Lemon Cupcakes with Lavender-Chamomile Buttercream
April 21, 2022
Just because spring flavors are light and delicate doesn’t mean they can’t be explosive as well. These super moist lemon cupcakes are bursting with citrusy flavor, thanks to both lemon zest and juice in the batter. The buttercream frosting on top adds a floral touch with chamomile and lavender to really make them sing for spring.
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If there are two things I love about spring, it’s the colors and the flavors. Of course, I have way more than two favorite things about this season, but I couldn’t resist leaning deep into some fruity and floral tastes that signify that spring has arrived: lemon and lavender. They complement each other perfectly.
I also love the contrast of the bold purple frosting on these bright sunshine-yellow cupcakes. A combination of yellow and floral wrappers set the scene and play into the hues and buds of spring. But when you make your cupcakes, they can be a blank canvas of any frosting color and any wrappers you love for your own spring experience!
What You Need to Get Started
You can easily find all of the ingredients for these lemon cupcakes with lavender-chamomile buttercream at your grocery store:
- Pantry: Flour, Cornstarch, Baking powder, Baking soda, Salt, Granulated sugar, Powdered sugar, Lavender chamomile tea, Gel food coloring
- Produce: Lemons
- Fridge: Butter, Eggs, Milk
- Equipment: Microplane zester, Stand mixer, Mixing bowl, Whisk, Cupcake pan, Flexible spatula, Cookie or ice cream scoop (optional), Piping bag and tip (optional)
Let’s Make Lemon Cupcakes
I don’t like to play favorites, but lemon is one of those flavors that definitely would find itself in my top ten. Desserts using this sunny citrus are bold and bright, with a balance of sweet and tart. Plus, when you combine both the zest and juice of a lemon, you can really play up the intricacies of the flavor.
In this recipe, the cupcake batter is filled with plenty of lemon juice and zest. But don’t worry if you’re not a fan of that citrus peel texture. Once you bake the cupcakes, the zest kind of melts into the batter, getting fully incorporated to create a perfectly sweet, sour, and somewhat floral cake.
To get started, pull out your microplane zester. This is my favorite type of zester to use, since it does an excellent job of getting all the peel and none of the pith. Look for lemons that have some texture on the surface. If they are perfectly smooth, they may not zest as well.
An added benefit is that after zesting, your lemon will be so much easier to juice. The pressure you used will help break all those tiny vesicles inside of the lemon, releasing plenty of sour juice. I used the zest of one lemon and the juice of two in this recipe, but I suggest having at least three fruits on hand in case they are stubborn.
At this point, it’s a good time to preheat your oven with a rack in the center. You will also want to line your cupcake pan with some paper liners. I didn’t grease the liners for these cupcakes, and they peel away fairly cleanly. As written, this recipe makes a dozen sweet treats, but you can easily double it if needed.
Now let’s start making some cupcake batter!
First, use a medium mixing bowl to whisk together all of your dry ingredients. Adding a little bit of cornstarch to your all-purpose flour will give you a slightly softer cake, kind of like using a cake flour instead, but not quite so delicate. Baking powder and soda will provide leavening, and both the salt and lemon zest are for flavor.
I like to mix the lemon zest into the dry ingredients and toss it up with my hands so it gets coated in the flour. Zest right off a fresh lemon can sometimes be a little moist and stick together, so tossing it with the flour helps avoid big clumps in the batter.
Next, place the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, and begin creaming together the butter and sugar. This step is crucial for a good texture in your cupcakes, since the sugar helps aerate the butter, making minuscule air pockets that expand when heated.
Be sure you are starting with room-temperature butter. For the best experience, let your stick of butter soften gradually by leaving it out for about forty-five minutes. Your butter should not be so soft that it’s melting, but just enough that you can easily dent it with your finger.
Mix these together on medium-low speed for a couple minutes. The butter will fluff up and become visibly lighter in color, a pale yellow.
Next, add in the eggs one at a time, and incorporate each into the butter mixture. Then add the lemon juice and mix that in as well until everything is thoroughly combined. Adding the liquids slowly can help them more easily incorporate into the batter, which keeps those air pockets alive.
Finally, add the dry ingredients in all at once. Give the batter a quick stir with a spatula to assure you don’t get a cloud of flour dust from the mixer. Then, mix only for about thirty seconds to incorporate the flour into the batter. Overmixing can lead to denser cupcakes, so only mix until there are no longer streaks of flour.
If you are concerned about using your mixer, you can do this part by hand with a flexible spatula. I suggest finishing the stirring by hand anyway, so you can scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to get everything incorporated.
Spoon the batter into the twelve prepared cupcake liners in the pan. Using an ice cream scoop or cookie scoop can make this a quicker process, and help you to get more evenly filled cups.
Each should be filled about three-quarters full, which ends up being about three to four tablespoons of batter per cup. If you end up with a little extra, that’s okay. You can always make a second batch with a partially filled pan, or bake up individual cupcakes in silicone wrappers on a baking sheet.
Bake the cupcakes for right around twenty minutes. You’ll know they are done when a toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean, and the tops bounce back when gently pressed. Allow them to cool in the pan for at least ten minutes, and then transfer the cupcakes to a rack to cool completely, before frosting them.
How to Make Lavender-Chamomile Buttercream
This frosting is based on my favorite simple one to use for cupcakes, American buttercream. Some people find this type of buttercream to be cloyingly sweet, but personally I love it in all applications. Here, however, the floral and tart citrus flavors balance out that sweetness, making this frosting the perfect base.
Just like you did with the cupcakes themselves, working with room-temperature butter is the way to go when making buttercream frosting. If your butter is too soft, instead of getting light and fluffy, it will froth and collapse. Or if it’s too cold, you could end up with a chunky consistency.
Begin by whipping up the butter on its own in your stand mixer. I like to use the flex-edge attachment, but your standard paddle attachment will get the job done here just as well. After a few minutes, it will be lightened in color and slightly fluffed up.
At this point, add in the first cup of powdered sugar along with the contents of the lavender and chamomile tea bags. I used the Traditional Medicinals brand Lavender Chamomile tea for this. However, if you don’t have access to lavender chamomile tea, you can use one tea bag each of herbal lavender tea and chamomile tea. You could also replace the lavender tea with about two grams of culinary lavender flowers, crushed with a mortar and pestle.
Once these are incorporated by mixing on low speed, continue adding the remaining sugar in about one-cup batches. Fully mix in each batch of sugar before adding the next. To prevent puffs of sugar escaping, gently fold each batch in with a silicone spatula first, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
As you add in more sugar, your mixer may struggle a little bit, which means it’s time to add a few splashes of milk. This will help everything come together more smoothly, but you’ll still get a nice textured buttercream that will pipe beautifully and hold its shape.
Continue mixing, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the sugar is all incorporated and the frosting holds its shape well. At this point, you can add food coloring if desired. I went with a fun purple color to accentuate the lavender buds.
However, if you want something a littler simpler, sticking with the speckled cream-colored frosting can have a very aesthetically pleasing effect. Just look at all those cute little flower buds suspended throughout!
If you’re coloring, use the mixer to get it distributed nice and evenly. Or stop the mixer a little early for a slight tie-dye effect. Then, transfer all of the icing into a piping bag fitted with a star or large star tip.
The easiest way to do this is to stand up the piping bag in a large cup, and bend the top edges over the rim. Then you can scrape all that yummy frosting into the bag. But also, don’t forget to lick the spatula and mixer bowl when you’re done!
This lavender chamomile frosting recipe makes just over one cup of buttercream. The standard recommendation is that one cup will frost a dozen cupcakes, but I like to have a little bit extra to work with. And maybe just eat.
Massage the piping bag a little bit. This will help warm up the frosting just enough that it flows more easily through your tip. Then, pipe your favorite designs on top of each cupcake. I had a little fun experimenting with how this star tip I used works, creating some different designs.
You can make these cupcakes in advance. For the best results, store them frosted or unfrosted in a sealed container in the fridge for a few days. You can also freeze the cupcakes by wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap and then foil for months. Just allow them to thaw in the fridge, and then sit at room temperature for about half an hour before enjoying.
The flavors of spring are exploding from these extra moist lemon cupcakes! They are topped with a delicate lavender-chamomile buttercream for that floral touch.
How to Serve Lemon Cupcakes
Imagine unwrapping and slowly indulging in one of these cupcakes on a spring afternoon, the sun shining through the windows, baby bunnies running around your yard, and a whole flock of birds on the feeder. These make me think of sunshowers and seedlings and flowy floral dresses.
Of course, you could just wolf one down real quick and then reach for another. That’s completely understandable. Try serving them with an afternoon tea, after a course of honey mascarpone cream puffs and a plate of curry and kiwi deviled eggs. Don’t forget some chai white hot chocolate or peach mango tea spritzers to drink!
More Recipes to Try With Similar Flavors
Lemon Cupcakes with Lavender-Chamomile Buttercream
- 1 ½ Cups All-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp Cornstarch
- ½ tsp Baking Powder
- ½ tsp Baking Soda
- ¾ tsp Salt
- 2 Tbsp Lemon Zest about 1-2 lemons
- ½ Cup Butter room temperature
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 2 Eggs room temperature
- ½ Cup Lemon juice about 2 lemons
- 10 Tbsp Butter room temperature
- 2 ¼ Cups Powdered Sugar
- 2 Lavender-Chamomile tea bags see note for substitutions
- 1-2 Tbsp Milk
- Gel Food Coloring optional, as desired
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center. Line a standard 12-cupcake pan with paper liners.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until lightened in color and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes on medium low. Add in the eggs one at a time, and mix each in. Then follow with the lemon juice, and mix until thoroughly combined.
- Add the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, and mix on low until just combined, and there are no large streaks of flour, only about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Use a silicone spatula to scrape down the sides and fold the excess into the rest of the batter.
- Fill the cupcake wrappers in the pan with the batter, each cup about 3/4 full.
- Bake 18-22 minutes. They are done when a toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean, and the tops bounce back when you gently press the center.
- Let the cupcakes cool for at least 10 minutes in the pan, and then carefully remove and allow to cool completely on a rack.
Lavender Chamomile Buttercream
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter and until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes on medium low.
- Add in 1 cup of the sugar along with the contents of the lavender chamomile tea bags. Mix until incorporated.
- Continue adding the sugar in 1-cup batches, allowing each to fully incorporate before adding the next batch. Add the milk as needed to create a smooth texture. If desired, add gel food coloring towards the end of mixing until you reach your desired color.
- Add the buttercream to a piping bag with a large star tip, and top the cooled cupcakes. Enjoy immediately or save for later.
- Make ahead tips: Store the cupcakes frosted or unfrosted in a sealed container in the fridge for 2-3 days. Freeze unfrosted cupcakes by wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap and foil. Thaw in the fridge, and frost before serving.
- Lavender-Chamomile Tea:
- I used the Traditional Medicinals brand Lavender Chamomile tea.
- If you don't have access to lavender chamomile tea, you can use 1 tea bag each of herbal lavender tea and chamomile tea. You can also replace the lavender tea with about 2 grams of culinary lavender flowers, crushed with a mortar and pestle.
- Microplane zester
- Stand mixer
- Mixing bowl
- Cupcake pan
- Flexible spatula
- Cookie or ice cream scoop (optional)
- Piping bag and tip (optional)