Triple Lemon Cupcakes
These cupcakes are boldly flavored with lemon three different ways: in the batter, in the lemon curd filling, and in the frosting. Serve these lemon cupcakes at your next spring or summer gathering!
When it comes to lemon desserts, I want there to be lemon flavor in every bite. Too often lemon cakes, cupcakes, and quick breads rely on the frosting to do the heavy lifting — but not in this recipe!
Every element of this lemon cupcake recipe is infused with lemon. Lemon juice and zest is used in both the batter and the frosting, and the lemon curd filling isn’t shy on lemon flavor either!
You can enjoy this as a lemon-filled cupcake recipe or you can skip the lemon curd filling altogether and simply frost the cupcakes. Pick whichever version you have the time for, both are phenomenal!
This recipe has three components: the cupcake batter, the frosting, and the filling. I won’t go into detail about every ingredient needed to make these lemon curd cupcakes, but I’ll briefly provide an overview of the main ones.
- Lemons: You will need 3 to 4 medium lemons to have enough lemon juice and zest for the cupcakes and frosting. If you’re making your own lemon curd, you will need more for that as well.
- Buttermilk: This adds moisture and creates a soft, tender cupcake. I highly recommend using buttermilk for best results, but since this recipe only uses baking powder you can substitute it with whole milk in a pinch.
- Cake flour: Contains less protein than all-purpose flour, which results in lighter, airier cupcakes. If you don’t keep cake flour on hand, you can make a substitute with two ingredients.
- Butter: I recommend using unsalted butter for the batter and frosting because the amount of salt in salted butters varies between brands. Bring the butter to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
- Lemon curd: If you want to keep things simple, feel free to use a store-bought lemon curd. If you prefer to make your own, I have a recipe for homemade lemon curd here.
How to Make Lemon Cupcakes
The only extra steps required for this recipe involve filling the cupcakes, but you may skip the lemon curd if desired. Otherwise this is a straightforward lemon cupcake recipe that anyone can make!
Here’s an overview of how to make them:
- Combine the dry ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Combine the wet ingredients: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until it’s light in color and fluffy. Then, add the eggs, vanilla, lemon juice, and zest. The batter may look curdled at this point, this is okay!
- Finish the batter: Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two additions, alternating with the buttermilk. This will ensure that you don’t accidentally over mix the batter.
- Bake: Divide the batter between 16 cupcake liners and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Note: If you only have one pan, you will need to bake the cupcakes in two separate batches.
- Make the frosting: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter just until smooth, then mix in the powdered sugar in two additions. Add the lemon juice, zest, heavy cream and salt. Taste and add more lemon zest, if desired. For more details on how to make the frosting, you can refer to my lemon buttercream frosting post.
- Add the filling: Once the cupcakes have cooled, carefully cut a small tunnel in the center of each one (do NOT cut all the way through the bottom of the cupcake!). Scoop 1 tablespoon of lemon curd into the center of each cupcake. Cut the top off of the piece you removed earlier and place it back on top of the lemon curd.
- Frost and serve: Frost each cupcake as desired. I used a piping bag with a tip attached, but you may use a zip top bag with the corner snipped off or an angled spatula to decorate your cupcakes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! You can bake the cupcakes up to 24 hours in advance. Store them in an airtight container until you’re ready to frost them.
The frosting will keep up to three days in the fridge. Store it in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out. When you’re ready to frost the cupcakes, bring the frosting to room temperature on the counter and briefly mix it with a hand mixer just before piping it onto the cupcakes.
No, you may omit the lemon curd filling entirely if you do not have the time or desire to use it.
Once frosted, the cupcakes should be stored in an airtight container. They’ll last up to two days at room temperature or up to four days in the fridge.
To freeze the cupcakes, I recommend freezing the cupcakes and frosting separately. Both will keep well for up to 3 months in the freezer. You may also freeze the cupcakes after frosting them, but you’ll need to be careful not to flatten the frosting in the storage container.
- I think the cupcakes have just the right amount of lemon flavor, but you may add extra lemon zest to the batter and / or frosting if desired. Do NOT add extra lemon juice to this recipe. Lemon juice adds moisture and acidity, both of which will change the texture of the cupcakes.
- Be sure to bring all of your ingredients to room temperature before starting this recipe. That includes all of the dairy products and eggs. Room temperature ingredients make for a smoother batter and frosting!
- For tips on how to frost your cupcakes, you can refer to this post. I cover everything you need to know – including how to easily fill your piping bag!
- 1 ¾ cups cake flour spooned & leveled (190 grams)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened (115 grams)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (45 ml)
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup buttermilk at room temperature (120 ml)
Lemon Buttercream Frosting
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened (230 grams)
- 4 cups powdered sugar (480 grams)
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (45 ml)
- 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream (15 ml)
- 2 to 3 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup lemon curd homemade or store-bought
- To make the lemon cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two standard 12-count muffin pans (or one 24-count muffin pan) with 16 cupcake liners and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a hand-held mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy (about 3 to 4 minutes).
- Mix in the eggs, one at a time. Then, mix in the lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract until fully combined. The mixture may look curdled at this point, this is okay.
- Mix in the dry ingredients in two additions alternating with the buttermilk, making sure to mix well after each addition. Use a rubber spatula to turn the batter and make sure everything is well combined.
- Evenly distribute the batter between all 16 cupcake liners, making sure to only fill them about ⅔ of the way full.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly touched.
- Remove from the oven, then carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the lemon buttercream frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth.
- Mix in half of the powdered sugar on low speed until fully combined, then mix in the remaining half of the powdered sugar.
- Add the lemon juice, heavy whipping cream, 2 teaspoons of lemon zest, and salt and mix on low-medium speed until fully combined, making sure to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Taste and add up to one more teaspoon of lemon zest, if desired.
- To assemble the cupcakes: Using a sharp knife, cut a hole in the center of each cupcake and make a small tunnel. Make sure you do not cut all the way to the bottom of the cupcake! You should end up with a cone shaped piece once you remove it.
- Spoon 1 tablespoon of lemon curd into the center of each cupcake. Cut the top off of the piece you removed earlier and place it back on top of the lemon curd.
- Add the lemon buttercream frosting to a piping bag and pipe on top of the cupcakes.