert, these are the best lemon cupcakes! But you could also try one of these lemon recipes:

More Cupcake Recipes

If cupcakes are one of your favorite desserts to bake, don't miss these recipes:

Lemon cupcakes with lemon slice garnish in a cupcake tin.

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Icing

If you're looking for a perfect citrus dessert, these sweet-tart lemon cupcakes topped with lemon buttercream are definitely for you!
4.96 from 45 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Total Time: 28 minutes
Servings: 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

Lemon Cupcakes

  • ½ cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest from one medium lemon
  • 1 ⅔ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk

Lemon Buttercream

  • ½ cup unsalted butter softened
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • zest from one lemon
  • juice from half a lemon

Instructions

Cupcakes

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together. Add egg, sour cream and vanilla extract.
  • Whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, lemon zest) in a separate medium bowl.
  • Alternate between adding dry ingredients to wet ingredients in a stand mixer and whisking in milk slowly.
  • Whisk until batter is smooth, but do not over-mix.
  • Pour batter into lined muffin tin, filling cupcake liners about halfway full.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes until cupcake centers bounce back to the touch.
  • Allow cupcakes to cool on a baking rack.
  • Meanwhile, make the buttercream icing.

Lemon Buttercream Icing

  • Use a hand mixer to cream butter and vanilla.
  • Add ½ cup of powdered sugar.
  • Then add in lemon zest and juice.
  • Continue adding powdered sugar ½ cup at a time until the icing is thickened.
  • Add heavy cream. Icing should be smooth but hold its shape fairly well.
  • Pipe icing onto room-temperature cupcakes.

Notes

Make sure you bake cupcakes until they bounce back when gently touched or a toothpick comes out with cake crumbs on it. Batter on the toothpick means the cupcakes are under baked and a clean toothpick means the cupcake is too dry.
For the best, fluffiest cupcakes, cooling at room temperature is recommended.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupcake | Calories: 416kcal | Carbohydrates: 62g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 62mg | Sodium: 167mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 48g

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4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Double Berry Patriotic Star Cupcakes | A Joyfully Mad Kitchen
  2. Pingback: Tips for a Stress Free Housewarming Party | A Joyfully Mad Kitchen
  3. I'm loving lemon desserts lately! These are so cute. I can't wait to make them for a party!

  4. These are the bright burst of sunshine I need in my life! Double the lemon, double the fun!