Dacia’s Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream

When it comes to cakes and cupcakes, I’m usually all about the chocolate. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting would be my pick most any day. But a number of years ago, I had a slice of the most delicious un-chocolate cake, and I haven’t been able to quite get it off my mind ever since. It consisted of two layers of moist vanilla cake, with a modest amount of silky lemon swiss meringue buttercream spread through the middle and over its top and sides. It was absolutely lovely. And with just one slice, I vowed to one day learn how to make lemon swiss meringue buttercream.

Our youngest daughter loves lemon, so I thought her birthday party would be the perfect opportunity to top some cupcakes with the long-awaited buttercream. I used a white vanilla cupcake recipe from my sister, Jessica, who got the recipe from her good friend, Dacia. This is the cake Jessica bakes for birthdays whenever she’s not making the chocolate cake we grew up with. I already knew our family loved Dacia’s recipe, and that it would be the perfect base for Tessa’s birthday cupcakes.

To add a little more lemon to the party, I filled the cupcakes with homemade lemon curd, courtesy of the recipe my mom uses. I had never made my own lemon curd or filled cupcakes before, and it turned out that both were easy to accomplish, and even kinda fun! Part of the lemon curd actually gets mixed into the buttercream, too, infusing it with its bright lemony deliciousness.

The cupcakes are moist and dense. The lemon curd center is bright, sweet, and perfectly tart. And the lemon swiss meringue buttercream is luxurious and pretty darn heavenly if I do say so myself. A most lovely way to celebrate the birthday of our sweet little girl.

 Happy 5th birthday to our little princess.
We love you, Tessa!

Dacia’s Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Yield: 24 regular sized cupcakes


    for Dacia's vanilla cupcakes:
  • 2-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1-1/3 c. buttermilk
  • 1/2 c. shortening
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites
  • for the lemon curd:
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice (don't used bottled lemon juice!)
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 T. finely shredded lemon zest
  • for the lemon swiss meringue buttercream:
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1-1/4 c. sugar
  • 1-1/2 c. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into tablespoons
  • 3/4 c. lemon curd (take out of the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to incorporating, to bring to room temperature)


for Dacia's vanilla cupcakes:

Preheat oven 350°. Prepare cupcake tins with 24 paper cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a medium to large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the buttermilk, shortening, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Then turn mixer up to medium-high speed and beat for 2 minutes longer, scraping bowl occasionally. Add egg whites and beat for 2 more minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into cupcake liners and bake for about 22 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. These cupcakes should be very moist - if they aren't, try baking them for less minutes the next time. Let cupcakes rest in pan for 5 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

for the lemon curd:

In a medium stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch the water), whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly, to prevent it from curdling. When the mixture becomes thickened (like sour cream), or to 165°, remove it from the heat. This should take about 10 minutes. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest and let cool. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately, so a skin doesn't form, and refrigerate for up to one week. (Be sure to reserve 3/4 cup of the lemon curd for the buttercream!)

for the lemon swiss meringue buttercream:

In the heatproof bowl of a stand mixer set over a pan of simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch water), combine the egg whites and sugar, whisking constantly until the mixture is warm to the touch (about 130°).

Place the bowl on the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg white mixture on high speed until stiff peaks form. Continue beating until mixture is fluffy and glossy and completely cool, about 6 minutes.

Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixture on medium-low speed, add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat on lowest speed to eliminate any air bubbles, about 2 minutes. Gently fold in lemon curd with a rubber spatula.

to assemble the cupcakes:

With a paring knife, cut a small cone shape of cake out of the middle of each cupcake. Be careful to not cut to the bottom of the cupcake. Fill each cupcake with lemon curd, level with the top of the cupcakes. Then prepare a pastry bag with a plain round tip, filling it with the buttercream. Starting at the outer edge of a cupcake top, swirl the buttercream around the cupcake, up to the center.


Cupcakes recipe comes from my sister Jessica's recipe box, originally from her good friend Dacia. I just barely adapted it.

The lemon curd recipe is the one my mom has been using for years, originally from Joy of Baking.com. I doubled the lemon zest of the original recipe.

The lemon swiss meringue buttercream is slightly adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook.

I’m linking up with:


33 Responses to “Dacia’s Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream”

  1. #
    Blog is the New Black — April 23, 2012 at 6:58 am

    I’m usually all for chocolate, too. Sometimes a good vanilla (laced with lemon!) will do the trick!

  2. #
    Christina @ This Woman Cooks! — April 23, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Happy birthday to your princess, she’s lovely! So are those cupcakes, I love that they’re filled with lemon.

  3. #
    Cassie — April 23, 2012 at 9:09 am

    What a beautiful baby, happy birthday to Tessa! These cupcakes are right up my alley!

  4. #
    Paula — April 23, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Tessa is adorable and her cupcakes looks wonderful. Best wishes for a beautiful birthday and great year for her.

  5. #
    Natalie @ Cooking for My Kids — April 23, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Happy Birthday to your sweet girl!

    Those cupcakes look BEYOND amazing. Seriously. I so wish we were neighbors!

  6. #
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar — April 23, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    These little cupcakes are absolutely stunning! Awesome job!

  7. #
    Harriet — April 23, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Very cute! I like the way you have two cases on each cake as well – its really quirky.

  8. #
    Minnesota Prairie Roots — April 23, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    These cupcakes look absolutely scrumptious. And, Tessa, she truly does look like a lovely little birthday princess. Such a sweet photo.

  9. #
    Mom — April 23, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Happy birthday blessings to our dear princess, Tessa! A day she will never forget!

  10. #
    Becca - Cookie Jar Treats — April 23, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Happy Birthday to Tessa. She looks very adorable!

    These cupcakes look really great! I don’t think I’ve ever had Swiss Meringue Buttercream before (would I know if I had?) But it looks delicious and fluffy. The lemon curd looks great too. Something about Spring makes lemons and all things citrusy seem so appealing :)

  11. #
    Krizza — April 23, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Love to eat this kind of cup cake..Looks adorable..Thanks for sharing with us..

  12. #
    Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious — April 23, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Your cupcakes look absolutely PERFECT. And I love that princess tiara. Well done! Happy birthday to your little girl!!

  13. #
    Vicki Bensinger — April 24, 2012 at 6:04 am

    These are simply beautiful. What a sweet way to show your precious daughter how much you love her. I hope her birthday was a huge success.

    I’ve never made a Swiss lemon meringue icing however I have some key limes that I planned to make key lime curd with this morning and may have to try making your icing using that. Sounds delicious and fluffy!

  14. #
    Mary Hamptom — April 24, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Lovely recipe, I love the tiara on the cupcakes. You have given me the perfect ideas for my lil girls birthday party. Thanks

  15. #
    Randilea @ Life As I Bake It — April 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    These looks delicious!

    As a newcomer who thinks you have a great blog, I am passing along the Versatile Blogger Award to you! Please come by my blog and check out your award! http://www.lifeasibakeit.com/2012/04/versatile-blogger-award.html

  16. #
    Jennie @themessybakerblog — April 24, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    I just found your site through another food blog. Wow, you have such a beautiful site. Everything looks so yummy, and your pictures are stunning. I can’t wait to try some of your recipes.

    • Brenda replied on May 9th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

      So nice to meet you, Jennie! :)

  17. #
    Emily — April 24, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Okay…haven’t had a cupcake in a while, but this post might just have to be the reason that changes. YUM! :)

  18. #
    Cara — April 25, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Those looks fantastic! I’m usually a chocolate gal too, but lemon is a close second.

  19. #
    Loaira — April 25, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Where I live the supermarket doesn’t have buttermilk. Can I substitutes that for something else ?

    • Brenda replied on May 9th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

      Hello Loaira! You can make a buttermilk substitute by putting 1 tablespoon of either lemon juice or vinegar in a liquid measuring cup and then adding milk to equal 1 cup total. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 10 minutes and then give it a good stir.

  20. #
    Living The Sweet Life — April 25, 2012 at 8:17 am

    First, I must say your little princess is so cute :) I’m sure she had a fabulous birthday!!

    This is such a great spring cupcake, the buttercream looks so light and fluffy. My mom recently made lemon curd and I’ve been iching to bake with it – – this looks like it may be the first on the list.

  21. #
    Jen @ The Scrumptious Pumpkin — April 25, 2012 at 9:52 am

    I love the idea of filling cupcakes with lemon curd – I love lemon desserts. And the princess crown on top is too cute! :)

  22. #
    Rachel Cooks (formerly Not Rachael Ray) — April 25, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Tessa is so adorable! Love these cupcakes, I love lemon desserts.

  23. #
    Myrtle — April 26, 2012 at 3:36 am

    I love cupcakes and this one is more special because of the meringue.. And my kids would definitely love this one.. Thanks for the idea!

  24. #
    Laura (Tutti Dolci) — April 27, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Adorable cupcakes, how perfect for a birthday!

  25. #
    Diane {Created by Diane} — April 29, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    delicious cupcakes and what a sweet little girl you have!

  26. #
    Diana @ Mood Your Food — April 30, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Yumm! so summery!

  27. #
    Amanda — May 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Oh be still my heart! I am a lemon curd maniac so these are right up my alley!

  28. #
    Jill — May 18, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Love the thought of lemon buttercream (could eat a bowl of it on it’s own). A lovely idea for a birthday party, and can’t wait to give them a try. Thank you for sharing.

    • Brenda replied on May 18th, 2012 at 8:18 pm

      It’s definitely the kind you could eat a bowl of – heavenly! Hope you like it, too!

  29. #
    Christine — October 10, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Should the lemon curd be at room temperature or chilled when it’s added to the SMBC?

    • Brenda replied on October 14th, 2013 at 12:50 pm

      Hi Christine – the lemon curd can be added either way – at room temperature or chilled.

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