Simply adorable lemon cupcakes

Cupcakes. They’re all the rage right now – and why not? Dainty little morsels of cake topped with icing, and decorated so adorably that they make even the grumpiest old man I know laugh and feel tempted to enjoy one! As for the women…well, watch the entire female population of a large office swoon over an army of little cakes decorated with sprinkles and little smiley fondant bees, and you’ll be aware of the power that cupcakes hold.

During my “time off” (which is now what I’m using to refer to the time my blog was offline), I started work on a Cupcake Compendium encompassing tried and tested cupcake recipes as well as some tips for how to decorate them. Consider this the introductory post, in which I share with you my best-selling lemon cupcake recipe!

Ellie’s Lovely Lemon Cupcakes
(adapted from Amy Sedaris’s vanilla cupcake recipe)

Ingredients (makes approx. 36 small-medium sized cupcakes)
180g butter, softened
400g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 a lemon (about 1 1/2 – 2 tbsp)
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
450g all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole milk

1. Preheat your oven to 175 degrees C, and cream together your butter and sugar till creamy (sorry, pictures for this step are the wrong way around!)

2. Beat in the eggs, vanilla, salt and baking powder and continue beating till the mixture is light and fluffy, then add your lemon zest and juice and beat in for another few minutes.

3. Add your milk and flour in 3 alternating batches, beating well after each addition. Once all the milk and flour has been added, beat at top speed for about 30 sec – 1 minute or till the mixture is smooth and shiny.

4. Line your cupcake baking tray with cupcake liners and fill each liner about 1/2 – 2/3 full – it depends on whether you want the cake to peep over the top of the liner, or stay completely contained. I personally prefer to underfill as it means you have a ‘tidier’ cupcake once they’re baked, iced and decorated.

HANDY TIP: Being the control freak that I am, I weigh out the amount for each cupcake on my electronic scales. This takes a little bit longer, but means that you get exactly the same amount of batter for each cupcake, meaning that they’ll all be quite uniform in shape and size once baked. This also makes the decorating process easier as it means not having to worry about any lack of uniformity in the cakes you’re dealing with.

5. Place your lined and filled cupcake tray into the oven, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted into each cupcake comes out clean.

HINT: These cupcakes are far better if you don’t let them brown (they will actually be done a few minutes before they start browning) so keep a very close eye on them after the 15 minute mark. Be advised that this particular recipe will result in very dry cupcakes if you overbake them.

6. Remove them from the oven and place on a cooling rack till they have completely cooled. While they are cooling, start to prep your lemon buttercream :)

FINAL NOTE: Although not included in this step by step, something I actually like to do with my lemon cupcakes is to cut out a cone from the top, fill it with homemade lemon curd and then replace the tops. This give extra lemony goodness and a nice slightly sour note which offsets the sweetness of the lemon buttercream very nicely!

Lemon Buttercream Frosting
(adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe)

225g unsalted butter, softened
6-8 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon

HANDY TIP: I find that most frostings are FAR too sweet for my liking, so I actually like to replace my icing sugar with icing powder instead. The reason for this is because icing powder is a mixture of icing sugar & corn starch, and the latter helps to provide bulk and thicken the frosting without as much sweetness as using pure icing sugar would.

1. Beat the butter till it is creamy, then add 3 cups of sugar, milk, vanilla extract, lemon zest & juice and beat at high speed for 5 minutes.

2. Gradually add the rest of the sugar, adding 1 cup at a time and beating for 5 minutes after each addition. Once all the sugar has been added, continue beating at high speed till the mixture is extremely pale, light and very fluffy. Use immediately, or cover tightly with cling wrap if you’re not ready to ice your cupcakes just yet.

3. Once you’re ready to ice your cupcakes, the quickest and easiest way to do so is to use a large piping bag with large piping tips. I have a plain tip and a star tip, and I find that between the two of them, they cover all my frosting piping needs.

Fill your piping bag no more than 1/2 full – the reason for this is that holding onto the mixture for too long will melt the butter in the bag, meaning that by the time the last of the icing in the bag gets to the cupcakes, it will have turned into a runny mess.

4.  Pipe your frosting onto the cupcakes with a slow, steady hand, making sure you keep an eye on the pressure you are using so that you try and use the same amount of frosting each time.

You can see here the ratio of cake to frosting that I like, as well as why I like to underfill my cupcake liners. By filling the liners just halfway with batter, they rise to just 2/3 the size of the liner, meaning that I can contain my frosting inside the liner as well – and that makes transporting and handling them MUCH easier!

5. Once you’ve piped your frosting on top, you can think about what additional decorations to do. Though I prefer using fontant and a mixture of royal and buttercream icing for my decorations, I keep a stash of various sprinkles for when I need to decorate in a hurry and I don’t have time to spend a few hours making 30-odd fondant bees!

6. Use the sprinkles of your choice (or a combination of them) and then distribute to any anxiously waiting family and friends to enjoy :)

Starting from the top left hand corner and rotating clockwise: Silver cachous in various sizes (I keep a number of different colours and sizes of these on hand), dried sugar flower sprinkles, hundreds and thousands, coloured sugar crystals.

Now, I’ll be featuring a huge ‘Beginner’s introduction to fondant’ post next week, so be sure to drop by then to pick up some easy fondant tricks and tips :) And yes, this will include a photo guide on how to make the fondant bees!

Others who have tried this recipe:



  1. Hi ellie!
    Your cupcakes look so goooood! but i just made them and they didn’t turn out fluffy and light :(
    they were heavy and super pasty, as if they were not completely cooked even though i left them in the oven for a long time! and i dunno why that is, so was wondering if you could tell me what might have gone wrong :)

    • Hi Melisa – I’m afraid I’m not sure what would have happened here. If they did not rise then I suspect the problem is that you either overmixed them, or left the batter to sit before baking it. Baking soda has an immediate reaction to the milk so it’s vital that the mixture is worked as lightly and quickly as possible once the baking/bicarb soda has been added.

  2. Happy National Lemon Cupcake Day. Celebrate with this recipe for the cutest lemon cupcakes we’ve ever see!

  3. Kirstan Roake says:

    Mine came out like dense rock cakes too must have overmixed :(

  4. Pel Mel says:

    I am wondering where you got your sprinkles. The ones I love are the rainbow ball ones! 😀

  5. Thank you so much for this fabulous recipe! They are truly the best cupcakes I have ever made! They turned out so perfectly fluffy and absolutely delicious! Also, thank you for the tip to weigh each cupcake, very handy!

  6. I just made these, not for me, for my husband who wanted cupcakes at 9:30 pm. I’ve destroyed him hahaha. Anyway, they came out perfect. Just have to slow cook them and alter the temperatures and watch them. I knew right away, baking with milk and baking powder…yeah, pop that batter in right away into the oven. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing this recipe.


  7. Bree Bee says:

    This recipe is awesome but quite frustrating! Really grams? It took me forever to find conversions….. thanks alot

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