Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

This time of year lemon desserts sound so delicious!! I’m a big fan of lemon poppy seed muffins, which gave me the idea to make these lemon poppy seed cupcakes.

Afterall, a muffin is really just a cupcake without frosting, right??

These lemon poppy seed cupcakes are made with fresh lemon juice and lemon zest, which give them such a bright flavor.

image of lemon poppy seed cupcakes decorated with lemon spirals

They’re also topped with lemon cream cheese frosting, and a gorgeous lemon spiral. And if you love lemons as much as I do, you can also fill these cupcakes with lemon curd.

This recipe is now a summer staple for me, and hopefully you’ll feel the same way about it 🙂

Substitutions and Swaps

While I love this recipe just the way it is, I know some of you might not have all of these ingredients on hand!

Below are some swaps and substitutions that can be made in this recipe:

  • All Purpose Flour – This recipe turns out best with AP flour, but you can use a gluten free flour blend (and follow my GF baking tips below) or cake flour if that’s all you have on hand.
  • Granulated Sugar – I do not recommend reducing the amount of sugar or changing the type of sugar, as it will change the texture of the cupcakes.
  • Sour Cream – You can also use full fat yogurt, buttermilk, whole milk, or an alternative yogurt or milk (almond, soy, oat, etc.) if you’re dairy free.
  • 1 Large Egg – If you don’t have eggs on hand or you have an egg allergy you can use a flaxseed egg in its place or 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce.
image of wet ingredients in a bowl ready to be mixed together to make cupcakes
  • Vegetable Oil – You can use any flavorless oil in this recipe, so canola or even sunflower oil would work great! I advise against olive oil because of its strong flavor.
  • Fresh Lemon Juice & Zest – In a pinch you could use lime juice and zest, but I don’t recommend using bottled lemon juice! You can also use 2 tsp of lemon extract in its place in the frosting and cupcake batter. However, the flavor won’t be quite as strong.
  • Lemon Curd – Filling these cupcakes is optional! If you don’t have lemon curd, you can make your own or use pretty much any jam (raspberry or strawberry jam would be delicious!).
  • Vanilla extract – Other extracts can also be used in place of the vanilla extract like coconut extract, hazelnut extract, or even pistachio extract.
  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand you can use it in place of the unsalted butter in this recipe. Just be sure to omit the salt that this frosting recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place!
image of lemon curd being added as a filling to lemon poppy seed cupcakes

If You Want to Make Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

Gluten free flour can be used in place of the all-purpose flour if you want to make gluten free lemon poppy seed cupcakes.

I prefer King Arthur’s gluten free flour blend. In addition to swapping the flour, there are two additional steps you need to take when making gluten free cupcakes.

Gluten Free Baking Tip #1: Overmix Your Batter

The first step is to vigorously whisk your batter. Do this for a few minutes help give the cupcakes structure.

Now, I know this goes against everything you’ve ever heard about baking! But over mixing your batter is key when making anything gluten free.

It helps cupcakes rise better as they bake, and gives the cupcake a more tender crumb.

image of lemon poppy seed  cupcake cut in half to show lemon curd filling

Gluten Free Baking Tip #2: Let Your Batter Rest

The second step I recommend is letting your batter rest for about 30 minutes before baking your cupcakes.

Gluten free flour blends can have a hard time absorbing moisture and fats. Letting the batter sit before baking it gives the flour more time to absorb all that goodness.

This helps thicken the batter and prevents your cupcakes from having a gritty texture.

image of lemon poppyseed cupcake batter being added into cupcake liners

Tips for Making The Best Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes:

  • Use a cookie scoop to easily fill your cupcake liners and make sure they all have the same amount of batter.
  • To make gluten free lemon poppy seed cupcakes, swap in your favorite GF flour blend for the AP flour in this recipe. Be sure to overmix your batter and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before baking for best results.
  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better! Set your cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Bang your cupcake pan on the counter before putting it in the oven. This brings any air bubbles that are trapped in the batter to the surface.
  • To really pack these cupcakes with lemon flavor, fill them with lemon curd!
  • Use a fun piping tip to frost your cupcakes! I used an ateco 869 to frost these.
  • Top you cupcakes with a lemon peel spiral to give them a beautiful finished look.

Flavor Variations:

  • You can also get creative with the type of extract you use! This recipe would also be great with almond extract, hazelnut extract, or even pistachio extract. Use the same quantity of any of these extracts in place of the lemon juice and zest in this recipe.
  • To make eggless, dairy free lemon poppy seed cupcakes, use an alternative dairy milk to replace the whole milk (almond, oat, or soy) and dairy free yogurt (almond, oat, or soy) in place of the sour cream
  • To make gluten free lemon poppy seed cupcakes, swap in your favorite gluten free flour blend for the AP flour this recipe calls for, and be sure to overmix your batter and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before baking for best results

Making These Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes In Advance & Storage Tips:

You can make these cupcakes in advance! If stored unfrosted in an airtight container, they can last for 2 days at room temperature or up to a week in the fridge.

These cupcakes can also last up to 3 months in the freezer. If you plan to freeze them, wait to fill and frost them until they’re thawed.

You can also make your frosting ahead of time or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Be sure to give the frosting a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

Frosted cupcakes shouldn’t sit out at room temperature for more than a few hours because the cream cheese frosting can spoil. Store them in the fridge in an airtight container once they’re frosted.

image of lemon poppy seed cupcake cut in half to show lemon curd filling

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try this recipe for lemon poppy seed cupcakes, I’d love to hear what think of it! Please leave a rating, and let me know your thoughts by sharing a comment.

Also please tag me @chelsweets, and use the #chelsweets so that I can see your amazing creations on social media!

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Yield: 12

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

image of lemon poppy seed cupcakes decorated with lemon peel swirls

This recipe for lemon poppy seed cupcakes uses tons of fresh lemon juice & zest to create absolutely delicious cupcakes that are packed with citrus flavor.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 19 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 59 minutes

Ingredients

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour or gluten free flour blend (150 grams)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (6 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp poppy seeds (14 grams)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature (128 grams)
  • 1/4 cup water (60 grams)
  • 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice - about 2 small lemons (60 grams)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature (57 grams)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (56 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest (6 grams)

Optional Filling

  • 6 oz. jar of lemon curd

Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (56 grams)
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, room temperature (56 grams)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (1 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (2 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest (6 grams)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar (250 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (14 grams)

Instructions

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C), and place cupcake liners in muffin pans.
  2. Whisk together 1 ¼ cups all-flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt together, and 1 1/2 Tbsp of poppy seeds into a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
  3. Pour in the 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 1 large egg, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 Tbsp of fresh lemon zest into a separate, large bowl and whisk together until combined.
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a rubber spatula. Mix until the ingredients are just combined and you can’t see any streaks of flour.
  5. Fill the cupcake liners about 3/4 full. Bake for 19-21 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack to finish cooling. If you want to accelerate the cooling process, pop the pans into your freezer for about 30 minutes.

Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream:

  1. Beat 1/4 cup of unsalted butter and 1/4 cup cream cheese on a medium speed for 30 seconds with stand mixer or hand mixer until smooth.
  2. Add in 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1 Tbsp lemon zest and beat on low until the ingredients are incorporated. 
  3. Slowly add in 2 cups of powdered sugar, adding in 1 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice half way through.
  4. Once fully mixed, if the frosting seems too thick, add in additional cream or milk (1 tsp at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
  5. Mix on a low speed for a few minutes to make the frosting super smooth.
  6. Place the buttercream in a piping bag fit with a fun frosting tip (I love using a Wilton 1M).


Decorating These Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes:

  1. Once the cupcakes have fully cooled, remove the centers with a small sharp knife or a 3/4 inch circle cutter.
  2. Fill each cupcake with 1 Tbsp of lemon curd if desired.
  3. Then pipe a generous swirl of lemon cream cheese frosting on top of each cupcake, and top with a a few additional poppy seeds and a lemon swirl.

Notes

Yield:

One batch of this recipe makes 12 standard sized cupcakes. It can also be used to make about 30 mini cupcakes (bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 F).

Variations:

  • You can also get creative with the type of extract you use! This recipe would also be great with almond extract, hazelnut extract, or even pistachio extract! Use the same quantity of any of these extracts in place of the lemon juice and zest in this recipe.
  • To make eggless, dairy free lemon poppy seed cupcakes, use an alternative dairy milk to replace the whole milk (almond, oat, or soy) and dairy free yogurt (almond, oat, or soy) in place of the sour cream
  • To make gluten free lemon poppy seed cupcakes, swap in your favorite gluten free flour blend for the AP flour this recipe calls for, and be sure to overmix your batter and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before baking for best results

Making These Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes In Advance & Storage Tips:

Make your cupcakes in advance! If stored unfrosted in an airtight container, they can last for 2 days at room temp, up to a week in the fridge, or up to 3 months in the freezer

Make your frosting ahead of time too, or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

Frosted cupcakes can sit out at room temperature overnight in an airtight container, but I find frosting them right before serving is best.

Nutrition Information

Yield

12

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 367Total Fat 15gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 8gCholesterol 42mgSodium 245mgCarbohydrates 55gFiber 2gSugar 34gProtein 5g

2 thoughts on “Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

  1. Hello, I made this cupcakes a few days ago but without poppy seed and they turned out so great. I made another cream cheese frosting using sour creme, cream cheese, heavy cream, powdered sugar and lemon zest. Inside the cupcake I put orange curd. It was SO TASTY. Also I made your almond cupcakes. I put some chopped almonds into the batter, made the frosting with sour creme, heavy cream, almond extract and powdered sugar. When I was piping a swirl, I put one hole almond to each cupcake. Thank you so much for your recipes!! You are the best!!!

Let me know what you think!