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How to Make Easy Lemon Cupcakes from Scratch

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How to Make Easy Lemon Cupcakes from Scratch

These easy lemon cupcakes from scratch are moist, tender, and the perfect balance of tangy and sweet. They’re a quick, easy lemon dessert — the perfect pick me up. 

One Lemon Cupcake with a yellow wrapper and beautifully swirled buttercream on a green and white plaid cloth.

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It is no secret that I LOVE lemon desserts. My Lemon Loaf Bread and Lemon Blueberry Muffins (easily made with all-purpose flour instead of gluten-free flour) are two of my FAVORITE, easy desserts. 

There’s just something about that bright burst of lemony flavor. 

A couple years ago, my best friend bought lemon cupcakes for my birthday. I was OBSESSED. They were seriously SO good. 

I’ve been trying to create easy lemon cupcakes from scratch that taste just like those cupcakes… and I think I finally did!! I’m so excited to share this lemon cupcake recipe with you.

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Easy Lemon Cupcakes from Scratch

This lemon cupcake recipe is incredibly easy. It can even be made in one bowl for quick clean-up. 

I do recommend using a zester, like this Stainless Steel and Dishwasher Safe one, to zest the lemon. It makes the process SO much easier. I have used a flat grater, like this Stainless Steel Flat Cheese Grater. It gets the job done, but it’s a little tougher. 

This recipe uses 2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon zest and 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice. One LARGE lemon can yield this. I’ve done it. 

BUT, it’s probably better to have TWO lemons ready to zest and juice. This will guarantee that you’ll have enough for lemony goodness. 

One Lemon Cupcake with Swirled Vanilla Buttercream next to a Lemon on the same size.

With Vanilla Buttercream

For these easy lemon cupcakes from scratch, I like to use homemade, creamy vanilla buttercream. 

I recently figured out how to make the most delicious buttercream that pipes beautifully. 

In the past, I’ve struggled with it being too sweet or too runny. I could never get it right… until now. 

I’m excited to share this vanilla buttercream with you below. It is also the perfect base for other flavors of buttercream. 

With Lemon Buttercream

If you want even more lemon flavor, you can easily turn the vanilla buttercream recipe below into a creamy, homemade lemon buttercream. 

Instead of 2 Tablespoons of milk, add 2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. 

Instead of 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, add only one teaspoon of vanilla extract. 

Add at least 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon zest. After this, I recommend tasting it. If you want more zingy lemon flavor, add an additional half of Tablespoon of fresh lemon zest. 

Lemon Cupcake with Whipped Buttercream, sprinkled with Lemon Zest, on a dark gray towel.

Tips for the BEST Lemon Cupcakes

  • Use FRESH lemon juice. I know it can be a pain to squeeze lemons. I personally like to use this Lemon Squeezer/Citrus Juicer to make it easier and get every last bit of juice. The plastic bottles of lemon juice do NOT taste the same AT ALL. I have ruined perfectly good recipes by using them. 
  • Room temperature ingredients are always the best. If you add cold eggs or milk to the warm butter mixture, the batter will curdle. You can still use the batter, but it will negatively affect the texture of the cupcakes. 
  • Beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture is creamy and pale. This is called “creaming” and it takes a few minutes. Creaming the butter and sugar leads to lighter, fluffier cupcakes.
  • Mix everything else until just combined. Overmixing batter leads to tough, dense cupcakes. 

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More Tips for the BEST Lemon Cupcakes

  • If you want yellow cupcakes or buttercream, add a couple drops of yellow food coloring to the batter before baking or the buttercream while whipping. I like to use gel food coloring, like Betty Crocker Classic Gel Food Colors.
  • Oven times vary. Please check to see if the cupcakes are done before taking them out of the oven. This can be done by inserting a toothpick in the middle of a cupcake. If it comes out clean, they’re done.
  • Please allow the cupcakes to cool before frosting, especially if you’re using buttercream. Buttercream is sensitive to heat, so it’ll start melting if the cupcakes are still warm. 
  • Please also allow the cupcakes to completely cool before storing them. Storing them while still warm can lead to sticky tops. If this happens, do not worry. It can easily be covered by delicious buttercream. No one will know. 😉
Lemon Cupcakes with perfectly piped buttercream on a green and white plaid cloth. A slice of lemon sits nearby.

More Easy Lemon Desserts:
How to Make Lemon Loaf Bread (That’s Better than Starbucks’)
– The BEST Gluten-Free Lemon Blueberry Muffins
Easy, Chewy Lemon Sugar Cookies

Easy Lemon Cupcakes from Scratch

These easy lemon cupcakes from scratch are moist, tender, and the perfect balance of tangy and sweet. They’re a quick, easy lemon dessert.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time18 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Easy Dessert Recipes, Homemade Lemon Cupcakes, Lemon Cupcake Recipe, Moist Lemon Cupcakes
Servings: 12 cupcakes


For the Lemon Cupcakes:

  • 1/2 cup Butter softened
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Egg Whites large
  • 1 tsp Lemon Extract
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Tbsp Lemon Zest fresh
  • 1/4 cup Lemon Juice fresh
  • 1/2 cup Milk (preferably whole)
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 1/2 cups Flour
  • 1/4 tsp Salt

For the Vanilla Buttercream:

  • 1 cup Butter softened
  • 2 Tbsp Milk whole
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 4 cups Powdered Sugar


For the Lemon Cupcakes:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. 
  • In a medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and pale. 
  • Add the egg whites, vanilla extract, and lemon extract. Mix until combined.
  • For best results, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in another bowl then pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. I prefer to use one bowl, so I just add the flour, baking powder, and salt on top of my wet ingredients. I do lightly toss them together with my fingers before mixing them fully into the wet ingredients. 
  • Add the milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Mix until just combined. Do not overmix the batter. 
  • Spoon batter evenly into the cupcake lines, filling them about 2/3 full. I like to use an ice cream scoop to do this. 
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes or until done (an inserted toothpick comes out clean). 
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the Vanilla Buttercream:

  • In a large bowl, beat the softened butter until smooth. 
  • Add the milk, vanilla extract, and salt. Mix until combined.
  • Add the powdered sugar, a half of cup at a time, on low speed at first. This will prevent it from poofing up into your face and all over your kitchen. 
  • Then increase to medium speed and continue to mix until fully combined. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl when needed. 
  • Prepare piping bags*, frost cupcakes with a spatula, or refrigerate until you’re ready to use**. 


For Lemon Buttercream, please see the section above labeled “With Lemon Buttercream” for adjustments.

*I usually use these Wilton Cupcake Decorating Tips and Bags. I’m obsessed with these Wilton All-In-One Disposable Decorating Bag with Star Tip though. They make cleaning up super fast and easy. I have a habit of accidentally losing my metal tips down the sink. I’ve lost quite a few to the garbage disposal. These Disposable Decorating Bags prevent any of that. I love them!

**If you refrigerate the buttercream, please bring it to room temperature then whip again, with a mixer, before using. This will bring back the fluffy, creamy texture. 

Lemon Cupcake from the top. White, yellow, pink, and teal sprinkles decorate the vanilla buttercream.

If you make these cupcakes or any of my other recipes, please tag or mention @lovemischka on instagram or @lovemischka on Pinterest. I’d love to see them!


(1) Comment

  1. […] other easy Easter recipes, check out:– Easy Lemon Cupcakes from Scratch– How to Make Lemon Loaf Bread (That’s Better than Starbucks’)– Easy Funfetti […]

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