Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes

Lemon Buttermilk Cake and Cupcakes.  Now includes regular and high-altitude recipes!

It’s getting warm here in Colorado.  I’ll spend the early morning out in the garden, pulling the %#@& grass that loves to infiltrate my flower beds.  While I was working this morning, I was thinking about what I wanted to make for an upcoming barbecue party.  I settled on lemon . . . something.  A nice lemon buttermilk cake seems cool and refreshing, and I had a feeling the party could wind up feeling a little toasty.

After searching, I settled on Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes.

I came across the use of lemon with buttermilk a number of times, which seemed a bit strange at first.  Both are fairly acidic, but the added fat of buttermilk balances with the sugar very well, creating a cake with a creamy texture, but leaving a genuine citrus tang on the tongue.  To balance this even further, I coupled my cupcakes with a lemon cream-cheese frosting, but you could easily pair them with a lemon buttercream, too.

I found some decent recipes online (as you are doing right now.)  But very rarely do I find one that doesn’t need to be adjusted for fat/sugar balance, moisture and leavening.  A huge number of cake recipes out there are overleavened, and here in Colorado, that’s a huge problem.  I run all my recipes through my balancing spreadsheet and make the adjustments to correct for improper ratios.

What are the correct ratios for a cake recipe?  Here’s what I use (from Bakewise, by Shirley O. Corriher):

  • Weight of Sugar = or > Weight of Flour (Ideal is 25% for white, 80% for chocolate)
  • Weight of Eggs > Weight of Fat (Ideal is 10%)
  • Weight of Liquid = or > Weight of Sugar

The very best baking book, Bakewise, by Shirley O. Corriher. Click on the photo to buy it now, new or used, from Alibris:

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To get all the proportions right, I use an Excel spreadsheet to feed in the recipe info as it stands, and then I adjust based on my own experience and taste preferences.  For example, in this recipe the liquid weight was too low for my high-altitude version, so I adjusted it using leftover lemon juice.

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Lemon Buttermilk Cake and Cupcakes

A light, very lemony cake, frosted with smooth lemon-kissed cream cheese frosting.  Perfect for a summer picnic or gathering.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Lemon Buttermilk Cake, Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes, Spring Cupcakes
Servings: 2 dozen
Author: Don Herman

Ingredients

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes

  • 2 1/4 cups Cake Flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Buttermilk
  • 5 lg Egg Whites
  • 1 2/3 cups Sugar
  • Zest from 2 lemons See notes on how to zest a lemon
  • 8 tbsp Butter cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp Natural Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 tsp Natural Lemon Extract

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 oz Butter Room temperature
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese Room temperature
  • 4 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tsp Natural Vanilla Extract
  • Lemon juice From the zested lemons above

Instructions

  • Set up 24 cupcake liners in cupcake tins, or grease and flour 2, 9″ cake rounds.
    Cupcake tins Prepped for Batter
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • In a large bowl (not the mixing bowl), whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg whites and buttermilk.  
  • In a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and lemon zest and whisk together until combined.
  • Add the butter and beat until light – about 4 or even 5 minutes (this takes a while)
  • Add the extracts and combine
  • Starting with the flour mixture, add about 1/3 and mix until blended. Add about 1/2 the buttermilk/egg mixture and blend smooth. Add dry and wet ingredients in this way, alternating and ending with flour mixture.
  • For Cupcakes: When the batter is well-blended, fill your cupcake liners about 2/3 with batter. (I use an ice-cream scoop).
  • For Cake: When the batter is well-blended, fill your pans with cake batter.  I use a scale to get the batter evenly divided.
  • For Cupcakes: Bake in your preheated oven on the center rack for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a center cupcake comes out clean. The cupcakes will not brown much, so don’t overbake!
  • For Cake: Bake in your preheated oven on the center rack for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  The cake will not brown much, so don’t overbake!  
  • Remove from oven and cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Cream together the butter and cream cheese.
  • Add the vanilla and beat until blended.
  • Add about 1/2 the sugar and drape a light tea towel or cheesecloth over your mixer. Blend in the sugar on the lowest setting for a few seconds, remove the towel and blend until incorporated. Repeat.
  • The frosting will be pretty stiff at this point. Add 1 tsp of lemon juice at a time and blend until you get the spreading consistency you prefer. I used 3 tsp of lemon juice.

Video

Notes

How to Zest a Lemon
This recipe calls for the “zest” of two lemons. I really hope you don’t discard it just because of that, because zesting a lemon is easy! And nothing replaces the taste of lemon zest in a lemon cake recipe.  
 

Here is the high-altitude (above 3,000 ft) version of my Lemon Buttermilk Cake and Cupcakes Recipe.

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Lemon Buttermilk Cake and Cupcakes (High Altitude Version)

A light, very lemony cake, frosted with smooth lemon-kissed cream cheese frosting. Perfect for a summer picnic or gathering.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: High Altitude Recipes, Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes High Altitude
Servings: 2 dozen
Author: Don Herman

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups plus 2 tbsp Cake Flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp Baking Powder for 5280 ft. (1600 meters)
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Buttermilk
  • 5 lg Egg Whites
  • 1 2/3 cups less 1 1/2 tbsp Sugar
  • Zest from 2 lemons
  • 2 tbsp Lemon Juice from zested lemons
  • 8 tbsp Butter cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp Natural Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 tsp Natural Lemon Extract

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 oz Unsalted Butter (1 stick, softened)
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese (room temperature)
  • 4 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tsp Natural Vanilla Extract
  • Lemon Juice

Instructions

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes

  • Measure out ingredients, remembering to ADD the additional cake flour and SUBTRACT the sugar.  This and adjusting the baking powder are critical in making this recipe work at high-altitude.
  • For Cupcakes: Set up 24 cupcakes liners in cupcake tins.
    For Cake: Grease and flour 2 9″ cake rounds.
  • Preheat oven to 370F (190C).
  • In a large bowl (or the mixing bowl), whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg whites and buttermilk until frothy.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and lemon zest and whisk together until combined.
  • Add the butter and beat into the sugar until light and fluffy – and 4 or 5 minutes (this takes a while, take the time you need.)
  • Add the extracts and lemon juice and combine.
  • Starting with the flour mixture, add about 1/3 and mix until blended.  Add about 1/2 the buttermilk/egg mixture and blend again.  Add dry and wet ingredients in this way, alternating and ending with the flour.
  • For Cupcakes: When the batter is well-blended, fill your cupcake liners about 2/3 with batter.  (I use an ice-cream scoop).
  • For Cake: When the batter is well-blended, divide the batter and fill the pans.  I use a scale to get the amounts evenly divided.
  • For Cupcakes: Bake in your preheated oven on the center rack for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a center-oven cupcake comes out clean.  The cupcakes will not brown much, so don’t overbake!
  • For Cake: Bake in your preheated oven on the center rack for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  The cake will not brown much, so don’t overbake!
  • Remove from oven and cool in the pan for about five minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Cream together the butter and cream cheese.
  • Add the vanilla and beat until blended.
  • Add about 1/2 the sugar and drape a light tea towel or cheesecloth over your mixer.  Blend in the sugar on the lowest setting for a few seconds, remove the towel and blend until incorporated.  Repeat.
  • The frosting will be pretty stiff at this point.  Add 1 tsp of lemon juice at a time and blend until you get the spreading consistency you prefer.  1 used 3 tsp of lemon juice.

Notes

For high-altitude, I adjusted the flour (added), sugar (subtracted), liquid (added lemon juice), baking powder (big subtraction) and oven temp (increase). If you are MUCH higher than 5,280 ft, you may need to tweak those adjustments a bit more.
Bake time may vary based on the size of your cupcakes. This recipe used the most common-sized liners.

For the very best lemon flavor, you need a quality lemon extract. I like this version from Savory Spice:

Lemon Extract Pure (Organically Sourced)- …

Savory’s pure lemon extract smells like a fresh picked lemon and has a clean, fruity flavor. It tastes so good because only the very best pure lemon oil from California is used.

Try using it in custards, pound cakes, pies, cookies, meringues, lemon chiffon cake or cheesecakes. You can also use it to fortify drinks such as lemon margaritas or daiquiris. You can use this extract to replace lemon zest in any recipe; 1/4 tsp. extract = 2 tsp. of zest. [More] Price: $13.45 Buy Now

Leave me a note if you give it a try.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars


    These are very pretty and look yummy. Did you sprinkle some type of sugar on the top? I didn’t see any mention of it in the recipe.
    1. Good point – I didn’t mention that. I simply mixed some granulated sugar with about a teaspoon of grated lemon rind and squished it together with my fingers. I then sprinkled a little fingerful over the cupcakes.

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