These cupcakes are real lemons…

IMG_3785Lemon tree, oh so pretty!

And, indeed, the lemon flower is sweet!! Our lemon tree is blooming and the scent that floats through the yard is indescribable…sweet lemony perfuminess. The bees are buzzing around it and it makes me feel like I’m contributing to the earth’s fruitfulness.

I can’t wait till the flowers start producing little lemons, and the little lemons, in turn, become big, edible lemons. We “harvested” about 10 of them last year. Hope we can have at least that many again this year.

Lemons make me happy. They make everything taste better, they’re so cute to look at, they’re so versatile. How on earth did they become associated with things that are wrong??

"The car’s a real lemon!” Shouldn’t that mean “it’s a perfectly perky little automobile?"

“We bought a new fridge and it’s a real lemon!” And you know whoever is saying that is swathing the statement in utter disgust. Oh, that breaks my heart!!

“I made a batch of cupcakes yesterday and they’re real lemons.” With that statement I’d like to change forever the association of lemons with anything subpar, for the lemon cupcakes are real winners. They’re lemons :)

So here’s the story:

Every day when we juice, we juice at least a couple of organic lemons, peel and all. I love the juice in place of vinegar in salads. Imagine the sparkle it adds to steamed broccoli and asparagus. Somehow juicing the whole thing softens, yet intensifies the flavor all at the same time. Mm, sooo good!

J has been begging me to make him a lemon cake. I used to make this delicious vegan lemon cake – and since I’ve gone gluten free, no more lemon cake. I refuse to put that much work into something I can’t eat. So I’ve been trying to figure out how to make the lemon cake that he insists he dreams of. Geez, can he get any more dramatic??

The other day I got my weekly e-mailer from Whole Foods and they had a recipe for gluten-free spice cupcakes. I don’t know, spice cupcakes just don’t do anything for me in spring or summer. Maybe in a snowbound winter, but not in warm weather. Anyway, I looked at the ingredient ratios and thought, I could do this with lemon!!!

Act I. Scene I - So I got everything out, mixed the batter up, dropped it into the lined cupcake tins, and popped them in the oven. Oh my, they smelled grreat!! They rose beautifully and…deflated with a vengeance. Hmmm.

I let them cool and then gently peeled the paper off. Not sure why I peeled it gently because I could tell from the weight of the cake that it was not a gentle thing. I handed one to J with the look of promise in my eyes, and we bit into them.

“They’re different! Good, but different,” he said. “They remind me of mochi. Lemon mochi.

“That’s because I made them with sweet rice flour,” I sighed. “That’s the only kind of rice flour I had.”

Shoot, these cupcakes were lemons. They tasted soooo good, but they felt like a ton of lead in the belly. Ach, lemons!

“Ok, J, I’m making these again,” I said, “but this time I’m using brown rice flour. I’ll buy some and give them another shot.”

Act II - Several days later. The lemon chorus: “They’re different. Good, but different. Why are they so gritty?”

He was right. The brown rice flour brought back memories of “that thar cowpoke eatin’ dust and a-dyin’ in the desert”.

Another batch of good old-fashioned lemons.

“I’m gonna give these one more shot. One more shot and that’s it. If they’re not right, I’m not wasting any more time on your dream cake. Harrumph!!” Exit kitchen left.

Act III. Deus ex machina. (Well, not really, but my college degree likes it.) Kitchen alchemy begins. Powders are measured and mixed. Liquids are blended and swirled. The elements are cajoled to bind thee one unto another till teeth thee do part. The little muffin tins are lined and filled and the mounds of lemony batter are whisked to their igneous fate. Trial by fire. Leia and Sonoma can feel the tension building as the cloud of lemony scent billows its way through the house.

A cupcake is plated. Lemon blossom and blackberry crown it, as a few more berries surround the cake as if to soften the blow as it, too, falls from dream grace.

“Banana! This is THE best cupcake I have ever eaten. In my whole life.” J is drifting in an out of gastronomic delirium.

Well, I don’t know if they’re the best thing E.V.E.R, but they’re pret-ty delicious. They’re real lemons!!


I changed the original recipe up and down and all around. These babies are vegetarian AND gluten-free. How much better does it get?! And if you want to veganize them, substitute for the butter in the frosting. They don’t need frosting, but sometimes there’s nothing like a little dab of icing on the cupcake to do ya


Give them a try and let me know if you agree with J :)

Lemon Cupcakes – Vegetarian & Gluten-free


2 T ground flax seeds

1/4 c water

2/3 c vanilla yogurt

1/3 c sugar

1/2 c coconut oil

1/2 c coconut milk

1 t fresh lemon juice (I used juice from a juiced lemon, peel and all)

1 t freshly grated lemon zest

1 c brown rice flour

1 c Pamela’s baking mix

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t xanthan gum

1/4 t salt


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cupcake tin with muffin liners.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the flax seeds and water. Set aside.

3. In a bowl, mix together the yogurt and sugar. Whisk in the coconut oil until well incorporated. Add the coconut milk, lemon juice and zest. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

5. Stir the flax seed mixture into the liquid mixture, then pour all into the flour mixture. Mix until no flour is visible. Drop the batter evenly into the 12 cupcake liners and bake for about 23 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

The cupcakes are fairly delicate, but firm up a bit as they cool. Serve as is, with fruit, ice cream, frosting, or any combination of the aforementioned. Enjoy!!

Lemon Frosting

4 T softened butter

1 T coconut oil

2 T lemon juice (juiced lemon, peel and all)

1 1/2 c icing sugar

Beat the butter and coconut oil together. Blend in the lemon juice. Stir in the icing sugar, then beat till well-combined. Frost cupcakes as desired.

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