Homemade Lemon Cupcakes Recipe

Julianne Bayer Dell | Beyond Frosting

These homemade lemon cupcakes are topped with a creamy lemon buttermilk frosting leaving just the right amount of tangy lemon flavor on your tongue.

I always surprise myself with the lemon desserts. It isn’t my usual go-to dessert but after one bite, I’m hooked.

It took me awhile to find my groove with homemade cupcakes but once I had my base vanilla cake recipe done, it’s been so fun to change out the flavors to make variations on the recipe.

Lemon Cupcake Recipe Photo

That’s exactly how these lemon cupcakes came to be.

These homemade moist lemon cupcakes are spongy and dense but fluffy. These are topped with a creamy lemon buttermilk frosting leaving just the right amount of tangy lemon flavor on your tongue.

For these cupcakes, the flavor is coming from three places. Lemon extract, lemon zest and lemon juice. Plus, instead of using regular milk, the recipe uses buttermilk which adds to the tang in the flavor. 

Lemon Cupcake Recipe Picture

Now if you don’t have lemon extract, that’s okay, you can use vanilla extract. However, you definitely want to make sure you have a good zester, it makes all the difference.

The cupcake recipe is quite simple because it’s an oil-based recipe and therefore you don’t have to spend time waiting for the butter to soften or creaming it together with the sugar.

You can combine the sugar with some of the wet ingredients and then combine the dry ingredients and mix them together and your cupcakes are ready for the oven 10 minutes later.

Then it’s time for the frosting. Almost all my frosting recipes start off with a variation of my perfect vanilla frosting and this lemon buttermilk frosting is no different.

Lemon Cupcake Recipe Image

I absolutely love this frosting, I’m thinking I need to make more buttermilk frosting in the future. I usually use heavy whipping cream in my frosting so this time I just substituted some of the heavy cream with buttermilk.

Just as you did with the cupcake, I also used lemon zest and lemon extract in the frosting and I also used a touch of vanilla extract to cut some of the sour flavor.

This frosting is such a nice balance with the lemon cupcake. You could even top these with some fresh fruit.

Lemon Cupcake Recipe Pic

How to make lemon cupcakes:

  • You’ll need 4-5 lemons for this recipe, because we’re zesting lemons for the cupcake and the frosting.
  • After zesting, we’re also going to juice a couple of the for the cupcake batter.
  • Start by combining the granulated sugar with the eggs, oil, lemon zest and extract.
  • Once that has been mixed, add the sour cream and mix until well combined.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients.
  • Next alternate adding the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients (lemon juice and buttermilk) and beat until everything is well combined. I always recommend giving the bowl a good scrape down.
  • Fill your cupcake liners 2/3 full. And if you’re not sure what the means, check out my tips for baking cupcakes.
  • Bake these for 14-16 minutes give or take a minute or two. Then set aside your cupcakes to cool.
File 1 - Lemon Cupcake Recipe

Do I have to use sour cream for this recipe? 

The sour cream is used to help keep these nice and moist. If you don’t have sour cream, I recommend using a nonfat Greek yogurt. I’ve also heard mayonnaise can be a good substitute, but I’ve never tried it.

I also use light sour cream because it’s not quite as heavy. However, if you only have regular sour cream, that’s okay to use too.

Can I use milk instead of buttermilk?

Yes, you can use regular milk instead of buttermilk. I always have Nonfat milk in my fridge, but any milk will work.

If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make it by combining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar with 1 scant cup of milk.

File 2 - Lemon Cupcake Recipe

I don’t have lemon extract, what else can I use?

You can use vanilla extract, you might consider adding another teaspoon of lemon zest instead.

I don’t have a zester, what else can I use?

If you have a fine grater that works, you just don’t get quite as good of a zest.

This homemade lemon cupcake recipe can be paired with a fresh fruit topping and if you really love lemon, consider adding a lemon curd filling. 

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Homemade Lemon Cupcakes Recipe

    26 Servings


For the Cupcakes:
  • 2 cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 3 large Eggs
  • 2 Lemons, zested
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Extract, or pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Light Sour Cream
  • 2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 3 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 cup Lemon Juice, (2-3 small lemons)
  • 1 cup Buttermilk
For the Frosting:
  • 1 1/2 cups Unsalted Butter, cold (3 sticks)
  • 5 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1 Lemon, zested
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Extract
  • 1 tablespoon Buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon Heavy Whipping Cream


For the Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and lemon extract. Beat on medium speed until the eggs and oil are well incorporated and the batter is lighter in color, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
  3. Next, add the lemon zest and the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  4. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add half the dry ingredients followed by the lemon juice and half the buttermilk and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate.
  5. Finally add the remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk and beat until all of the ingredients are well combined.
  6. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  7. Using a large cookie scoop, divide the batter evenly, filling each liner 2/3 full. Careful not to overfill.
  8. Bake at 350°F for 15-18 minutes. Test the cupcakes for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cupcake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cupcakes are done. Cool Completely.

For the Frosting: 

  1. Cut the butter into pieces. Using the paddle attachment, whip butter for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat until butter look light in color.
  2. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated into butter then add the lemon extract and lemon zest and mix to combine. Beat for about 60 seconds.
  3. Next, add an additional 2 cups of powdered sugar and the buttermilk and beat on low speed until sugar is incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 3 minutes.
  4. Add last 1 cup powdered sugar along with the heavy cream. Beat on low until ingredients start to mix together. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for another 3-5 minutes to whip additional air into the frosting.
  5. Use a large open star tip to frost these cupcakes. Top with a slice of lemon or fresh berries.



Cooking Method:
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Related Recipes:
Cupcake Recipes, Dessert Recipes, Party Food Recipes, Frosting Recipes, Lemon Recipes, Baking Recipes, Baked Recipes
Recipe Yields:
24-26 cupcakes
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:
Related Post:
Author: Julianne Bayer Dell
Recipe Yields: 24-26 cupcakes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Total Time: 38 minutes

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 1 cupcake
Servings Per Recipe 26

Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 128
Calories 347

% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g
  Saturated Fat 8g
Sodium 113mg
Total Carbohydrate 49g
  Dietary Fiber 0g
  Sugars 38g
Protein 2g

* Percent Daily Value are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
** Nutrition Facts are estimated based on ingredients and data provided by Fat Secret. Please consult a doctor if you have special dietary needs.
Julianne Bayer Dell

About Julianne

Julianne loves all things dessert, and shows it on her blog, Beyond Frosting. She's sharing shortcuts to create decadent desserts using cake mix as our Cake Mix Fanatic!

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