Lemon Cupcakes Recipe

Sunshine perfection: sweet-tart lemon cupcake topped with vanilla buttercream and a sprinkle of lemon zest!

The Best Lemon Cupcakes Recipe

In ancient times, if you wanted to impress a king, you might bring gifts of silk, gold, exotic animals…or lemons! Yes, lemons were considered such a delicacy and so highly prized that they would rank right up there with the finest of gifts. Today, we live in a magical era where we can simply go to the grocery store and pick up one, several, or a whole mesh bag of lemons, lickety-split. While the health benefits are well-documented (high in vitamin C and fiber), on their own, they are extremely tart, to say the least. But when lemons are combined with cake, the results are extremely edible, to say the least! Lemon cake or these Best Lemon Cupcakes combine the best of both worlds: tart-sweet, bright flavor with the soft texture of the cake. A perfect indulgence for dessert, birthdays, or special occasions.

There’s a reason this recipe is the Best Lemon Cupcakes recipe. The flavors are all natural – no artificial extracts, flavorings, or colors, the ingredients are easy to get, and the instructions are practically failproof. When you take your first bite into the pillowy cupcake and creamy frosting, the lemon cake and the buttercream frosting are a delicious match. As much as I love chocolate, these cupcakes really hit my sweet tooth just right, and they are not heavy or cloying.

Vanilla Extract: pure or “impure?”

If you haven’t bought pure vanilla extract before, you may experience some sticker shock when you are standing in the baking aisle looking at the prices. It is not cheap, but paying a little extra for it is worth it. Pure vanilla extract must contain three ingredients: vanilla bean, alcohol, and water. The alcohol is what “extracts” the flavor from the vanilla bean. Since vanilla beans are somewhat difficult to grow and harvest, the price reflects that part of the process. A cheaper alternative is imitation (not usually called “impure” but it worked better for the section title, so work with me here) vanilla extract. It consists mainly of vanillin, which is a chemical compound naturally derived from vanilla beans. However, to keep costs low, it often contains other “filler” ingredients like fermented bran, clove oil, or other additives. If possible, use the pure vanilla extract – a little goes a long way, and the flavor and makeup is better overall.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned & leveled
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Vanilla buttercream for topping
  • Lemon slices for garnish (optional)
The Best Lemon Cupcakes Recipe

How to Make The Best Lemon Cupcakes

Step 1: Start by preheating your oven to 350°F (177°C) and lining a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners for easy removal.

The Best Lemon Cupcakes Recipe

Step 2: Cream the butter and sugar using a mixer on medium-high until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing until just combined.

The Best Lemon Cupcakes Recipe

Step 3: Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually mix into wet ingredients, then slowly incorporate milk, lemon juice, and zest until just combined.

The Best Lemon Cupcakes Recipe

Step 4: Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full with batter and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before frosting.

Step 5: Frost the cooled cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and garnish with lemon zest if desired.

FAQs & Tips

How to Make Ahead and Store?

The best way to make ahead these cupcakes is to bake the cupcakes and freeze them, unfrosted. Double-wrapped in plastic wrap then foil, you can store them in the freezer for up to a month. Let the cupcakes defrost on the counter at room temperature for an hour or so, and then frost and serve. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. Refrigerated is best, given the butter in the frosting.

Why are my cupcakes dry?

To avoid dry cupcakes, the secret is in the assembly and mixing. Three stages: the creaming of the butter and sugar, the addition of the eggs, and then the addition of the dry ingredients. For stage one, you can use the mixer at a fairly high speed to get that light, fluffy texture. For the second, you want to mix in one egg at a time. The final stage, adding the dry ingredients plus the milk and lemon juice, is the crucial one. Don’t overmix! Just stir until things are combined. Your mixture may look a little curdled, and that’s ok. Letting it be is the secret to getting moist cupcakes.

I love lemon! How can I ramp up the lemon in these cupcakes?

There are two ways you can increase the lemon flavor if so desired. First, you can combine the sugar and lemon zest (before creaming the sugar and butter in step 2) and pulse the two together in a food processor. Doing so releases the oils in the lemon zest and heightens the lemon flavor. When you get to Step 3, omit the lemon zest in that step. The second way is to replace the vanilla buttercream frosting with a lemon frosting or icing.

The Best Lemon Cupcakes Recipe

Serving Suggestions

For toppings, grate a little lemon zest or add candied lemon slices to the tops of your frosted cupcakes. Yellow sprinkles or fondant cut outs are also cute for birthdays. As for what to serve them with? Nothing is really needed, but vanilla ice cream is always a good idea! And while these cupcakes are typically a dessert, you might catch yourself having a leftover cupcake for breakfast the next day too!

The Best Lemon Cupcakes Recipe
The Best Lemon Cupcakes Recipe

Lemon Cupcakes

No ratings yet
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 3 hours
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12
Calories 209 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour spooned & leveled
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Vanilla buttercream for topping
  • Lemon slices for garnish optional

Instructions
 

  • Start by preheating your oven to 350°F (177°C) and lining a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners for easy removal.
    The Best Lemon Cupcakes Recipe
  • Cream the butter and sugar using a mixer on medium-high until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing until just combined.
    The Best Lemon Cupcakes Recipe
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually mix into wet ingredients, then slowly incorporate milk, lemon juice, and zest until just combined.
    The Best Lemon Cupcakes Recipe
  • Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full with batter and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before frosting.
  • Frost the cooled cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and garnish with lemon zest if desired.

Nutrition

Calories: 209kcalCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 3gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 184mgPotassium: 54mgFiber: 1gSugar: 17gVitamin A: 294IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 62mgIron: 1mg
Keyword lemon cupcakes
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