Vegan Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

March 21, 2016
Photo by Bobbi Lin
Author Notes

These cupcakes are delightfully sweet, tender, and just a tiny bit tart, thanks to fresh lemon juice and zest. And yes, they are also totally vegan, but—and I mean this—no one will know. I used Earth Balance buttery sticks in both the batter and frosting—a good bet for an authentic, buttery flavor and a rich, spreadable topping. —Gena Hamshaw

  • Serves 12
  • For the cupcakes
  • 1 1/4 cups almond or soy milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (or a gluten free all purpose flour blend, such as King Arthur's gluten free multi-purpose flour)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) vegan margarine or shortening
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • For the lemon buttercream frosting
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) vegan margarine or shortening
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
In This Recipe
  1. To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°F and line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
  2. Whisk together the soy or almond milk and lemon in a small mixing bowl. Beat until the milk is frothy and set aside. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the vegan margarine or shortening and sugar on medium-low speed for about a minute. Add the vanilla and lemon zest and beat for one more minute. Add a third of the flour mixture and beat to incorporate fully, then add half of the milk and beat until smooth. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, the remaining half of the milk, and then the final third of the flour mixture. Beat for another 15 to 30 seconds, or until the batter is smooth (a few little clumps are fine).
  4. Scoop the batter by the 1/3 cup into the liners. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean and the tops are solid. Transfer cupcakes to wire cooling racks and allow them to cool completely before frosting.
  5. To prepare the lemon buttercream frosting, transfer the vegan margarine or shortening to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream the vegan margarine or shortening, vanilla, and lemon zest on medium-low speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until very smooth. Add the lemon juice and mix to incorporate. Add the confectioners' sugar 1 cup at a time, and then beat on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the frosting is very thick and very smooth. Beat in the sea salt.
  6. Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with coconut, if desired. Serve.

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Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.