My baking effort last week wasn’t meant to be cupcakes. I was supposed to bake butter cookies, but as life would have it, I was handed some lemons.

Last Saturday saw me up bright and early, ready to hit the oven and churn out 50, yes 50, butter cookies. I mean, I am known for my ambition.

I mixed and stirred and piped and baked. And inhaled the buttery scents which had so pleasantly wafted through my tiny apartment. After 15 minutes in the oven, I removed the tray with utmost excitement, left the cookies to cool a tad and proceeded to remove one from the tray.

But I couldn’t.

I mean, I physically couldn’t. They weren’t cooked right, or maybe they weren’t mixed right or they weren’t piped right. Or maybe (actually) I think I added too much butter to the batter. Idiot.

If I tried to pick one up, it would crumble.. it would more than crumble, they were the consistency of little piles of sand.

So none of the cookies turned out. My apartment smelled amazing though if that’s any consolation, but then I realised the universe wasn’t done fucking with me yet.

As I reached to put the tray back in the oven, I burnt myself on the back of my left hand, which swelled and blistered and what’s worse? It stung when anything touched it, so all weekend, in this ridiculously long winter we’re having, I couldn’t wear a glove, nor could I keep my hand in my pocket.

And what’s even more worse than that?

The universe only gave me metaphorical lemons. It didn’t even give me real lemons. I had to go buy them myself.

But with lemons in tow, I managed to successfully bake some adorable little lemon cupcakes, adapting a recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook (I added the juice of half a lemon to the frosting because I wanted it extra zesty).

These are probably my favourite of all the things I’ve ever baked. Oh wait, I lie, my red velvet cupcakes are my babies, but after them, these are my next favourite.

Light, refreshing, moist and ever so adorable.

And everyone loves lemon.

lemon cupcakes
120 grams plain flour
150 grams caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (plus extra to decorate)
40 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
120 mL whole milk
1 egg
Lemon frosting:
250 grams icing sugar, sifted
80 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
Juice of 1/2 lemon
a couple of drops of yellow food colouring (optional)
25 mL whole milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 170Β°C/325Β°F.
  2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and butter in a bowl and beat on low speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
  3. Gradually pour in the milk and beat until just incorporated.
  4. Add the egg to the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated. Continue mixing for a couple of minutes until the mixture is smooth.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until 2/3 full (I wanted to make small cupcakes so I made them about half to 3/5 full).
  6. Bake in pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted should come out clean.
  7. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in tray before turning out onto wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  8. For the lemon frosting: Beat together the icing sugar, butter, lemon zest, lemon juice and food colouring on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Turn the mixer down to a slower speed.
  9. Slowly pour in the milk, then when it is all incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed.
  10. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy (at least 5 minutes).
  11. When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the lemon frosting on top and decorate with a little lemon zest.
Makes 12-15

34 Thoughts on “lemon cupcakes: when life gives you lemons… oh fine I lie, I bought the lemons myself

  1. Gorgeous pics cat! Love the styling. Like how you gave that extra zesty lemon feel with the bright yellow background πŸ™‚

  2. Not only the pictures look gorgeous but the recipe looks delicious. Well done!

  3. tiff: thanks LOL I’m glad you appreciate the extra “zest” with the yellow cardboard πŸ˜€

    Mathilde: thanks honey πŸ™‚

  4. Oh no, sorry to hear about the cookie and burnt hand disaster but at least you ended up with these lovely cupcakes. I have made this hummingbird recipe a few times, I love them.

  5. Oh these are gorgeous! I love lemon flavored things too and will give these a go. Great pics too.

  6. I honestly can never resist lemon treats, so these cupcakes look so fabulous! Zesty, zingy – I’m hungry! Beautiful photos too.

  7. Shame about the biscuits (and your hand!), but your cupcakes do look very yummy!

    I have the same Ikea teatowels!

    xox Sarah

  8. when one thing goes wrong, i will just be waiting for the other stuff to go wrong altogether. it isnt what a self-fulfilling prophecy but a reluctant observation!haahaha. at least we know after all those bad stuff, the good stuff sorts of take over right? well,those lemon cupcakes definitely look like good stuff to me:) i hope your hand gets better soon and try making those butter cookies again, i am sure they would turn out better than the last:)

  9. These look great! Perfect for spring!

  10. Sarah, Maison Cupcake: Agreed – it’s one of Hummingbird’s best recipes and isn’t overly sweet!

    Jenny: thanks πŸ™‚

    Lucy: Lemon treats are the best because they are a great balance between sweet and zesty!

    Sarah: IKEA. You can count on them anywhere in the world!

    amy: LOL that’s right, a totally self-fulfilling prophecy if there ever was one! I will definitely tackle the butter cookies again. I WANT TO WIN! πŸ˜‰

    arugulove: you know what, I didn’t even think about it but YES – a perfect Spring treat! πŸ˜€

  11. OMG– I love all things lemon and these are just goregous!! I’ll take about two dozens..haha


  12. Look what you’ve gone and done! I sat here, happy and contented with my kleenex box but now i’m craving these beautiful and bright cakes! Thanks!

  13. U shld get yrself a tube of cream for burns. πŸ™‚ I only like lemons for their smell but not their sour taste. :p Don’t like anything sour.

  14. They look really lovely.

    The butter cookies – did you have enough binding ingredient, like egg?

  15. extra zesty… that sounds good

  16. sweetlife: yeah sure no problem, come by and get them πŸ˜‰

    bethany: haha I’m sorry! But getting out of bed is good for you, no? And the lemon cupcakes will definitely make you better πŸ™‚

    The Cooking Ninja: yeh I have some stuff here for burns, it’s healed nicely now – thank you!

    Lizzie: thanks! Well, I was following a recipe from here: so no egg, but I think I added too much butter πŸ™

    justcooknyc: extra zesty is good! πŸ˜€

  17. *eats a couple more butter cookies*

    No idea what happened to your attempt, but I got a great bunch here.

    *munch munch*

  18. piles of sand for cookies? Sounds like it was dried out…hmmm. Sadness! But look, you’ve got these amazing cupcakes. I’m well jeal. They look so yummy and lemony amazing xx

  19. L. Baskin on February 24, 2010 at 11:53 am said:

    I saw these on TasteSpotting and couldn’t help ut click on it straight away! They look lovely and i also love everything lemon!

  20. diva: the cupcakes more than made up for the cookies, trust me! And I did promise to make you some next time, didn’t I? πŸ˜‰

    L.Baskin: oh I know what you mean. I click on everything when I go to TasteSpotting. it’s an RSI (repeated stress syndrome) hazard LOL πŸ˜€

  21. Oooooo… I want! I want! i want! Can’t wait for our next lantana meet up my love xxx

  22. Pingback: Lemon Cupcakes – thecattylife | Happy Happy Joy Joy

  23. Mmmm! Anything lemon! Beautiful Pics!!

  24. This recipe is great. I replaced the plain flour + baking powder with SR flour & baked for 15 mins instead. turned out pretty well! (or so I think?)

    • Yay! I’m so pleased it worked for you πŸ™‚ SR flour is exactly the same as plain flour + baking powder so it would have worked fine. But you didn’t bake very long? Whatever, as long as it worked πŸ™‚

  25. pollyp89 on October 18, 2010 at 3:21 am said:

    These look fantastic. My cooking abilities are lacking though I am perfecting my cupcake skills at the moment. My biggest problem with most recipes is the amount of butter though this one doesn’t have as much as others so I may be making these later on today – wish me luck!

  26. Hi,

    I love the hummingbird recipes and have their book with this recipe.

    Unfortunatey it is packed away for moving and so I had to use the web… (isn’t it grand)

    Your recipe keeps making my cupcakes sink… They dont come out fluffy and full but like a volcano. I have now made three batches and will be waiting for my book to be unpacked!

    • oh no REALLY? πŸ™ They always work for me and I’ve done it maybe 4 times now. I’m sorry to hear they sink! I should check if my recipe is exactly the same as in the cookbook, I’m pretty sure it is!

  27. Claire on October 18, 2011 at 9:58 pm said:

    I’ve made these cupcakes twice now, once from my friends copy of the hummingbird book and the other from this recipe. I’m sure it is identical apart from the extra half lemon juice in the frosting (which I used second time round and thought it improved the icing although made it a bit runny so I would use a little less milk next time).

    The first time I baked the cup cakes they came out volcano shaped, so the next time I put the oven down a little lower (it is fan assisted so seems to get really hot) and they were just ‘fluffy and full’.

    These are the best cakes ever, everyone who has tried them has loved them. They never hang around for long!!

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