Citrus Cupcakes with Citrus Buttercream Frosting

by Alli

This post, Citrus Cupcakes with Citrus Buttercream Frosting, has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BakeItWithMotts #CollectiveBias 

As soon as the weather starts to warm up outside, my thoughts turn to Citrus Cupcakes with Citrus Buttercream Frosting. To celebrate spring, I’m going to show you how to make three different citrus cupcakes – lemon, orange, and lime – from one cake mix. If you love cupcakes, make sure to visit my best cupcake recipes. 

Citrus Cupcakes with Citrus Buttercream Frosting (Lemon, Lime, Orange)

Citrus is a Favorite at my House

I’ve never met a citrus flavor I didn’t like, but lime is my very favorite. I remember when I had limeade for the very first time.

I was a little girl and was spending the weekend with my aunt. We were visiting my aunt’s friend who had just moved into town from another country. As soon as we arrived, she offered us a glass of fresh squeezed limeade. I fell in love with limes right there in her kitchen. I’ve been in love ever since.

Mott’s Natural Applesauce in Place of Oil

To give my citrus cupcakes even more flavor and to reduce calories and fat, I use Mott’s® Natural Applesauce in place of the oil. Did you know that 1/2 cup of Mott’s® Natural Applesauce has only 50 calories and ½ cup vegetable oil has 960 calories?

Citrus Cupcakes with Citrus Buttercream Frosting

Citrus Cupcakes with Citrus Buttercream Frosting

Combine cake mix, 3 eggs, 1 cup water and 1/2 cup Mott’s® Natural Applesauce. Blend for two minutes.

Citrus Cupcakes with Citrus Buttercream Frosting

Divide the batter into three bowls.

In one bowl, stir in the orange juice and zest. To the second bowl, add the lemon zest and juice. To the third bowl, add the lime zest and juice. Pour batter into cupcake liners. You’ll have eight of each citrus flavor.

Citrus Cupcakes

Make 3 Batches of Frosting

While the cupcakes are cooling, make three batches of frosting. Add one drop of green food coloring to the lime frosting, three drops yellow food coloring to the lemon frosting and one drop red/two drops yellow for the orange frosting.

Citrus Cupcakes with Citrus Buttercream Frosting

Frost The Cupcakes & Enjoy

Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, frost and enjoy.

Helpful Hint:  I use three different colored cupcake liners to keep up with the different flavors.

Citrus Cupcakes with Citrus Buttercream Frosting

These Citrus Cupcakes are Delicious!

When my daughter bit into a lime cupcake, she declared it the best she’s ever eaten and couldn’t believe that I started with a boxed cake mix.

What Does the Family Think?

My future son-in-law said the buttercream frosting tasted like sherbet and he loves sherbet.  When he said that, the rest of the family said, “That’s it! It tastes like sherbet.” Next time, I’ll have to double the batch since I have a large family.

The Recipe for Citrus Cupcakes

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Citrus Cupcakes with Citrus Buttercream Frosting

Citrus Cupcakes with Citrus Buttercream Frosting (Lemon, Lime, Orange)

Citrus Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting include lemon, lime, and orange cupcakes. The buttercream frosting is light and creamy and these cupcakes are delicious.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 24 minutes
Additional Time 15 minutes
Total Time 54 minutes


  • 1 box yellow cake mix (I use Betty Crocker Super Moist Yellow Cake Mix)
  • 1/2 cup Mott's® Natural Applesauce (in place of 1/2 cup oil)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 Tablespoon EACH fresh orange juice and orange zest
  • 1/2 Tablespoon EACH fresh lemon juice and lemon zest
  • 1/2 Tablespoon EACH fresh lime juice and lime zest
  • Frosting:
  • 1 cup butter, softened and divided
  • 1 Tablespoon of orange, lemon and lime zest
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons each of fresh lemon, fresh lime, and fresh orange juice
  • Red, Green and Yellow Liquid food coloring, if desired (1-2 drops for each flavor)


  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Mix cake mix as directed on the back of the box, replacing 1/2 cup Mott's® Natural Applesauce for the 1/2 cup oil. (My cake mix calls for 3 eggs, 1 cup water, and 1/2 cup vegetable oil. I replace the oil with applesauce). Use the number of eggs and water that your cake mix calls for.
  3. After mixing, divide evenly among 3 bowls.
  4. Add 1/2 Tablespoon orange juice and 1/2 tablespoon orange zest to one bowl, lemon juice and zest to the second bowl and lime juice and zest to the third bowl.
  5. Mix and pour into lined cupcake tins (8 of each flavor). Bake according to cupcake directions on the cake mix box.
  6. Cool completely.
  7. Frosting:
  8. Combine 1/3 cup butter and 1 Tablespoon orange zest until creamy. Add 2 cups powdered sugar alternately with 3 Tablespoons orange juice. Beat until smooth. Add 1 drop red food coloring and 2 drops yellow (if desired) and beat for 1-2 minutes.
  9. Repeat with the 2 remaining flavors adding the lemon juice, zest and 3 drops yellow food coloring for the lemon cupcakes. For the lime cupcakes, add the lime zest, juice and 1 drop of green food coloring.
  10. Frost cupcakes and enjoy.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Facebook


Citrus Cupcakes with Citrus Buttercream Frosting

What’s your favorite citrus flavor?

PS – My family voted these citrus cupcakes the best ever! I think I won mom of the year – Thanks, Mott’s®!

The frosting on these lemon, lime and orange cupcakes tastes like sherbet! I made all three flavors with one cake mix. My family voted these cupcakes the best ever!

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Chris Lewis March 15, 2016 - 9:24 am

This looks light and refreshing as well as a sweet treat! I love the combination that you shared in the recipe and the incorporation of applesauce!

Heather lawrence March 15, 2016 - 10:59 am

So if I send you my address can you mail me some?
I wish technology was advanced enough that I could reach through the screen and grab a lemon one.
Those are my favourite!

Pam March 15, 2016 - 12:22 pm

These sound like delicious cupcakes, perfect for a sweet treat. I love that you used applesauce in the,. That always makes them so moist.

Alyssa @ The Plucky Introvert March 15, 2016 - 12:25 pm

These look divine!! They look much healthier than normal cupcakes too, which is a huge plus. I love your photos, by the way. Totally gorgeous!

Liz Mays March 15, 2016 - 12:53 pm

These look amazing and that frosting would be really good right now. I need to make my first batch of spring cupcakes.

Tammilee Tips March 15, 2016 - 2:23 pm

I love to bake with apple sauce!! I have never made citrus cupcakes before they sound perfect for spring time!

Lorelai @ Life With Lorelai March 15, 2016 - 3:48 pm

These cupcakes look delicious! I use a lot of applesauce in my baking because of Rory’s special dietary needs. It is a great substitute, works great, and tastes wonderful. 🙂

Life With Lorelai

rika March 15, 2016 - 4:35 pm

Beautiful recipes and so colorful! I love applesauce and cupcakes 🙂

Jenn March 15, 2016 - 6:14 pm

These look and sound delicious. I’m book marking this recipe to try on the weekend. I’m betting my family would love these.

Rachel March 15, 2016 - 8:16 pm

These would go perfectly with a picnic! I can’t wait to try them out, they look simple and fresh and a tiiiiiny bit dainty 🙂 Thanks for sharing this recipe!

Michelle March 15, 2016 - 10:32 pm

I absolutely love butter cream frosting. The thought of adding a citrus flavor to it sounds irresistible. Thank you for another great recipe!

Up Run For Life March 15, 2016 - 11:54 pm

I will have to try substituting applesauce in my cupcakes. I have heard of people doing this and heard that they come out super moist. It’s time to give it a try now that I’m trying to eat healthier.

Nancy Johnson Horn March 16, 2016 - 12:55 am

I want to try the lemon! Looks so good!

Tiany March 16, 2016 - 11:50 pm

Wow, these look and sound fabulous. The perfect spring dessert, might have to make these for Easter! Thanks for sharing!

Stephanie of The TipToe Fairy March 17, 2016 - 1:34 am

These sound like wonderful cupcakes! I love citrus flavor. I have used applesauce a few times in cake mixes.

Erickah - Audacity to be You(nique) March 17, 2016 - 3:25 pm

This looks super yummy! I love the healthy spin on sweet treat!

Jessica Simms March 17, 2016 - 4:14 pm

Wow, these look and sound so delicious! I haven’t used applesauce in my cake recipes before, it sounds like such a great way to make them super moist.

Jasmine Watts March 18, 2016 - 3:00 am

These cupcakes look delicious and I would like to try this recipe!! Thanks for sharing!

Debbie March 18, 2016 - 7:46 am

Oh my goodness! Citrus is my favorite flavor and I will be trying these, I learn something new everyday – I will be leaving oil out and replacing it with applesauce!

Cathy March 18, 2016 - 10:45 am

Wow, love that these are made with applesauce! Delcious flavors!


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