Easy Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes are soft, moist, and made with fresh lemon juice and zest. Tangy lemon cream cheese frosting adds a creamy and delicious finishing touch. You only need basic baking ingredients and less than 1 hour to make these cupcakes from start to finish.
Year-round lemon desserts are a favorite! Whether it’s lemon bars, mascarpone cheesecake, or these lemon poppy seed cupcakes, you can enjoy these sweet treats during a weeknight or for a special occasion dessert.
No baking experience required for these easy lemon cupcakes! You only need standard baking ingredients, fresh lemons (for the juice and zest), and less than 1 hour. For an impressive bakery-worthy dessert, spread luscious lemon cream cheese frosting over these cupcakes.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Lemony. The cupcakes and cream cheese frosting use lemon zest for a burst of fresh flavor. Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds that extra pop of flavor to the cupcakes.
- Easy to turn into a cake. Craving a cake? You can easily bake this batter in an 8-inch square cake pan to share with your family (more on that below!). You can even bake mini cupcakes.
- Freezer-friendly. There is nothing better than having a last-minute dessert to serve. Freeze these cupcakes frosted or unfrosted for a quick dessert that’ll impress your family and friends.
Ingredients You'll Need
- Cake flour. It will create a light and tender cupcake.
- Baking powder and baking soda. Two important ingredients for helping the cupcakes rise in the oven and have a soft texture.
- Salt. Just a little bit goes a long way. Salt helps enhance the sweetness of the cupcakes.
- Sugar. We’re using granulated sugar to add sweetness. When it is creamed with butter, air is incorporated into the batter, contributing to the light and tender cupcake texture.
- Butter. Both the cupcake batter and cream cheese frosting call for butter, adding a delicious flavor. Stick with unsalted butter to control the amount of salt in the recipe.
- Lemons. We need lemon zest for the cupcakes and frosting and lemon juice for the batter. Fresh squeezed lemon juice is best!
- Eggs. You’ll need both an egg and 2 egg whites. The egg whites create a lighter-colored cake batter that’s light and airy.
- Vanilla. A baking staple! Splurge on pure vanilla extract for the best flavor!
- Sour cream. The key ingredient to creating moist lemon cupcakes. Use full-fat sour cream for the best flavor and texture.
- Poppy seeds. A must for lemon poppy seed cupcakes!
- Cream cheese. Adds a delicious tangy flavor and creamy texture to the frosting. Use full-fat block-style cream cheese for the best texture.
- Powdered sugar. The perfect sugar for sweetening frosting and creating a smooth and creamy consistency.
- Heavy cream. You’ll need a bit to thin out the frosting, but feel free to use any milk!
Easy Ingredient Swaps
- Whole egg. You can use your leftover egg yolks to make lemon cream or swap the egg whites out for 1 whole egg.
- Buttermilk. Switch out the sour cream for buttermilk. It’ll still add moisture and richness to the cupcakes.
Helpful Tools for Making Homemade Cupcakes
- Muffin pan. If using a dark-coated pan, set the oven temperature to 325°F/177°C to prevent your cupcakes from burning.
- Cupcake liners. Using grease-proof liners prevents the cupcakes from sticking to the wrappers.
- Digital kitchen scale or measuring cups. The scale makes it easy to measure with consistent results.
- Measuring spoons.
- Mixer. You’ll need a mixer for the batter and frosting (a handheld or stand mixer will work!).
- Sifter. A fine mesh sieve will do just fine!
- Mixing bowls.
- Rubber spatula.
- Decorating tools. A small offset spatula or pastry bag is helpful but optional for decorating the cupcakes.
How to Make Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes
Before you begin: Bring all ingredients to room temperature and read the recipe from start to finish. Preheat the oven to 350°F/177°C and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
Sift dry ingredients. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Beat butter and sugar. Using a mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and lemon zest.
Add eggs and vanilla. Beat in the egg and whites, one at a time, then mix in vanilla.
Add sour cream. Mix to combine.
Add remaining ingredients. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and lemon juice and mix to combine, then fold in the poppy seeds.
Divide and bake. Fill each cupcake liner ⅔ full and bake.
How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting
Beat butter and cream cheese. Beat together until smooth and creamy.
Add sugar and zest. Mix in the powdered sugar, then add the flavoring. Add enough cream and beat on medium-high.
2 Easy Ways to Frost These Lemon Cupcakes
Baking is a science (lots of precise measuring!), but when it comes to decorating, it is time for your creativity to shine. Regardless of your skill level, here are two simple techniques to inspire you.
No pastry bag. Scoop a dollop of frosting onto a cupcake. Use a knife, the back of a spoon, or a small offset spatula to spread the frosting in an even layer.
Classic swirl. Place a large round pastry tip or large closed star tip in a disposable pastry bag. Snip enough of the end off so half of the pastry tip comes out. Fill your bag with frosting, and starting at the edge of the cupcake, pipe the frosting in a swirl, finishing in the center of the cupcake.
Note: Cover your cupcakes with frosting close to the edges. The frosting helps to keep the moisture in the cupcakes.
Don't Forget These Cupcake Baking Tips
With a few essential cupcake baking tips, you will have perfect tender lemon poppy seed cupcakes every time.
- Use room temperature ingredients. Be sure to bring ALL your ingredients to room temp (even your eggs!). This will allow your ingredients to be incorporated evenly and smoothly.
- Cream butter and sugar. Make sure to beat the butter and sugar long enough (follow the times listed in the recipe card) for light and tender cupcakes.
- Fill cupcake cavities ⅔ full. You can use a cookie scoop or pastry bag. Overfilling will cause the cupcakes to spill or rise quickly and sink in the middle.
- Cool cupcakes completely. Decorate your cupcakes with frosting once the cupcakes are at room temperature. Otherwise, the frosting will start to melt if they're still warm.
Ideas for Variations
If you're looking for inspiration to change things up, try these tweaks for variation.
- Filled cupcakes. For a fun surprise, I love adding lemon curd to these cupcakes. Hollow out the centers of the cupcakes without cutting entirely through (like for these strawberry cupcakes).
- Buttercream frosting. Add some lemon zest to the vanilla buttercream from this classic cake for a delicious alternative!
- Mini cupcakes. Fun to serve at parties! Fill mini liners halfway and bake for 10-12 minutes in a preheated 350°F/177°C.
If you have any leftovers, store your lemon poppy seed cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. I recommend bringing them to room temperature before serving so the frosting softens for the perfect creamy texture.
How to Freeze Cupcakes for Easy Prep
We love freezing these lemon poppy seed cupcakes for a future sweet treat. You can freeze them frosted or unfrosted for an easy last minute treat. Here’s how:
Unfrosted cupcakes. Individually wrap cooled cupcakes with plastic wrap and store them in a freezer-safe container or bag. You can freeze these cupcakes for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, thaw at room temperature and frost.
Frosted cupcakes. Store leftover cupcakes in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before serving.
Note: You can also make lemon cream cheese frosting ahead of time and freeze. Place it in an airtight container and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Pop it in the fridge overnight to thaw before re-whipping and decorating your cupcakes.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can use all-purpose flour instead of cake flour, but your cupcakes will be a bit more dense.
Overmixing the batter can result in dense cupcakes. Once the flour is added, mix the batter until a few streaks of flour are left, and then add the poppyseeds and mix until evenly distributed throughout the batter.
Overfilling the cupcake cavities can cause cupcakes to sink (only fill ⅔ full). Other reasons include expired leavening agents or an overmixed batter.
Yes! You can bake the batter in a greased and floured 8x8-inch square baking pan for 30-35 minutes.
More Lemon Treats You'll Love
I hope you love these Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes as much as we do and that they become a family favorite! Please leave a comment below, I love reading your feedback. And if you’d like to make this recipe later, don’t forget to pin it on Pinterest. Happy Baking!Print