Moist and tender small batch Lemon Cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting are a delicious dessert for two to brighten up your day.
When you think of sunshine and happiness in dessert form, what do you think of?
Did lemon come to mind?
I always associate lemon with bright and happy, which is exactly what these small batch Lemon Cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting are.
They’re 6 moist and tender lemon cupcakes you can whip up easily if you need a mood enhancer.
This lemon cupcake recipe is based off of my small lemon cake recipe.
The only difference is I reduced the amount of butter to make 6 lemon cupcakes.
Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion like a birthday or you’re in the mood for something lemony, these Lemon Cupcakes will surely make you happy.
Buying A Cupcake Pan
Of course you can’t bake lemon cupcakes without a cupcake pan! I use a standard 12-cup cupcake pan (affiliate link) you can buy from most stores.
How much zest is in one lemon?
Because lemons come in different sizes, it’s hard to say how much zest is in one lemon.
However, on average you can get roughly 1 tablespoon lemon zest from 1 lemon.
How much juice is in one lemon?
The same goes for fresh lemon juice. It’s hard to say how much juice is in one lemon due to size and ripeness.
On average, you can get 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice from one lemon.
For my small batch lemon cupcake recipe, plan on using 1 lemon but you may want to buy 2 lemons if they’re small.
How To Make Lemon Cupcakes From Scratch
To make lemon cupcakes, first you beat together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until creamy. Then scrape down the bowl and beat in the egg.
Next, you want to alternate your dry ingredients with the buttermilk. This method is important.
Adding the milk all at once could cause the batter to split from oversaturation.
However, adding all of the dry ingredients at once will thicken the batter greatly and will likely overmix, causing a tough cake.
Add the dry ingredients in three additions while adding the buttermilk in two additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Then add the lemon juice.
Transfer your batter to a 6 cupcake liners and bake at 350F until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes.
Can you substitute milk for the buttermilk?
I used buttermilk because the acidity reacts with the baking soda, which is what causes the cupcakes to rise.
However, if you don’t have any, you can substitute whole milk as long as you add acid to it. Otherwise, the cake won’t rise properly.
Add 1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar to 1/4 cup whole milk. Let sit for 5 minutes or until the milk curdles.
Can I add lemon extract to lemon cupcakes?
Most people don’t have lemon extract, so I didn’t use it. However, if you do have some in your pantry you can add 1 teaspoon lemon extract with the egg.
Although lemon extract isn’t required, it does add an extra lemony kick.
Please leave the lemon juice in the recipe. Baking is a science, so your cupcakes may not bake properly if you take it out.
Can I use bottled lemon juice for lemon cake?
I highly recommend using fresh lemon juice for this lemon cupcake recipe. Bottled lemon juice will never be as fresh as the real deal, especially when baking.
Plus it contains preservatives, which may or may not affect baking.
How To Make Lemon Cupcake Frosting
To decorate my small batch lemon cupcakes, I used my lemon buttercream frosting. What goes better with lemon than more lemon?
Want another flavor? Check out my full list of small batch frosting recipes.
How To Make Flower Cupcakes
Back in 2012 when I first posted this lemon cupcake recipe, I decorated these lemon cupcakes like flowers for Mother’s Day.
I got the idea from a cupcake decorating book. I admit they are a bit time consuming: cutting all of those mini marshmallows in half, dipping in sprinkles, then attaching to the cupcake.
However, they are worth it because they’re so pretty. You can even give a bouquet of flower cupcakes as a gift.
This lemon cupcake recipe is the perfect base for flower cupcakes because they’re light colored and not too round on top.
I even did green cupcake liners to mimic a flower stem.
Working with one cupcake at a time, frost the top with a knife. Then cut one mini marshmallow in half, dip the sticky side in sugar sprinkles, and gently press into the frosting.
Repeat, arranging the marshmallows in a circular pattern. Create a circle on the outside then create another circle just inside it, and another just inside it, etc. until you reach the middle.
Put four colored jimmies in the middle to represent the stamen.
Can I leave cupcakes on the counter overnight?
Lemon cupcakes with buttercream frosting don’t need to be refrigerated. You can leave them out on the counter overnight for up to 2 days.
However, if your kitchen gets too warm or you’re using cream cheese frosting, you will need to refrigerate them for up to 5 days.
Can you freeze lemon cupcakes?
Like with most baked goods, yes you can freeze this lemon cupcake recipe.
To freeze unfrosted lemon cupcakes, place them on a cookie sheet and freeze for an hour. Once firm, wrap each one in plastic wrap then stick in a freeze-safe plastic bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.
If you’re worried they’ll get squashed in the freezer, you can put the plastic bag in a container to maintain their shape.
How To Freeze Frosted Lemon Cupcakes
Although I recommend freezing unfrosted lemon cupcakes, you can also freeze frosted cupcakes.
Use a buttercream frosting as that type of frosting freezes best. Cream cheese frosting can become grainy after freezing, although it’ll still be edible.
To freeze frosted lemon cupcakes, place them on a cookie sheet and freeze for an hour. Once firm, place each one in a deep enough container that won’t squash the frosting. Freeze for up to 3 months.
How To Thaw Frozen Lemon Cupcakes
To thaw frozen lemon cupcakes, place them on a wire rack and let them come to room temperature, about 15-30 minutes.
The wire rack helps keep the lemon cupcake bottoms dry as they thaw.
More Small Batch Cupcake Recipes
Looking for more cupcakes for two? You can check out my full list of small batch cupcake recipes.
Some of my favorites are:
- Small Batch Chocolate Cupcakes
- Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes
- Small Batch Yellow Cupcakes
- Small Batch Strawberry Cupcakes
- Small Batch Red Velvet Cupcakes
Don’t want to make cupcakes? Check out my full list of 6 Inch Cake Recipes.
Equipment You Will Need
- 1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (*see Note about using cake flour)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 1/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature (or substitute 1/4 cup whole milk + 1 teaspoon lemon juice or white distilled vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (not bottled)
Frosting (Choose One)
- Lemon Buttercream Frosting (get recipe here)
- Strawberry Buttercream (get recipe here)
- Vanilla Buttercream (get recipe here)
- Cream Cheese Frosting (get recipe here)
- Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting (get recipe here)
- 1 bag mini marshmallows
- Sugar sprinkles and jimmie sprinkles
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line a cupcake pan with 6 liners.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and cornstarch then stir in baking soda and salt.
- In a large mixing bowl (with the paddle attachment if using a stand mixer), beat together the sugar, butter, and lemon zest until light and creamy, about 1-2 minutes.
- Scrape down the bowl then beat in the egg for 1 minute.
- Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, adding the flour in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions (begin and end with dry ingredients). Add the lemon juice.
- Transfer the batter to the cupcake liners. Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle is clean. Cool for about 15 minutes then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to finish cooling.
- Decorate with frosting of choice. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days (buttercream only) or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days (buttercream and cream cheese). Let sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before serving.
For Flower Cupcakes
- Working with one cupcake at a time, frost the top with a knife. Then cut one mini marshmallow in half, dip the sticky side in sugar sprinkles, and gently press into the frosting.
- Repeat, arranging the marshmallows in a circular pattern. Create a circle on the outside then create another circle just inside it, and another just inside it, etc. until you reach the middle.
- Put four colored jimmies in the middle to represent the stamen.
- To substitute cake flour, use 3/4 cup cake flour and omit the cornstarch.
- Enjoyed this recipe? Check out my full list of Small Batch Cupcake Recipes, including strawberry, vanilla, and more!
- Want to make a cake? Check out my Small Lemon Cake recipe.
- Making this for Easter? Check out my Easter Dinner For Two menu for more recipe ideas