Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

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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 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!

Classic Lemon Cupcakes

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 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 these lemon bars, between a lemon bar or a Triple Peanut Butter Chocolate Bar, I will always pick the latter.

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 latter wasn’t quite so easy for me.

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!

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

One of my peeves with lemon recipes is when they’re not lemony enough. These lemon cupcakes 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.

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 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.

One issue with lemon cupcakes, and cupcakes in general, is that they’re prone to dryness. Dry calories aren’t worth my time. These easy lemon cupcakes 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.

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!

What’s in These Lemon Cupcakes?

To make these ultra lemony cupcakes and the lemon cupcake frosting, you’ll need:

  • Egg
  • Granulated sugar
  • Buttermilk
  • Canola oil
  • Lemon juice and zest
  • Greek yogurt
  • Vanilla extract
  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Cream cheese
  • Confectioners’ sugar

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!

How to Make Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting

To make the lemon cupcakes, whisk together everything but the flour and baking soda. Then, gently whisk in the remaining dry ingredients just until combined. 

Fill your muffin cups 3/4 full, then bake the cupcakes until domed, set, pale golden, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. 

After the lemon cupcakes have been allowed to cool completely, make the lemon cupcake frosting. To make the lemon cream cheese frosting, whip together the cream cheese, lemon juice, and zest until smooth. Slowly add in the confectioners’ sugar until the frosting reaches your desired consistency. 

Pipe or spoon on the frosting, then garnish with additional lemon zest and enjoy! 

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!

Can I Use a Buttermilk Substitute? 

Yes! Buttermilk 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. However, 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 years. It’s the perfect solution for that once-in-a-blue moon recipe that calls for buttermilk. Although, I’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!

Can I Freeze Lemon Cupcakes? 

Yes, you can freeze the unfrosted, cooled cupcakes for up to 3 months. You can also prepare a batch of lemon cream cheese frosting and freeze it separately, or you can make a fresh batch of frosting when you’re ready to serve the frozen cupcakes. 

Can I Make This Recipe Into a Cake? 

I’ve only made this recipe as cupcakes, so I can’t say for certain if you can bake this as a cake. However, I’ve had some readers report success with doubling the ingredients and baking the batter as a layer cake! 

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!

Tips for Making Lemon Cupcakes

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.

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!

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 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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4.93 from 13 votes

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

By Averie Sunshine
Soft, fluffy, moist, very lemony cupcakes from scratch! Easy one-bowl, no-mixer recipe for cupcakes that taste like they're from a bakery!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Cooling Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 38 minutes
Servings: 14
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Ingredients  

Lemon Cupcakes

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • cup buttermilk, or Powdered Buttermilk, use 2 1/2 tablespoons + 2/3 cup water
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ¼ 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 ¾ cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch salt, optional and to taste

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • ¼ cup cream cheese, softened*
  • 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

Instructions 

Make the Cupcakes:

  • 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.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the first 8 ingredients, through vanilla, until smooth.
  • Add the flour, baking soda, optional salt, and whisk until just combined; don’t overmix.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Make the Lemon 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.
  • 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.
  • Optionally, garnish each cupcake with a pinch of lemon zest.

Notes

  • *I used Trader Joe’s soft spreadable light cream cheese; don’t use light cream cheese if you want thick frosting that you can pipe.
  • You may have a small amount of frosting left over. It will keep airtight in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
  • Storing cupcakes: 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 195kcal, Carbohydrates: 27g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 18mg, Sodium: 120mg, Sugar: 25g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

More Lemon Desserts:

ALL OF MY LEMON RECIPES!

Softbatch Glazed Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies — These super soft, very lemony cookies are topped with a lemon glaze that adds to the pucker-up power.

Softbatch Glazed Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies

Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Lemon Glaze — An easy buttermilk cake with big lemon flavor!! Soft, fluffy, and foolproof if you like puckering up!!

Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Lemon Glaze

The Best Lemon Loaf (Better-Than-Starbucks Copycat) — It took years, but I finally recreated it!! Easy, no mixer, no cake mix, dangerously good, and SPOT ON!! You’re going to love this lemon pound cake recipe!

The Best Lemon Loaf (Better-Than-Starbucks Copycat)

Lightened Up Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake — The blueberry-lemon combo is always a win, and so is pound cake that won’t break your caloric piggybank. This Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake is a keeper!

Lightened Up Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake

Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies — The cookies pack a powerful lemon punch, they’re soft and dense rather than cakey, and they’re thick enough to sink your teeth into.

Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies

Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze — Almost more berries than cake in this soft, fluffy lemon blueberry bundt cake! The lemon glaze is plate-licking delish!!

Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze

Lemon Lemonies — Like lemon brownies, but made with lemon and white chocolate! Dense, chewy, not cakey and packed with big, bold lemon flavor!

Lemon Lemonies

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Please note: I have only made the recipe as written, and cannot give advice or predict what will happen if you change something. If you have a question regarding changing, altering, or making substitutions to the recipe, please check out the FAQ page for more info.

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Comments

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

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

  2. 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!

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

  4. 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

  5. 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!

    1. 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!

  6. 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.

    1. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

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

  10. 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 :)

  11. These cupcakes look so delicious! I have all the stuff so I am making them tomorrow because Simeon (a lemon LOVER like Skylar) requested some for his lunch when he goes back to school Tuesday. When he was little, he would eat them by the wedge. Oooh, makes me pucker thinking of it. He still loves lemon, as do I and I cannot wait to try these!

    1. I remember you telling me that about S before. We both have kids who can eat lemons…how’s that for swapping parenting stories :) LMK what he thinks of them and you are such a great mama to make these, and I know you can’t even have a taste!

  12. I am one of those lemon freaks who will choose lemon over everything else. ;) These look like pure perfection!!