This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

Soft, moist lemon cupcakes flavored with lemon zest and lemon juice! They are light, tender and tangy. Just add a swirl of this easy lemon buttercream or vanilla American buttercream for the perfect cupcake!

unwrapped lemon cupcake.

Lemon cupcakes go with Summer like pool parties and ice cream sandwiches. A light, tender lemon cake baked to perfection then topped with your favorite buttercream! I used my easy lemon buttercream frosting but you could also use vanilla swiss meringue buttercream, ermine frosting or even the best cream cheese frosting.

I love a good cupcake moment and these lemon cupcakes will be equally at home at a barbecue or fancy birthday party. For an fun, festive event serve an array of cupcakes like these chocolate cupcakes, caramel cupcakes and coconut cupcakes!

Why You Will Love these Lemon Cupcakes

  • A combination of lemon juice & buttermilk for flavor and texture. Both lemon juice and buttermilk add a delightful tanginess, but the addition of buttermilk adds fat as well. This adds to the rich, moist flavor.
  • Moist, tender cupcakes. These easy cupcakes will stay moist for days! They are easy to mix and even easier to eat!
  • Perfected in by a professional pastry chef. I’ve worked on this lemon cake recipe for almost a decade! Gradually making it lighter and fluffier while retaining the lemon flavor. Believe it or not, using more lemon juice actually makes a more dense cake.
frosted lemon cupcakes on glass vintage cake stand.
These Caramel Apple Cupcakes are a moist cinnamon cake filled with a spiced apple compote and are frosted with an easy salted caramel buttercream!
FREE! My Best Fall Dessert Recipes!
Subscribe for a pastry chef’s best Fall recipes straight to your inbox!

Professional Tips for Making Lemon Cupcakes

  • Room temperature ingredients will make the best cake. This might not always be possible, but having all the ingredients at room temperature really helps the batter emulsify especially with the addition of lemon juice.
  • Allow the lemon zest to sit with the sugar. Zest the lemon into the sugar and then massage it in to begin releasing the oils. The longer ahead you do this, the more flavor will be added to the cupcakes.
  • Use fresh lemon juice. Just like in lemon meringue cheesecake, lemon blondies, lemon pound cake, and all my lemon dessert recipes, freshly squeezed lemon juice is essential. Bottled lemon juice has salt and other additives. It tastes flat and dull, while fresh lemon juice is bright and almost floral. 

Ingredients & Substitutions

ingredients for lemon cupcakes.
lemon buttercream frosting ingredients.
  • Cake Flour: Cake flour will make the lightest, fluffiest cupcakes just like in carrot cake cupcakes or chocolate caramel cupcakes. You can use pastry flour or all-purpose flour in a pinch.
  • Kosher Salt
  • Baking Powder
  • Unsalted Butter
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Large Eggs: Using whole eggs adds both fat, moisture and contributes to the leavening of these cupcakes.
  • Lemon + Zest: I wrote this recipe to use one large lemon, but if you don’t mind having a little extra lemon juice for lemonade or a bee’s knees cocktail, use the zest of up to 3 lemons!
  • Buttermilk: I use low-fat buttermilk, which is what is most readily available in grocery stores. This adds both fat and moisture along with additional acidity to react with the baking powder. The additional tanginess also enhances the lemon flavor. If you do not have buttermilk, use whole milk instead. You are already adding lemon juice, so there is no need to go through the process of adding lemon juice to milk and waiting for it to curdle. You can also use sour cream or Greek yogurt, but the resulting cake will be a little more dense. 

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

interior texture of lemon cupcake on clear cake stand and blue surface.

Possible Variations

How to Make Lemon Cupcakes

Use these instructions to make moist lemon cupcakes every time! Further details and measurements can be found in the recipe card below.

Make the Cupcakes:

Step 1: Preheat oven 325°F convection (with the fan) or 350°F conventional (no fan) and line 19 muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Step 2: Zest just the bright yellow parts of the lemon and mix with the granulated sugar. Rub it into the sugar with your fingers to help the sugar begin to pull out the oils.

Step 3: In a larger bowl, sift the cake flour, salt and baking powder.

PRO TIP: I sift my dry ingredients onto a piece of parchment paper. Then I fold up the edges and use it to pour it into the batter in step 6.

Step 4: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a separate large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

lemon zest combined with sugar in white bowl.
sifted dry ingredients on parchment paper.
perfectly creamed butter, sugar and lemon zest.

Step 5: Add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium speed to incorporate. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Step 6: In a measuring cup, combine buttermilk with the lemon juice, just to ease incorporating the wet and dry ingredients. Alternate adding flour mixture with the buttermilk mixture. I like to begin and end with dry ingredients. Mix just until the flour is incorporated.

I often finish my cakes by hand with a silicone spatula to avoid over mixing. Over mixing will make them less tender and can make them gummy or cause tunneling.

Step 7: Scoop or pour into liners. This recipe makes 19 cupcakes filled ¾ full. This will make a flat cupcake top but you could make 18 and fill them all just a little more. I used a scoop to portion the batter.

creamed batter after adding eggs for lemon cake.
finished lemon cupcake batter in clear mixing bowl.
portioning lemon cupcake batter into liners.

Step 8: Bake in preheated oven 15-20 minutes or until a cake tester or skewer comes out with a few clinging crumbs. They will provide a little resistance in the center when pressed lightly. At this lower baking temperature they don’t really brown. Mine took 18 minutes at 325°F convection.

Step 9: Remove immediately from the muffin tins and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Frost with lemon buttercream as I did here or explore all our buttercreams and frosting recipes for the perfect match.

baked lemon cupcakes in tin.
frosted lemon cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting.

Make the Lemon Frosting:

Step 1: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar in small additions, mixing it in on low speed. Continue adding until all the powdered sugar is incorporated

I don’t sift my confectioner’s sugar unless I feel it is excessively lumpy.

Step 2: With the mixer running on low, slowly drizzle in the lemon juice. Increase the mixer to high and beat until light and fluffy. You can also switch to the whisk attachment, which I highly recommend for frosting cupcakes.
Step 3: Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a piping tip.

adding sugar to butter in lemon buttercream frosting.
light fluffy lemon buttercream on paddle attachment.

The key to professional looking cupcakes is using a large piping tip. You can choose any shape you like, but choose one that is one of the 2 largest in the set. For Ateco that would end in a 9 or 8.

Chef Lindsey’s Recipe Tip

I used an Ateco 868 piping tip for the photos you see here, which is a French “open” star tip, but a closed star like the Ateco 848 would also be lovely. You can see that in these caramel apple cupcakes.

unwrapped lemon cupcakes with yellow liner.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best way to store lemon cupcakes?

Store baked cupcakes well wrapped at room temperature for 3 days or refrigerated for a week. If you aren’t going to frost them the day they are made, I suggest cooling, wrapping and freezing the cupcakes. They will keep frozen for 2 months.

Can you make the cupcake batter ahead?

You can make this batter ahead of time and store it in a clean airtight container in the refrigerator. I would not suggest storing it for longer than 24 hours due to the combination of buttermilk, lemon juice and baking powder. Double acting baking powder still contains baking soda, which only reacts once in the presence of an acid, so overtime the cupcakes will not be as light and fluffy.

How to serve lemon cupcakes?

These cupcakes are the perfect dessert package on their own but you could always serve them like you would cake! Try a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, a drizzle of crème anglaise, or a spoonful of lemon curd alongside a bowl of fresh berries!

If you tried this recipe and loved it please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it goes in the comments below. I love hearing from you; your comments make my day!

interior texture of lemon cupcake with lemon buttercream.
Be the first to rate this recipe!

Lemon Cupcakes

A soft, moist lemon cupcake recipe flavored with lemon zest and lemon juice! They are light, tender and tangy. Just add a swirl of this easy lemon buttercream or vanilla buttercream frosting for the perfect cupcake!
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 18 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
Servings: 19 Cupcakes

Ingredients 
 

For the cupcakes:

For the lemon frosting:

Instructions 

Make the Cupcakes:

  • Preheat oven 325°F convection (with the fan) or 350°F conventional (no fan) and line 19 muffin tins with cupcake liners.
  • Zest just the bright yellow parts of the lemon and mix with the granulated sugar. Rub it into the sugar with your fingers to help the sugar begin to pull out the oils.
  • In a larger bowl, whisk the cake flour, salt and baking powder. It isn’t worth sifting unless your flour is particularly clumpy.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a separate large bowl with an electric hand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate.
  • In a measuring cup, combine buttermilk with the lemon juice, just to ease incorporating the wet and dry ingredients. Alternate adding dry ingredients with the buttermilk mixture. I like to begin and end with dry ingredients. Mix just until the flour is incorporated. I often finish my cakes by hand with a silicone spatula to avoid overmixing.
  • Scoop or pour into liners. This recipe makes 19 cupcakes filled ¾ full. This will make a flat cupcake top but you could make 18 and fill them all just a little more. I used a scoop to portion the batter.
  • Bake in preheated oven 15-20 minutes or until a cake tester or skewer comes out with a few clinging crumbs. They will provide a little resistance in the center when pressed lightly. At this lower baking temperature they don’t really brown. Mine took 18 minutes at 325°F convection.

Make the Lemon Frosting:

  • In a large bowl, sift the powdered sugar. {Optional, but I find it makes things easier!}
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment add softened butter, powdered sugar, and salt. Mix until light and smooth. Start the mixer on low until combined and then gradually increase to medium speed.
  • Add the lemon juice to the butter mixture and beat with the paddle until homogenous and lightened.
  • If a lighter, airier buttercream is desired, switch to the whisk attachment. Whisk on high until light and fluffy and white. For a smoother buttercream with fewer bubbles, keep the paddle attachment.

Assemble your cupcakes:

  • For Piping: Fit a piping bag with your favorite piping tip. Place the bag with a tip in a large glass and fold the edges over the rim of the glass. Fill the bag about 2/3 full. Press the buttercream to the bottom of the bag, get out any air pockets, twist the top and get ready to pipe!
  • For Spreading: Simply grab a large offset spatula, dollop on some buttercream and start spreading! Add more as needed.

Notes

Yield – 19 cupcakes
Flavor Tips – Allow the lemon zest to sit with the sugar ahead of time to draw out the flavor.
Technique – Using room temperature ingredients will ensure the best texture.
Storage – Store baked cupcakes well wrapped at room temperature for 3 days or refrigerated for a week. If you aren’t going to frost them the day they are made, I suggest cooling, wrapping and freezing the cupcakes.

Nutrition

Calories: 502kcal | Carbohydrates: 77g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 80mg | Sodium: 329mg | Potassium: 53mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 64g | Vitamin A: 672IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 56mg | Iron: 0.4mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Calories: 502
Like this? Leave a comment below!

Before You Go

I hope you enjoyed this professional chef created recipe. Check out our other cake recipes, cupcake recipes or find the perfect buttercream and frosting recipes to go on top! You will also love this moist and incredibly easy lemon olive oil cake.

Hi, I’m Chef Lindsey!

I am the baker, recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Chef Lindsey Farr. I believe in delicious homemade food and the power of dessert!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating