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+ servings
A lemon cupcake with the wrapper unwrapped.

High Altitude Lemon Cupcakes

Heather Smoke
Light and fluffy lemon cupcakes, topped with candied lemon peel.

All recipes on Curly Girl Kitchen are developed for high altitude at 5,280 feet.

5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American


  • Stand Mixer with Paddle Attachment
  • 2 Standard Muffin Pan with 12 Cups



  • ¼ cup lemon juice, fresh or bottled
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1 ¾ cups cake flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg white only (save the yolk for another use)
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp lemon extract or lemon paste


  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp meringue powder (optional)
  • tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
  • 2-3 tsp lemon extract or lemon paste
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1-2 tbsp milk or cream, if needed



  • Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line your muffin pans with paper liners - you'll need 18-20 liners.
    If you only have 1 pan, you can bake the first batch of 12 cupcakes and let the rest of the batter rest at room temperature until the pan is free to bake the second batch.
  • In a measuring cup, stir together the lemon juice and milk; set aside for a few minutes to let the milk curdle.
  • Measure the sugar into a large bowl, and zest the lemon over the sugar. Use your fingers to rub the lemon zest into the sugar to really infuse the lemon flavor.
  • Set a fine mesh strainer over the sugar, and sift in the flour, baking powder and salt, then whisk together the dry ingredients with the lemon sugar.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon juice/milk mixture, eggs, egg white, sour cream, oil, melted butter, vanilla and lemon extracts until smooth.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk by hand until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  • Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop the batter into the pan, filling the cups no more than 2/3-3/4 full.
  • Bake on the center oven rack for about 15-16 minutes, until the tops spring back when gently touched. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then gently transfer the cupcakes to a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.


  • In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for one minute until smooth.  Scrape the bowl down.  With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar, meringue powder and salt, mixing to combine.  Add the lemon extract, vanilla extract and lemon zest.
  • Beat on medium high for about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl down occasionally, until very light and fluffy.  Add the milk as needed for desired consistency.
  • Spread or pipe the buttercream onto the cooled cupcakes.
Keyword Buttercream, Cupcakes, High Altitude, Lemon
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