Last week I took my kids to one of their friend’s birthday party. When the time arrived for cake, all the kids lined up to get some. As the birthday boy’s mother passed out slices, Chloe, who had been quietly waiting for her piece asked, “is there food coloring in that?” During the awkward silence that resulted as the mom processed that this inquiry was made by a three year-old, I was overcome by equal parts horror and pride.

Although I tell my kids that food coloring isn’t good for their bodies, I’m hardly militant about them consuming it. In fact, I tend to treat birthday parties like Vegas_ whatever happens there, stays there. Juice boxes, brightly colored cakes, even cheese puffs are fine by me on special occasions. Yet in spite of my flexibility on the issue, both of my kids completely avoid artificial food coloring.

I still love brightly colored desserts and these cupcakes are one of my new faves. The cake has an intense lemon flavor while the icing is a vibrant blueish-purple free of any artificial dyes. When Kenya skeptically asked me how the icing got so blue, I was overjoyed to tell him it was only from blueberries. He brought some to school one day and as he proudly passed the bite-sized cakes out to his friends he told them, “there’s no food coloring in these!”

Never underestimate how far your kids will go with a little bit of knowledge!


Lemon Cupcakes with Blueberry Icing

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Servings: 12 muffins
Author: Catherine McCord
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 minute



  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla, beating on low speed until combined.
  • Still on low speed, slowly add half of the flour mixture, then the milk, then the remaining flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as you go.
  • Fold in the lemon juice and lemon zest.
  • Pour the batter into greased mini muffin cups and bake for 15 minutes (22 minutes for regular sized muffins) or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the middle of the cupcake comes out clean.
  • Place the defrosted blueberries in a strainer over a bowl and press to produce 3-4 tablespoons of blueberry juice.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and blueberry juice to form a blueberry glaze.
  • Allow cupcakes to cool completely then drizzle or ice with the blueberry glaze.


Calories: 230kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 30mg | Sodium: 140mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 15g
Did you make this recipe?Mention @Weelicious or tag #weelicious!

About the Author

Catherine is a mama of three. A Kentucky girl living in California. Here’s what I know: all kids can be great eaters and mealtime must be easy. I create simple, healthy recipes the whole family will love.


  1. In case anyone is considering making a cake from this (which is delicious!), beware that you will have to double the recipe. It’s only enough to make 1-9″ layer. But, it works well as a cake – it’s super moist. I used whipped cream instead of the powdered sugar and milk and it was a perfect pairing with the lemon. I also only used 1/2 the called-for lemon juice and zest and the cake had plenty of lemon flavor.

  2. Of course Jeffrey likes pie. We all love Pie!!! You two are crazy. I seem to relacl that Jeffrey likes Nachos with chicken, Doritos, Turkey Chili .Need I say more

  3. Yes! They freeze beautifully! Freeze the cupcakes without the frosting. You can make the frosting and store it in the fridge for about 4 days. Let it come to room temperature before using, and add a tiny bit of water to it to loosen it up as needed! So fun to have an onboard birthday cake!

  4. Hi Catherine, just wondering if you have tried making these ahead of time and freezing them. Would love to bring them on our flight to Florida next week as my daughter’s onboard birthday cake.

  5. will this recipe work for a big birthday cake? i’ve tried the cupcakes and they were delicious

  6. is it okay to use this recipe to make one big cake? its for a birthday cake, we’ve tried it as cupcakes and they were really gorgeous 🙂

  7. Love this blog! Can’t wait to make these for my son! I have enjoyed using beets to color food and am excited to try this recipe as well.

  8. 5 Ways to Avoid Risky Artificial Food Dyes - Honest Kitchen, Honest Nutrition, Kidding Around - Honestly... The Honest Company Blog says:

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  10. I’m baking a double batch for my sons birthday tomorrow, but there is no way it’s going to make 24 full size muffins, The first 12 are in the oven now, and I’ll be lucky to get another 4-6 out of the remaining batter. I wonder if i had used baking cups if the batter would have stretched further. Also 10 minutes for prep is an understatement!

  11. I made these today to take to a party and I am HOPING they make it there…AMAZING is the only word that comes to mind:) Thanks again for sharing!

  12. Love love love. I used strawberries and kale to color icing for my daughters birthday cake recently. Can’t wait to try these!

  13. Hi weelicious mum
    I’m a year eleven student studying society and culture, I’m doing a project on health (namely obesity) in developed countries. One of the solutions I’m putting foward is that educating people, even a little and especially children, about what they put in there mouths can make an enormous difference. Your story is a perfect example and I was wondering if I could refer to it in my project

  14. I love it how your 3 yr old is aware of the food she’s eating…I’d be proud if my kiddos said that 🙂 I’m the same way birthday parties & events are like Vegas hahaha! We don’t deny our kids at events but at home we never welcome the crazy rainbow chemical colors lol!

  15. I just made these and they were delicious. Perfect for my sons birthday this month. I am making these again!

  16. Perfect timing!! my daughter has a potluck for her daycamp this thursday… we’ll be making these for sure 🙂

  17. Hi! Just wondering what wheat-free flour you use? And did it work? My daughter has a wheat allergy. Thanks in advance!

  18. LOVE! My girls are just as self-taught militant! They will adore the bright colors on these. We do GF so I’ll have to play around a little with the flour, but I’m excited to give these cupcakes a go!

  19. I can empathize! My kiddos have made the same comments at birthday parties! Thanks for sharing!

  20. My youngest daughter’s second birthday is coming up next month. I think I will try these out!

  21. My children give me many of those awkward/proud moments! haha Love it! The color is quite intense. i have used fruit to color frosting but haven’t gotten such strong color. Thanks for this!

  22. Love it. My 4 year old is always concerned with what my baby puts in her mouth, not wanting her to ingest chemicals. And she knows the food coloring we have on hand is to make play-doh and not to put in our foods!!!!

  23. My 5-yr old is the same way about artificial food dyes! We love using fruit-colored frostings. Will be trying out this recipe very soon with our homegrown blueberries!

  24. It all depends on the lemon and how it was grown! If you’re purchasing organic lemons then you shouldn’t have to fear pesticides! Even though I buy all organic produce I still wash everything before using it!

  25. If using the zest for cooking, I only use fresh, organic citrus fruit (and zest it with my microplane) to avoid this potential issue.

  26. what’s your take on the toxicity of lemon zest? I have a friend who swears it’s got a lot of concentrated pesticides, etc….

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