Lemon Cupcakes topped with Lemon Buttercream is the perfect burst of sunshine! The cupcakes are made with fresh lemon juice and fresh lemon zest for the best natural and zesty flavor imaginable! 

I’m always in a lemon mood this time of year! Give me the Old Fashioned Lemon Squares, the Lemon Zucchini Loaf, Lemon Swiss Roll, and all things lemon poppy seed — like my Lemon Poppy Seed Bread with Cake Mix! There is something so sweet and refreshing about lemon desserts! 

Lemon Cupcake on a wood plate.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Fresh lemon flavor. These are the best lemon cupcakes because they are made without any artificial flavor — no lemon extract and no lemon concentrate — it’s just all natural, all fresh lemon juice and lemon zest! 
  • Light, fluffy, and moist. This lemon cupcake recipe produces cupcakes that are moist (thanks to the buttermilk and the sour cream) and light and fluffy! 
  • Frosted with Lemon Buttercream. Staying true to our all fresh lemon cupcakes recipe, the buttercream recipe is also made with fresh lemon juice and fresh lemon zest. 

Ingredient Notes

Lemon Cupcake ingredients portioned into glass bowls on a white marble background.
  • Flour: Use regular, all-purpose flour. 
  • Granulated Sugar: The granulated sugar and lemon zest is rubbed together to create a more fragrant lemon flavor. 
  • Fresh Lemons: Use fresh lemons! You want the juice from the lemons and the fresh lemon zest for the best lemony flavor. 
  • Unsalted Butter: Melt the butter and let it rest for a little so it is still melted but not hot. It should be warm. 
  • Sour Cream: Use full fat sour cream. The sour cream provides extra fat for a super moist crumb texture in these homemade lemon cupcakes. 
  • Buttermilk: Use room temperature buttermilk. I always use buttermilk instead of a buttermilk substitute. 
  • 1 Batch Lemon Buttercream: Follow my frosting recipe for recipe instructions, tips and FAQs. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Combine dry ingredients. To a large mixing bowl add 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, and 1/4 tsp salt. Whisk to combine.
  2. Rub lemon and sugar together. Add 1 cup granulated sugar and 3 tablespoons lemon zest to a medium bowl. Rub them together.
  3. Add remaining wet ingredients. To the bowl with the lemon sugar, add 3/4 cup melted butter, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup buttermilk, and 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice. Whisk until smooth and combined.
Four images showing how to make Lemon Cupcake batter.
  1. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and mix until just combined.
  2. Pour into cupcake liners. In a cupcake pan lined with paper liners, fill each with 2/3-3/4 cup lemon cupcake batter. 
  3. Bake the lemon cupcakes. Bake in an oven preheated to 350ºF for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center cupcake comes out with a few moist crumbs but no wet batter. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Four images showing how to make Lemon Cupcakes, a whisk stirring the batter, then the batter portioned into cupcake pan.
  1. Make the Lemon Buttercream Frosting. Cream the butter until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, lemon juice, heavy cream, lemon zest, and salt. Beat on low speed until combined, then beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. 
  2. Frost the lemon cupcakes with lemon buttercream. Place the lemon frosting in a piping bag and frost onto the cooled cupcakes. Top these perfect lemon cupcakes with a lemon wedge for decoration. Enjoy! 
Two images, top photo is baked lemon cupcakes in a cupcake pan. Bottom image is Lemon Cupcakes frosted with lemon frosting.

Recipe Tips

I just use my hands o rub the granulated sugar and lemon zest together, but feel free to pulse in a food processor to combine if you’d like. 

Use room temperature ingredients for best results. 

The tops of the cupcakes should be springy when touched. I like to put a toothpick in the center cupcake to check for doneness — the toothpick should come out with a few moist crumbs, but no wet batter. 

You don’t want to over bake the cupcakes or they will be dry! 

Feel free to core the cupcakes and fill with Homemade Lemon Curd! And instead of frosting with lemon butter, you can use a lemon glaze to make lemon drizzle cupcakes!

Looking for mini cupcakes to serve? Try my Mini Cupcakes recipe.  

Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing

Store the cupcakes overnight at room temperature in an airtight container or in the fridge for up to 3 days. Let the cupcakes come to room temperature before eating due to the butter in the cake. 

Freeze the cupcakes wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 2 months. If freezing frosted cupcakes, flash freeze until the buttercream is solid, then wrap the cupcakes. 

A fork cutting a lemon cupcake in half.

Recipe FAQs

Can I use store-bought lemon juice?

I don’t recommend it! You need the fresh lemon zest, so you might as well use the fresh lemon juice, too! Bottled lemon juice will not be the same as fresh! 

Can I use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream?

Yes you can! Use full fat, Plain Greek Yogurt. A 1:1 ratio will work great for this homemade lemon cupcake recipe. 

Can I put lemon curd in cupcakes?

Yes! That would be a great addition to these cupcakes. Use a cupcake corer or the circle opening of a piping tip to remove the core from the cupcake. Spoon or pipe some lemon curd filling into the center of the cupcakes, then add the cupcake top back on top. Frost with the lemon buttercream frosting. 

What frosting for lemon cupcakes?

Use my Lemon Buttercream Recipe! Other delicious options would be a vanilla buttercream, strawberry buttercream, or a delicious blueberry frosting for some lemon blueberry cupcakes — al these flavor combinations are divine! 

Lemon cupcakes topped with Lemon Buttercream and a fresh lemon wedge on a white background.

More Cupcake Recipes

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Lemon Cupcake topped with a swirl of lemon frosting and a lemon wedge on a brown background.
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4.34 from 3 votes

Lemon Cupcakes

These lemon cupcakes are so moist and fluffy! They have the perfect texture and the taste is phenomenal. To achieve the perfect lemon flavor we use a full 3 tablespoons of lemon zest and fresh lemon juice in the cupcake batter. The end result is a fresh lemon flavored cupcake.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 16 minutes
Total Time: 31 minutes
Servings: 16 cupcakes



  • 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter - melted and still warm
  • 2 large eggs - at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream - at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk - at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Lemon Buttercream

  • 1 cup unsalted butter - softened to room temperature
  • 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
  • In a large bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. 
  • In a medium sized bowl add the sugar and lemon zest. Use your hands to rub the lemon zest into the sugar. To the sugar add the warm melted butter, eggs, sour cream, buttermilk, and lemon juice. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. 
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined and no flour streaks remain. 
  • Portion the batter into the cupcake liners, filling about 2/3 to ¾ full. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. The tops of the cupcakes should be springy when touched.
  • Let cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Make the lemon buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar, lemon juice, heavy cream, lemon zest, and salt and mix on low until combined, then mix on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. 
  • Add additional heavy cream if the frosting is too stiff, and if the mixture is too thin add powdered sugar a spoonful at a time. Transfer to a piping bag and frost the cooled cupcakes.


Store covered in the fridge for up to 3 days, but let come to room temperature before eating. 


Calories: 439kcal (22%)Carbohydrates: 58g (19%)Protein: 3g (6%)Fat: 23g (35%)Saturated Fat: 14g (70%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 83mg (28%)Sodium: 110mg (5%)Potassium: 93mg (3%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 46g (51%)Vitamin A: 734IU (15%)Vitamin C: 5mg (6%)Calcium: 43mg (4%)Iron: 1mg (6%)
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
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