Arnold Palmer Cupcakes (a.k.a. Sweet Tea Lemonade Cupcakes)

It’s funny: though I don’t LOVE sweet tea (I know — what a bad Southerner!), I’ve always been a fan of Arnold Palmers (a combination of sweet tea and lemonade named after the famous golfer who loved the delightfully refreshing beverage).


When I came across a sheet cake version of this recipe in a recent issue of Southern Living, I knew it was something I needed to try. (Delicious, perfect-for-summertime Arnold Palmers? In the form of baked goods? Sign me up, stat!)

Fun fact: Arnold attended Wake Forest University, making this recipe seem even more appropriate for Winston-Salem.

palmer wfu

For these cupcakes, the cake portion contains the tea component of the iconic tea/lemonade flavor while the icing brings the lemon to the party. The result is a sweet-with-just-enough-zest-to-cut-it treat, which is exactly the charm of the beverage version. Success!

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Ingredients (for cake)

  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 3 family-sized tea bags
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Ingredients (for icing)

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 4 Tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Directions (for cake)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. (Note: I made 24 cupcakes, but overfilled them a bit, so I think this recipe actually makes closer to 30 cupcakes when filled appropriately!) 🙂
  • Pour boiling water over tea bags in large measuring cup and cover with plastic wrap. Let steep for 10 minutes, then remove plastic wrap and tea bags and let tea cool for 20 minutes.
  • Once tea has cooled, beat butter in mixer until creamy, then add both granulated and brown sugars, beating until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs, one at a time.
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
  • Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with tea, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  • Spoon batter into prepared pans (see my note on step one about not overfilling — I’d recommend filling the cups about halfway) and bake for about 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  • Cool completely (about 20 minutes) before frosting.

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Directions (for icing)

  • Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed until creamy.
  • Gradually add powdered sugar, adding about 1 cup at a time to the butter/cream cheese mixture.
  • Beat in lemon zest and lemon juice until just blended.
  • Increase speed to high and beat icing until light and fluffy.
  • Ice cupcakes once they’ve cooled and enjoy!

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