Lemon Cupcakes

CATEGORIES: Cakes and Cupcakes, Kate

So while we were in Seattle, we went to the wedding of my husband’s younger brother. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law did all the flowers and they were absolutely gorgeous. See?

Now…at the wedding reception, the limes and lemons in the tall vases were fun and whimsical and colorful, but after the bride and groom drove away, those of us who WEREN’T going on a fun, relaxing honeymoon had to figure out what to do with literally hundreds of limes and lemons. My mother-in-law tried VERY hard to get me to throw some into my suitcase, which I adamantly refused to do because a) I didn’t want unsweetened lemonade all over my clothes when we got home and b) now that the airlines so graciously allow us to pay for checked baggage, I figured I could buy my own dang lemons for another $25. Well, being the mother of seven boys that she is, she was not about to let me go home citrus-free, which led to quite a bit of back-and-forth banter. Finally, I remembered that I had this recipe scheduled for today and told her I would take home a carry-on bag full of lemons and limes, which she was delighted to hear. I was half-expecting someone in security to ask, “Hey, lady, what’s with all the citrus?”, but then I realized that a bag full of limes and lemons was probably not even close to the strangest thing they’d ever seen.ANYWAY. Enough story time. Now…I have a little confession to make. I’m not super crazy about cake. I like it okay, and if I’m at a party, I’m not going to say no. But if it’s nothing special, then I’d just rather have a piece of pie or a tart or a pastry or something like that.

Well, I stumbled across this recipe in a dark, dusty corner of Martha Stewart’s website last year when I was getting ready for my daughter’s first birthday. I wasn’t looking for a lemon cake, and I wasn’t looking for a recipe that was so incredibly poorly constructed and hard-to-follow (seriously, whoever edited that recipe should be fired, or at least flogged aa little), but it sounded delish and I was after the flower cake tutorial.

Well…once I figured out what in the WORLD was going on (the baking time for a 9×13 cake is incredibly off, for starters), it ended up being quite possibly the most delicious cake I’d ever eaten in my entire life. Somehow, it’s a little dense (kind of like pound cake) and yet incredibly light and airy at the same time. I used the lemon buttercream recipe from my Southern Living cookbook and seriously…there are no words.

Since it calls for 3 sticks of butter and 5 eggs in the cake alone, I don’t make it too much, but I figured this time around, I’d give cupcakes a whirl. I think they were even better–the cake can almost be too much, but the cupcakes are perfectly portioned snippets of lemony goodness. And they’re so rich that I only need too eat one and then I’m done, which, when I have a million of these suckers lying around, is definitely a good thing.

Lemon Cupcakes
Our Best Bites


1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) of REAL butter
3 c. cake flour (no substitutions here–you really need the lightness of cake flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. sugar
5 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 2 lemons (just zest the other lemons before you squeeze them)
1 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325. Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners (I used yellow, although white would also be cute).

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Don’t go skimping here–you want the mixture to be almost white and super fluffy. This is absolutely essential to the outcome of the cake.

While butter and sugar are mixing, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside. After butter and sugar have mixed sufficiently, With the mixer running, add eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Beat in vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

With mixer on low speed, alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating until fully incorporated.

Using a standard cookie scoop, place about 2 scoops of batter into each muffin cup. Fill these almost to the top–due to the final texture (again, think super-moist and light pound cake), these cupcakes won’t have a nice, curvy crown, but that’s okay–no one will ever know or care.

Bake about 20-25 minutes or just until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. You don’t want to overbake these even a bit, or they’ll start to lose their delicious moisture. Remove from oven and cool completely. Frost with lemon buttercream and garnish with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or fresh mint leaves.

Lemon Buttercream

1 1/4 c. butter (2 1/2 sticks)
2 tsp. grated lemon rind
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 c. powdered sugar

Beat butter, lemon rind, and lemon juice in an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating to spreading consistency. Makes 2 3/4 c.

Have we got you in the mood for lemons?
Fresh Squeezed Lemonade
Garlic-Herb Sandwich Spread
Lemon Zucchini Fettuccine
Strawberry-Lemon Face Mask


  1. So pretty and I'm certain yummy! Wish I could have taken some of those lemons and limes off your hands! I just bought some of both yesterday!

  2. Cookie Girl, my son won't touch these because he thinks they're "too sour," if that helps… 🙂 They aren't as tart as say, lemon curd, but it definitely has a little zing! 🙂

  3. Yum! Do they sell cake flour at regular grocery stores, or only specialty stores? I have never even looked for it before.

  4. So wait, you mean you didn't use all those lime to make a ton of key lime tarts?! Those are a new favorite at our house.

    But anyway, these look so yummy! Lemon is one of my new favorite flavors for desserts. Mmmmmm… 🙂

  5. YUM!I love anything lemon and I would break out the mixer and try these right now, but I made your strawberry cupcakes for my daughter's birthday and I got 3 dozen cupcakes out of the batter!

  6. So if I don't have one of those fancy-dancy electric mixers fitted with paddle attachments, will just a regular hand mixer work?

  7. Ingrid, I imagine you could. The only concern is that the batter quantity is pretty large, so you just need to make sure it gets light and fluffy enough while you're mixing.

  8. OOh Kate I really don't like cake either. I LOVE cake batter but the actual cake…not so much. But I love lemony things and these looks super yummy-especially the batter. LOL.

    Sara's going to think I'm an alien now. No doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, pizza, spaghetti and now cake. Yeah I'm pretty much un-American.

  9. How is it that you and Sara don't weigh 300 pounds each with all these fabulous, fattening dessert recipes you post? I gain weight just looking at the pictures!!
    BTW, I shared your Brazilian lemonade recipe at our Enrichment night last night and gave the credit to your website.
    I check your site several times a week and have tried several of your recipes, but this is the first time I've posted a comment.

  10. Carson, either I give most of the treats away or I eat them all and tell my husband I gave most of the treats away. Neither of which he's particularly keen on, lol!

    And thanks a bunch for sharing the blog! 🙂 I'm sitting here drinking Brazilian lemonade right now, yummmmmm…

  11. These cupcakes look really yummy! I'll definitely have to try this recipe. I LOVE lemon cake, but like you, only if it's REALLY good. BTW, your pictures look very appetizing! ;o)

  12. I just posted an almost identical recipe on my blog that uses coconut instead of lemon. Can't wait to try it this way! I bet you could add just about anything with this batter and it would taste fabulous!

  13. I love all things lemon. I just pulled a recipe for lemon glaze cookies from Everyday Food that was to die for. Literally. I made the cookies twice in 36 hours and ate almost all of them by myself.

  14. We made these yummy cupcakes twice,(two different cooks) tasted fantastic, but both times they flopped! Couldnt get out of pan (crusty around openings) and then fell out of the paper liners!! Do we need to add more flour in Utah for high altitude?

  15. Hi There!! I made these today after having numerous left over lemons from Christmas.

    Fabulous!! I had no buttermilk (which is a rare event in this house) but used skim milk and mixed the lemon juice with the milk to curdle it a bit. Worked like a charm.

    Like you I'm a recipe blogger. Would you mind if I posted this recipe on my blog. More than happy to link to your blog to give credit.

    Oh..btw…instead of lemon juice in the buttercream I used Limoncella liquor…excellent!!

  16. Wow- these have nice flavor and everything, but are just too DOGGONE RICH and FATTENING!! I followed the recipe to a T, continuing despite the skeptical looks from my grandmother, who wondered why I needed a total of over five sticks of butter and five eggs. And, gosh, this frosting is super rich..it's just butter and sugar!
    Guess I was looking for a much lighter, creamy cupcake. These were dense and almost gave me a sugar attack. I guess I'm just a wuss, even at 17.

  17. My mouth is watering already. My husband always says lemon desserts are for old people… Well phooey on him I say! I'll make em and he'll eat'em!

  18. These are truly mouthwatering. Follow the recipe carefully. In my oven they needed a hotter temp setting and/or little longer cook time or else they came out a little pasty on top. I also added more lemon to the cake and doubled the lemon in the frosting . My friends flipped-out they were so delicious!

  19. Those were fantastic. Thank you! Best cupcakes I've ever made. I added just a little more lemon than it called for and frosted them to look like yellow roses on top. They were some of the best cupcakes I've ever eaten.
    Also, I should add that I'm an inexperienced baker. If I can make em so can you.

  20. These sound so delicious! I'm looking for a great lemon cupcake recipe for a bridal shower. Bonus, I found a lemon butter cream recipe as well. Thanks so much.

  21. Delicious! I made them in mini-cupcake form, and I am still not done putting them in the oven: I will probably get 10-12 dozen! Yikes! For anyone making them in mini format, I found 14-15 minutes is about the right baking time.

  22. I made these the other day and they were a HUGE hit at work! I tossed a handful of raspberries in the icing and it was so good. Thanks for the recipe help, I always come to your site when I need inspiration!

  23. Okay, confession: I'm not a fan of lemon. I don't like citrus. However…I made these for a friends' birthday, and I have been converted. These are seriously stupendously amazing. Ah-maz-ing. Yum. I'm not sure if they'll last long enough to make it to work in the morning.

  24. Okay, confession: I'm not a fan of lemon. I don't like citrus. However…I made these for a friends' birthday, and I have been converted. These are seriously stupendously amazing. Ah-maz-ing. Yum. I'm not sure if they'll last long enough to make it to work in the morning.

  25. Your lemon cupcakes are awesome! I made them over the weekend and they were moist and deeeelicious! Thanks for the recipe! The frosting tasted a bit too butter-y to me (my personal taste) so I added a tsp or so of vanilla and loved the final result.

  26. These cupcakes have an amazing texture and flavor (as I added a little bit of lemon oil) but they shrank like crazy! So much so that the paper liner just falls off. Would love to make again but I need to understand how come they shrank so much? Thanks.

  27. Thanks, Kate. Wonder if I beat the sugar, cream and eggs a little too long therefore adding too much lightness. Either way, kudos on a wonderfully flavored and textured cupcake. Will definitely make again!

  28. Just made these tonight – and they are yummy! I used a bit more lemon juice (and decreased the Buttermilk) and doubled the lemon zest to make a very tart cupcake base. It’s not too sweet and I have your recipe to thank. Thank you for the post and the great recipe =)

  29. We’re travelling for Easter. Do you think if I made these on Friday and frosted them on Sunday they would still be fabulous?

  30. Help! My Sis-in-law wants this in cake form for her birthday tomorrow. What would the correct baking time be? Anything else I need to know?

      1. I thought Kate said that the baking time for the cake was off. Oh well. I will just keep an eye on it after 25 minutes.

    1. I honestly don’t know–the Martha Stewart directions were WAAAAAAY off (like by 30+ minutes), so when I baked it as a 9×13, I just baked it until it was done. Every other time, I’ve made cupcakes. Sorry I can’t be of more help!

  31. I have a question Kate if you see this. I have made these several times in Belgium with no problem. I am in Georgia right now and I am making them and I am not sure if its because of humidity or what it is but the cupcakes are pulling from the liners and they are bubbling. I don’t understand? I put in almost 1/2 cup of more cake flour and they did not bubble as much this time but still did. Do you have any idea what is going on?

  32. I made these last year for my baby shower and they were the BEST lemon cupcakes I have ever had! I bookmarked your website and I’m going to make these again!

  33. I’m making these for a birthday party on Friday. I believe I will half the recipe though, since I really don’t need 2 dozen!

  34. Hi Kate! LOVE all of your guys stuff! I have a quick question about the butter cream. Everytime I’ve made butter cream with butter (I’ve started using some butter and some shortening) it ends up tasting like I’m eating a big stick of butter. Do you ever get that feeling or is it just my preference. I’ve heard some bakeries just use shortening. Thanks!

    1. Hmmmm. I think sometimes it can be like that, but it doesn’t really bother me. Have you tried our perfect cupcake frosting and filling? It’s definitely not your typical butter-based frosting.

      1. HI, I just made the lemon cupcakes and they were fabulous.. I did not have cake flour but made my own.. For every cup of flour the cake calls for you take 2 tabl. of flour out and add 2 tbl. of cornstarch. Then you sift the flour and cornstarch through a sifter 5 times. Not hard to do.. Love all you two do. Thanks!

  35. Can I just say AMAZING!!! Light and fluffy. Not only the cupcake but the frosting. REALLY nice lemon flavor! I made half a batch in mini size and I could have eaten every last one!!! Thank you Our Best Bites…they truly are the BEST!!!

  36. These cupcakes are SO delicious. They are not very forgiving with the baking time and they do make more that 2 dozen. I made 14 regular sized cupcakes and 48 minis…recipe was not hard to foolow, batter was as light as air, frosting could use less sugar and more lemon juice which I added for more of a tart flavor.

  37. These are so good! I’m pregnant and my baby will not let me eat chocolate so I was looking for a non-chocolate recipe. I am so glad I found this one. They are my husband and my favorite. We will be serving these at my baby shower as well.

  38. One word FABULOUS!!! I did a cupcake bakoff and hands down this one was delicious! So moist and not all overbearing with the lemon taste which I loved loved loved. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. If you have a chocolate cake recipe I would love to have that bcuz every chocolate cake recipe I have attempted has been dry. Thanks again for sharing this awesome recipe. Tootles….Nikki 😉

  39. Any one else have them ‘dip’ or ‘fall’ in the middle? Trying to figure out what happened. They are super delish, and I filled the dip with lemon curd before frosting them.

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