These are the easiest lemon poppy seed cupcakes! Packed with fresh lemon flavor, these lemon and poppy seed cupcakes are topped with a lemon poppy seed frosting. You can even fill them with lemon curd!
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This recipe was originally published in April 2021. It has since been updated with a new recipe and new images.
If you're looking for the perfect lemon recipe for spring, summer or citrus season, these lemon poppy seed cupcakes are it! Picture a soft and moist lemon and poppy seed cupcake topped with a bright lemon poppy seed frosting. You can even fill the cupcakes with homemade lemon curd!
Why you'll love this recipe!
- Bright Lemon Flavor: You get so much fresh lemon flavor thanks to lemon juice and lemon zest.
- The Best Buttercream: I love using American buttercream for these lemon cupcakes, but you could swap it out for the cream cheese frosting from my carrot cake cupcakes.
- Add Lemon Curd: if you want, you can core the cupcakes and pipe in some lemon curd to get an extra boost of lemon flavor!
- Simple to Make: you only need simple pantry ingredients to make these lemon and poppy seed cupcakes, plus a handheld mixer or stand mixer.
- Extra Soft Cupcakes: thanks to a mixture of butter and oil, these lemon cupcakes are super soft and fluffy.
- Oil: make sure you use a neutral oil like vegetable oil or canola oil. I've tested a lot of cupcakes and while tweaking my recipes I found that using a combination of oil and butter will give you the softest cupcakes!
- Unsalted Butter: I prefer to use European style butter which is much richer.
- Buttermilk: a little bit of tangy buttermilk is going to make your cupcakes so soft!
- Lemon: You'll need a lemon for both the lemon juice and zest.
- Lemon Extract: while optional, I find adding a dash of lemon extract helps boost the lemon flavor. I tested this recipe with and without it and preferred the cupcakes that included lemon extract, but feel free to leave it out!
- Lemon Curd: not pictured here, but you can add storebought or homemade lemon curd and fill your cupcakes!
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
Step by Step Instructions
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit/175 Celsius. Mix the sugar and zest of 1 lemon. Use a whisk or your hands to combine the two so the zest releases its natural oils, turning the sugar a very light yellow. This is going to make the cupcakes taste so much more lemony!
Step 2: Add the butter and oil and use a handheld electric mixer or stand mixer to mix together until light and fluffy.
Step 3: Add the lemon juice, lemon extract, vanilla extract and eggs. Mix until smooth.
Step 4: In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, poppy seeds and baking powder.
Step 5: Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk.
Step 6: Scoop out the cupcake batter into a cupcake pan lined with cupcake liners. Fill each one until they're about three-quarters full.
Step 7: Bake the cupcakes in the preheated oven for 20-24 minutes. Let them cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.
Step 8: In a large bowl, combine the unsalted butter with the confectioners' sugar on low speed. Once combined, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy.
Step 9: Add the lemon juice, vanilla extract, salt and poppy seeds. Mix until well combined. Slowly pour in the heavy cream and mix until the frosting is the consistency you want. Note, that you might not need all of the heavy cream!
Step 10: If you want to fill your cupcakes, once they're completely cool use a large piping tip to core each cupcake. Fill a piping bag with lemon curd, or use a spoon to spoon it in. Once filled to the top. Frost each cupcake with the lemon buttercream. Enjoy!
Expert Tips & Tricks
- Kitchen Scale: I always recommend using a kitchen scale, especially when it comes to measuring flour! It's so easy to add too much flour, giving you dry cupcakes.
- Piping Frosting: I used a Wilton 1M piping tip to frost these cupcakes, it's my favorite one to use for frosting!
- Frosting Consistency: drizzle the heavy cream in and mix your frosting at the same time. You might not need as much heavy cream as I suggest in the recipe card.
- Poppy Seeds: feel free to skip out the poppy seeds in the frosting!
- Filling the Cupcake Liners: I love using a medium or large cookie scoop to scoop out the cupcake batter into the liners.
Whisk one cup of milk with one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice. Leave for ten minutes and it should be ready to use!
No, feel free to leave out the lemon curd if you don't have it on hand or don't like it! I've tested this lemon poppy seed cupcake recipe with and without lemon curd and both ways are delicious.
Keep the frosted cupcakes in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. I recommend letting them come to room temperature before enjoying.
Can babies safely consume poppy seeds? Indeed, poppy seeds classified as food-grade are generally considered safe according to the United States Food & Drug Administration, as long as they are used in the usual amounts for cooking.
Try these lemon-related recipes next!
Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes
- cupcake pan
Lemon and Poppy Seed Cupcakes
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract optional
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 ⅛ cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons poppy seeds
- ½ cup buttermilk room temperature
- lemon curd optional
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 3 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds optional
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 350°Fahrenheit/175°Celsius and line a cupcake pan with liners. This recipe makes 10-11 cupcakes.
- First mix the sugar with the lemon zest, use your hands or a whisk to do this to help get the zest oils out into the sugar. Whisk until the sugar turns a very pale yellow.¾ cup granulated sugar, zest of 1 lemon
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with hand mixer, beat the butter with the oil and lemon sugar until fluffy. It takes about 2-3 minutes.2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.2 large eggs
- Mix in the vanilla extract, lemon extract (if using) and lemon juice.1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon lemon extract, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- In a separate bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, salt and poppy seeds.1 ⅛ cup all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, 1 ½ teaspoons poppy seeds
- Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour mixture.½ cup buttermilk
- Using a cookie scoop, scoop out the cupcake batter into the prepared cupcake pan, filling them ¾ of the way.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20-24 minutes. Let them cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.
- If you want to fill them with lemon curd, let the cupcakes cool completely. Once cooled, use the wide end of a large piping tip to carve out a hole in each cupcake. Spoon or pipe in lemon curd.lemon curd
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and confectioners' sugar together on low speed until well combined.1 cup unsalted butter, 3 cups confectioners' sugar
- Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes until it becomes very thick.
- Stop the mixer and add the salt, vanilla, and lemon juice into the bowl. Beat on medium-high speed for another 2 minutes. Mix in the poppy seeds1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- Turn the mixer to your lowest speed and pour in the heavy cream. Beat until it becomes very creamy and spreadable. Note, you might not need all of the heavy cream! Frost your cooled cupcakes!¼ cup heavy cream