Lemon cupcakes recipe

(82 ratings)

These beautiful lemon cupcakes are easy to make and always popular. They're perfect for bake sales or parties, or even just a family teatime treat.

Lemon cupcakes
  • healthy
Preparation Time35 mins (including decorating)
Cooking Time30 mins
Total Time1 hours 5 mins
Cost RangeCheap
Nutrition Per PortionRDA
Calories306 Kcal15%
Sugar42.8 g48%
Fat9 g13%
Saturated Fat2.7 g14%
Protein2.7 g5%
Carbohydrates53.9 g21%

Our amazing lemon cupcakes are one of our most popular recipes - packed with an irresistible triple hit of lemon juice, zest and sweetly piquant lemon curd. 

Topped with a thick layer of classic lemon-infused icing and decorated with pretty white fondant icing flowers, they always go down a treat at summer garden parties, kids birthday parties and all kinds of bake sales. We love this thick sticky icing but if you prefer to use buttercream icing instead and pile it high, you can - see tip below. The secret ingredient is the buttermilk, which give the sponge an extra light and moist texture. This recipe makes a dozen cupcakes in just 30 minutes, and it's easy to simply make double portions if you need more.


  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 115g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 80ml buttermilk
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 4 tblsp lemon curd

For the toppings:

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 150g fondant
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Yellow food colour
  • Sprinkles of your choice




  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F/Gas Mark 4 and line two deep hole muffin trays with 12 paper cases.
  2. Add the zest and lemon juice to the buttermilk and leave to one side.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until light in colour and fluffy.
  4. Combine the flour with the baking powder. Add the eggs one a time with a third of the flour mix and stir until just combined. Repeat until all the flour and eggs have been added.
  5. Add the buttermilk mix and vanilla extract and fold into the mixture until evenly spread throughout the mix.
  6. Fill the cases to 2/3rds full (this will leave you enough room for the icing) and bake for 25 mins until golden brown and spring back to the touch. Remove and cool on a wire rack
  7. When the cakes are cooled cut out a piece of cake in the middle of the cake and pop a teaspoon of lemon curd in the hole then replace the piece of sponge to fill the hole.
  8. For the topping: Roll the fondant and cut 12 large flowers using a large flower cutter. Using a small flower cutter, cut the centres out of the large flowers. Leave to dry on parchment paper.
  9. Mix the lemon juice into the icing sugar a little at a time until you have a thick shiny paste. Add the yellow colouring and mix again.
  10. Spread a thin layer over the tops of the cooled cupcakes and pop a flower on top – do this straight after icing each cake otherwise the surface will crack once it’s set.
  11. Add sprinkles to the centres of each flower and leave to set.

Top tips for making lemon cupcakes

If your lemon icing is too thick, add a dash of water to make it thinner. You could also opt to add more lemon juice for a zinger flavour.

You could also top these classic lemon cupcakes with lemon buttercream (opens in new tab) instead. Lemon buttercream can be easily smoothed over the top of the cupcakes with a palette knife or can be piped on using a piping bag.

What is buttermilk and is it essential?

Buttermilk is slightly soured or fermented milk. It's thicker than milk with a distinctive tangy taste and it really improves the texture of sponge cakes. You can buy it readymade in shops but the great thing is, it's really easy to make your own. 

How do I make my own buttermilk?

Simple pour the milk into a large mug and add a scant teaspoon of lemon or lime juice. (You can also use vinegar, but with this recipe, you will already have lemons to hand). Stir it in and leave it to ferment at room temperature for about 10 minutes. It's that simple. 

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