Lemon Lover’s Cupcakes with Lemon Zest Buttercream Frosting by Tess Challis

If you love lemon, then these are the cupcakes for you! Both the batter and the icing have lemon zest and are sure to satisfy any lemon lover! This recipe is from Tess Challis’s first cookbook, Radiant Health, Inner Wealth, a great resource for decadent crowd pleasing vegan desserts.

Lemon Lover’s Cupcakes with Lemon Zest Buttercream Frosting

For someone who adores lemon (me, for example), this dessert is sugar paradise!  Be sure to use standard (not Meyer) fresh lemons, and don’t skimp on the zest. Please also note that this recipe works best as cupcakes (rather than as a standard cake). Enjoy!


Makes about 12-14 cupcakes; GF (with substitution)/Purple

Note: Take care to grate only the yellow peel of the lemon, as the white portion under the skin is quite bitter.

Cupcakes, Dry Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups flour (whole wheat pastry, unbleached white, or gluten-free all-purpose)
  • 1 cup organic “white” sugar (not powdered)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon each: baking powder and sea salt

Cupcakes, Wet Ingredients:

  • ½ cup plus 5 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons (tightly packed) organic lemon zest (finely minced or grated)
  • ⅓ cup oil (sunflower, non-virgin olive, or safflower)
  • ½ cup nondairy milk
  • 2 teaspoons each: apple cider vinegar and vanilla extract

Lemon Zest Buttercream Frosting:

  • ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) non-hydrogenated margarine
  • 1½ cups organic powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon each: nondairy milk and minced organic lemon zest (tightly packed)
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional Garnishes: lemon slices, edible flowers, and/or lemon zest strips


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly oil a dozen muffin cups (or use paper liners). Stir or sift the dry cupcake ingredients together very well. In a separate bowl, mix the wet cupcake ingredients together well.
  2. Gently mix the two together, stirring  just until well blended (do not over-mix). Please note that if you taste the batter at this point, it may seem a bit vinegary. However, the vinegar is in fact your friend and will taste different once baked. Pour the batter evenly into the muffin cups.
  3. Bake for about 20 minutes. You will know they’re done when you can insert a knife in the center of one of the cupcakes and it comes out clean. Next, set them aside to cool.
  4. To make the frosting, place the margarine in a medium-large bowl and, using electric beaters, whip until fluffy. Slowly add the other frosting ingredients in the order given, whipping them with the beaters until very well mixed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. What you want here is a smooth, fluffy, puffy lemon cloud that you have to resist diving into. When your frosting has achieved a state of glorious perfection, cover and refrigerate it until you are ready to frost the cupcakes.
  5. When the cupcakes have cooled enough to avoid melting the frosting, you can freely slather it on using a rubber spatula or butter knife. Top with the garnishes of your choice (if using) and serve.


lemon cupcakes by Tess Challis

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