Lemon Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

June 26, 2011

Does it ever happen to you that the busier your week is the more you crave a project? I’ve been spending a lot of mental energy on things that are necessary but aren’t necessarily my favorite things to think about, and I figured it’s time to re-calibrate by a baking project from which I would usually back down.

Piping frosting. I think the stigma of piped frosting comes from growing up in a household where such steps as those were deemed a pointless use of time in the face of enjoying delicious cake. If you look through the archives of this blog, even, you’ll see that I rarely, RARELY pipe frosting and almost always mention how much I dislike doing it, and if you know me, you’ve probably heard the rant a billion times before. The reality is that I don’t mind the piping part, it’s getting the frosting in the darn bag that gets me every time. I always end up with frosting all over me and all over everything else, everything besides the cupcakes. A few months back I got some Julia Child cooking DVDs from the local bookstore and have watched her put frosting in a piping bag countless times. But as you all know and have experienced, she makes things look really easy, especially when you’re a novice.

This time around wasn’t so bad; my mess was contained and I managed to have extra frosting after successfully frosting my cupcakes. The piping itself needs a little practice, to be sure, and I might be convinced to do it more often now that I’m confident enough to face a bag with frosting without being terrified of the impending mess. I would suggest clicking through to the original recipe, her cupcakes are filled with lemon curd! Even though I wanted a more elaborate baking project, the lemon curd was overshadowed by my desire to pipe some frosting. Because the two are mutually exclusive? I’m just talking all over the place, now. Go, enjoy some cupcakes, and I’ll work on formulating some thoughts!

 Lemon Cupcakes

(Recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction)

Yields 24 cupcakes (but halves beautifully if need be)


2 ¼ cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups buttermilk, room temperature (or 1 ¼ cups milk with about 1 tablespoon vinegar)

4 egg whites, room temperature

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

Zest from two lemons, as finely grated as possible

½ cup, or 8 tablespoons, or 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon lemon extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the cups of a cupcake tin with paper liners or grease with baking spray. Center a rack in the oven.

2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl or large liquid measuring cup, whisk together egg whites and milk.

4. If using a stand mixer, combine sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of the stand mixer. Combine zest and sugar with your fingers until moist and fragrant.

5. Add butter to lemon/sugar mixture and beat until light, about 3 minutes if using an electric/stand mixer. Beat in lemon and vanilla extracts.

6. Add flour mixture in thirds, alternating with two additions of one half milk mixture, making sure to start and end with the addition of flour. Beat until just incorporated between each addition, and then beat for an additional 2 minutes after all ingredients have been added, until batter is homogenous.

7. Divide mixture evenly among cupcake cups, filling each cup about two thirds of the way full.

8. Bake cupcakes in preheated oven for 18 to 22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean and cupcakes spring back when touched.

9. Move cupcake pan to a wire rack and cool for 5 to 10 minutes before removing cupcakes from cups and cooling completely on a wire rack.


Lemon Buttercream

(Recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction)

Yields a lot of frosting – if you don’t plan on piping, you might want to halve it


2 cups, or 4 sticks, unsalted butter, softened

2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted to remove lumps

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Zest of one lemon

1-3 tablespoons milk (to add until you reach desired consistency)

**½ cup blueberries, pureed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice

**I added the equivalent measure of strawberry syrup from these baked strawberries, made last week. Can’t wait to try this frosting with fresh, pureed fruit, though!


1. In a large mixing bowl cream butter until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes on medium speed (this is easiest if you have access to an electric mixer).

2. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until blended.

3. Add in extract, salt, zest, and fruit puree. Beat frosting, on high speed, until fluffy.

4. Add milk, if necessary, to help reach desired consistency.


Assembly: Frost cupcakes with desired amount of frosting!

Storage: Cupcakes are best enjoyed as soon as possible after frosting. Mine lasted pretty well sitting at room temperature, in an airtight container, for one day. Otherwise, store refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days, bringing to room temperature before eating.


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