Introduction: Zesty Lemon Cupcakes

About: Angie Liew (known as Huang) is the founder and author of Huang Kitchen. Being a self taught chef, she focuses on improving cooking recipes, documenting and creating step-by-step how to guides. Her recipes span…

This is a classic lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting. What's so special about these cupcakes? They are loaded with an abundance of lemon flavour from freshly squeezed lemon juice and freshly grated lemon zest. They have such an incredible soft texture and the tangy cream cheese frosting on the top is to die for! These are truly summer dream cupcakes and they make fantastic summer dessert.


Lemon Cake:

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (188g)

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

4 lemons zest freshly grated

1/2 cup unsalted butter (113g)

1 cup sugar (220g)

1 egg, large

2 egg whites

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon extract (optional)

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeeze

Cream Frosting:

1/2 cup butter (113g)

4 ounce cream cheese (112g)

2 tsp lemon zest (from 1 lemon)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 - 2 cups icing sugar (120g - 240g)

See the original recipe on my website.

Step 1: To Make These Zingy Lemon Cupcakes, We Need to Have Fresh Lemons. Grate the Skins for the Lemon Zest and Squeeze the Lemon for Fresh Lemon Juice.

Choose lemons that are unblemished, small, firm, quite heavy, are bright yellow in colour and do not have tinge of green (which indicates they are unripe). Avoid very pale lemons as these are older and will be less juicy. Look for lemons that feel smooth. Rough skin textures may be an old produce and not fresh. It may also indicate that their skins are thick and may not be juicy.

The best lemon for juicing are those with smooth and thin skin. Try to buy unwaxed lemons if we are using the skin for lemon zest. Otherwise, scrub the lemons thoroughly before zesting or use certified organic lemons if possible.

For the lemon zest, grate only the outer yellow skin. Avoid using the inner white skin as it will have a bitter taste. The lemon zest will brighten up all the flavours in the cupcakes.

Step 2: Prepare All Ingredients Needed to Make These Zingy Lemon Cupcakes.

It is always encouraged to have all the ingredients ready before you start baking to ensure no vital ingredients are left out.

Step 3: Next, Preheat Oven to 180 Degree C ( 350 Degree F ).

Preheating the oven and allowing it time to reach the correct temperature before baking will ensure the cupcakes are baked perfectly. A preheated oven will cook the cupcakes all the way to its centre before the outside of the cupcakes is burnt.

In general, the middle of the oven is best for even baking. So placing rack in the centre of oven during baking allows for even baking and overall same baking time.

Step 4: Line a 12 or 24 Cupcake Pan With Cupcake Liners. Have Ready an Ice-cream Scoop to Spoon the Batter Into the Liners.

If you are baking cupcakes for a special event you may want to choose cupcake liners that will match the theme, colour or decor of the party or event. Otherwise you can just use any cupcake liners available.

Place the cupcake liners in the pan before you pour the batter into the pan.

An easy way to fill baking cups is to use an ice-cream scoop. Use one that measures out 1/3 cup batter when filling regular size cups. When filling mini cups, use one that measures out 2 tablespoons batter.

Step 5: In a Small Mixing Bowl, Mix Well Sifted All-purpose Flour, Baking Powder and Salt.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Then set aside.

Sifting is important to aerate the flour and remove any lumps in it. It also helps to evenly distribute the baking powder and salt throughout the flour. If the baking powder is not evenly distributed throughout the cake batter, there will be holes in the cake batter.

Baking powder acts as a leavening agent that makes the cake batter to rise. Salt enhances the flavour of all the other ingredients in the batter.

Step 6: ​In a Bowl of an Electric Mixer, Add in Butter.

Butter provides flavour, volume and tenderizes the cake batter.

To start, the butter should be of good quality and should be at room temperature so it can incorporate the sugar sufficiently to produce a smooth and creamy batter that is light and fluffy.

Step 7: Beat the Butter Until Creamy.

Creaming method is used to produce the lightest cake with the greatest volume. Creaming is done by first softening the solid butter and this can be done by using an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or hand-held mixer with its beaters or by hand with a long wooden spoon.

Step 8: Then, Add Sugar.

Sugar added helps to tenderize, sweeten and also moisten the batter which helps keep the cake fresh. It also aids in browning.

Step 9: Beat Butter and Sugar Until Light and Fluffy, About 3 - 5 Minutes. Scape Down the Sides and Bottom of Bowl Occasionally Throughout the Entire Mixing Process.

The goal to achieve is to have maximum aeration, that is, lots of air bubbles in the fat. A well aerated batter will result in a cake with good volume and a soft texture.

Start beating butter and sugar on LOW speed and then gradually increasing the speed. The creaming of butter and sugar produces air bubbles in the fat. These air bubbles will get larger and multiply as you continue beating. Starting on LOW speed and then gradually increasing the speed allows the air bubbles to form and strengthen. Do not start at too high a speed as this will cause the finished cake to be heavy with a compact texture.

Scaping down the sides of the bowl frequently during mixing is important to develop a smooth and well mixed batter.

Some indications of light and fluffy batter:

Volume of the butter and sugar mixture has increased.

Colour of the butter has turn lighter due to the air bubbles in it.

Texture of batter becomes aerated and is creamy.

The mixture has numerous ridges in it from the beater blades.

The mixture coats the bottom and slightly up the sides of the mixing bowl.

It is still cool to touch.

Step 10: Then Beat in One Egg Until Well Mixed With the Batter.

Eggs provide structure, leavening, richness, colour and flavour to the cake. They also help to bind the ingredients together thus keeping the cake moist and tender.

Add in the egg ONLY when the butter and sugar mixture is light and fluffy. Room temperature egg mixes better with the batter and rise more easily. The use of cold eggs will reduce the volume of your finished cake and increases the baking time. Beat until JUST combined. Do not overbeat.

If more than one egg is used, add in the eggs one at a time. This will prevent it curdling. If there is curdling, beat the batter a little to smooth it out before continuing the addition of more eggs.

Always use large eggs for baking.

Step 11: Next, Add the Egg Whites Into the Batter, One at a Time and Continue Mixing Until the Egg Whites Is Well Corporated.

The two egg whites used is equivalent to one whole egg. Replacing a whole egg with egg whites makes the overall cake lighter. It is also a good nutritional savings as the egg whites contain no fat and no cholesterol. So, if more than one egg is used in a recipe, it's always good to consider replacing some of the whole eggs with egg whites. However, too many egg whites will make the cake dry and rubbery so it's recommended to combine both eggs and egg whites for best results.

( A good guide to keep in mind: 1 large egg = 2 large egg whites ).

Step 12: Add the Vanilla Extract.

Once the eggs have been combined and we have a smooth batter, flavourings like vanilla extract is added.

Try to use a pure vanilla extract for better flavour.

Step 13: Followed by Lemon Extract.

Also a pure lemon extract is preferred.

Step 14: Then Add the Freshly Grated Lemon Zest. Mix Until Everything Is Well Combined.

Grate only the outer yellow skin. Avoid using the inner white skin as it will have a bitter taste. The lemon zest will enhance the lemon flavour in the cupcakes.

Step 15: Remove Mixing Bowl From Electric Mixer. Add in Half of the Flour Mixture.

It is very important NOT to over mix the batter at this point so the FOLDING technique is used here. Over mixing will result in a tough cake or the cake will sink in the centre.

Using a long wooden spoon, start by FOLDING the flour into the batter. Mix only to incorporate the ingredients.

FOLDING is a method of gently mixing ingredients so NO mixer is required. It is used to gently combine light and airy mixtures, where tenderness is desired and thus less mixing is advisable.

To FOLD, use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to cut down through the mixture, move across the bottom of the mixing bowl and come back up, folding some of the mixture from the bottom over close to the surface ( fold in a figure of '8' ), making sure all the ingredients are JUST evenly combined. Work quickly but lightly, making sure not to deflate the lighter mixture which will decrease volume of the final batter.

Note that the larger the spatula or wooden spoon, the fewer strokes are needed and the better the end results will be.

Step 16: Then Add in Milk.

Room temperature milk is added to dissolve the salt and sugar, to add colour and richness, to moisten and activate the baking powder in the batter and also to create steam when the cake batter is placed in the oven so the cake will rise and reach its full volume.

Step 17: Next Add the Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice.

The lemon juice adds more zing to the cake.

Step 18: Add in the Remaining of the Flour Mixture and Continue Mixing With the Wooden Spoon Until Well Combined.

The flour mixture and milk are added alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture to ensure a smooth and light batter. This alternating between flour and milk folding into the batter preserves the air bubbles, which in turn make the cupcakes light and not heavy.

Continue adding and ending with the flour mixture, folding only until JUST combined.

Step 19: Using an Ice-cream Scoop, Spoon the Batter 3/4 Full Into the Cupcake Liners.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners so that the cupcakes will bake evenly as well.

How much batter to spoon into the cupcake liners will depend on how you intend to decorate the cupcakes. if you want a dome shape on the cupcake, then fill the cupcake liners to at least 3/4 full. If a flat surface is needed, then just fill the cupcake liners 1/2 full. However, do not over fill the liners. Overfilling will cause the batter to spill over the edge of the liners as it rises and results in mis-shaped cupcakes.

If you have only one cupcake pan and your recipe calls for more cupcakes to be baked, then just cover and refrigerate the rest of the cake batter while baking the first badge. Cool the cupcake pan after the first badge and continue to bake the rest of the batter, adding 1 to 2 minutes to the bake time.

Step 20: Put the Cupcake Pan Into the Preheated Oven.

Do not put the cupcakes in the oven until it is fully preheated. Otherwise the cupcake bottoms may be over-baked.

Place the cupcake pan on the rack in the centre of the oven for even browning. However, if you need to bake on two racks, then carefully rotate the pans when the cakes are almost done.

Step 21: Bake for 18 Minutes or Until Done.

To test that the cupcakes are cooked through, insert a toothpick or skewer in the centre of each cupcake. If the toothpick comes out clean, then the cupcakes are ready. Otherwise, bake for an extra 5 minutes and retest.

If the cupcakes are baked on two racks, be sure to test a cupcake from each rack as baking times may differ.

Step 22: When Baked, Removed Cupcake Pan to Cool on Wire Rack for a Short While.

When you remove the cupcakes from the oven, allow the cupcakes to cool for no more than a few minutes in the baking pan. Otherwise the cupcakes will continue to bake from the heat of the pan and cause them to be dry.

Step 23: Then Transfer Cupcakes to Cool Completely on Wire Rack Before Frosting.

Use a potholder to hold the pan and tilt it so you can remove the cupcakes and place them on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Once cupcakes have cooled completely, store them in an airtight container to retain their moisture. Cupcakes will retain their moisture at room temperature for 2 days at most. After that it's best to store them in the refrigerator or freeze them for later use. To freeze, wrap unfrosted cupcakes individually in cling wrap, pack them in a plastic bag and leave in the freezer until needed. Defrost, then frost and enjoy.

Step 24: Next Prepare Ingredients to Make the Frosting.

A cupcake is never complete without frosting. Cream cheese frosting used for these cupcakes, is a perfect partner for just any cupcake recipes.

Use full-fat cream cheese as light cream cheese has too much water in it. Make sure the butter and cream cheese are at room temperature.

Sieve the icing sugar (confectioners sugar) to rid of lumps.

Step 25: Using an Electric Mixer, Beat the Butter, Cream Cheese and Lemon Zest on Low Speed for About 1 Minute.

Beat until light and fluffy. The quantity of butter and cream cheese can be varied to one's own flavour.

Step 26: Then Add in Vanilla Extract and Beat Until Smooth, Another 1 Minute.

Vanilla extract added enhances the flavour of the lemon cream cheese frosting.

Step 27: Gradually Add in the Icing Sugar. Beat on Medium Speed for Another 1 Minute.

Add icing sugar (confectioners sugar) in two additions and beat until smooth. When you mix, take a spatula and pull it through the frosting to form some stiff peaks. If the peaks hold without falling over, then the frosting is thick enough to pipe. Once done, slightly chill the frosting to stiffen it more before frosting.

The amount of icing sugar determine the stiffness of the frosting. Add a little extra to have a stiffer frosting if piping decorations onto cupcakes.

Step 28: Transfer the Cream Cheese Frosting Into a Piping Bag With a Frosting Tip.

Use the frosting to frost the lemon cupcakes either by spreading or filling the frosting to a piping bag fitted with your desired pastry tip.

Step 29: Frost the Cooled Cupcakes and Serve Immediately.

Be sure the cupcakes have cooled completely before you start frosting. Even a tiny bit of warmth from the cupcakes can melt the frosting.

Pipe the frosting by making thick swirls onto the top of cupcakes. Frosting acts like a light seal to help cupcakes retain moisture. So be sure to cover the entire exposed part of the cupcake with frosting so as the cupcakes will stay moist longer and this is especially helpful if you are baking for an event where the cupcakes will be displayed uncovered for long period of time.

If possible, keep frosted cupcakes refrigerated until needed.

Step 30: Garnish the Frosted Lemon Cupcakes With a Cut of Lemon and Sprinkle of Lemon Zest.

Cupcakes are fun to dress up and you can decorate the cupcakes in whichever way you desire and most importantly, it's so much fun!

Step 31:

Notes for baking these cupcakes:

Use the best ingredients available.

Cool ingredients to room temperature before use.

Do not overmix the cake batter.

Fill batter evenly into the cupcake liners to ensure uniform baking time.

Preheat oven before baking the cupcakes.

Bake in the centre of oven.

Do not leave cupcakes in the cupcake pan for too long.

Store cupcakes in airtight containers or wrap.

Frost the entire top of exposed cupcake to retain moisture.

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