Lemonade Cupcakes

I like lemon cupcakes. But they are usually more like vanilla cupcakes with a hint of lemon. I wanted a LEMONY cupcake. I offer you this original recipe in which I jam the poor little cakes with lemon zest, lemon juice and lemonade concentrate for an unmistakable lemon punch in the kisser. The icing is similarly lemony. Try to say that five times in a row…similarly lemony, similarly lemony…anyway, this is for lemon lovers. If you like it a little less cheek puckering, you could back up on the lemon juice a little. But I wanted it to be forceful, yet sweet. I think I achieved a good little cake. Let me know what you think.

Note: If you don’t deal with lemons a lot, the zest is only the very top layer of the skin of the lemon, the yellow part, not the white part underneath which is bitter. So as you grate, be careful not to go too deep. If you do not yet own one, may I suggest you treat yourself to a Microplane grater. Initially a garden variety woodworking tool, they have been applied well to cooking. I use those tools for everything from zesting lemons and oranges to mincing ginger and garlic to shredding the gentlest little ribbons of parmesan cheese. I have three of them. This recipe makes a dozen cupcakes. I have not tried to multiply this recipe. If you make a big batch, and a mere doubling or tripling works, I’d love to know that, but I can’t guarantee that will work. Baking chemistry is a funny thing, and I just haven’t toyed with a bigger batch yet. A dozen is the right number for a family pig out, but not a class party. I need 36 cupcakes in my kitchen like I need a hole in my head. I don’t like seeing baked goods go to waste. So I eat them. Thus, a recipe for a dozen summertime treats is below.

Lemonade Cupcakes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • ½ tablespoon lemon zest
  • ⅓ cup frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1½ cup cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 6 teaspoons frozen lemonade concentrate
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flour and the baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In a stand-up mixer at medium high speed, cream the butter for about two minutes. Add the sugar and continue to mix for another two minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer and add the lemon zest and then the egg and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Add the lemonade concentrate and the lemon juice and continue to mix. (At this point the batter will look a little lumpy and weird. Fear not.) Add the sour cream and mix. Lower the speed of the mixer to low and add the milk and flour alternately, ending with the flour.
  4. In a standard muffin tin, fill a dozen lined muffin cups approximately to ⅔ full. Bake at 350 degrees for 14 to 15 minutes. This recipe does not rise too much. At 14 minutes, test for doneness (poke a toothpick into the center of one of the cupcakes, if it comes out clean, the cupcakes are fully baked. If not, give them another minute and check again.). Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let the tin cool off for a few minutes. Then remove the cupcakes and let them cool completely on a wire rack before icing them.
  5. In a stand up mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese. Add the lemon zest, lemonade concentrate, and lemon juice. Reduce the speed of the mixer and add the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time until fully incorporated.
  6. Use a spatula, a knife or a piping bag to ice the cupcakes.

Note: I use four cups of confectioners’ sugar because I want a firm enough frosting to pipe. I have made these cupcakes with as little as 2½ cups of confectioner’s sugar for a more glaze-like finish. The icing is the really lemony part of this recipe. Feel free to scale back on the extra lemon juice. But, I really think the extra punch is what makes it different. I have purchased plastic piping bags before. Lately however I have been using a cheapo work around by using large resealable bags. I simple cut a small corner (start small, you can always cut off more…but can’t reattach) and push in the piping tip. Then fill up the baggy with icing and squeeze out the air. Use it just as you would a piping bag. If you cut the hole too big you run the risk of blowing your tip out the end of the bag so take care. Ice away. It is fun.

[This batter tastes wonderful! I had to take the spatula out to my boy. He could not, as you can plainly see, come into my house at this point.]Gadget Alert: I recently purchased this giant icing tip. It is an Ateco 825. It is awesome. If you are icing a lot of cupcakes you can burn through them in a jif. I simply piped in a spiral from the outside in, and finished with a point or tip flourish.

Also, my dear friend Ashley Beck introduced me to a wonderful little cupcake gadget recently that you need to know about. It is called a pancake pen. You load this bottle up with batter and squirt batter cleanly and efficiently into each cup. The bottle holds exactly a dozen cupcakes worth of batter. And since it has screw lids on the top and bottom it a breeze to clean, and can go in the dishwasher.

I usually shy away from these types of things because, well, I have too many miracle gadgets already, but this one was simple, helpful, and effective. I’m really bad at filling cupcake papers and end up with baked on cake all over my pans. I hate that. Plus, it’s only $10. What’s not to like about that? It is not a necessity. But it can be a help.


  1. says

    I completely enjoy and look forward to every post…
    have tried several recipes, delish! But most of all you have inspired and motivated me to get out of my cooking rut…
    Love your photos, precious kids, and witty writing skills! Keep ’em coming!
    Where did you buy the pancake pen?

  2. Amy Dean says

    Laurel says, “Aunt Kelly, I want some of those cupcakes and they look so yummy and I want to eat some NOW”! “Mom, I want to eat ALL of them”! Thank you for the wonderful recipes and the lovely pics for our viewing pleasure. You are simply amazing and I am so impressed by the blog. We may try to whip these up tomorrow! Lots of Love!

  3. Kelly says

    Allison, thank you. Being rather new at this, the encouragement means a great deal to me. As for the pancake pen, William Sonoma carries it (as well as some killer Star Wars Pancake shapers). And, I have also set up a small Amazon store. It you click “store” at the top of any page it will take you to an Amazon “click through” store where you can buy some of the things I talk about right through Amazon. I’m an Amazon junkie, so I thought it would be an easy way to show the actual products without you all having to go hunting. I’m glad you are enjoying the blog.

  4. Kelly says

    Tell Laurel to come to sleep away camp at Aunt Kelly’s and we’ll do nothing but bake.

  5. tovie says

    Those sound good. I love lemon too and find that most recipes are rarely lemony enough for me. “Vanilla with a hint of lemon” describes them perfectly.

    I’ll have to try these and see. I’d try them right now but I haven’t got sour cream or lemonade concentrate, so they’ll have to wait until I hit the store later this week…

  6. Linda Maturey says

    I can tell you, personally, these lemon cupcakes are amazingly light and delicious. I admit that I haven’t tried to cook them myself, but the creator herself was nice enought to share. My husband almost lost a hand after trying to eat my last one.

  7. betty bowles says

    These I’ve got to try. I,too, love the small canning jars. I have baked cakes in them and given them for gifts. If you screw the lid tight as soon as they come out of the oven, they vacuum seal and will stay fresh a long time. It looks like they have fallen in the jar, but they poof up again when you remove the lid.
    Hugs to you and the kiddos!

  8. Kelly says

    Betty, I love the cake in a jar plan. Did you do little cakes with icing and all? I’d love to try it with my Texas Sheet Cake recipe. It just works on so many levels. You don’t have to worry about transporting them. You can stack them. They stay fresh. You can do freezer treats and oven treats. I’m sold. Betty, I know you have all sorts of clever food plans stored in your brain and now I expect you to divulge all of them so I can use them on PIE.

  9. Kara Locke says

    Kelly, We thought these cupcakes were incredible!! I even made them with my egg replacer for my daughter with egg allergies. They turned out great! We made mini cupcakes also. We can’t wait to make them again!

  10. says

    These are fabulous. Love the frosting. I dared to make a double batch and they turned our great. Rave reviews from everyone that got to eat one!

  11. Karen says

    These are absolutely incredible! Seriously, don’t waste your time on any baking but these cupcakes. I have a serious sweet tooth, but indulge only when it is worth it- these are WORTH IT!!

  12. Deborah Hyde says

    Made these for my daughters baby shower,they were yummy! I am a real lemon lover and I must say that these had the best lemon flavor of any lemon cake I have ever eaten Thanks so much for the recipe.

  13. Allison says

    these were a HUGE hit for my Easter dinner party with four other families over the weekend. I made them gluten free and no one even suspected. I used a basic gluten free flour blend and followed the recipe exactly and they were DIVINE. I also made them mini cupcakes, which were the perfect little sweet bite after our huge meal. and the sour cream and lemonade additions kept them so moist, and the icing was heaven to eat off a spoon. They will go down as one of my favs for sure. THANK YOU!

  14. Kathy says

    I just doubled the cupcake recipe and it worked perfectly! These are soooo yummy and the texture is so soft! Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  15. Erin says

    These are seriously the BEST lemon cupcakes I’ve ever made. My first batch got passed around a family get together and were gone in less than an hour. This second batch will be for my new boyfriend. :)

    Thanks! I come back periodically to check for other cupcake recipes you may have tried! Keep them coming if you can!

  16. Erin says

    These are seriously the BEST lemon cupcakes I’ve ever made. My first batch got passed around a family get together and were gone in less than an hour. This second batch will be for my new boyfriend. :)

    Thanks! I come back periodically to check for other cupcake recipes you may have tried! Keep them coming if you can!

  17. Kelly says

    Erin…I’ll start trying to think of a cupcake to do soon. Sounds good. I’m just afraid nothing will live up to the Lemonade Cupcakes. Thanks for trying them!

  18. Jenny says

    I tried these cupcakes today, they were AMAZING! However, I would like to make one note. There is a typo at the beginning of the recipe it says “In a small bowl, combine the flour and the baking powder and baking soda.” I believe it should say “butter and the baking powder and baking soda”? Thanks so much for sharing this recipe, it really was fantastic!

  19. Kelly says

    I’m so glad you liked them. Just looking at the photo makes my mouth water. But, in fact, I did mean to add the BP and the BS to the flour. It goes in at the end. But to clarify that, I did add “set aside” to the instruction to make it more clear. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I’m not sure the BP and BS would do their happy bubbly thing if they were mixed into the butter first. And that would be sad. Have a great day!

  20. Kathy says

    These are wonderful. I made Frito chili pie for a Sunday football game and these for dessert. Everyone loved them. They were great after our spicy chili. Thanks for a great recipe.

  21. Michelle says

    Hi, I love your recipe! I tinted the cupcake batter and the frosting with some pink food coloring to make them pink lemonade for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Also, I did double the recipe and they turned out beautifully. It made about 30 cupcakes.

  22. Rikki says

    Hello! Just wondering what pan you’ve used for these? I love the upright skinny shape it makes :)

  23. says

    LOVED these! Had to do 2 batches since I made a stupid error on the 1st batch (used the reserved concentrate instead of the measured portion, dough tasted amazing but cupcakes failed). 1 batch made 12 cupcakes and about 16 kid size mini discs! They are light and delicious and oh so lemony :) can’t wait to take them to a Memorial day party tomorrow! ♥

  24. Kelly says

    Jayme, I’m so glad you liked them. And, I’m SO very sorry you had to do a do-over. Have fun at your party!

  25. Anissa says

    These cupcakes were AWESOME. The frosting was just ok for me though, it was sour, but just tooooo sweet for my liking.
    Thanks for a great cupcake recipe!


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