These amazing Lemon Cupcakes are fluffy, moist and easy to make from scratch. They have the perfect flavor balance of tangy and sweet, and have a super tender crumb. Top with your favorite buttercream and enjoy!
This is one of my Cakes/Cupcakes recipes I know you’ll want to keep on hand!
If you were drooling over the amazing lemon buttercream I shared last week, here’s a fabulous cupcake to pile all that frosting on!
As impressive as massive layer cakes are, I definitely prefer cupcakes. They’re so cute, easy to decorate, easily feed a crowd, and are actually easily freeze-able!
These cupcakes are a perfect balance of sweet and tangy/tart. But if you want extra lemon flavor, pair them with lemon buttercream and a lemon curd I’ll be sharing soon!
I’m also a firm believer in using what you have, and this time of year, I almost always have lemons hanging around in my refrigerator.
And when life gives you lemons, making lemonade is great, but I think lemon cupcakes are even better!
How to make lemon cupcakes?
This is just an overview; the full ingredients and directions are in the recipe card toward the bottom of this post.
- Cream butter and sugar together. A stand mixer is awesome, but a hand mixer will work as well.
- Add binders and flavors. Beat in the eggs, extracts and zest.
- Sift flour then combined dry ingredients. Measure sifted flour, then whisk together with baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Mix in liquids and dry ingredients. Alternate the buttermilk/lemon juice with the flour mixture, until all is combined.
- Scoop batter. Using a cookie scoop makes this job much easier.
- Bake. Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs.
- Cool. Only let the cupcakes cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
- Frost as desired.
For the perfect cupcakes, have all the cold ingredients at room temperature before you start mixing. Room temp ingredients will always mix together better and more fully, than cold ones will.
Variations of this recipe
- Buttermilk substitute – if you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own! Mix 1 Tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar with whole milk and let it sit about 10 minutes. It will look a bit curdled. Stir and use.
- No buttermilk – you could also just use whole milk, but I do highly recommend the buttermilk or buttermilk substitute.
- Cornstarch – make sure you use cornstarch and not cornmeal, it won’t have the same result! The cornstarch inhibits gluten formation, resulting in a fluffy tender crumb. In essence, it mimics using cake flour.
- Other citrus – I’ve not tested using other citrus flavors in this recipe, but I think they’d turn out well! Orange or lime would be yummy!
Yes, for up to 3 months. See the section below titled “Freezing” for all the directions.
You can bake the batter in traditional round cake pans – bake times will vary depending on size, but two 8” rounds will bake for about 30 minutes or a sheet cake (9×13) will bake for about 35 minutes.
Scooping the flour with a measuring cup out of a bag or container tends to lead to over-measuring, which can make for a tough cupcake. It’s important for baking recipes to sift the flour, then spoon the sifted flour into the measuring cup. Swipe the excess with the back of a butter knife to level off the top of the measuring cup.
Making lemon cupcakes ahead of time
Cupcakes are great to make ahead of time, because when stored properly, they can last a couple of days before frosting.
I don’t usually like to make mine more than a day ahead of time, just because I want the ultimate fluffy and moist texture.
Leftover, frosted cupcakes can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days, in an airtight container.
Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days, in an airtight container.
Unfrosted cupcakes can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
To freeze unfrosted cupcakes, add cupcakes to a baking sheet and place the whole thing in the freezer for about 2 hours, or until hard.
Wrap frozen cupcakes individually in plastic wrap, then transfer to an airtight freezer-safe container, label it with the date, then freeze.
Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before frosting.
Tips for perfect cupcakes!
- Room temperature ingredients. As I mentioned earlier in the post, the ingredients will all mix together better if they’re room temperature.
- Be careful with how much you’re mixing. Over mixing can leave you with a tough, overly dense cupcake. Just mix the dry ingredients into the batter until no flour streaks remain as you stir.
- Pay attention to how much you’re filling the cupcake liners. Follow what the recipe suggests for how full to make them. Fill them too much and they can overflow, too little and they won’t even reach the tops of the liners.
- For optimal results, bake one pan at a time. I know it’s a hassle, and most of the time, I’m guilty of cramming two pans in there side by side (but then rotating and switching sides halfway through baking). But when you’re starting out, or want perfect cupcakes, bake one pan, and put the pan right in the middle of the center rack.
- Let them cool. Don’t try to frost a cupcake that’s still warm, it’ll end up a big ol’ mess. Let the cupcakes cool, then pile up that frosting as high as you’d like!
- Follow the recipe. This may seem like a no-brainer, but there’s a reason the recipe is written the way it is; because it works that way. With cooking you may be able to swap out ingredients, guess on the measurements, etc, but with baking you really don’t want to do that. Only use any substitutions specifically mentioned, and follow everything to the letter.
Cookie scoops are perfect for scooping the perfect amount of batter every time. This size is perfect for muffins/cupcakes!
Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me @the_chunky_chef on Facebook and Instagram!
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp lemon zest
- 1 Tbsp lemon extract
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 2 3/4 cup sifted all purpose flour spooned into measuring cup then leveled
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk at room temperature, divided
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a mixing bowl – and use a hand mixer), add butter and granulated sugar. Beat on MED speed for about 2 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl (rubber spatulas are great for this), then add lemon zest, vanilla extract, lemon extract, and eggs. Beat until combined.
- Sift flour and measure it into a separate mixing bowl. Add cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk to combine.
- Add 1/2 cup of the buttermilk, plus all of the lemon juice to the batter in the mixer, and beat until just combined.
- Add half of the flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Add another 1/2 cup buttermilk, and beat in. Add remaining flour, mix, then add the final 1/2 cup buttermilk.
- Adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk like this makes sure they're well incorporated without being over mixed.
- Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling them about 3/4 of the way up.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
- Let cupcakes cool in the muffin tins for about 3-5 minutes, then remove the cupcakes to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
- Once cupcakes have cooled, frost as desired.
- Enjoy immediately or cover and keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Want to save this recipe for later? Click the heart in the bottom right corner to save to your own recipe box!
Batter can be baked in traditional round cake pans – bake times will vary depending on size, but generally two 8” rounds will bake for about 30 minutes, or a sheet cake (9×13″) will bake for about 35 minutes.