Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes


These cupcakes have almost rendered me speechless. Trying to come up with the words to describe the incredible flavor experience that these provide is no small task. These lemon beauties topped off an Italian-themed meal (one that had begun with the Fontina-Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Dates as an appetizer) and was the perfect clean-flavored dessert that I was looking for. There are three levels of lemon flavor in the cupcakes that combine to deliver the perfect balance of tart and sweet, and had people fighting over the last cupcake (seriously). The batter is flavored with lemon zest, lemon juice and a punch of limoncello; a tart lemon curd fills the inside of the cupcakes, and on top sits a sweet cream cheese frosting with the subtle tang of limoncello. These are simple and classy, a perfect dessert for a summer meal.


Although comprised of three separate steps, these cupcakes are simple to put together and not very time consuming. While the cupcakes are in the oven baking, the lemon curd can be made in less than 10 minutes. While the cupcakes and curd cool, make the frosting and then you are ready to assemble and serve! I tasted a spoonful of lemon curd before assembling the cupcakes and thought it might be a bit too tart, but was pleasantly surprised when I tasted the entire cupcake. The curd didn’t appear too tart at all, and was perfectly balanced by the cake and frosting. As you can see, I popped the finished cupcakes into an additional liner – Wilton Nut & Party Cups – for a prettier presentation.

If you want to make homemade limoncello, you can certainly do so, but plan ahead! Homemade recipes require 7 to 10 days of the lemon steeping in vodka before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. If you want to give it a go, you can find recipes here and here.


These cupcakes have been entered into Bake at 350’s Flavor of the Month event for August: PUCKER UP! Lemon, Lime or a combination. Head on over to check out the event, see what everyone baked up, and find out next month’s theme.

Bake at 350

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Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes

Yield: 1 dozen

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes


For the cupcakes:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 ounces (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons limoncello
½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup lemon juice
Zest of one lemon

For the lemon curd:
Zest of 2 lemons
½ cup lemon juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk

For the cream cheese limoncello frosting:
2 ounces (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon limoncello
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted


1. Prepare the cupcakes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the center. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the limoncello and beat an additional minute. On low speed, add flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the lemon juice and zest and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Divide the batter between 12 muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely.

2. Prepare the lemon curd. In a heavy medium saucepan, stir together the lemon zest, juice and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and egg yolk. Whisk the lemon mixture into the eggs to temper them. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat, whisking constantly until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let cool completely.

3. Prepare the cream cheese limoncello frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the limoncello and beat for an additional minute. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and beat until fully incorporated and smooth.

4. Assemble the cupcakes. Cut a hole into each cupcake with the large end of a melon baller or the back end of a large pastry tip. Fill each cavity with the lemon curd. Fill a pastry bag with a star tip (I used Wilton 1M) with the cream cheese limoncello frosting and pipe onto each cupcake. Decorate with lemon and berries, if desired.

(Adapted from Tartelette)

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308 Responses to “Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes”

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  3. betterwithsugar on October 1, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    These are delicious! Tastes like summer in a cupcake. I made the Limoncello cupcakes and the Margarita ones and brought them both to work. Everyone liked both, but the Limoncello ones were definitely the winner. Now i have a giant bottle of Limoncello in my fridge and i’m not a fan of drinking it straight … guess i’ll just have to make these cupcakes a few more times. Sounds good to me! :)


  4. Linda on October 6, 2013 at 7:32 am

    Made these cupcakes yesterday. Very delicious. Reminds me of
    lemon meringue pie. Going to make the pumpkin cupcake today.


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  6. Rachael on October 23, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I was really looking forward to making these, but after making two batches of them, I was really disappointed. I followed the directions to a “T” and the cakes were very dense, overly flour tasting, and even a little dry. And the lemon curd filling… Wow! Talk about sour! The frosting was great, but nothing else seemed to turn out tasty. If I’m doing something wrong, please let me know.


  7. Dozen on November 9, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Made these today, great flavor, but I really think that these need some baking soda due to all the acidic ingredients (buttermilk, lemon juice) I think that would help them rise better as there would be a better reaction between the leaveung agent and the acids. another note, one might try two eggs and then an egg white (or two) to substitue the third egg, that will definitely aerate the batter as well. I also added lemon juice to the frosting and doubled the limoncello, I’m a fan of bright, tangy lemon flavor and that was lacking in the frosting before I added the lemon juice. Definitely a good recipe to have on hand, but next time I will tweak to avoid such a dense cake.


  8. Bryce on November 26, 2013 at 12:26 am

    These are by far some of the BEST cupcakes I have ever made! The lemon curd filling is delicious!


  9. Sarah on December 11, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Just tried these and they are fantastic! Thank you for sharing. My stepson said they are the best cupcakes he’s ever had.


  10. Melissa @ Stitches In Flight on December 12, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Hi! These are so cute! I am featuring these in a cupcake roundup tomorrow. Thought I would let you know. Thanks for posting them!


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  13. ShannonF on January 2, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    I made these today and they are phenomenal. Seriously. The best cupcakes I have ever eaten. Thank you for the recipe!


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  16. Linda on January 15, 2014 at 11:40 am

    I use my work colleagues as my beta test group. I think lemon is a rather polarizing taste, either you like it or you don’t. Made the original recipe and as expected, those who like lemon LOVED them, those who don’t didn’t care for them. Everyone, though, loved the dense texture of the cake. So I tried substituting orange zest and OJ in the cupcakes, along with Grand Marnier, did not create a filling, and made frosting with the Grand Marnier. Nice subtle orange flavor, more accepted by my beta testers.


  17. Sherri lJ on January 19, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    We are limoncello addicts ( well, maybe not addicts) however, we make a LOT of homemade limoncello & lemon curd every winter, the second Meyer lemons show up in the stores!
    No sooner did we put the finishing touches on your simply amazing Mocha Cupcakes to take to a friend’s birthday/football party…We found this! Well we laughed because we had everything to make these and so we were off & running!
    Because we use Meyers, we always keep a couple “regular” lemons around for the tartness. We used those for the zest. We decorated them with fresh blackberries. OMG! we have, in one day, made our all time favorites! Thank You!


  18. Maria on January 20, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Can these be topped off with buttercream frosting instead of cream cheese?


  19. Hannah on January 30, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    how should i store these?! i just made some for my birthday party tonight – but dont know how to store until then – THEY ARE SO GOOD!!! :D


    • Michelle on January 31st, 2014 at 9:22 am

      Hi Hannah, They can be kept at room temperature for up to 12 hours or so, then refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container.


  20. Holly on February 5, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Literally the best cupcakes I’ve ever had. Absolutely amazing. Added some limoncello to the lemon curd as well, turned out awesome. Only recommendation I have: make sure to refrigerate for at least a little bit before serving. They’re still 100% delicious fresh, but the lemon is really tart until chilled.


  21. Ashley on February 10, 2014 at 9:25 am

    I made these over the weekend and they were great! We had guests over and everyone was raving about how “fresh” they tasted. I too tasted the lemon curd after it cooled and thought it was way too tart, but as you said above in the recipe once it was in the cupcakes with the frosting it worked perfectly. One thing I noticed was that my curd had little white swirls/chunks in it which I do not see in yours from the pictures. I Googled it and they said that will happen if you don’t strain your lemon juice. This wasn’t mentioned in the recipe so I never thought to do it and next time around I definitely would because I would like a smooth yellow texture. I don’t think it changed the flavor at all but if you are a perfectionist with baking as I am, then the white swirls will bother you. Also one more thing to note – next time around I would double the frosting recipe. I also use the Wilton 1M tip and just barely had enough frosting to do all the cupcakes and that was with frosting them on the very light side.


  22. Kimberly Burgandine on February 12, 2014 at 1:13 am

    This might be a dumb question but should I leave out the lemonchello if serving these to children?


    • Michelle on February 12th, 2014 at 11:00 am

      Hi Kimberly, I would definitely leave it out of the frosting. People are split in terms of how much alcohol cooks off in a baked good, so that’s really your call. I can’t say for sure what percentage of it bakes off.


    • Heather on March 22nd, 2014 at 10:11 am

      The amount of limoncello in the frosting is small and divided among 12 cupcakes. 1/12 of a T of limoncello is more alcohol than you would get using vanilla extract (which is in an alcohol base) but not enough that I would personally worry about. My 7yo daughter ate these and loved them. I guess my advice would be to use your own discretion. I would feed them to my own kids but maybe not make them for a school birthday party.


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  24. Sebina on February 13, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    I made these cupcakes and I can tell you that they are very good! definitely recommend! even my pictures came out really good :)


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  27. Kai Foss on March 23, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    I made these yesterday and followed the recipe to a T. I found that the cupcakes were a bit too heavy, not nice and fluffy as I had hoped. The flavor was very good though, I used fresh lemons from my lemon tree.Maybe the 3 eggs made it heavy?? Any suggestions for a lighter cupcake?
    Your presentation is beautiful, they look very delicious.


  28. Agnes on April 15, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Can you freeze the cupcakes then fill ang frost later?


    • Michelle on April 16th, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      Hi Agnes, Yes, you can definitely do that.


  29. CupCakes and more... on April 18, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    These look so good. This will be my next project.


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  31. Kailey on May 4, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    I just made these, and YUMMMM!!. The curd was a little too tart for everyone else (but I liked the contrast to the sweet), so next time i will add more sugar.


  32. Jordana on May 14, 2014 at 10:16 am

    These cupcakes were delicious! I made them with homemade limoncello made from Meyer lemons. The balance of the sweet cake and frosting and tart custard is perfect—filled cupcakes never fail to impress. The cake itself is dense and moist. Excellent accompaniment to the spring beer tasting we held with our beer club. :)


  33. Kayla on May 17, 2014 at 12:29 am

    What is a good substitute for limoncello?


  34. Esmeralda on May 20, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    To make the lemon curd do i have to add butter? Because when i youtube how to make lemon curd they all show it with butter so im a bit confused lol


    • Michelle on May 21st, 2014 at 9:38 am

      No, you do not need to add butter to this, but if you prefer to use a different lemon curd recipe, you absolutely could.


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  36. Jinna on May 27, 2014 at 2:03 am

    I made these cupcakes twice now, once in full size and once in minis! The balance in all the flavors together is absolutely amazing! Thank you! My cupcake seem to be coming out a bit more dense than I’d like though, especially in the minis. Is there any way to make it just a tad more fluffy?


    • Michelle on May 27th, 2014 at 10:08 am

      Hi Jinna, You can try adding ¼ teaspoon to ½ teaspoon baking soda and see if that helps get you a fluffier cupcake.


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  39. Susan on July 15, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    I would love to make these cupcakes. We love lemon. What is limecello?


    • Michelle on July 15th, 2014 at 5:04 pm

      Hi Susan, It’s an Italian liquor made from lemon peels.


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  43. Student on August 30, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Hello! I would love to make these cupcakes for my class’s bake sale but I’m not sure if young students are allowed to eat baked goods with liqour in it, in this case limoncello. And if I can’t what type of replacement can I use? Looks amazing by the way!


    • Michelle on August 31st, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      If you can’t use the liquor, then you can substitute lemon extract, but a very small amount will go a long way to achieve the lemon flavor. Limoncello is much subtle in flavor.


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  45. Jenny on September 23, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Hi Michelle,
    Thanks for another wonderful cupcake recipe! I just have a question about the lemon curd. I doubled the entire recipe. I ended up with 28 cupcakes, but I did not end up with very much lemon curd, only about 3/4 cup. Did I do something wrong, or should I just cut out very small pieces of cake so I only put a little lemon curd in each cupcake? Or do you think I did something wrong? Thanks!


    • Jenny on September 26th, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      Hi Michelle, I answered my own question. I had just the right amount of lemon curd for 24 cupcakes. My husband loved the lemon curd so much I’m going to make more for him to put on his toast in the morning! The cupcakes were a hit for my husband’s birthday happy hour. I doubled the amount of limoncello and added more powdered sugar in the frosting.


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  48. Kimberly on October 29, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    I just finished making these as a teacher gift, and of course I had to steal one. Then my kids each stole one, and now the teacher will get to enjoy 9 of the most amazing lemon cupcakes in the world! Thanks for posting such great recipes!


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