Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

I had so many lemons in my crisper drawer and needed to find a way to use lots of them up at once.

Lemon cupcakes with lemon frosting was the answer.

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting - Soft, fluffy, moist, very lemony cupcakes from scratch! Easy one-bowl, no-mixer recipe for cupcakes that taste like they're from a bakery!

Lemon seems to be one of those ingredients that when people like it, they really like it. They’re super into it and have recipes for lemon pound cakes, lemon muffins, lemon pies, and lemon bars. Name a lemon thing, and they love it.

I’m indifferent with lemon, and while I do love The Best Lemon Bars, between a lemon bar or a Triple Peanut Butter and Chocolate Bar, I will always pick the later.

lLemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting - Soft, fluffy, moist, very lemony cupcakes from scratch! Easy one-bowl, no-mixer recipe for cupcakes that taste like they're from a bakery!

However, my almost 7-year old loves lemons. She eats them like oranges. She calls it “her strange food addiction”. I don’t judge because I can eat Balsamic Reduction by itself, by the spoonful. I can also sit down to a half jar of Homemade Peanut Butter by itself, by the spoonful. I wish the later wasn’t quite so easy for me.

Since I knew she’d love them, I made soft, springy, moist lemon cupcakes with a tangy, zippy lemon cream cheese frosting.

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting - Soft, fluffy, moist, very lemony cupcakes from scratch! Easy one-bowl, no-mixer recipe for cupcakes that taste like they're from a bakery!

One of my peeves with lemon recipes is when they’re not lemony enough. These are pretty darn lemony, but if you’re really a fiend, you can always add more zest to the batter. Taste it as written and see what you think, and if you’re in need to really pucker up, add more zest, to taste.

To make them, I very loosely adapted my Red Velvet Cupcakes recipe. It became very popular on Pinterest before Christmas and I’ve had hundreds of positive comments saying they’re the best (and easiest) red velvet cupcakes, so I knew I had a winning base if I could just tweak it to omit the cocoa and incorporate lemon.

The cupcakes are made in one bowl, no mixer, no creaming ingredients, and it’s a cupcake batter that’s more like a muffin batter. Whisk together wet ingredients, fold in the dry, pour into liners, and bake.

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting - Soft, fluffy, moist, very lemony cupcakes from scratch! Easy one-bowl, no-mixer recipe for cupcakes that taste like they're from a bakery!

One issue with lemon cupcakes, and cupcakes in general, is that they’re prone to dryness. Dry calories aren’t worth my time. These are incredibly moist from the trifecta of moistening and tenderizing ingredients: oil, buttermilk, and Greek yogurt. I stopped at nothing to make sure they weren’t dry.

For baked goods that I want to soft, springy, and bouncy, like cakes, cupcakes, and muffins, I generally prefer using oil to butter because oil does a better job keeping things soft and moist.

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting - Soft, fluffy, moist, very lemony cupcakes from scratch! Easy one-bowl, no-mixer recipe for cupcakes that taste like they're from a bakery!

The same can be said for buttermilk. It does a fabulous job of tenderizing and softening the texture and crumb of breads and cakes, and when in doubt, I always opt for buttermilk over plain milk or cream. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t tend to keep buttermilk on hand, you can make your own by adding about 2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup regular milk, letting it stand 10 minutes to curdle, and then use as indicated.

Or, you can buy a tub of Powdered Buttermilk and it’s shelf stable for year(s). It’s the perfect solution for that once-in-a-blue moon recipe that calls for buttermilk. AlthoughI’ve got tons of recipes to help you use it up.

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting - Soft, fluffy, moist, very lemony cupcakes from scratch! Easy one-bowl, no-mixer recipe for cupcakes that taste like they're from a bakery!

The batter makes enough for about 14 cupcakes, but because I have a small oven, I can only fit one 12-cup muffin pan in my oven at a time. The remedy is to either sample the batter (raw eggs don’t bother me), discard the batter (criminal), or bake a mini loaf in a mini loaf pan that fits on the same oven rack as the muffin pan.

I use my mini pans all the time for a 13th or 14th cupcake, extra muffin batter, or for mini cakes. Four mini pans for $10 bucks is such a steal.

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting - Soft, fluffy, moist, very lemony cupcakes from scratch! Easy one-bowl, no-mixer recipe for cupcakes that taste like they're from a bakery!

Because I used light cream cheese in the frosting which always creates softer frosting, and in conjunction with the lemon juice, the frosting is on the thinner and runnier side. It’s perfect here and you can just spoon it on with the hassle or fuss of piping, but if you want to pipe it, don’t use light cream cheese.

It’s the perfect tangy, sweet-with-a-little-sour complement to the soft, fluffy, moist, lemony cupcakes.

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting - Soft, fluffy, moist, very lemony cupcakes from scratch! Easy one-bowl, no-mixer recipe for cupcakes that taste like they're from a bakery!

My daughter was in lemon heaven.

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting - Soft, fluffy, moist, very lemony cupcakes from scratch! Easy one-bowl, no-mixer recipe for cupcakes that taste like they're from a bakery!

 

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Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

These soft, springy, moist lemon cupcakes with a tangy, zippy lemon cream cheese frosting are full of robust lemon flavor. The cupcakes are made in one bowl, no mixer, no creaming ingredients, and it’s a cupcake batter that’s more like a muffin batter. They're very moist from the trifecta of moistening and tenderizing ingredients: oil, buttermilk, and Greek yogurt. They're quite lemony as written, but for true lemon fiends, add more zest, to taste, to the batter. The frosting is the perfect tangy, sweet-with-a-little-sour complement to the bouncey, tender, lemony cupcakes. I used light cream cheese, which makes for thinner frosting. Use full-fat if you intend to pipe it. Don't overbake because cupcakes will dry out in a hurry.

Yield: 12 cupcakes plus 1 shallow 3x5 mini loaf (or about 14 cupcakes)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: about 18 to 19 minutes

Total Time: about 1 hour, for cooling

Ingredients:

Cupcakes
1 large egg
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup buttermilk (or Powdered Buttermilk, use 2 1/2 tablespoons + 2/3 cup water)
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/4 cup lemon juice (freshly squeezed if possible)
2 tablespoons lemon zest (or more to taste if you're really into lemon)
2 rounded tablespoons Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (2 cups minus 2 tablespoons)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened (I used Trader Joe's soft spreadable light; don't use light cream cheese if you want thick frosting that you can pipe)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (freshly squeezed if possible)
about 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, or as necessary for desired consistency
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon zest, optional for garnishing

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a Non-Stick 12-Cup Regular Muffin Pan with paper liners; set aside. You will likely have batter for a 13th or 14th cupcake, and I baked it in a cooking-sprayed mini loaf pan because my oven is small and that pan setup fits; discard extra batter if that's easier.
  2. Cucpakes - In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the first 8 ingredients, through vanilla, until smooth.
  3. Add the flour, baking soda, optional salt, and whisk until just combined; don't overmix.
  4. Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, place about 2 heaping tablespoons of batter per cupcake into each of the 12 cavities so they're solidly 3/4-full. I poured the excess batter into the mini loaf pan.
  5. Bake cupcakes for about 18 to 19 minutes (I baked the mini loaf for 23 minutes), or until domed, set, pale golden, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter; don't overbake. Allow cupcakes to cool in pan for about 15 minutes before removing. While cupcakes cool, make the frosting.
  6. Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting - Combine first 3 ingredients in a large mixing bowl, add about 1 cup confectioners' sugar, and whisk to combine or beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Continue adding sugar until desired frosting consistency is reached. Because I used light cream cheese, the frosting stayed on the runnier side. If you want frosting thick enough to pipe, do not use light cream cheese. If you like your frosting really piled on thick and high, make a double batch.
  7. With a spoon, add 2 to 3 tablespoons frosting to the top of each cupcake and smooth with the back of the spoon if necessary. My frosting just ran naturally (from the light cream cheese). Optionally transfer frosting to a piping bag and frost the cooled cupcakes. I like the Wilton 1M tip  for cupcakes. You may have a small amount of frosting left over. It will keep airtight in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
  8. Optionally, garnish each cupcake with a pinch of lemon zest. Cupcakes will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 3 days. I personally am comfortable storing cream cheese-frosted items at room temp, but if you prefer to store in the fridge, that's fine, but note the fridge will dry cupcakes out much more quickly.

Cupcake base loosely adapted from Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Related Recipes

The Best Lemon Bars

Pink Lemonade Freezer Bars (no-bake) Sweet-and-salty, creamy-and-crunchy, and comes together in minutes

Lemon Rosemary Coconut Oil Roasted Vegetables (vegan, GF) - Trying to eat more veggies as a New Year’s resolution? Try this flavorful, satisfying & easy recipe made with healthy coconut oil

Lemon Rosemary Coconut Oil Roasted Vegetables averiecooks.com

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting - Today’s cupcakes are loosely based on this cupcake base

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting {From Scratch} - Made in 1 bowl, no mixer & the cupcakes taste like they're from a bakery! Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

Are you a lemon lover?

   

101 Responses to “Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting”

  1. #
    51
    Farah @everylittlecrumb — January 6, 2014 at 2:39 am

    It’s actually therapeutic to look at these beautifully bright cupcakes while it’s pouring rain outside! Thanks for the added cheer to my day :)

    Reply

  2. #
    52
    Dina — January 6, 2014 at 7:17 am

    they look yummy!

    Reply

  3. #
    53
    Beth @ bethcakes — January 6, 2014 at 11:24 am

    I’m not a big lemon fan, but I could probably down several of these. They look absolutely perfect! :)

    Reply

  4. #
    54
    Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence — January 6, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    I love this lemon on lemon action!!

    Reply

  5. #
    55
    MCS Gal — January 6, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Lemon is always a hit in our house. That lemon cream cheese icing will be used on more than cupcakes.

    Reply

  6. #
    56
    Christi @ Love From The Oven — January 6, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    These look SO good Averie. I never think of myself as a lemon dessert lover, but every time I have something lemony, I love it and wonder why I don’t go with lemon more often??? I need to try these, soon!

    Reply

  7. #
    57
    Nancy @ gottagetbaked — January 8, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    There is so much gorgessity in this post, Averie. Your cupcakes are adorable, the texture looks absolutely perfect, and the photos – I’m swooning. My husband LOVES all lemon desserts. I bet he’d go crazy over these, especially since you’ve packed as much lemon flavour as you could into them. Perfection!

    Reply

  8. #
    58
    Andrea — January 9, 2014 at 6:50 am

    We have a Meyer lemon tree that blooms right at Christmas time when I’m thinking of all things peppermint and gingerbread and NOT of lemon. So the second Christmas is over I have 297893 lemons that need to be used ASAP! Looking forward to adding this recipe in the lemon rotation.

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — January 9th, 2014 at 9:51 am

      I used to live in a house from the 1920s here in San Diego and there was literally a lemon tree the size of, I dunno just a huge huge huge tree, with at least 200+ lemons on it at all times! I know exactly what you mean about never having enough recipes to use them with!

      Reply

  9. #
    59
    Nutmeg Nanny — January 11, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Oh my, these look gorgeous :) I love lemony treats, I bet that frosting is perfect!

    Reply

  10. #
    60
    Aurora — January 24, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    This lemon cupcake recipe is SO delicious…I actually doubled the recipe and made two cake layers with lemon curd in between for my daughters birthday (who by the way is also named Avery). Everyone that tasted it raved about it! Thanks for sharing this yummy recipe!

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — January 24th, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      doubled the recipe and made two cake layers with lemon curd in between = THAT sounds awesome! T

      hanks for being creative & LMK it worked just fine as a cake! Happy Bday to your Avery. What a small world! Glad this was a big hit for you guys!

      Reply

  11. #
    61
    Vanessa — February 22, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    These came out delicious! Thank you for this recipe! I love that they don’t have a ton of frosting but are still super tasty. Also very moist.
    Keep up the excellent work
    <3

    Reply

  12. #
    62
    Nadine — March 18, 2014 at 1:43 am

    Absolutely beautiful and so easy to make. I made these for my work colleagues and they loved them as did I. Highly recommended

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — March 18th, 2014 at 1:45 am

      Thanks for trying them and the glowing report back!

      Reply

  13. #
    63
    Lori — April 4, 2014 at 4:12 am

    Want to make these over the weekend. Just wondering, what’s the definition of cupcakes vs. muffins? Thanks for providing us with such yummy treats!

    Reply

    • Lori replied: — April 5th, 2014 at 5:03 am

      Ok, made them yesterday with a simple glaze instead. Yum!

      Reply

      • Averie Sunshine replied: — April 5th, 2014 at 5:04 am

        Glad you enjoyed them! Thanks for trying the recipe!

  14. #
    64
    Barbara — May 4, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    I made these today, super easy and delicious!!! Will make them for my daughter’s birthday!! Thank you sooo much for an awesome recipe!!!

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — May 4th, 2014 at 1:59 pm

      So happy you liked them enough to become your daughter’s bday cupcakes – how wonderful!

      Reply

  15. #
    65
    Hayden — June 24, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    I doubled this and made it into a layer cake with raspberries and blueberry icing. YUM!

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — June 25th, 2014 at 1:26 am

      I love your idea and it sounds amazing – thanks for sharing what you did and glad it’s a winner!

      Reply

  16. #
    66
    Jay — July 19, 2014 at 10:38 am

    you are a goddess averie! i was searching for a lemon cupcakes recipe that doesnt use butter bc my mum loves them but she recently discovered that she has a high cholesterol level. and these are perfect!

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — July 19th, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      Glad you’re happy and that your mom can enjoy, too! Thanks for the compliments and trying the recipe!

      Reply

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