This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy.
I have to say that right behind chocolate, my favorite dessert flavor is probably lemon. Which is why I’m so excited to share these Lemon Cupcakes.
Lemon goes well on SO many savory foods, but when coupled with sugar, it’s the perfect marriage. Fresh, tangy, and sweet blend together so nicely.
These Lemon Cupcakes would be perfect for ANY spring or summer festivity. Easter or Mother’s Day would be particularly perfect, even a baby shower or bridal shower for something fresh and easy!
Anytime I’ve brought these cupcakes to a picnic or potluck, they’ve vanished within minutes – so you may want to bake a double batch.
Once again I’m partnering with one of my favorite baking ingredient brands, Bob’s Red Mill, to bring you this spring cupcake recipe. Bob’s Red Mill doesn’t just produce high-quality flours, grains, and tons of other go-to ingredients, but they’re also employee-owned. I find that pretty amazing in this day and age!
I thoroughly enjoy working with brand partners that have a strong company culture of family and community. Their Organic All-Purpose Flour is perfect in this recipe. Learn more about Bob’s Red Mill and stock up on baking ingredients here.
How to Make the BEST Lemon Cupcakes
Ingredients for my Lemon Cupcake Recipe
- All-purpose flour – Measured accurately (more on this below!).
- Lemons – The star ingredient! These cupcakes call for both fresh lemon zest and lemon juice for the perfect punch of lemon flavor.
- Leaveners – Baking powder and baking soda. Find out the differences between these two leaveners in this article.
- Salt – Just a little to balance out the sweetness.
- Butter – Make sure it’s unsalted butter and at room temperature.
- Granulated sugar – Sweetens and moistens the cupcakes.
- An egg – Helps provide structure and stability for the cupcakes.
- Whole milk – Fat not only provides richness, it also enhances flavor and tenderizes the cupcakes. For those reasons, I highly recommend using whole milk – but if you only have 2% that will work in a pinch. I wouldn’t recommend skim milk.
How do I Make Moist & Tender Cupcakes?
Firstly, it’s key that you measure your ingredients properly. Especially your flour. It’s ridiculously easy to accidentally add too much flour when using measuring cups. I like to use the spoon and level method or better yet, a digital kitchen scale. Learn more about the importance of measuring flour correctly here.
Bob’s Red Mill Organic All Purpose Flour has a protein content of 10-12% – perfect to create lemon cupcakes that maintain their shape and hold up to a generous amount of frosting, but soft enough to yield a tender texture.
With this recipe, you really want to make sure not to overmix the batter which can create dense and gluey cupcakes. Use a gentle hand and stir until JUST combined.
Butter vs. Oil in Cupcakes: Which is Better?
I actually recently conducted a baking experiment of Butter vs. Oil in Baking to see how the type of fat used affects tenderness, flavor, and texture in baked goods. The results were SHOCKING. Check out the full article with more side-by-side comparisons like the one below.
How to Stop Cupcake Liners from Sticking
Oftentimes this is due to the brand of liners. This is my favorite brand that I order in bulk from Amazon. I’ve written an entire post on how to prevent cupcake liners from sticking here in case this is a common problem for you.
Cream Cheese Frosting
This recipe includes an amazing fresh lemon cream cheese frosting. Its tangy freshness balances the sweetness so perfectly. Here are some tips for the best frosting to compliment these lemon cupcakes:
- Be sure your cream cheese and butter are at room temperature before beating, for a smooth lump-free frosting.
- Scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl as you beat the butter and cream cheese – even if you have a paddle attachment that scrapes the sides as it goes, those usually don’t get the very bottom of the bowl.
- Don’t skip sifting the powdered sugar.
- The amount of powdered sugar in this recipe does make a softer frosting because I didn’t want it to be too sweet. If you need a stiffer consistency to pipe with a decorative piping tip, feel free to add more powdered sugar.
- You can also omit the lemon juice and replace with about 1/2 tsp. lemon oil (or to taste) to thicken.
- If you don’t like cream cheese frosting (gasp!) you can always add the lemon zest + juice in this frosting recipe to my Best Buttercream recipe to create a delicious lemon buttercream frosting.
Can You Bake These Cupcakes Into a Cake?
Almost any cupcake recipe can be made into a cake, and these lemon cupcakes are no exception! Check out my full guide for how to convert cupcakes to cake (and vice versa).
How to Make Cupcakes Ahead of Time
Lemon cupcakes can be baked and stored in an airtight container a day ahead of frosting. The frosting itself can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Just bring to room temperature and beat until light and fluffy again.
How to Store Lemon Cupcakes
The frosted cupcakes can be left at room temperature for up to 8 hours since the sugar in the cream cheese frosting acts as a preservative. After that, you’re best off refrigerating the lemon cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Let come to room temperature before serving.
If you’re serving these outside on a warm day, just keep them in the fridge until you set up for your party, picnic, potluck, or whatever. They’ll lose their chill just in time to be eaten. This will prevent melting.
More Lemon Recipes
- Glazed Lemon Cookies
- Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes
- Lemon Loaf Pound Cake
- Lemon Cheesecake
- Lemon Bundt Cake
- Lemon Yogurt Zucchini Bread
For the cupcakes:
- 1 3/4 cups (222 grams) Bob’s Red Mill Organic All Purpose Flour
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
For the lemon cream cheese frosting:
- 8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
- 2 1/2 cups (313 grams) powdered sugar, sifted*
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Make the cupcakes:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two standard muffin tins with 15 paper liners.
- In a medium bowl combine the flour, lemon zest, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on medium-high speed to beat the butter and sugar until fluffy and very well combined, about 3 minutes. On medium-low speed add the egg and beat until combined. Combine the milk and and lemon juice. Add in the flour mixture and milk mixture in alternating batches, starting and ending with the flour, mixing until just combined.
- Divide the batter among the prepared muffin tins, filling each 3/4 full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the frosting:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, lemon zest, and salt on medium-high speed until very light, creamy, and smooth. On low speed, gradually add in the sugar, then the lemon juice and beat until creamy and smooth. If you need a stiffer consistency for decorative piping, add more powdered sugar.
Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.
This recipe was the April 2019 selection for our monthly baking challenge! Every month you can join the challenge by baking the recipe and snapping a photo for a chance to win prizes! Learn more about my monthly baking challenges here. Check out everyone’s cupcakes: