You are here: Home / Italian Culture / Food and Recipes / Lemon Pull Apart Cupcake

Lemon Pull Apart Cupcake

The original recipe I saw was for a Lemon Pull-Apart Coffee Cake but as my nieces have left for their summer holidays, I had to find a way to make small batches which I can freeze. My go-to idea here always ends up being cupcakes or muffins as I can easily store them and just take one out whenever I am craving for a snack.


This was love at first sight. If you have been reading the blog, you must know my obsession with lemons and surely you can understand why it was love at first sight.  My photos are nothing like the stunning and tempting photos of the lemon pull apart cake that I have come across on the web and even if it was hot in Rome, I wanted to try out this recipe.

It sounds a bit complicated but it’s more time consuming than anything else.  That said, I made use of the waiting time (took naps) and overall, found it relatively easy. It’s one recipe that I will make again when the girls are back – this time the real coffee cake.

You will need to make three different things then assemble it altogether. Trust me, it sounds like too much work but once you go about doing it, you’ll see it’s easier done than said.  I used this recipe for the coffee cake from Leite’s Culinaria and baked them in cupcake moulds.

Lemon Pull Apart Cupcakes – Ingredients

Sweet Dough

About 2 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (2 1/2 fluid ounces) whole milk
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Lemon Paste Filling

1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
4 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (4 lemons) *
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

*Note: The original recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of finely grated lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of orange zest. I opted to use only lemons.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup (1 1/4 ounce) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Lemon Pull Apart Cupcakes – Directions

Step 1 – Make the sweet dough

1. Stir together 2 cups (9 ounces) of the flour, the sugar, the yeast, and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer; set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter over low heat just until the butter is melted.

3. Remove from the heat, add the water, and set aside until warm (120 to 130°F [49 to 54°C]), about 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract.

4. Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and, using a rubber spatula, mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Attach the bowl to the mixer, and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment.

Note: I didn’t use a  paddle attachment as I don’t have one but a dough hook instead.

5. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated.

6. Stop the mixer, add 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) of the remaining flour, and resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, 30 to 45 seconds.

7. Add 2 more tablespoons flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.

8. Sprinkle a work surface with 1 tablespoon flour and center the dough on the flour. Knead gently until smooth and no longer sticky, about 1 minute, adding an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons flour only if necessary to lessen the stickiness.

9. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover the bowl securely with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes.

10. Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for the next step. While the dough is rising, make the filling.

Pull Apart Cupcake - Sweet Dough Collage

 Step 2 – Lemon Paste Filling

11. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and the lemon zests. Set the sandy-wet mixture  (the sugar draws out moisture from the zests to create the consistency).

Step 3 – Making the Coffee Cake

12. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly butter 6 cupcake moulds. Or, lightly coat them with nonstick spray.

13. Gently deflate the dough. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 20-by-12-inch rectangle.  It doesn’t have to be precise – look at mine below!


14. Using a pastry brush spread the melted butter generously over the dough.

15. Cut the dough crosswise into 5 strips, each about 12 by 4 inches. (A pizza cutter is helpful here.) Yeah, I cut mine into 6 strips by mistake but it still worked out.  Note to self:  Don’t roll it out this thin.  While pulling apart each layer, I realized, I prefer them a bit thicker.

Pull Apart Cupcake - Strips

16. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the zest-sugar mixture over one of the buttered rectangles.

Pull Apart Cupcake Strips - Buttered

17. Top with a second rectangle and sprinkle it with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the zest-sugar mixture. Repeat with the remaining dough rectangles and zest-sugar mixture, ending with a stack of 5 rectangles. Note: I basically sprinkled each layer without measuring 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mixture. I know I am not the most precise baker!

18. Work carefully when adding the crumbly zest filling, or it will fall off when you have to lift the stacked pastry later.

19. Slice the stack crosswise through the 5 layers to create 6 equal strips, each about 4 by 2 inches. I got the numbers right this time around!

Pull Apart Cupcake - Squares

20. Fit these layered strips into the prepared cupcake moulds, cut edges up and side by side.

21. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place (70 °F [21°C]) until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 50 minutes. Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for baking.

Pull Apart Cupcake Collage

22. Bake the coffee cake until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.  If the top gets too brown, cover with aluminum foil and continue baking. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 4 – Make the lemon cream cheese frosting
23. In a medium bowl, using a rubber spatula, vigorously mix the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the milk and lemon juice until the mixture is creamy and smooth.

24.To remove the cupcakes from the pan and onto a wire rack.

Cupcake Pull Apart - Yums

25. Slip a sheet of waxed paper under the rack to catch any drips from the icing. Using a pastry brush, coat the top of the warm cupcakes with the icing to glaze it. (Cover and refrigerate the leftover icing for another use. It will keep for up to 2 days.)

26. Serve them warm or at room temperature. When they came out from the oven I could hardly wait to pull them apart.  It’s hot and had to patiently wait.  I kept the rest in the fridge and for breakfast, I warmed them up in the microwave and they came out perfectly.

Hope you enjoy these pull apart cupcakes – they are delicious!

About Diana

Comments are closed.

Scroll To Top