Cloud-like Lemon Cupcakes

3 May

Recipe courtesy of Sifting Focus

For the cake:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For the frosting:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • Juice and zest from 2 lemons
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 4 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

Yields 24 cupcakes.

1. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter to soften.  Beat on medium speed, until it is light in color, about 3 minutes.  Add the sugar and continue to beat until very light, scraping down the sides and across the bottom of the bowl at least once. Beat in the lemon juice and zest.  On medium speed, blend in the oil.

2. On the lowest speed, blend in the yolks, one at a time, mixing just to blend.  Blend in the whole eggs, one at a time, mixing just to blend.

In a separate medium bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. On the lowest speed, blend over half of the flour mixture into the batter.  Continue on the lowest speed and blend in half of the buttermilk.  Continue adding the remainder of the flour until all is incorporated.  Blend in the remaining buttermilk.

3. In a separate mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.  Beat just a little beyond this soft-peak stage.  Stir about one-quarter of the whipped cream into the batter to lighten.  Then fold the rest of the whipped cream into the batter.

4. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners using a small scoop or tablespoon.  Fill slightly more than one half full.  Gently tap the tins on the counter to release any air bubbles.  Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of one of the center cupcakes comes out clean.  Switch the tins half way through to insure even baking.

5. Remove the cupcakes from the oven to a rack and cool in the tin for 10 minutes.  Remove from the tin and cool completely before frosting.

6. To make the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, thoroughly mix together the butter and cream cheese. Add the lemon juice, zest, and salt and mix to combine. On low speed, add the confectioner’s sugar, one cup at a time until you reach the desired spreading consistency. To finish, frost the cooled cupcakes and serve.

This lovely spring cupcake recipe comes from the newly-launched blog, Sifting Focus. I have had the pleasure of getting to know the creative force behind Sifting Focus, Mary. A talented baker, Mary has thoughtfully advised me on numerous questions and concerns I have had. I have confided in her in everything from demoralizing kitchen failures to challenges with photography. We have exchanged notes on our favorite cookbooks and bakeries from around the country. I vividly remember sending Mary an email after I successfully baked dessert for a Christmas party of more than 30 people. Jubilant language and exclamation points filled the message. I was thrilled to be communicating with someone who could resonate with my excitement at accomplishing such a task. It is incredible how blogging has connected us, two people from completely different backgrounds, bonding over a mutual love of food and baking.

For six months after we first met, I eagerly awaited the debut of her blog. When it finally launched in February, I was blown away. Mary’s writing was eloquent and personable, her photographs were beautiful, and her recipes looked delectable. Every item appeared so delicious that I was left with the difficult choice of which to try first. After much deliberation, I decided upon these light lemon cupcakes. What makes these treats so airy is the freshly whipped cream that is folded into the batter before baking. The cake’s texture resembles that of a cloud, irresistibly soft and puffy. The dough contains a subtle tanginess from the lemon juice and zest, complemented perfectly by the decadent cream cheese frosting. After this experience, I cannot wait to try more recipes from Mary’s fabulous site.


70 Responses to “Cloud-like Lemon Cupcakes”

  1. HUMANITYISBEAUTIFUL May 6, 2012 at 2:32 am #

    that looks soooo yuuuumy! i want some :)))

    • shirley cunningham May 13, 2016 at 5:34 am #

      I love Pinterest and some of the ideas.
      What I hate about Pinterest is not being able to retrieve the recipe or the instructions.
      If you don’t want someone to have the instructions or recipe don’t post the picture.

      • letslivelavida May 14, 2016 at 9:29 am #

        Hi Shirley, You can find the full recipe and instructions in the post.

  2. Marcia "CWAD" Akeung June 17, 2013 at 3:44 am #

    can half and half cream be used instead?

  3. Maral June 25, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    Hi Marcia! The difference between half and half and heavy cream is the fat content. Half and half has about 12% fat, while heavy cream has 35-38% fat. If you want to make the recipe lighter, you could try substituting half and half but I'm not confident that the cupcakes will have the same consistency. It's definitely worth a shot though!

  4. Anonymous August 19, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

    what about storage? Would they need to be kept in the refrigerator or at room temperature? And can they be made 2-3 days ahead of time?

  5. Maral August 21, 2013 at 1:43 am #

    Hi there! If you frost more than an hour before serving, you'll want to cover the frosted cupcakes and store them in the fridge. Take them out and let them come to room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. You should bake the cake portion a day ahead, and I recommend frosting them the day of. You want the cake to be moist and the frosting fresh for best results. 🙂

  6. Kamini May 4, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

    I made these cupcakes yesterday and it was a big hit. This has been the best cupcake I’ve made so far. Can you tell me if I can use the same base to make other cupcakes like chocolate or strawberry instead of lemon? If so can you tell the measurements ?
    Thank you so much

    • letslivelavida May 4, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

      Hi Kamini! I’m so glad to hear that these cupcakes turned out well for you! You can replace lemon with any type of citrus, such as grapefruit, orange, or tangerine. Since the cake is so delicate, I’m not sure if it would be an ideal base for strawberry. For chocolate, maybe try sifting 1/2 cup of good-quality cocoa powder with the dry ingredients.

      Overall, my best recommendation would be to stick with citrus and then experiment with frosting recipes. Lemon cake with strawberry frosting or orange cake with chocolate frosting would be great pairings. I’d love to see the finished product, if you’d be willing to post a picture to the Facebook page, 🙂

      • Kamini May 5, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

        I shall try with the cocoa powder as you suggested. I’m just looking for the perfect chocolate cupcake and since I loved the consistency of this cake I wanted see if it would work with other types of cakes.

  7. letslivelavida May 5, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

    Definitely let me know how it goes!

  8. Samantha May 26, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    The cake looks good (haven’t tried it yet) but the cup cakes turned out rather flat, and the frosting rather soupy. I followed the directions…

    • letslivelavida May 26, 2014 at 10:04 am #

      Hi Samantha, sorry to hear that this recipe didn’t turn out well for you. The cupcakes may have turned out floppy because you over-mixed the whipped cream into the batter. It is key to fold it carefully and gently so the final cupcakes have a nice lift to them. The frosting may have turned out soupy if you did not add enough powdered sugar or if your ingredients were too warm. The cream cheese and butter should be room temperature, soft but not melty. I hope this was of some help to you!

  9. Qeeba June 10, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

    I wanted to thank you for an amazing recipe. Each time I’ve made these cupcakes, they’ve been a huge hit. I was wondering is there a way to adapt these to make a vanilla cupcake? I love the texture and I’d love to try a vanilla/vanilla bean version.

    • letslivelavida June 10, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

      Hi Qeeba! So glad to hear that you enjoyed the cupcakes. For a vanilla version, I suggest eliminating the lemon juice and zest and replacing them with 1 tablespoon vanilla extract and the seeds of half a vanilla bean. You can frost the cupcakes with a vanilla bean buttercream. Please let me know how they turn out! You can email me a picture at 🙂

      • Qeeba November 6, 2015 at 7:01 pm #


        I continue to use this recipe time and time again as my go to for lemon or vanilla cupcakes; I can’t get over the great texture and flavor. I do continue to have an issue with the tops of the cupcakes being shiney and sticky. Any thoughts on what’s going wrong?

        Thanks again for your help!

      • letslivelavida November 8, 2015 at 11:57 am #

        Hi Qeeba, glad to hear that you like the recipe. The issue you’re having may be because you’re not whipping the cream enough or you’re allowing it so sit too long before folding it into the batter. The cream should be soft but firm enough that it stands up when you lift the whisk. Good luck!

      • Qeeba November 19, 2015 at 8:05 pm #

        Thank you for the tip about the heavy whipping team. Any thoughts on if this would work as a key lime cupcake with a Tablespoon of key lime juice and a Teaspoon of lime zest?

      • letslivelavida November 22, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

        Sounds good! Just swap the lemon juice and zest for key lime.

  10. Sue Higdon April 12, 2015 at 8:03 am #

    Oh my goodness, I’m making these today. Its the perfect time of the year for these with some fresh strawberries. Yummy

    • letslivelavida April 12, 2015 at 10:54 am #

      That sounds lovely, Sue! Please let me know how they turn out.

  11. Bee. July 30, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    Hi There, I would love to try these they look scrummy, but I am in England and don’t have a notion what cupcake flour is! we have self raising flour, which has baking powder in it or basic plain flour without a raising agent, or cornflour, Help!Bee

    • letslivelavida July 31, 2015 at 7:05 am #

      Hi Bee! Cake flour is a finely ground flour with a lower protein content than regular all-purpose flour. The lower protein content in cake flour gives the cupcakes a lighter, more tender crumb. Substituting plain flour will work just fine. Or, you can follow the instructions in this post for how to make cake flour using plain flour and cornstarch. Let me know how the cupcakes turn out!

  12. joelyn October 10, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

    The perfect texture ! I love these cupcakes and will surely try them again 🙂

  13. Stephie October 16, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

    What exactly is the canola oil for? can it be substituted for butter?

    • letslivelavida October 17, 2015 at 6:23 pm #

      Hi Stephie, the canola oil helps keep the cake texture light and moist. You could try substituting melted and cooled butter, or another neutral-flavored oil.

  14. Kathleen coughran November 6, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    Help the batter was delicious but they rose funny are you sure about the bakin powder? Usually soda is used with buttermilk

    • letslivelavida November 8, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

      Hi Kathleen, there are a number of things that could affect the rise of your cupcakes. Make sure your baking powder is fresh. You’re butter could have been too soft or you over-whipped it. Another issue could be that you under-whipped the cream before folding it into the batter. The cream should be soft but firm enough that it stands up when you lift the whisk.

  15. Pauline November 8, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

    Hi there. I am British and we don’t use quite the same measurements over here, generally everything is weighed. I have a set of American cups but I’m a bit confused about “tablespoons” of butter. Do you have another measurement for this?

    • letslivelavida November 8, 2015 at 11:25 pm #

      Hi Pauline, 4 tablespoons of butter amounts to 2 ounces.

  16. Maddie Mullikin November 16, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    I was just looking on pinterest for a lemon cupcake recipe and starting reading this one, which sounded delicious. Then I noticed that it was from my aunt’s baking blog, Sifting Focus! I called her right away to tell her the story. We both thought it was super exciting! It is such a small world. Thanks for sharing my aunt’s wonderful recipe, and I’ll have to start visiting your blog often because you obviously have good taste!

    • letslivelavida November 19, 2015 at 6:54 pm #

      Hi Maddie! Thank you so much for your kind comment. Mary is a family friend and I had the pleasure of baking pie with her a couple years ago. She is a baking expert! It’s no surprise that her lemon cupcakes are the most popular recipe on my blog. 🙂

  17. Tesha November 18, 2015 at 9:31 pm #

    My family and I LOVE these cupcakes. My sister requested this as a cake for her upcoming babyshower. Can I use this recipe for a cake, if so what adjustments would I need to make a 4 layer 12 inch cake?

    • letslivelavida November 19, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

      Hi Tesha, so glad to hear that you love the recipe. Making a cake of that size would require tripling or quadrupling the existing recipe. You should be fine doubling the batter and then making another double-batch separately. I recommend the same method for the frosting.

      I’d be careful not to overfill the cake pans and at least double the baking time. Some fresh raspberries would be beautiful as decoration on top and a nice complement inside the layers. I’d love to see a photo of the final product. Good luck!

  18. Reima December 19, 2015 at 7:11 pm #

    These look amazing! I would like to make it as a cake as well. But I feel like using 6 eggs is way too much. Can I use the original cupcake recipe as a cake and pour the batter into a 9 inch pan and just make as many layers as I need?

  19. Reima December 20, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    These look amazing! I want to use it as a cake recipe as well but I feel that doubling the recipe calls for too many eggs. Can I just use the single batch in a small cake pan like an 8inch. I don’t mind if I get thin layers because I will be doing a 6 layer cake.

    • letslivelavida December 21, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

      Hi Reima, Yes the batter should be more than enough for a single 8-inch cake.

      • Reima December 22, 2015 at 4:02 am #

        Thanks for your reply! Can’t wait to try it!

  20. Reima December 22, 2015 at 6:18 am #

    Just finished making this recipe in a cake pan. It’s AMAZING! Thanks so much 🙂 and to Sifting Focus.

  21. The Metal Pan February 21, 2016 at 2:42 am #

    Oh I love lemon sweets, must try these!

  22. ylfrith March 2, 2016 at 9:03 pm #

    Reblogged this on Pots, Pans and Proverbs and commented:
    Light, fluffy, sweet and tart! Yum.

  23. Shawna Recore March 6, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

    I just made your cupcakes and they are very good! I was wondering though if you could help me. When the cupcakes came out of the oven some of them separate from the cupcake liners, is it something I did?

    • letslivelavida March 24, 2016 at 11:10 am #

      Hi Shawna, did you spray the cupcake liners with cooking spray? If so, there’s no need to grease the liners. I’ve never had that problem before. Maybe try double-lining next time.

  24. Katie March 6, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

    So I have never been a baker or even enjoyed baking… until I recently got a Kitchenaid! lol, Now all I want to do is bake! I just finished delivering these to grand kids in town and left with great big sticky hugs! These are so light! Just unbelievable!!!! Only thing I did differ is use orange/orange zest because my husband just isn’t a fan of lemon. I’m going to make these again for church coffee hour but am going to try grapefruit! Amazing recipe! Thanks!!!

  25. mini March 12, 2016 at 4:59 am #

    Hi there!
    Could you please share hoe to make an egg free cake like this one? Light & cloud.
    I do not take eggs.
    Thank you

    • letslivelavida March 24, 2016 at 11:11 am #

      Hi Mini, the light texture of the cake depends entirely on the whipped eggs and cream. I’m sorry I can’t be of help. 😦

  26. Caroline March 22, 2016 at 6:48 pm #

    Haii. I am planning to make these for easter. Im just wondering if i had halve the recipe to make twelve instead? Or will there be a problem with their airy/ fluffiness if i do so?

    • letslivelavida March 24, 2016 at 11:20 am #

      Hi Caroline, I’d discourage you from halving the recipe because the proportions are so specific. The cupcakes stay moist for a few days so you can enjoy them for a little while after Easter. 🙂

  27. Stephanie April 19, 2016 at 12:01 am #

    I made these today, and they rose beautifully in the oven, but as soon as they started to cool, they shriveled up and deflated. They still tasted really good, but do you have any idea what would cause that?

    • letslivelavida April 22, 2016 at 10:14 pm #

      Hi Stephanie, the deflating is most likely due to not whipping the cream stiffly enough, or over-folding it into the batter.

  28. Isabel Antonucci April 22, 2016 at 6:29 am #

    Can I use this recipe for mini cupcakes?

  29. loriglenn May 8, 2016 at 3:49 am #

    I wanted to give these out for Mother’s Day to some other couples that are here with us in the Philippines since we are all very far away from our families so it was important they turned out. My husband always chides me when I try a new recipe for a special occasion so I was really crossing my fingers but this recipe is FABULOUS! I am so excited that my cupcakes turned out PERFECTLY! Since I am in the Philippines I had to improvise and make my own cake flour and buttermilk and use a very different oven than I am used to but they turned out perfectly. The texture is light and fluffy and the flavor is wonderful. Thank You!

  30. acgregg June 8, 2016 at 7:13 am #

    Hi! This recipe looks great, but I live at high altitude. Wondering if you could help me adjust?

    • letslivelavida June 11, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

      Hi there! I don’t have experience with high altitude baking, but if you have specific questions I’ll do my best to answer them.

  31. ldegrenierLisa June 10, 2016 at 10:24 pm #

    Lovely cupcakes! I made these today for a baby shower and they turned out perfectly. The cupcakes have a very delicate crumb and the frosting is the perfect balance between sweet and tart. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. This recipe is going in my permanent file.

  32. ldegrenier June 10, 2016 at 10:26 pm #

    I made these lovely cupcakes today for a baby shower and they turned out perfect! I filled them with lemon curd and frosted them with the lemon cream cheese frosting. The cupcakes have a very delicate crumb and the frosting is the perfect blend of sweet and tart. This recipe is going in my permanent file. Thanks so much for sharing!

  33. Kristine June 20, 2016 at 6:05 am #

    These cupcakes are delicious – but most of mine have pulled away from the cupcake papers. Any idea why?

    • letslivelavida August 11, 2016 at 8:12 am #

      A few other commenters have experienced the same problem. I’d try double-lining next time and making sure the batter is fully incorporated.

  34. Alice marian phelan August 2, 2016 at 4:18 am #

    Am going to use this recipe looks lovely and light

  35. Mary August 5, 2016 at 12:51 pm #

    I would love to make this into a layer cake? With it being so fluffy do you think I would have success? I made the cupcakes and frosting and they were amazing!

    • letslivelavida August 11, 2016 at 8:07 am #

      I think it would turn out great! Just make sure to keep the layers on the thicker side.

  36. Inelda Seaman September 2, 2016 at 5:00 pm #

    These cupcakes are wonderful! A little time consuming but definitely worth the effort! I’m trying not to think of how many calories are in each one. Lol

  37. Irene September 16, 2016 at 11:03 pm #

    My daughter has requested lemon cake for her birthday next week. This recipe looks amazing. I can’t wait to try it out.

  38. Qeeba October 1, 2016 at 9:08 pm #

    Hello (again)
    So clearly this is my go to recipe and I’ve tried making it with different variations because I love the texture. My favorite is vanilla with a salted caramel frosting. So good! Thanks again for posting this recipe. Could you tell me if there is anyway to incorporate limoncello in this recipe?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  39. Connie Kiers March 11, 2017 at 10:01 am #

    These are awesome. The recipe is easy to follow and the results are fantastic

  40. Phyllis Aller May 7, 2017 at 4:53 pm #

    Looks delicious, but where’s the printer friendly recipe to print. I don’t want all the pages of comments. Phyllis, May 7, 2017. Thanks

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