Sweet and tart Lemon Cupcakes are bright and sunny with a fresh lemon buttercream on top. These easy-to-make cupcakes are from scratch and you can even fill them with lemon curd for more lemon deliciousness!
Best Lemon Cupcakes
Every bite of these lemon cupcakes conjures up images of Spring sunshine, warmer weather, and longer days!
I love really light, tender lemon cupcakes made with real lemon juice and zest from fresh lemons, rather than lemon extract. The taste is sweet and pure, without the artificial lemony-ness of a box mix.
The cake part of the cupcake is delicate and moist, with enough structure that it doesn't fall apart if you decide to fill it with lemon curd, but enough flavor to stand on it's own.
How to fill lemon cupcakes with lemon curd
I don't always fill my lemon cupcakes with lemon curd since they are plenty delicious all on their own. But it's a really fun and easy way to take your cupcakes to the next level.
There are two main approaches to making filled cupcakes. Both are pretty quick and easy, and regardless of the approach you choose, you can hide the filling under a layer of frosting so no one will know about the lemon curd surprise until they bite into their cupcake.
Piping filling into the cupcakes
One quick and easy approach is to use a piping bag fitted with a medium round tip to pipe lemon curd (or custard, jam, nutella, buttercream or whatever filling you are using) right into the center of each cupcake. All you have to do is poke the piping tip right down into the center of each cupcake and squeeze 1-2 tablespoons of filling into the cupcake.
The biggest drawback to this approach is that if you overfill the cupcakes they will burst. But for the most part this method works really well, especially if you are doing a lot of cupcakes at once.
Cutting a plug
The other I fill cupcakes is to use a small, sharp paring knife or apple corer to cut a plug out of the center of each cupcake. Then you can spoon 1-2 tablespoons of lemon curd or other filling into the hole and replace the plug on top. It's okay if the plug sticks up a bit since it will be hidden underneath the frosting that you will pipe on top to cover it up.
I find this is my preferred approach when I'm doing a small batch of cupcakes.
How to make lemon cupcakes
- Cream butter and sugar. You can use an electric mixer or a stand mixer to make lemon cupcake batter, but make sure to really beat the butter and sugar together for 2-3 minutes until it is light and creamy.
- Add eggs and vanilla. Room temperature eggs really do mix into the batter better than cold eggs. I often get asked why people end up with cupcakes with flat tops instead of slightly domed tops and my first two questions to troubleshoot that issue is whether their baking powder and baking soda are still good, followed by whether they are using room temperature butter, eggs, and dairy.
- Mix in flour, baking powder, and salt. I almost never both to mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together beforehand. Instead, I just sprinkled them onto the wet ingredients rather than dumping them in a clump. That way they stir in uniformly and I save myself dirtying an extra bowl.
- Mix in the milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest until combined. Don't overbeat the batter at this point. You just want to mix until the batter is uniform.
- Fill paper liners ⅔ full of batter. I like to use a medium cookie scoop to do this step because it helps me fill each cupcake liner with the same amount of batter and keeps things clean.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes at 350 degrees F. My preferred method for telling whether cupcakes are done is to bounce a finger on top of one of the cupcakes. If it is springy and bounces right back, the cupcakes are done. If it leaves an indentation, leave the cupcakes in the oven to bake for another minute or two, then check them again.
- Cool completely, then fill and frost. While the cupcakes cool, make the frosting by beating the butter in a large bowl for 2-3 minutes until light and creamy. Add the powdered sugar, heavy cream, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat well until creamy and smooth, then transfer to a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip. I just used a large round tip to decorate these cupcakes with a smooth swirl, then I garnished with small wedges of lemon just for looks.
What frosting should I use for lemon cupcakes?
I love using lemon buttercream frosting on lemon cupcakes, because the lemon juice and lemon zest paired with the powdered sugar makes a frosting that tastes just like lemon drops, which are one of my favorite candies.
But there are lots of other frosting choices that would pair really well with these lemon cupcakes. A classic vanilla buttercream frosting is always a good choice since it goes with everything. But you can also use strawberry, raspberry, or blackberry buttercream frosting for a fruity and fun flavor combination. And cream cheese frosting is another choice that would be deliciously tangy and sweet with lemon cupcakes.
More lemon desserts you'll love!
- Lemon Macarons with Lemon Curd
- No-Bake Sour Cream Lemon Pie
- Double Glazed Lemon Cookies
- Lemon Sugar Cookies
- Passion Fruit Lemon Loaf Cake
- Lemon Icebox Cake
- Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake
- ½ cup butter room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 cup salted butter room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
- 1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat again, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until combined.
- Add milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest, mixing again until combined.
- Scoop the batter into prepared cupcake liners, filling them about ⅔ full. I find a medium cookie scoop works best. Bake the cupcakes for 15-18 minutes until the tops bounce back when you touch them or a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool completely.
- Make the frosting by beating the butter in a large bowl until creamy and light, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add half of the powdered sugar, mixing on a low speed until combined. Add remaining powdered sugar and mix again.
- Add heavy cream, lemon juice, and lemon zest, mixing until light and creamy. Adjust powdered sugar or lemon juice to make the frosting thicker or thinner, as needed.
- If using lemon curd as a filling, cut a small cone out of the top of each cupcake like hulling a strawberry. Fill with 1-2 tablespoons of lemon curd, then replace the plug.
- Pipe lemon frosting on top of each cupcake using a decorative tip, then serve.