This really should just be a recipe for the Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting, because I made the cupcakes using a boxed mix, and all I did to improve on that was to add the zest of half a lemon to the batter. The real star of the cupcakes is the frosting. It's rich and creamy with just the right about of lemon flavor and tang to balance out the sweetness of the cupcakes. I added a Lemon Drop candy to each of the cupcakes to make them look special.
For the cake:
- 1-18.25 oz box lemon cake mix
- 1 1/3 Cups Water
- 1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
- 3 Large Eggs
- Zest from half a lemon
- 1-8 oz package of cream cheese (can use 1/3 less fat cream cheese), softened to room temperature
- 1/2 (or 1/4 cup) of butter, softened to room temperature
- juice from 1/2 lemon (just a scant couple of squeezes)
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
- 16 oz. powdered sugar
- 20-24 Lemon Drops (optional)
- Bake the cupcakes according the to directions on the box, the only difference is to add the lemon zest to the batter last, and make sure that it is fully incorporated without any clumps. The cake mix I used made 20 cupcakes when the cupcake liners were filled 2/3 full. Let the cupcakes cool to room temperature before frosting.
- To make the frosting, it is very important that the cream cheese and butter are at room temperature. If they are not, there will be lumps of butter or cream cheese in the frosting, and that will be very unappealing.
- First, using a hand or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until they are uniformly mixed, then add the lemon juice and lemon extract, and mix briefly to incorporate.
- Next, slowly add the powdered sugar in batches, and ensure all the sugar is incorporated before making the next addition. If you want a stronger lemon flavor, add a bit more lemon extract at this time. If you want it sweeter, add more powdered sugar. This frosting is very versatile, and it is easy to make to your liking.
- You can frost the cupcakes at this time, but I like to stick the frosting in the refrigerator for an hour or so, so it will firm up, and make the cupcakes easier to frost. After frosting the cupcakes, if you wish, top with a Lemon Drop and enjoy!