Lately my inspiration in the kitchen has been flowing freely and I am loving it. I am feeling inspired by so many great cookbooks, dishes listed on restaurant menus, and especially by beautiful offerings at my favorite local markets and stores. Sometimes a single ingredient sets my mind rambling until I settle on the perfect way to feature it. In the case of this particular recipe, I found these gorgeous vibrant locally grown edible flowers, and I knew I had to do something with them. I wanted something light, pretty, and subtly floral and thus, lemon lavender cupcakes were born.

If the sound of lavender in a dessert makes you cringe, don’t. I used to be skeptical but found that I do enjoy lavender when it is carefully balanced. In this case, we have sweet-tart lemon cupcakes topped with a fluffy lemon buttercream and finished with a thin coat of lavender sugar over the top. This gives a floral note that is mild and earthy. If you are super into lavender and want to further enhance that flavor, make a lavender simple syrup and brush it onto the cakes when they are still warm from the oven. (Then use the leftover syrup for this lovely summer cocktail!)

There are a few different approaches you can use to make the lavender sugar. The one I used and what I recommend is to finely grind culinary lavender buds in a spice grinder and combine a small amount with the sugar (recipe below). You can try grinding the buds with a mortar and pestle, but I have tried this before and find that lavender doesn’t grind finely enough. You could also use a food processor, but you would have to use quite a lot of lavender and you only need a teeny bit for this recipe. One additional approach would be to simply combine lavender buds with sugar and let the scent infuse the sugar over time. This would bring the flavor but would not have the lovely flecked appearance that I prefer. Tons of options – see what works best for you!

Side note – the kids both thoroughly enjoyed helping me style the cupcakes themselves as well as these photos. I think they did a pretty good job!

  • Yield 24 cupcakes


For the cupcakes:

  • 3 cups (15 oz.) unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups (14 oz.) granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs plus 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 1½ cups plus 2 tbsp. (3 sticks plus 2 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • Pinch of salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1½ tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice


To finish:

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp. finely ground culinary lavender buds


  • 01

    Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar, lemon zest, and butter.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

  • 02

    Blend in the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  In a small bowl or measuring cup, blend together the sour cream, lemon extract, and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mixing each addition just until incorporated.

  • 03

    Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake until the cupcakes are just set and pale golden, about 20-22 minutes.  Let cool in the pan about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

  • 04

    To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Add the confectioners’ sugar and lemon zest to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated.  Add in the salt.  Continue to beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes.  Mix in the heavy cream and lemon juice on low speed just until incorporated.  Increase the mixer speed and whip on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed, about 4-5 minutes.

  • 05

    Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a wide plain round tip. Pipe a round dome of frosting onto each cupcake. In a small bowl or ramekin, combine the granulated sugar with the ground lavender and whisk until evenly combined. Gently dip the frosted portion of each cupcake into the sugar mixture to adhere a thin layer over the entire surface without distorting the shape.  Once fully coated, you can gently cup the frosting with your hand to help mold it into an even mound. Garnish as desired with fresh lemon peel, lavender sprigs, or edible flowers.