Lemon Cupcakes

Box cake mixes don’t have to boring. We are taking your box cake mix to the next level with this Lemon Cupcake recipe- complete with a fluffy homemade lemon buttercream. Like lemon bars, but in cake form.

image of six lemon cupcakes on a serving platter with text overlay


 

Tender cupcakes are one of my favorite desserts. Whether they be something simple like vanilla cupcakes topped chocolate buttercream, or something fancier like Stuffed German Chocolate Cupcakes, you can make the ultimate dessert with the perfect balance of your favorite flavors.

Lemon desserts are plentiful this time of year, and man do I love a good spring dessert. But not all of us have time to whip up a fancy homemade cake with cake flour and lots of ingredients, right?

Well I have a secret for you. You can still make the best lemon cupcakes using a BOXED cake mix! We all know I’m a lazy baker.

close up of a lemon cupcake in a confetti cupcake liner

Lemon Cupcakes Ingredients

This simple list of pantry staples will be what creates your light and fluffy lemon cupcakes.

  • Box white cake mix – Any brand will do. Just be sure to use the egg whites only instructions to keep it a white cake.
  • Ingredients according box directions – This usually consists of vegetable oil, water and eggs.
  • Lemon – I always prefer using fresh lemon juice and fresh lemon zest when baking and cooking.
  • Unsalted butter – I always prefer using unsalted butter when baking, that way I can add in the perfect amount of salt that I need. Make sure it is softened to room temperature.
  • Powdered sugar – This will give our creamy lemon frosting it’s structure as well as it’s sweetness.
  • Heavy whipping cream – We need a liquid to thin out our frosting, and whipping cream helps to give it a light and airy texture.
  • Vanilla or lemon extract – For true lemon lovers, I would use lemon extract. But if you don’t want the lemon to be overpowering, stick with vanilla extract.
  • Yellow food coloring – This is optional, but to make the perfect lemon cupcakes, I like to add a few drops to make the frosting bright and cheery.
angle view of a lemon confetti cupcake

How to Make Lemon Cupcakes

Making them is easy, thanks to using a box mix. The from-scratch frosting gives them a touch of homemade.

  1. Make cupcake batter. Prepare the cake mix according to package directions, adding the wet ingredients, lemon juice, lemon zest and optional yellow food coloring.
  2. Add to cupcake pan. Equally spoon into 18-24 cupcake tins lined with cupcake liners and bake according to package directions and allow to cool fully.
  3. Cream butter. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth.
  4. Add powdered sugar. Add in the powdered sugar one cup at a time and mix until there are no dry spots remaining.
  5. Add wet ingredients. Add the heavy cream and vanilla extract and start mixing until combined.
  6. Frost cupcakes. Add frosting to a pastry bag with a large round tip (I used a Wilton 1M). Generously pipe onto each cupcake and decorate as desired.
collage of process steps for lemon cupcakes

Variations

Instead of a lemon buttercream frosting, you could top these homemade lemon cupcakes with a lemon cream cheese frosting instead. You still get that delicious citrus flavor, but with more of a tang from the cream cheese.

For even more fresh lemon flavor, hollow out the inside of the cupcake and fill it with a tangy homemade lemon curd. Along with the frosting, I guess that would make them triple lemon cupcakes!

If you’re short on time, you could even use a tub of frosting straight from the store. Add it to a piping bag and you still have a lemony cupcake that looks beautiful.

Storage and Freezing

How to Store Lemon Cupcakes

Cupcakes should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days. While they will last for this long, cakes are generally best enjoyed on the day of or after baking.

How to Freeze Lemon Cupcakes

If you want to freeze your lemon cupcakes, wrap well in aluminum foil or plastic wrap without frosting. Allow to thaw unwrapped at room temperature for 30-40 minutes. Then make the frosting and top.

You can freeze them with frosting. If you can a cupcake tin that fits in the freezer great, but I have a few plastic cupcakes containers leftover from the grocery store that I keep around to freeze just six without squishing the frosting.

collage of lemon cupcakes with a text overlay

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close up of a lemon cupcake in a confetti cupcake liner

Lemon Cupcake Recipe

5 from 9 votes
We are taking your box cake mix to the next level with this Lemon Cupcake recipe- complete with a fluffy homemade lemon buttercream!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Cooling Time:: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: 20

Ingredients

Lemon Cupcakes:

LEMON BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

Instructions

LEMON CUPCAKES:

  • Prepare the cake mix according to package directions, adding the lemon juice, lemon zest and optional yellow food coloring.
  • Equally spoon the batter into 18-24 muffin tins, bake according to package directions and allow to cool fully.

LEMON BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter for 3-4 minutes until smooth.
  • With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar one cup at a time and mix until there are no dry spots remaining.
  • Add the heavy cream and vanilla extract and start mixing on low speed. Slowly Increase to high for 1-2 minutes.
  • OPtionally, add the food color last and mix until the color is distributed evenly.
  • Add to a pastry bag with a large round tip (I used a Wilton 1M).
  • Generously pipe onto each cupcake and decorate as desired.
  • If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.

Notes

Cupcakes should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. While they will last for this long, cakes are generally best enjoyed on the day of or after baking.

Nutrition

Calories: 296 kcal, Carbohydrates: 39 g, Protein: 1 g, Fat: 16 g, Saturated Fat: 10 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4 g, Trans Fat: 1 g, Cholesterol: 39 mg, Sodium: 182 mg, Potassium: 24 mg, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 29 g, Vitamin A: 459 IU, Vitamin C: 1 mg, Calcium: 63 mg, Iron: 1 mg
Calories: 296
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: lemon cupcakes
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
close up of lemon cupcake with a lemon slice
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and food lover behind Savory Experiments. She is obsessed with butter, salt and bacon and spends all her time in the kitchen and behind a camera. Jessica is a contributor to PopKitchen by Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal Food + Travel and more!

Read More About Jessica

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Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    I made cupcakes for a friends birthday over the weekend, and these lemon cupcakes were the perfect bright and cheerful dessert I needed!