Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

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These lemon cupcakes with cream cheese icing are sweet, tangy, and soft as a pillow. Ready in just 30 minutes, these are the ultimate lemon desserts to serve to a crowd at your summer cookouts and parties!

Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

If you’ve never had homemade lemon cupcakes, you’re in for something special today. The idea of baking from scratch tends to scare off people who don’t consider themselves to be home chefs, but you don’t have to be a pro to whip these babies up. All you need is 30 minutes of your time and some basic pantry ingredients. 

These lemon cupcakes with cream cheese icing are easy to make and bursting with incredible flavors in every bite. They’re light and fluffy with the perfect combination of sweet and tangy flavors. The secret to the best lemon cupcakes? We won’t be using lemon syrup or bottled lemon juice; we’ll be using fresh lemon juice and lemon zest to ensure the freshest, best-tasting flavors for our desserts. 

The results are insanely delicious when you pair these lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting. You can never go wrong with any kind of homemade cream cheese icing, but when you add fresh lemon zest, you can instantly elevate the flavors for a cupcake frosting that tastes gourmet. Get ready to impress your family and friends with an easy lemon cupcakes recipe that you’ll want to make every day this summer!

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Key Ingredients

Here’s a breakdown of the key ingredients you’ll need to bring this homemade lemon cupcakes recipe to life.

  • Unbleached Flour: I prefer to use unbleached flour because it’s free from many of the chemicals used in bleached flour.
  • Lemon Zest: Fresh lemon zest elevates the tangy lemon flavors and helps to ensure the best-tasting cupcakes.
  • Lemon Juice: Just like with the lemon zest, you want to opt for fresh lemon juice from ripe lemons for the best flavors.
  • Baking Powder and Baking Soda: These are used as leavening agents to ensure that the lemon cupcakes rise and get nice and fluffy.
  • Cream Cheese: Make sure to use a top-quality brand like Philadelphia for the best flavors and avoid the low-fat kind. Don’t rob yourself of the deliciousness of full-fat cream cheese when making homemade cream cheese icing.
  • Vanilla Extract: Pure vanilla extract helps elevate the flavors of our lemon cream cheese frosting, making it even more delicious. Don’t skip this!
  • Powdered Sugar: Also known as confectioners sugar, this is an essential component of the lemon cream cheese frosting you’ll be making.
  • Lemon Extract: Along with the fresh lemons, lemon extract is my secret weapon for infusing tons of bright and tangy citrus flavors into our lemon cupcakes.

How to Make Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Making lemon cupcakes from scratch is easier than you might think; all you have to do is follow the simple steps below. Be sure to check out the recipe card down below for exact measurements.

Step 1: Make Lemon Cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together until thoroughly combined. Add eggs one at a time, then add lemon extract. 

In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternating, add flour and milk, starting and ending with flour. Fold in fresh lemon zest and lemon juice into the mixture. 

Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. Fill up to 2/3 of the way and pop in the oven for 18-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack. 

Step 2: Make Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

While cupcakes are baking, beat cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl until light and fluffy with a hand mixer on medium speed for 1 minute. 

Add powdered sugar, lemon zest, and pure vanilla extract, then mix until smooth and fluffy.

Step 3: Frost the Lemon Cupcakes

Ice the cooled cupcakes with lemon cream cheese icing. Garnish as desired and enjoy!

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Recipe Tips and Tricks

Want to make the best lemon cupcakes ever? Here are some of my top recipe tips to help you do just that:

  • When mixing the batter, use a gentle hand and be careful not to overmix. Otherwise, you will end up with dense and gluey cupcakes, and nobody wants that.
  • Whenever possible, opt for fresh lemon juice over bottled, which will give you a way better flavor for your lemon cupcakes.
  • To prevent your cupcakes from sticking to the muffin pan, use quality cupcake liners. In my experience, silicone cupcake liners generally work the best.
  • If you don’t like cream cheese frosting, you can make a lemon buttercream frosting instead by adding lemon extract to a basic buttercream frosting recipe.
  • You can use any kind of milk that you have on hand to make your cupcakes. Almond milk, evaporated milk, and half and half all work fine.
  • If you want to turn the presentation up a notch and make your lemon cupcakes look seriously professional, garnish with lemon zest or thin candied lemon slices.

How to Make Lemon Cupcakes Ahead of Time

You can make lemon cupcakes up to a day in advance and store them in an airtight container on the counter. If you’re making your desserts in advance, store the frosting separately in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, and frost the cupcakes when you’re ready to serve them.

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Lemon Cupcakes Recipe FAQs

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about this homemade lemon cupcakes recipe:

How do you make cupcakes not dry?

You can wind up with dry cupcakes by overmixing or overbaking them. To avoid this, mix with a gentle hand and only bake the cupcakes for 18 to 20 minutes. If you’re unsure whether they’re ready, stick a toothpick into the center of one of your cupcakes. If the toothpick comes out clean, your cupcakes are ready.

Can you make lemon cupcakes gluten-free?

You can easily make a gluten-free version of these cupcakes by swapping out the regular unbleached flour for gluten-free unbleached flour. Check the label before purchasing your flour if you want to make cupcakes without gluten.

How do you store lemon cupcakes?

You can store leftover lemon cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 24 hours or in the fridge for up to 2-3 days. I don’t recommend freezing this dish, as the texture will likely become altered when thawed. Set the cupcakes on the counter to bring them back to room temperature before serving.

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More Awesome Summer Dessert Recipes

Looking for more great desserts to try this summer? You’ll love these:

Ready to try these delicious lemon cupcakes for yourself? Get the recipe below and bake up a batch today. Once you do, I promise you’ll be hooked—homemade cupcakes are so much better than anything you can buy from a store. And if you have any questions while baking, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments. I love helping new bakers create amazing recipes!

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Lemon Cupcakes With Vanilla Icing

Kenneth Temple
These lemon cupcakes with cream cheese icing are sweet, tangy, and soft as a pillow. Ready in just 30 minutes!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12 cupcakes
Calories 387 kcal

Ingredients
  

Lemon Cupcakes:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • zest 1 medium lemon
  • ¼ cup lemon juice 1 medium lemon

Lemon Cream Cheese Icing:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar sifted
  • zest 1 medium lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
 

  • Lemon Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl beat butter and sugar together until lemon colored achieved. Add eggs one at a time. Then add lemon extract. In a bowl mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Alternating add flour and milk, start with flour and end with flour. Fold in lemon zest and lemon juice to mixture. Line a 6 cupcake pan or 12 cupcake pan with muffin liners.
  • Fill up to 2/3 the way and pop in the oven for 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
  • Cream Cheese Icing: While cupcakes are baking, in a large bowl beat cream cheese and butter, until light and fluffy with a hand mixer on medium speed for 1 minute. Add powdered sugar, lemon zest and vanilla extract together until smooth and fluffy. Ice cooled cupcakes with cream cheese icing. Cupcakes will be best 3 days prior to baking.

Notes

Recipe Tips for Success
Want to make the best lemon cupcakes ever? Here are some of my top recipe tips to help you do just that:
  • When mixing the batter, use a gentle hand and be careful not to overmix. Otherwise, you will end up with dense and gluey cupcakes, and nobody wants that.
  • Whenever possible, opt for fresh lemon juice over bottled, which will give you a way better flavor for your lemon cupcakes.
  • To prevent your cupcakes from sticking to the muffin pan, use quality cupcake liners. In my experience, silicone cupcake liners generally work the best.
  • If you don’t like cream cheese frosting, you can make a lemon buttercream frosting instead by adding lemon extract to a basic buttercream frosting recipe.
  • You can use any kind of milk that you have on hand to make your cupcakes. Almond milk, evaporated milk, and half and half all work fine.
  • If you want to turn the presentation up a notch and make your lemon cupcakes look seriously professional, garnish with lemon zest or thin candied lemon slices.
  • You can easily make a gluten-free version of these cupcakes by swapping out the regular unbleached flour for gluten-free unbleached flour.
Storage
  • You can store leftover lemon cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 24 hours or in the fridge for up to 2-3 days. I don’t recommend freezing this dish, as the texture will likely become altered when thawed. Set the cupcakes on the counter to bring them back to room temperature before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 387kcalCarbohydrates: 68gProtein: 4gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 58mgSodium: 243mgPotassium: 75mgFiber: 1gSugar: 55gVitamin A: 429IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 79mgIron: 1mg
Keyword 30 minutes, Lemon Cupcakes
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