Gluten Free Lemon Drop Cupcakes

These gluten free lemon drop cupcakes are PACKED with real lemon flavor and topped with crushed lemon drop candies. Perfect for summertime!!

gluten free lemon drop cupcakes

I first made these cupcakes a few years ago. When I brought them to my doctor, the next time he saw me he said they were the best cupcakes he’d ever had! Then he said he never had frosting that silky smooth and there was a business in those cupcakes. Haha 😉

Seriously, though, these gluten free lemon drop cupcakes are for the lemon lovers!! First, the buttery and light cupcake has a tart, fresh flavor from lemon juice AND lemon zest. Then it’s topped with a bright lemon French buttercream, which is incredibly silky and smooth. Lastly, each cupcake takes a dive in a bowl of crushed lemon drop candies for the ultimate lemony lemon zing!!

scooping batter into cupcake liners


  • Gluten Free Flour Blend — of course I use my own blend (Kim’s gluten free flour blend), but feel free to use whatever blend you like, as long as it has xanthan gum in it (or add 1/4 tsp XG).
  • Lemons — you can’t make lemon cupcakes without ’em! I use this lemon zester and lemon squeezer to get the most juice and zest out of the lemons as possible.
  • Cornstarch — when blended with the gf flour blend, it acts like cake flour.
  • Baking powder and baking soda — the usual leaveners.
  • Buttermilk — keeps cupcakes moist and tender.
  • Butter — essential fat for flavor and texture.
  • Sugar — for sweetness.
  • Eggs — for richness and leavening.
  • Sour Cream — for tenderizing.


This French buttercream is OUT OF THIS WORLD!!!! I posted my recipe for French buttercream a while back. It’s unlike any frosting you’ve ever had. Even Swiss meringue buttercream. That’s a great one, too, but I personally think French buttercream is the ruler of all frostings. So what makes it so good? It’s just four simple ingredients:

  • Egg yolks — you’ve seen recipes for Swiss or Italian meringue that use egg whites, but French buttercream uses the yolks for a richer frosting.
  • Granulated sugar — there is only one cup of sugar in the entire recipe, not like the usual 4-6 cups in an American buttercream. It’s not overly sweet and that’s what I love about it the most.
  • Water — combined with the sugar and cooked to soft ball stage, it creates a syrup that’s whipped with the yolks.
  • Butter — any true buttercream has to have lots of butter, not shortening. I strongly disagree with using shortening in frostings.


I’ve taken so many classes on Bluprint I can’t even count anymore. A few of the classes were taught by Jennifer Shea of Trophy Cupcakes, a West Coast favorite cupcakery. In addition to giving us her recipes for many different flavors of cupcakes, she also teaches her techniques in decorating cupcakes.

One of those is rolling the frosting in a topping, such as sprinkles, crumbs, or in this case crushed lemon drops. To do this and get a nice domed cupcake, use a large cookie scoop (click here to find the one I use) and scoop a dollop of frosting on top of each cupcake. Put the crushed lemon drops in a small bowl and turn the cupcake over so the frosting sits on top of the lemon drops.

Begin gently rocking the cupcake back and forth to push the frosting into each part of the top of the cupcake and coat it with the lemon drops at the same time. Then roll it on its side to kind of flatten the frosting into the sides of the cupcake on top.

It’s a very gentle process and very simple, but the look is unique and I just love it! Not that I don’t like the look of piped swirls, but sometimes I just don’t feel like filling a pastry bag, ya know? I love how the crushed candy creates almost a “shell” on the top of the frosting!

gluten free lemon drop cupcakes

My mom claims these to be her most favorite cupcakes I make. If you love lemon, they might become your favorite, too!

gluten free lemon drop cupcakes

Gluten Free Lemon Drop Cupcakes

These gluten free lemon drop cupcakes are PACKED with real lemon flavor and topped with crushed lemon drop candies. Perfect for summertime!!
4.25 from 4 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 24 cupcakes


  • 3 cups (420 g) Kim's gluten free flour blend (or any flour blend with xanthan gum)
  • ½ cup (55 g) cornstarch
  • 2 medium lemons
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½ cups (360 ml) buttermilk
  • 1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 ¼ cups (450 g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup (120 g) sour cream
  • 1 recipe French buttercream (with recommendations for citrus fruit with 1 tbsp lemon zest)
  • 1 small bag lemon drops candies (gluten free) (Walmart's Great Value brand are gluten free)


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners and set aside.
  • Zest the two lemons. Measure 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp and set aside. Juice lemons to extract ¼ cup (60 ml) and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • Combine buttermilk and lemon juice and set aside.
  • In bowl of stand mixer (or handheld mixer) beat butter with lemon zest and sugar on low until combined, about one minute. Increase speed to medium low and continue to beat for another minute. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Add sour cream.
  • With mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the wet ingredients in two parts. Keep the mixer at the lowest speed and mix just until each addition is combined. When everything has been added, scrape the sides of the bowl and mix on low for about 10-20 seconds until batter is smooth. Let the batter rest for 15 minutes and stir gently before using.
  • Fill the cupcake liners ¾ full and bake until the cupcakes bounce back when pressed lightly, or when a toothpick inserted into center comes out with just a few crumbs or fairly clean, about 27-30 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.
  • While cupcakes are baking, add lemon drops to bowl of food processor and pulse until crushed into somewhat of a powder. Pour into small bowl and set aside.
  • Make buttercream as per recipe instructions and frost each cupcake as described above.


*Once the crushed lemon drops are on the cupcakes, they will begin to weep after a few days.  If you want to make the cupcakes ahead of time, refrigerate the cupcakes and buttercream separately without the crushed candy.  When you’re ready to serve them, let the buttercream come to room temperature and re-whip.  Dip them in the crushed lemon drops right before serving.  
Keyword cupcakes, Gluten Free, lemon cupcakes, lemon drop
Tried this recipe?Tag @letthemeatglutenfreecake on Instagram so we can see!

Adapted from Jennifer Shea’s The Perfect Cupcake class on Bluprint.

17 thoughts on “Gluten Free Lemon Drop Cupcakes”

  • I made this recipe 2 times because the first time they were really tough and I thought I had done something wrong. Same thing happened the second time. They rose beautifully, the internal temperature was at 210, but they also fell a bit after coming out of the oven and were tough. I use your flour blend and have not had this issue with any of your other cakes. I’m quite puzzled.

  • Is it really 1 tbsp and 1 tsp baking powder? That seems like so much. There is also 1 tbsp and 1 tsp lemon zest. Just wanted to check that there are quality parts baking power and lemon zest.

  • My cupcakes turned out rather tough. Is there something I’m doing wrong? Also, I like lots of lemon flavor and will be doubling the lemon zest 🤤

    • Hmmm. I’m not sure why they would come out tough. They’re a really light cupcake usually. Did you perhaps use a store bought gf flour blend instead of mine? That could be the reason. All flour blends are not created equal. Otherwise, not overmixing and alternating the dry and wet ingredients should help with creating light and fluffy cupcakes.

      • I used your blend. Weighed everything too to make sure it was exact. I alternated just like you suggested. I’ll try mixing it less. Going to try again!

  • Can this batter be put into a bundt pan instead of cupcakes? I also would just be using a powdered sugar type glaze instead of a frosting.

    • Hi, Nancy! I’ve never tried it in a Bundt pan, but it’s worth a shot!! You’ll definitely need to adjust the baking time. I would start with probably double the baking time and then check it with a long skewer 🙂

  • I really liked these. They are a bit different from a typical lemon cupcake but not in a bad way. I may want to add a little more sweetener but not much. They held together really well and weren’t crumbly at all which I really liked too. I froze half of them. I wanted to make the french buttercream but had to end up making a regular lemon buttercream due to time constraints but I will definitely make some before I run out of these. I think the lemon buttercream I made ended up making the cupcakes seem not as sweet when eating them together but again, it is all personal preference so not a bad thing and I love this recipe.

    • I love the French buttercream, but I haven’t really met a buttercream I didn’t like (haha!). I’m glad you liked the recipe 🙂

      • oh yes no worries! Your recipe is fantastic. I will definitely keep trying your other recipes. Only tried the pumpkin bread which was perfect!

  • Hi! I made these after I saw your post , and they were soo good! I was never a big citrus fan until I started trying more lemon recipes, and now I’m hooked! I had a question, can these be left in a container on my counter, or do they have to be refrigerated after the lemon candies are on them? I was concerned that since they had butter, I would need to put them in the refrigerator. I prefer cupcakes at room temperature. Thank you!

    • Hi, Sue! Thank you very much!! I love lemon stuff now myself. I always leave my cupcakes on the counter, unless they have cream cheese in the frosting, but you’re welcome to put them in the fridge if you want to. If you keep them more than a day or two, the candy will start to weep a little bit, but if you’re like me, cupcakes don’t last long anyway!

      Thanks, Sue 🙂

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