Whole Wheat Lemon Muffins

This tangy and tender muffin began life as a humble home economics recipe from high school.

 When I was in high school, I thought I’d take a break from my heavier schedule and signed up for home economics one term. Since I had been cooking with my mother since I was very young, I found it hard to take seriously a class that was instructing me on “How to make toast” or hem a skirt (I was making my own skirts at the time!). I know I should have breezed through, but I guess I just thought it was all a big joke.

A box of memories

However, I did like the basic muffin recipe, and brought it home to live in my mother’s recipe box. The box contained a lifetime of precious hand-written recipes of my mothers, a lot of my own from high school days, and hand-written recipes from other members of the family and friends. I inherited that box, and love going through it now and then, remembering Mom baking or cooking one of these treasures. I love it best when I find a coffee ring or some dried up flour clump still clinging to a card, or little notes scribbled on the side.

We all make changes

When I bake one of those recipes, I try to honor the original, but I’ll put my own spin on things, often lowering the saturated fat or adding a whole grain. So when I found this old recipe the other day, I remembered that it was a good basic recipe, one that I added other ingredients to such as blueberries or apples, and looking at the ingredients, I knew I could put a slightly healthier spin on it.

Let’s make this healthier

My original recipe used white cake flour, melted butter, and white sugar. I’ve fiddled around and replaced half the flour with King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat Flour, swapped canola oil for the melted butter, and gave up the white sugar in favor of honey. I love lemon, so I zested a couple of seasonal Meyer lemons. The lemon really worked well, and I while still a treat, these muffins have a bit more nutrition than the original.

Even better

The whole wheat flour added a subtle nuttiness and flavor to the muffins, and the texture was really lovely, light and tender. You can add berries or other fruit to these muffins as a variation, and they would work beautifully. Think chopped up apples and a little cinnamon, blueberries, cranberries and orange extract. Chocolate chips?

One bowl, about 25 minutes total time, and you’ve got a tender, flavorful muffin, perhaps sprinkled with a few memories.

Whole Wheat Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

  • 1 cup (113 g.) white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup (120 g.) unbleached cake flour
  • 2 tsp. double acting baking powder, non-aluminum
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. poppyseeds, optional
  • ½ cup milk or plant milk, I used soy
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup native honey
  • ½ tsp. lemon extract
  • Zest of two lemons, Meyer if you have them
  • Turbinado sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line eight cups of a 12-cup muffin tin

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, and poppyseeds if using.

In a liquid measuring cup, measure out the milk, the oil, then the honey, and add eggs, extract, and zest. Whisk all together.

Make a big well in the center of the dry and add the wet ingredients. With a fork, mix just until the ingredients come together. Don’t over-mix or the muffins will be tough or misshapen.

Use an ice-cream scoop to fill the cups. Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar if using.

Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes or until browned and firm to the touch. I like to turn the muffin tin at about 15 minutes for even browning.

Cool on a wire rack.

Hmm. I just realized that I consider a recipe of mine from high school as ‘vintage’ ! How did that happen?

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  1. NativeNM says:

    I love the old tried and true recipes. Like you, I find that a few tweaks can make a recipe much healthier than the original. I love what you’ve done with these lemon muffins and I have no doubt that they taste fantastic!

    1. Thank you so much! As much as I love the originals, there is always a way to add a bit more nutrition and often that also means more flavor!

  2. Carole says:

    So wonderful! I will definitely give these a try! It was fun to read your post. 😃

    1. Thank you Carole! Cooking to me is all about the memories, new and old!

  3. These look delicious! We are swimming in citrus around here and am always looking for healthy recipes to use them.

    1. Thank you! Citrus season is wonderful, especially where you live! You are surrounded by fruits of the sun!

  4. These look so tasty, and I’m sure the lemon zest aroma was amazing while baking. 🙂

    1. Thank you! The zest really adds tons of flavor Ronit. A simple recipe, but a good one.

      1. No wonder you’ve kept it! 🙂

  5. Nancy says:

    Hmmm… maybe we can say not vintage but Retro… lol!
    These do sound good. Sometimes I use Swerve… as a substitute for sugar but its so expensive. $$$ But it tastes like sugar and doesn’t have that weird after taste. But honey would be my choice especially with Lemon! I love, love, love this recipe and will be making today or tomorrow! I really enjoy your posts, Thank You!

    By the way… I stayed in Home Ec for 3 years… encouraged to do so by my Mom. And in my third year we had to sew a suit with lining and we had to match plaid. OH MY GOSH! It’s why I only sew on May 1st. now!

    1. Thank you Nancy! I hope you enjoy this “retro” recipe as much as we do!
      Love your home ec story, and while I made a lot of clothes when I was in high school, never a lined, plaid suit! Brutal.
      Now, what do you sew (sow?)on May 1? Seeds?

      1. Nancy says:

        LOL! Oh you made me giggle! It’s actually a joke with me and sweet man. When we first got together he came to me with something that needed sewing. I looked at him very seriously and said… I only sew on May 1st. So… there you have it. Smiles all around!

      2. I love it! Im sure sweet man saves it up!

  6. Loved the story! And the muffins looks delicious!

    1. Thank you Marilyn. An oldie, but a keeper, with a few twists!

  7. Ally Bean says:

    Now that you mention it, my recipes from when I was in high school are vintage, too. Don’t know how I feel about that.

    1. As Nancy said here, ‘retro’ not vintage! I like the sound of that better!

  8. Some of my favorite recipes are from when I was a child. Love the lemons!

    1. Thank you. The lemons make these taste extra light!

  9. This inspires me to go back and adjust some of my Mother’s recipes with a few nutritional adjustments. I’m such a rule follower I never thought about making a few tweaks! Those muffins look fabulous! Best wishes, C

    1. Thank you Cheryl! Sometimes, all it takes is a few substitutions to lighten things up or give them a nutritional boost. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but I always give it a try. I’m sure Mom changed recipes from her mother too!

  10. I have been craving a muffin or a scone lately, these have my mouth watering!

    1. Thank you! I hope you make and enjoy them!

  11. Forestwood says:

    These old school recipes are invaluable. I was so sad and still am, when my home economics teacher lost my recipe folder she had borrowed to show another teacher (can’t let go after all these years haha!) I reclaimed some of the recipes but not all, so this muffin recipe will be added.
    I make a lot of muffins and as you might remember, am also a fan of lemon flavours, so this recipe and the substitions are good resources for me. However, what is turbinado sugar and how can I substitute the double acting baking powder when we don’t have that here?
    Thanks in advance,

    1. I’m so sorry about your recipe folder! Sad enough to lose it, but to have a teacher the one who didn’t protect it! I think I’d also remember that always.
      But I’m glad you’ll include this simple little recipe of mine (the home ec teacher’s) in your folder. It’s a good one to have.
      Turbinado sugar is also called raw sugar. It is darker and more coarse than regular brown sugars with a higher molasses content. It’s greatest use is topping muffins, quick breads, cookies, just before baking. It does not melt into the batter in the baking process and leaves a crunchy layer. Yum!

      1. Forestwood says:

        Raw sugar topping for muffins? I am up for that. I sometimes put a streusel-like topping on muffins, but the mix spoils by the following day, so they are best eaten that day.
        I have also sprinkled Demarara sugar which I think is a variant of raw sugar, but as I have raw sugar in the pantry, I will try that.
        Are you able to source Pearl Sugar in your area? If so, do you use that as a topping, Dorothy?
        We can’t get it here, so I had to bring some home from Denmark. You can see it here: https://mydanishkitchen.com/2012/11/26/sukkerkringler-sugar-pretzels/

      2. We can get Swedish pearl sugar at King Arthur Baking, which is about a half hour from here. I’ve used it on cookies at Christmas and it’s a fun ingredient, but it isn’t on the shelves of most markets here.
        So many sweet possibilities!

      3. Forestwood says:

        Lucky that you can source such variety, Dorothy! Enjoy.

      4. I do indeed feel that we are lucky with the amazing variety of ingredients at our fingertips. Not much exotic, but definitely tasty!

  12. CarolCooks2 says:

    I love the tried and tested for years recipes plus anything with lemon and I’m sold 🙂 x

    1. I’m certainly on the road whenever possible! Oh, to have a lemon tree in my backyard, which you probably do!

      1. CarolCooks2 says:

        I have lime trees not lemon which are not so popular hear 🙂

      2. Well, I’ll take it!

  13. Joni says:

    You are lucky your mother taught you to cook. My memory of the only year I took home ec. (grade 8) was of the teacher making fun of me because I didn’t know how to peel a potato. We made french fries. My mother never let us help out in the kitchen. The only thing I knew how to make was grilled cheese.

    1. Oh my Joni! Those high school memories are hard to erase.
      I do know how lucky I was to have a mom who taught me to cook, and I’ve also seen the other side, one friend whose mother only heating frozen foods in the microwave. Such a shame.
      In cooking classes I’ve held in the past, I’ve had some students whose only kitchen accomplishment was ramen noodles, so at least your grilled cheese at the time involved actual cooking!

      1. Joni says:

        The thing is my mother (now 95 although she doesn’t cook anymore), was a good cook, but no one was allowed in her kitchen!

      2. My aunt was like that! She wanted everything to be perfect, so she didn’t relinquish any control. She was a great cook too!

  14. I love ‘lemon’ anything so these look delicious. I also smiled at the hand-written recipe card because I still have a ‘box’ with hand written recipes. I also have my grandmother’s recipes that have grease spots on many of them, and they just warm my heart.

    1. It’s kind of sad to think that these recipe boxes are becoming a relic of the past. They are still so handy to use! You don’t have to boot up your computer and go searching, the recipe you need is right there under the tab marked “bread”!

  15. Sowmya says:

    These lemon muffins look absolutely delicious and appealing Dorothy. Will give it a try

    1. I hope you enjoy them Sowmya! They have lots of flavor and great texture.

      1. Sowmya says:

        Yes Dorothy. I am sure I will like it. Will try it soon

  16. BERNADETTE says:

    Yum, you had me with lemon and poppyseed.

    1. Such a good combination! Pretty too!

  17. Gail says:

    You know how much I love lemons, Dorothy, so this one is a keeper. (I still use my first 4-H recipe entitled “One Egg Cake Mix”.) 😜🍃🥚

    1. It’s great to have those little gems in our treasure box!

  18. terrie gura says:

    Mmmm, may I have just a bite of the muffin in that last picture, the one with the top lifted off? I can almost taste the tang of the lemon! It’s great to have a good “basic” recipe to lean on, and fun to create variations to match the seasons and your cravings. I do the same with ice cream. 🙂

    1. I’ll trade you a muffin for a scoop of ice cream! Any flavor!

      1. terrie gura says:

        Woohoo, that’s a deal! 🙂

  19. Americaoncoffee says:

    What a precious post and the muffins look so yummy. What a keepsake inheritance. Thank you for sharing!❤️

    1. One of the gems from my treasure box!

  20. These look so moist and delicious!

    1. Thanks! I love their texture.

  21. I can see where whole wheat flour would work well in virtually any muffin recipe. 👍

    1. It adds a lovely nuttiness and of course a little nutrition.

      1. Sounds good!

  22. nancyc says:

    These muffins look yummy! Vintage recipes are the best, and I like how you put a healthy spin on these muffins! 🙂

    1. Thank you Nancy. What I love the most about this recipe is that it is so versatile.

  23. That box of recipes is full of treasures and sweet memories indeed 😉
    I love the addition of lemon and poppy seeds 😋
    Hahaha, I do consider some of my recipes vintage too 😆

    1. I always refer to it as my treasure box. Since my mom is no longer with us, I consider it to be one of my sacred possessions.

  24. Jovina Coughlin says:

    We would love these muffins for breakfast

    1. We love them for breakfast too! And morning snack, and afternoon tea…

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