These dreamy lemon orange cupcakes taste just like summer! They have a zesty lemon cupcake base topped with a creamy orange buttercream frosting and decorated with a slice of fresh lemon.
They’re basically sunshine in a cupcake!
These easy cupcakes are the perfect summer dessert with their double citrus flavour. They’re great for picnics and BBQs as well as birthday parties.
✏️ Recipe creation
I’m such a big lemon lover, and I never knew before how well lemon pairs with orange. They’re just divine together!
The first time I tried the combo was in a lyons lemon orange cupcake – so good for a store-bought treat, but homemade cupcakes are always better. It’s also a simple recipe, perfect for quick and easy baking.
This perfect lemon cupcake recipe is soft, moist and fluffy and full of lemon flavour. It uses lemon zest and lemon juice for a load of lemony goodness.
The orange buttercream is made with orange extract for an easy frosting with citrus deliciousness. You can also add orange juice for extra flavour or milk for added creaminess – think orange creamsicles!
This cupcake recipe calls for the following ingredients:
- Unsalted butter
- Caster sugar (white finely granulated sugar)
- Lemon zest
- Plain flour (all-purpose flour)
- Baking powder
- Lemon juice
- Unsalted butter
- Icing sugar (powdered confectioners’ sugar)
- Orange extract
- Orange juice (fresh or bottled) or milk
- Salt (optional)
See the recipe card for quantities.
You can swap the plain flour in this recipe for self-raising flour of the same quantity. If doing this, exclude the baking powder too.
It’s possible to swap the lemon zest and juice for 1 ½ teaspoon lemon extract. If doing this, replace the lemon juice with more milk so the amount of liquid stays the same in the recipe.
You can use either orange juice (fresh or bottled) or milk (whole or semi-skimmed) in the buttercream to give it a thinner, creamier consistency.
I usually use fresh orange juice, and you can even go for blood orange juice. Why not add a little red food colouring with your orange for that cute blood orange tint to your frosting.
- Room temperature ingredients mix together better than cold ones. Take your butter out of the fridge to come up to room temperature before you start making your cupcakes and frosting. For me, this takes about 30mins to warm up.
- Using unsalted butter lets you control the amount of salt in your cupcakes and buttercream. I like mine to be low salt so I don’t add much, but you can add an optional ⅛ teaspoon or a pinch of salt to taste in the batter and frosting.
- I recommend sieving your flour, baking powder and powdered sugar (a.k.a icing sugar or confectioners’ sugar) for a smooth lemon cupcake batter and orange icing.
- I prefer using vanilla extract to vanilla essence. It has a purer vanilla flavour!
I use the following equipment for this recipe:
- Muffin tin / cupcake tin
- Cupcake liners or baking cups
- Electric hand mixer or stand mixer (or whisk / fork)
- Medium mixing bowl
- Rubber spatula or wooden spoon
- Weighing scales (or measuring cups)
- Measuring spoons
- Wire cooling rack
- Piping bag and piping tip e.g. Wilton 1M (optional)
I usually use a 12-hole muffin tin (like this muffin tin by Wilton) and either paper liners or baking cups.
Baking cups are sturdy enough to be used placed on a baking sheet instead of into a muffin pan.
You can also choose to make mini lemon orange cupcakes by swapping the regular cupcake cases for mini ones. Depending on the size of your mini cases, you should be able to make double the number of mini cupcakes.
I love using a piping bag with a Wilton 1M tip to pipe pretty open star swirls of orange frosting onto my cupcakes. However, you can instead fill a plastic sandwich / freezer bag with your frosting and cut off the corner to pipe big round swirls.
You can also use the piping tip of your choice! I’m a big fan of this starter set of frosting piping tips by Wilton. Or just slather on your orange buttercream with a knife and/or a teaspoon – easy as that!
- To measure your ingredients, it’s best to use weights rather than cups for better accuracy.
- I like using digital scales for weighing my ingredients as it's easy and accurate.
- It’s best to use measuring spoons. Cutlery teaspoons and tablespoons have different volumes to the measuring ones!
- Level off any heaped scoops for more accurate measurement.
- When using a stand mixer, I like to use the paddle attachment with a low speed for the cake batter and a medium speed for the buttercream.
- Remove your freshly baked cupcakes from the hot tin and transfer them to a wire cooling rack. This helps to prevent moisture gathering on the outside of your cases, which could make them to peel.
First, preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C (fan) / Gas Mark 4 / 350°F.
Steps 1 - 2: In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest, either using a spatula, electric hand mixer or stand mixer, until light and pale.
Step 3: Beat in the eggs one at a time until fully combined.
Step 4: Sieve the flour and baking powder into the mixture, gently folding in until just combined.
Steps 5 - 6: Stir in the milk and lemon juice until smooth.
Step 7: Line your cupcake pan with cases and divide the batter evenly between them (no more than ⅔ full).
Step 8: Bake for 15-20mins until golden and springy, then transfer to a rack for cooling. Make the buttercream while the cupcakes cool.
Step 1: Beat the butter (either by hand, using an electric mixer or stand mixer) until pale, light and fluffy. This could take several minutes.
Steps 2 - 3: Sieve half of the icing sugar into the butter and beat until combined, then repeat this with the remaining half of icing sugar.
Steps 4 - 7: Add in the orange extract, juice and salt (if using), mixing until only just smooth. You can also beat in a few drops of orange food coloring at this point is using.
Step 8: Once your cupcakes have fully cooled, add your buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a tip and pipe large swirls onto each cupcake.
Decorate with a half slice of lemon and enjoy!
🎥 Recipe video
Check out the short recipe video below for how to make homemade lemon orange cupcakes! You can also check out the lemon orange cupcake webstory.
Your lemon orange cupcakes should last up to 3 days at room temperature stored in an airtight container or 4 days stored in the fridge. The fresher the better though!
You can also freeze your cupcakes (frosted or unfrosted) for up to 3 months before defrosting and eating. It’s best to label your frozen treats with what they are and when they were frozen so you don’t forget about them!
💭 Top tips
- I position my cupcake pan in the middle of the oven when possible. This usually gives a more even bake and my baking temperatures specified in the recipe are based on using this part of the oven.
- For a super smooth sponge batter, cream together you butter and sugar thoroughly to start with. You’ll get such soft and fluffy cupcakes from this, like little lemon clouds of yum!
- Try to fill each cupcake case with your batter to just over the halfway point but not more than ⅔ full. Too much and you’ll get muffin tops, but too little and you’ll have mini cupcakes!
- You’ll know your lemon cupcakes are cooked when they’ve risen, turned a light golden colour and an inserted skewer or toothpick comes out clean from the centre.
- For creamy frosting, beat your butter until it’s pale, light and fluffy before adding your other ingredients. This could take several minutes with an electric mixer and longer by hand.
- To stop a cloud of sugar from an electric mixer, lightly stir your powdered sugar into the beaten butter a little before turning the mixer on.
- If your orange frosting is too thick to pipe, then you can add more orange juice or milk to thin the consistency of the frosting.
- If your frosting is too thin, you can try chilling it in the fridge for 15-20mins before use. Alternatively, you can beat in a few more tablespoons of butter to thicken it.
- If you want a stronger orange colour, you can add orange food coloring to your buttercream. I recommend using a gel to prevent adding too much liquid.
Your lemon orange cupcakes should last for up to 3 days stored in an airtight container at room temperature or up to 4 days in the fridge.
Yes! You can freeze your orange lemon cupcakes wrapped in a layer of cling film and a layer of foil for up to 3 months.
Yes, you can make your lemon cupcake sponges ahead of time and freeze the unfrosted cupcakes. Defrost before you add your buttercream and enjoy.
Alternatively, you can make the cupcakes and/or orange buttercream a few days in advance. Your cupcakes should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Your orange buttercream should be in an airtight container in the fridge.
This could be caused by a few things. You might have scooped in too much baking powder, e.g. instead of using a levelled scoop from a measuring teaspoon.
Another reason could be that you opened the oven partway through baking which caused your oven temp to drop rapidly and sinkhole your cupcake.
No, cake flour is actually different to both plain flour and self-raising flour. It has a different composition and your cupcakes will have a different consistency if you use cake flour.
If you’ve got any specific questions on making your own orange and lemon cupcakes, please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll try my best to help out!
Why not add a tasty surprise to your cupcakes? These lemon orange cupcakes are delicious as they are, but you can also cut a small hole in the center of a cupcake and add a filling of your choice before frosting them.
Add more lemon goodness to you cupcakes with a teaspoon of lemon curd filling.
Or why not try this easy lemon white chocolate ganache as a filling for a sweet and creamy twist.
For a boozy twist, add 1-2 tablespoon of limoncello to your cupcake batter – so deliciously Italian!
Or how about replacing the orange juice in the icing with Cointreau triple sec (an orange-flavoured liqueur).
For more orange flavour in your citrus cupcakes, you can also add 1 tablespoon orange zest to your cupcake batter.
Toppings and decorations
I like to decorate my orange and lemon cupcakes with fresh slices on top of the buttercream swirl. You can swap this to a piece of orange wedge, or even candied orange peel or lemon peel.
If you’re making these cupcakes for kids or family parties, decorate with cute yellow and orange sprinkles.
You can also drizzle on melted white chocolate or lemon curd for added decoration.
Instead of orange buttercream, you can make an orange glaze. Simply add orange juice to confectioners’ sugar until you get a thick but runny icing and glaze your lemon flavored cupcakes.
To make gluten-free lemon orange cupcakes, swap the plain flour for gluten-free flour. I recommend using a gluten-free plain flour blend, such as King Arthur's measure for measure flour or Freee from Doves Farm.
You should also add ½ teaspoon of xantham gum to the lemon cupcake batter if your flour blend doesn’t already include this in the ingredients.
For the best ever gluten-free cupcakes, add an extra 1 teaspoon milk and 1 teaspoon oil to the batter.
Beat your batter really well and let it stand for 20mins before pouring it into your cupcake cases and baking.
You might also need to bake your cupcakes for an extra 3-5mins too.
🧁 Other goodies
Looking for some other goodies to make?
Alternatively, this lemon loaf cake is the perfect snack with a cuppa.
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Lemon Orange Cupcakes
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- Piping bag* optional
- 115 g (½ cups) unsalted butter
- 115 g (½ cups) caster sugar
- 1 (1 tablespoon) lemon’s zest
- 2 eggs
- 115 g (1 cups) plain flour see notes for self-raising flour swap**
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoon milk
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 115 g (½ cups) unsalted butter
- 270 g (2 ¼ cups) icing sugar
- ½ teaspoon orange extract
- 1-2 tablespoon orange juice or milk ***
- ⅛ teaspoon salt optional
- First preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C (fan) / Gas Mark 4 / 350°F.
- In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest, either using a spatula, electric hand mixer or stand mixer, until light and pale.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time until fully combined.
- Sieve the flour and baking powder into the mixture, gently folding in until just combined.
- Stir in the milk and lemon juice until smooth.
- Line your cupcake pan with cases and divide the batter evenly between them (no more than ⅔ full).
- Bake for 15-20mins until golden and springy, then transfer to a rack for cooling. Make the buttercream while the cupcakes cool.
- Beat the butter (either by hand, using an electric mixer or stand mixer) until pale, light and fluffy. This could take several minutes.
- Sieve half of the icing sugar into the butter and beat until combined, then repeat this with the remaining half of icing sugar.
- Add in the orange extract, juice and salt (if using), mixing until only just smooth. You can also beat in a few drops of orange food coloring at this point is using.
- Once your cupcakes have fully cooled, add your buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a nozzle of your choice (e.g. large open star) and pipe large swirls onto each cupcake.
- Decorate with a half slice of lemon and enjoy!
Nutritional information is an estimate based on an online nutritional calculator, actual values may vary.
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