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

1 year ago: Strawberry Pretzel Jello Squares
2 years ago: Black Bean Burgers

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)


315 Responses to “Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes”

  1. Pingback: Weekend Delight: Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes | Casa Diseño LLC

  2. Karen on August 20, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    I made these today. Very dense but moist and delicious! I also had trouble with the frosting consistency. Looked a little droopy. Would chilling it for a bit make it a little more dense for piping? Maybe my butter and cream cheese were too soft to start. Will try again!


    • Michelle on August 21st, 2011 at 4:19 pm

      Hi Karen, Chilling for a little bit would definitely get it stiffer. You could also add more powdered sugar to stiffen it up a bit.


  3. Julie on August 23, 2011 at 7:18 pm


    What is limoncello?
    Also, I’m guessing I have to use powdered sugar, not granulated?



    • Michelle on August 23rd, 2011 at 10:44 pm

      Hi Julie, Limoncello is a lemon-flavored liquor. As far as the sugar… as stated in the recipe, for the cupcakes and lemon curd you use granulated sugar, for the frosting you use powdered sugar.


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  6. Kathleen on August 31, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    I just made these cupcakes and they turned out horrible! No fault of anyones but mine. I think that the buttermilk was a little sour, it is hard to tell with buttermilk. Anyway, I would like to try again tonight and am wondering if I can use sour cream instead of buttermilk. I am determined to get this to work.;)


    • Michelle on September 1st, 2011 at 3:17 pm

      Hi Kathleen, That’s a good question, I have never done that substitution so I can’t say for sure how it would work with these cupcakes, but it might work. Let me know what you end up doing!


  7. Alexandra on September 4, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Hello! I just loved the way these cupcakes looked and I’m a nut for anything citrus-y so I had to try them out. I did have a little trouble making them however. The cupcakes looked great when I took them out of the oven but they shrank a lot and became very dense and rubbery after they cooled. Any ideas why?


    • Michelle on September 5th, 2011 at 10:05 am

      Hi Alexandra, That texture could have been caused due to overmixing of the batter.


  8. carol on September 10, 2011 at 2:17 am

    I made these cupcake for our
    youngest daughter who is crazy about lemons, she loved this recipe…….the rest of the family thought the lemon curd was waaaay to tart. At least one member of our family is happy, thanks for sharing the recipe :-)


  9. Denise on September 15, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I have tried several of your recipes (all wonderful) and can’t wait to try this one. I have never tried limoncello but I am going to just to try this recipe. I don’t even drink liquor but this sounds wonderful. I had to look up limoncello to see what it was.


  10. Rachel on October 6, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Where can I find limoncello? Would typical grocery stores have it?


    • Michelle on October 10th, 2011 at 5:37 pm

      Hi Rachel, Limoncello is a liquor, so wherever you buy liquor – here in PA that would be state stores, but I know some states do sell it in the grocery store.


  11. meryam on October 15, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Hey Michelle!
    If I were to use lemon extract in the batter and frosting in place of Limoncello, would I have to make any other changes in the recipe if I want to achieve a flavor as close to the original recipe as possible?


    • Michelle on October 16th, 2011 at 12:46 pm

      Hi Meryam, I would cut the amount in half, as lemon extract has a much stronger/concentrated flavor than the limoncello, which is more mellow.


  12. Claire @ www.cakepoprecipes.org on October 27, 2011 at 1:49 am

    I love lemon and especially Limoncello (ever since my first trip to Sorrento!) so I was delighted to find your recipe. I am going to try making a cake pop version of these cupcakes and will let you know how it goes!


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  15. bridgette on November 27, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Can you substitute oil for butter?


    • Michelle on November 27th, 2011 at 11:35 pm

      Hi Bridgette, I have not experimented with this substitution. I imagine it would alter the texture of the cupcakes, but you could always give it a try. If you give it a go I’d love to know how it turns out!


  16. Moo Eleven on December 1, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Hi, tried these at the weekend and they came out very dense, although very tasty! I wondered if I had converted one of my ingredients from US to UK incorrectly??? I’ll try again and if I get a good conversion I will post the recipe as a UK recipe if that’s ok, Michelle?


  17. Yuna Shin on December 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    These look beautiful! i just made them and there in the oven right now :)
    Hey is it okay if i put this recpie and pic on my blog? I will tell how wonderful browneyedbaker.com cupcakes are!
    Thanks you so much for sharing this recpie!
    even though i havent tried them yet (in the oven baking)
    i have a good feeling about these cupcakes :)
    Im going to make them again tomorrow for my cousions!!!
    Thanks sooo much!
    check out my blog: http://yunaemilyshin.blogspot.com/


    • Michelle on December 20th, 2011 at 6:48 pm

      Absolutely! I just ask for a link back, thank you! :)


  18. Yuna Shin on December 20, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    hmmmm these were goood but they tasted like lemon bars!!! YUMMMMM


  19. Meredith on January 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    These cupcakes were delicious! I was so happy that when I wanted to make these, we just happened to have Limoncello just lying around… talk about good luck! And I also thought the lemon curd just a little bit tart…next time, I might just add a tad more sugar perhaps? But overall, this was definitely the best lemon cupcake recipe I’ve ever used!


  20. Chasity on January 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    These look beautiful and delicious!! I wanted a nice and light dessert t go with the chicken alfredo I’ll be making for dinner today and this eill be what Im going to try. Unfortunately I’m undrt 21 so I’ll be subing the alcohol with something I can purchade.


  21. Lori on January 15, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Made these this weekend, and they were FAB , my husband and kids loved them, thanks so much, they are super easy and I even made lemon curd for the first time..yippee


  22. Meredith on January 22, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    These cupcakes are delicious! I was so glad we had some Limoncello just lying around. However, I may just use some store bought filling in the future… this filling was a bit tart for me. Otherwise, these cupcakes were incredible!


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  25. Sharon Field on February 8, 2012 at 6:34 am

    Wow… fabulous recipe and photos. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks for sharing!


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  27. MJo on March 17, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    These look spectacular. Most cupcakes/cakes taste artificial, but these look like they’ll pop with flavor (especially using limoncello (how could you not love it after seeing “Under the Tuscan Sun”? ;o). You mentioned using the cupcake tin … but no papers? You have it pictured in a paper cup above. If you use just the tin itself, do you use anything to prevent the batter from sticking? Apologies if I missed something, and that it should be a given to use cupcake papers. I’m very excited to try these! Thanks for your kind suggestions.


    • Michelle on March 19th, 2012 at 9:22 pm

      Hi MJo, I do use paper liners in the muffin tins. My apologies for omitting that step!


      • MJo on March 20th, 2012 at 12:15 am

        Thanks much! I’m anxious to try these (and a few sips of the limoncello while cooking won’t hurt … remember the Galloping Gourmet? ;o) Take care and thanks for posting this wonderful recipe!


  28. Renee on March 18, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    I’ve tried making these cupcakes and they turned out way to dense. It definitely isn’t a fluffy cupcake that I’m used. The flavor is great and it is very lemony but I just recommend doubling the baking powder in the cake recipe.


  29. Becca on March 22, 2012 at 11:34 am

    I made these last night and I was very sad with how they turned out. I found the cupcake really dense and the frosting was super runny. Did I do something wrong? I would love to make them again if I could get them to turn out better. Please help me! Thanks.


    • Heather on March 28th, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      Maybe your cream cheese and butter was too soft for the frosting? That’s usually why my frosting is limp. I made a second batch of frosting and it was more runny than the first, I’m guessing because it was much hotter in the kitchen by afternoon. As for the cake, I found it hard to get the lemon juice to incorporate w/o overmixing. I ended up folding it in by hand so that the cake wouldn’t get too dense by mixing too much with my mixer.


      • Michelle on March 31st, 2012 at 10:29 pm

        Ditto Heather’s comments, I was going to say the same thing. It sounds like the batter may have been overmixed and the cream cheese was too warm.


  30. Heather on March 28, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    I made these as mini cupcakes for a teacher luncheon today and they were awesome! Not one was left, good thing I saved back a few for my kids. The curd was so mouth puckering on its own, but delicious with the cake and frosting. Everyone raved about the flavor. Thanks!


  31. RaeAnne on March 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Made these last night for a Thai -themed dinner party (Thai uses lots of citrus flavors, so they finished the heavy meal with a bright, light taste). They turned out PERFECT! no problems. They take some time to make from start to finish, but each step is simple and easy to follow, well worth the effort! The lemon curd filling is to die for…. I licked the pot clean! All together it was a moist, well thought-out cupcake. My guests and Husband loved them! Will make them again. VERY GOOD RECIPE!!! Thanks Brown Eyed Baker!!!


  32. Abe on April 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Delicious. Even though I overzested the lemons and made the curd a bit bitter (don’t overzest!), they came out really awesome. I did not taste the limoncello in them, but other people said they did. Thanks for the recipe!


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  34. Mary Jane on April 16, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    I made these for easter and looooved them. Like another poster, i too found the lemon curd to be overwhelmingly lemony, (maybe my lemons?) so will only use the juice and zest from one lemon next time. I also had to add slightly more icing sugar to the icing to make it the right consistency for piping. Beautiful presentation and these are amazing! Thanks for a fabulous recipe!


  35. Christine Certain on April 19, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    I have made over 200 of these for my son’s Senior Composition Recital. The first batch I made were with Gluten-free flour and soured milk (instead of buttermilk). That first batch were beautiful, rose perfectly and everything was great. The 200 I made after that were with the cake flour & buttermillk – they didn’t rise and were not beautiful – the taste, texture, lemon curd and frosting pulled them off! I am not sure what the deal was and will stick with the sour milk/GF flour! Everyone loves them, even those who don’t like the taste of lemon!


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  38. Karin M on May 1, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this recipe! I made them this weekend and they were a big hit! The weather here is FINALLY getting warmer and I wanted something that felt (and tasted) like Spring. These were PERFECT!


  39. Elaine on May 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    Making these without the liquor (kids), but was wondering how you store them? Since the even is in the morning and I’m making it the day before, what are your suggestions to keep cupcakes moist if I put them in the fridge?


    • Michelle on May 15th, 2012 at 8:20 pm

      Hi Elaine, If possible, I would make them and keep them in an airtight container at room temperature and frost them in the morning. If you can’t, then make sure whatever you store them in inside the refrigerator is absolutely airtight to keep them as moist as possible.


  40. Sissy on May 18, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    I spent the afternoon baking these and one member of my family liked them. The cake is very dense, and the curd is very strong bordering on bitter. I added an extra tsp of limoncello to the frosting for flavor. Everyone agreed the frosting was the best feature of the cupcakes.


  41. Hiba on May 19, 2012 at 8:13 am

    Hi there ! there’s look fantastic to make! was wondering, if i dont use limoncello, what can i replace it with? thanks!


    • Michelle on May 23rd, 2012 at 1:27 pm

      Hi Hiba, There is no real substitute, as it’s a much subtler flavor than lemon juice or extract. You can just omit it.


  42. Mine on May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    I just finished my cupcakes, and Im a little disapointed. My cupcakes are dense, my filling is not as thick as i think it should be, and my icing is definently not as thick as it should be. Everything tastes really good, but I wish I knew where I went wronge. Im sure its not the recipe. It must be something I’ve done. Please help, so next time they will be better.


    • Michelle on May 23rd, 2012 at 1:56 pm

      Hi Mine – For the cupcakes, make sure you don’t overmix the batter to keep them from becoming dense. It sounds like the curd filling may have potentially not been cooked long enough if it’s not thick enough, and if the frosting is too soft, you can try starting with cold cream cheese or adding more powdered sugar.


  43. Kelly on June 5, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Hi Michelle, so our family are FIRM non-alcoholic drinkers.. would you be able to substitute lemonade for the limoncello ?


    • Michelle on June 5th, 2012 at 10:33 pm

      Hi Kelly, I haven’t tried it, but you could certainly give it a go. Limoncello is a mellow flavor, so I would take that into account when making the lemonade for the recipe.


      • Kelly on June 8th, 2012 at 9:48 pm

        Sounds good, I’ll take that into account when I give these a try.. I’ll let you know how they turn out :) thanks!


  44. Louis on June 15, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    I made these cupcakes twice today. Neither batch came out correct. They were both rubbery and dense. The first batch looked fine out of the oven and then fell when cooling. The second batch started to brown at 20 mins. so I took them out of the oven. They were not completely cooked and some were gooey. I see some posts questioning the 3 eggs. I am going to make them again and if they don’t turn out…. oh well. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.


  45. Heather on June 16, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    I made these again for a baby shower and again they were totally awesome. Much preferred over the vanilla and chocolate ones that I also made (which were also good, but can’t hold a candle to the lemon). Even my curmudgeonish brother liked them, and he doesn’t like much.

    I’ve made them as both full size cupcakes and mini ones and I’ve not had trouble w/ either. They aren’t really spongy like cake mix cupcakes, but they aren’t dense either, just so good. And I love, love, love the bite of the curd as it mixes with the creamy frosting and the cakey goodness. I can’t wait to have a reason to make them again.


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  48. Mischel on June 26, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Made these for Father’s Day. They were a HIT!!! Very light and refreshing. I was amazed at how easy they were to make too!


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  50. Karla on July 2, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    I made these for a BBQ and they were a hit! As my friend said, “I would pay for these cupcakes!”


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