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The BEST Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

The BEST Lemon Cupcakes start with a simple one-bowl batter and end with a soaking of lemon simple syrup and a topping of fluffy Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting for luscious, lemony, perfectly moist treats!

The BEST Lemon Cupcakes ~ start with a simple one-bowl batter and end with a soaking of lemon simple syrup and a topping of fluffy Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting for luscious, lemony, perfectly moist treats! | FiveHeartHome.com

My middle child has apparently inherited my love for any dessert by the name of lemon. So when I told him that I was thinking about making lemon cupcakes, he was way excited. And so was I…because, hellooo? LEMON CUPCAKES.

But these aren’t your ordinary lemon cupcakes. No sirree, Bob…these are The BEST Lemon Cupcakes. Really. And despite a few separate steps, they’re easy to make, too!

The BEST Lemon Cupcakes ~ start with a simple one-bowl batter and end with a soaking of lemon simple syrup and a topping of fluffy Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting for luscious, lemony, perfectly moist treats! | FiveHeartHome.com

I started with my straightforward One-Bowl Fluffy Vanilla Cupcakes recipe, infusing it with a bit of freshly-squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest to create a foundation of all-natural lemon flavor. All you need to know is to start with room temperature ingredients and mix everything in the same bowl…it seriously is a piece of cake! Er, cupcake.

Next I borrowed a trick from my all-time favorite lemon layer cake (thanks, Martha) by making an effortless lemon simple syrup. It was as easy as boiling sugar with water and then stirring in lemon juice. As an added bonus, thin slices of lemon simmer in the syrup as it cooks, resulting in glossy, candied lemon garnishes for the top of the finished cupcakes. But that comes later, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves quite yet…

The BEST Lemon Cupcakes ~ start with a simple one-bowl batter and end with a soaking of lemon simple syrup and a topping of fluffy Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting for luscious, lemony, perfectly moist treats! | FiveHeartHome.com

Once the cupcakes came out of the oven, I used a toothpick to poke holes all over ’em and generously brushed them with the lemon syrup, allowing it to soak down into the cupcakes so that they would become (and stay) super moist and even more lemony.

The BEST Lemon Cupcakes ~ start with a simple one-bowl batter and end with a soaking of lemon simple syrup and a topping of fluffy Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting for luscious, lemony, perfectly moist treats! | FiveHeartHome.com

Finally, I whipped up a big batch of my beloved Classic Cream Cheese Frosting, but I kicked it up with still more lemon juice and lemon zest! I know…somebody stop me. Seriously, though, this delectable Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting is the perfect complement to the fluffy, sweet-tart cupcakes. Imagine slathering lemon cheesecake on top of lemon cake. YUM, right?! And don’t forget to top these beauties with those pretty little candied lemon slices! Yup, people will be fighting over these cupcakes before they even taste them…

The BEST Lemon Cupcakes ~ start with a simple one-bowl batter and end with a soaking of lemon simple syrup and a topping of fluffy Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting for luscious, lemony, perfectly moist treats! | FiveHeartHome.com

Okay, enough about how simple and how scrumptious these treats are. The big takeaway here? If you adore lemon desserts as much as the middle child and I do, you must give The Best Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting a whirl! Perfect for Easter…perfect for spring…perfect for a lemon lover’s birthday. Just…perfect. Enjoy, y’all, and have a wonderful Easter this weekend!

The BEST Lemon Cupcakes ~ start with a simple one-bowl batter and end with a soaking of lemon simple syrup and a topping of fluffy Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting for luscious, lemony, perfectly moist treats! | FiveHeartHome.com

The BEST Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: 24 cupcakes

The BEST Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

The BEST Lemon Cupcakes start with a simple one-bowl batter and end with a soaking of lemon simple syrup and a topping of fluffy Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting for luscious, lemony, perfectly moist treats!

Ingredients

  • FOR THE CUPCAKES:
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • FOR THE SIMPLE SYRUP:
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 small lemons, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • FOR THE FROSTING:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups powdered sugar (equivalent to about one 16-ounce box)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. To prepare the cupcakes, adjust rack to center position of oven and preheat oven to 350ยฐF. Line muffin pans with 24 cupcake liners (*see Tips & Tricks below).
  2. Set a large sifter or fine mesh sieve over the large bowl of an electric mixer. Measure flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, and salt into sieve and firmly hit the palm of your hand against its side to sift all of the dry ingredients together into the bowl. (If desired, repeat this process a few more times for fluffier cupcakes.)
  3. To the sifted dry ingredients, add the softened butter, sour cream, milk, lemon juice, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Beat at medium speed for about 30 seconds or until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat for 15 more seconds.
  4. Evenly divide the batter between the 24 cupcake liners (I find it easiest to do this using a cookie scoop). Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until cupcakes are light golden and test done with a toothpick inserted in center (mine were perfect at exactly 20 minutes). Cool the cupcakes for a few minutes in the pans before transferring them to a wire rack set on top of wax paper or foil (to keep the counter clean for the next step).
  5. While the cupcakes are baking, prepare the Lemon Simple Syrup by combining the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once the mixture is boiling, add the lemon slices and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a slotted spoon to remove the lemon slices to a sheet of wax paper; allow to cool. Stir the 1/4 cup lemon juice into the simple syrup and set aside.
  6. Once the cupcakes are done and have been transferred to the wire rack, use a toothpick to poke a bunch of holes all over the top of each cupcake. Use a pastry brush to slowly brush the top of each cupcake with lemon simple syrup, allowing it to soak down into each cupcake. Brush each cupcake once, and then repeat the process (brushing each cupcake again) until all of the simple syrup has been used up. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely.
  7. One the cupcakes are cool, prepare the frosting. Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and the cream cheese. Slowly blend in the powdered sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla, then beat until smooth and well-combined. The longer you whip this frosting, the lighter and fluffier it will become. Frost the cupcakes using your desired method (*see Tips & Tricks below...depending on how you decide to frost your cupcakes, you may need to double the frosting recipe).
  8. Top each cupcake with a piece of candied lemon and white or sparkling sugar sprinkles, if desired. Refrigerate cupcakes until ready to serve, allowing them to come to room temperature a bit before serving.

Notes

I recommend baking these cupcakes in foil cupcake liners, as the lemon syrup will soak through ordinary paper liners. If you don't like the look of plain foil liners, you can also find decorative-looking "grease-proof" paper baking cups that are lined on the inside with foil.

Cornstarch makes the cupcakes fluffy and is added to the regular, all-purpose flour in lieu of using cake flour.

When baking, I like to make sure that all of my ingredients are at room temperature. I speed things up when necessary by cutting my butter into small pieces and spreading them out on a plate or cutting board (which softens the butter faster than if the stick was left whole), by very briefly microwaving ingredients like milk or sour cream to take off the chill, and by using a bowl of hot water to warm up the the whole eggs.

Frost your cupcakes using an offset spatula, a knife, or a piping bag. Or, as I did here, scoop the frosting into a gallon-sized plastic baggie, snip off the corner of the bag, and pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes in a spiral, starting from the outside perimeter and working towards the center. Piping the frosting as shown in these photos requires a lot more frosting than spreading it with a knife, so in that case, plan on making a double recipe of frosting.

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More luscious lemon recipes…

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Lemon Blueberry Overnight Baked French Toast with Lemon Syrup ~ bursting with juicy berries and layered with lemon-infused cream cheese, this make-ahead recipe would be a special breakfast or brunch for celebrating Easter or spring! | FiveHeartHome.com

Lemon Whipped Cream
Lemon Whipped Cream ~ a light and citrusy topping for berries, waffles, pound cake, and more! | FiveHeartHome.com

Lemon & White Chocolate Tiramisu Mason Jar Trifles
Lemon and White Chocolate Tiramisu Mason Jar Trifles ~ a quick and easy springtime dessert; cute and portable for picnics or parties | FiveHeartHome.com

Parmesan Orzo with Lemon & Thyme
Parmesan Orzo with Lemon and Thyme ~ a perfect summer side dish! | FiveHeartHome.com

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Comments

  1. Might be a silly question, but do you eat the lemon slice on top peel and all?

    • Samantha at Five Heart Home Samantha at Five Heart Home says:

      Not a silly question at all, Emily! Yes, you can actually eat these entire candied lemon slices! I find the rind to be a little bitter, though, so I usually just eat the flesh. My kids were excited to try the candied lemon slices on these cupcakes, but then they decided they liked the way the lemon slices looked better than the way they tasted — ha. So while they’re fine to eat, it’s really just a matter of personal preference. ๐Ÿ™‚ Enjoy!

  2. Made these cupcakes yesterday for Mothers Day lunch… Everyone said they were the best cupcakes ever.. I tweaked your recipe a little and used cake flour sifted (3 times) and I used young living oils and put a drop of lemon oil in batter, simply syrup and icing along with your recipes.. Just a little extra… Wow… They were awesome… I am gonna try this with a cake.. Best recipe ever. Thanks for sharing…๐Ÿ˜Š

    • Samantha at Five Heart Home Samantha at Five Heart Home says:

      So happy to hear that these cupcakes were such a big hit, Missy! I bet adding the lemon oil made them even more lemony. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for taking the time to share your sweet comment!

  3. Another silly question…when exactly do you add the zest and lemon juice to the frosting…thanks in advance

    • Samantha at Five Heart Home Samantha at Five Heart Home says:

      That’s a great question, because I forgot to include those ingredients in the directions! So sorry about that, and I just fixed the recipe. ๐Ÿ™‚ You can just add the lemon juice and lemon zest along with the powdered sugar and vanilla…everything gets blended together all at once. Thanks for pointing out my error so that I could fix it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Brittany says:

    I just want to make sure I read that right…1/2 CUP of cornstarch? I did read your comments below the recipe talking about using cornstarch to help with not using cake flour. I’m so excited to try these but I just wanted to check first with you before I did ๐Ÿ™‚ thank you for the recipe!

    • Samantha at Five Heart Home Samantha at Five Heart Home says:

      Hi Brittany! Great question. Yes, 1/2 cup cornstarch is correct. I know that sounds like a lot, but to make cake flour, you typically remove 2 tablespoons from 1 cup of flour to be replaced with cornstarch. So if you do that for the 3 cups of regular flour that this recipe would typically call for, that would result in between 1/3 and 1/2 cup cornstarch. To make measurements easier, I tweaked the amounts a bit to 2 1/2 cups flour and 1/2 cup cornstarch. My One-Bowl Vanilla Cupcakes and One-Bowl Coconut Cupcakes use the same ratio and all of the recipes turn out great. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope that helps and hope you enjoy!

  5. iola chin says:

    can i omit the sour cream?

    • Samantha at Five Heart Home Samantha at Five Heart Home says:

      Sorry that I can’t answer your question, but I’ve never tried making these cupcakes without the sour cream. I don’t think omitting it would work, though. Sour cream is important for making the cupcakes moist. You could try substituting Greek yogurt if you like, but the texture and rise of the cupcakes might be affected. Good luck if you decide to experiment!

  6. Nacira Barzuna says:

    Just tried your lemon cupcakes with some of my friends and they are soooooo good!!!!
    Super easy and delicious!!!!

    • Samantha at Five Heart Home Samantha at Five Heart Home says:

      I’m so glad these cupcakes were such a hit, Nacira! Thanks for coming back to let me know. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I made these cupcakes for my daughter’s graduation party. They were so delicious! Everyone raved about how fluffy and moist and lemony they were. Thank you so much for sharing it! I found that the recipe made about 36 cupcakes and I had LOTS of frosting left.

    • Samantha at Five Heart Home Samantha at Five Heart Home says:

      I’m thrilled to hear that these were such a hit, Karen! And thanks for sharing your cupcake/frosting yield. The amount of frosting needed can definitely vary depending on how much frosting you use per cupcake…spreading it on with a knife creates a thinner layer and goes a lot farther than using some sort of piping bag. Congrats to your daughter on her graduation! ๐Ÿ™‚

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