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Made with fresh lemon juice and lemon zest, this Lemon Cupcake recipe has the perfect balance of sweet and tart, with a soft and moist crumb that melts in your mouth. The tangy lemon flavor is paired with a creamy, buttery, and tart lemon buttercream frosting, making these the perfect lemon cupcakes
If you're a lemon lover or simply looking to try something new, these incredibly fluffy lemon cupcakes with their fresh lemon flavor are a delectable treat that will leave you craving more. I can’t get enough of the soft and silky buttercream, the bright citrus flavor throughout, and that extra moist texture of the cupcake.
And if you’re looking for more lemon desserts for easy entertaining or just because you love lemon check out these delicious lemon recipes - Lemon Bundt Cake, Lemon Shortbread Cookies, and Lemon Upside Down Cake.
Once again I'm partnering with Bob's Red Mill to showcase the delicious treats you can make with their Unbleached All-Purpose Flour. It's my go-to flour for all my recipes that call for all-purpose flour. Bob's Red Mill produces high-quality flours, grains, and baking mixes. In addition, they're a 100% employee-owned business, one of only 8,000 in the country; which is one of the reasons I love to support them.
Lemon Cupcake Ingredients
Here is what you'll need for these yummy cupcakes:
- Bob's Red Mill Unbleached All-Purpose Flour: The flour provides structure and the right flour helps ensure a delicate crumb. It's my preferred flour because of its fine texture and how well it does in my baked goods.
- Granulated Sugar: The sugar obviously adds sweetness, but sugar also provides moisture to the cupcake and helps create the beautiful crumb on this cupcake.
- Unsalted Butter: Butter adds flavor, fat, and moisture to the cupcake.
- Whole Milk: The milk adds moisture, flavor, and color to the cupcakes. Make sure you're using whole milk and not 2%, 1%, or skim milk.
- Large Eggs: The eggs provide structure, flavor, color, and leavening to the cupcake. The proteins in the egg cause the other ingredients to bind together. Use large eggs which weigh 50 grams each without the shell.
- Fresh Lemon Juice. The main flavor for these lemony cupcakes. Use fresh lemon juice instead bottled lemon juice.
- Fresh Lemon Zest: Zest the lemon directly into the sugar to capture the natural oils. The natural oils contain a ton of flavor and you will lose some of these oils if you zest the lemon onto wax paper or a cutting board.
- Baking Powder: Provides the lift for these beautiful-looking cupcakes.
- Kosher Salt: The salt elevates all the other flavors.
Lemon Buttercream Frosting
- Granulated Sugar. Sugar makes the frosting sweet, but also makes it stable and smooth so it's easy to pipe.
- Cornstarch. When combined with the flour it thickens the slurry which provides stability to the buttercream.
- Bob's Red Mill Unbleached All-Purpose Flour. The flour is combined with the cornstarch to thicken the slurry.
- Whole Milk. The milk is used to make a thick roux-like paste.
- Lemon Juice. The lemon juice adds that bright citrus flavor to the frosting.
- Kosher Salt. The salt adds a counterbalance to the sweetness of the frosting
- Unsalted Butter. Butter makes the final frosting creamy, smooth, and silky. Use great-tasting butter to ensure the final frosting tastes good.
Full ingredients, measurements, and instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
How to Make Lemon Cupcakes
I use the reverse creaming method for these cupcakes. In this method, the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, baking powder) are mixed together first. The butter and is mixed in next. The butter coats the flour, which reduces the development of gluten when the eggs and the rest of the liquid are added. The final result is a tender cupcake with moist crumbs and a level top.
Step 1: Place the sugar in a medium-sized bowl and zest the lemons onto the sugar. Zesting the lemons ensures that the oils from the skin are captured into the recipe giving us a stronger lemon flavor.
If you zest the lemon onto a cutting board or piece of wax paper the lemon oil would be absorbed into the surface.
Step 2: Place the sugar and all the other dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low speed with the paddle attachment to thoroughly combine the dry ingredients and evenly disperse the baking powder.
Step 3: Add the butter to the sugar and flour mixture and mix on medium speed to combine the butter with the dry ingredients. The mixture will be crumbly.
NOTE: These cupcake cakes can also be made with a hand mixer.
Step 4: Add all the milk and mix on medium speed just until the milk is incorporated and the batter looks creamy. Next, add the eggs and beat the batter just until the eggs are incorporated.
Step 5: Add the lemon juice and mix on medium to combine. Scrapes the bottom and sides of the bowl. Mix in by hand any batter that is not quite incorporated.
Throughout the mixing process be careful not to overmix the batter. Overmixing will lead to a compact cupcake.
Step 6: Divide the cupcake batter evenly between the 12 cupcake cups, about 65 grams of batter for each cupcake. The cupcake liners should be about 2/3 full.
Bake the cupcakes for 20-22 minutes until they're done. Insert a toothpick or cake tester in the center of the center cupcake. There should be no cake batter clinging to the tester, but it's okay if there are one or two crumbs.
The internal temperature will be 202F degrees F when checked with an instant-read thermometer. The cupcakes will be a light golden color.
How to Make Lemon Buttercream
Most homemade lemon cupcake recipes are topped with cream cheese frosting, but as soon as I tasted the final version of this recipe I knew I was going to make a lemon buttercream frosting.
This ermine frosting is creamy, light, tangy, and easy to make. If you've never made it before I think you'll truly like it.
Step 1: Place the sugar sugar, flour, and cornstarch in a stainless steel saucepan. Don't use an aluminum pan to make the frosting.
Step 2: Whisk the dry ingredients together until the ingredients are well combined.
Ermine frosting is an easy eggless version of Swiss meringue buttercream. It's silky, buttery, light tasting, and less sweet than cream cheese frosting. And because it starts with a flour and sugar slurry it's easy to add a lot of natural flavor, like lemon juice without impacting the consistency.
The basic frosting recipe is with milk, flour, cornstarch, and sugar and cooking it until it thickens. Two tablespoons of lemon juice is added for the lemon version.
Step 3: Add the milk and lemon juice to the dry ingredients and whisk together until the slurry is smooth. There may be a few lumps of flour or cornstarch, but they will disappear as the slurry cooks.
Step 4: Once the mixture is thickened scrape into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium-low speed until the mixture has cooled to room temperature.
Step 5: Add the butter and mix on medium speed until the ingredients are combined. Increase the speed and mix until it's silky smooth and soft.
The final frosting is creamy, silky, and smooth.
How to Frost the Lemon Cupcakes
Frost the cupcakes either with an offset spatula or use a piping bag with a Wilton 1M tip to frost the cupcakes with a beautiful swirl pattern.
Using a Pastry Bag: Fit your pastry bag with an open star tip or your favorite decorating tip and fill it with frosting. Starting at the outside edge of the cupcake, pipe frosting in a swirl with the tip about 1/4 to 1/2-inch above the cupcake, exerting even pressure on the bag continuously.
Finish the swirl in the center of the cupcake by removing the pressure and lifting the tip slightly up as you near the center. If you’re new to decorating cupcakes it may take some practice.
Using a Knife or Offset Spatula: Use a large tablespoon to add about 2 tablespoons of frosting onto the cupcake. Use the back of a spoon, a non-serrated butter knife, or a small offset spatula to spread the frosting to the edge. While pressing down on the frosting slightly, move your spoon or knife in a spiral pattern from the outside edge of the cupcake to the center of the cupcake, to create a pretty spiral or swoop.
How to Store the Cupcakes
- Store the unfrosted cupcakes can at room temperature in an airtight container for a day
- Store the frosted cupcakes at room temperature for one day and in the refrigerator for three days in an airtight container.
Pro Tips for Making This Recipe
- Use a kitchen scale to weigh your flour and sugar for the best results. Too much flour will result in a dry cupcake. Too little flour will result in a sunken cupcake because there is not enough flour to provide structure for the liquid and the fats in the recipe.
- The butter, eggs, and milk should all be at room temperature, which is typically between 65-68F. Room-temperature ingredients blend more easily together. In addition, using eggs straight from the refrigerator will result in a dense cake.
- Do not use bottled lemon juice. It has a different flavor than freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Did you make these extra moist lemon cupcakes? If so, please leave a rating and a comment below, and send me your picture.
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If You Like This Recipe, Try These Recipes
Moist Lemon Cupcakes with Fresh Lemon Flavor
- 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest about 2-3 lemons depending on the size
- 1 2/3 cups (212 grams) Bob’s Red Mill Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 tablespoons (169 grams) unsalted butter room temperature (65-68 degrees F)
- 2/3 cup (160 ml) whole milk room temperature
- 2 (100 grams) large eggs room temperature
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
Lemon Ermine Frosting
- 5 teaspoons (14 grams) cornstarch
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (15 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 14 tablespoons (198 grams) unsalted butter room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Line the muffin pan with cupcake liners.
- Place the sugar in a medium-sized bowl and zest the lemon directly onto the sugar. Once you have about 2 tablespoons, use your fingers to rub the sugar and lemon zest together until the sugar turns yellow and is very fragrant. Juice the lemons until you have 1/2 of lemon juice.
- Place the sugar, the flour, the salt and the baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the paddle attachment mix the dry ingredients on medium-low for 30 seconds to thoroughly combine the dry ingredients. Add the butter and mix on medium speed until the butter is thoroughly incorporated and the mixture is a little crumbly, about 1 minute. Add all the milk and mix on medium speed until the milk is incorporated and the batter looks creamy. Be careful not to overmix. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Whisk the eggs and add the eggs to the batter. Mix on medium speed until the eggs are incorporated. Add the lemon juice and mix on medium speed just until incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottoms of the bowl and fold the batter by hand to ensure all the butter is mixed together.
- Divide the batter evenly between the 12 cups of the muffin pan, about 65 grams each. Each muffin tin should be about 2/3 full.
- Bake the cupcakes for 20-22 minutes until they are done. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let them cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing the cupcakes from the pan to a cooling rack. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting them.
- If making the cupcakes one day in advance before frosting them, store the cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature.
Lemon Ermine Frosting
- Sift the flour and cornstarch into a 3 or 4-quart saucepan. Add the sugar and salt and whisk for 30 seconds to thoroughly combine the ingredients. Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk until it is incorporated and there are no lumps. Add the lemon juice and whisk to incorporate.
- Place the mixture over medium-high heat and whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened and you see a 2 or 3 bubbles pop on the surface.
- Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixture. With the whisk attachment mix the flour mixture on medium low speed for 10-12 minutes until the mixture reaches room temperature.
- In a medium-sized bowl bowl cream the butter by hand with a spatula until it looks creamy. Add all the butter to the flour mixture and mix on medium-high speed until the mixture is fluffy and creamy, 5-6 minutes.
- Frost the cupcakes and serve.
- Leftover cupcakes can be stored in the refrigertor in an airtight container for up to 3 days.