These margarita cupcakes are simple vanilla cakes infused with lime and tequila, brushed with more tequila, and topped with a tequila lime buttercream frosting.
You know what holiday is right around the corner, right? Every food-lover’s dream: Cinco de Mayo!
The one day a year when we can stuff ourselves full of chips, salsa, guacamole and margaritas… It’s a little bit of a foodie nirvana.
Of course there is historical significance to the day (it commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862) and in Mexico, the day is ceremonial in nature. In the U.S., it has become a celebration of Mexican-American culture and like most holidays that celebrate a heritage, people enjoy celebrating Cinco de Mayo with authentic food and drink. Since margaritas are a classic Mexican cocktail, it stands to reason that you should wash down your Mexican feast with these margarita cupcakes!
Tequila and lime? Check!
I first made these cupcakes a long, long, loooooong time ago, and at the time all I could find online were margarita cupcake recipes using a box cake mix. It wasn’t really what I had in mind, but after some more digging, I found a recipe from The Brewer & The Baker for margarita cupcakes from scratch. Bingo!
Except for two things: there wasn’t any tequila actually in the cupcakes, and the frosting was a Swiss meringue buttercream (I didn’t think margarita cupcakes really necessitated all the fuss that goes into a Swiss meringue buttercream – can you tell I’m ridiculously low maintenance?).
I adapted the cupcake recipe to amp up the liquor quotient by adding tequila into the cupcakes as well as brushing tequila onto the cupcakes after they were done baking. Mucho tequila = muy bueno. (I took 7 years of Spanish, I should put it to a little use!) Then I adapted my absolute favorite basic vanilla frosting to include lime juice and tequila, and voilà! Verrrrrrry boozy cocktail cupcakes! I really don’t think the brand of tequila matters much – use whatever you keep at home, just be sure that it is white or silver tequila, not gold. I’ve made these with Patron and Jose Cuervo (pictured above) and both are delicious!
(If you would prefer to make your margarita cupcakes without tequila or alcohol at all, simply omit it from the recipe. I would add 1 tablespoon vanilla extract to the frosting in its place.)
They look so innocent, don’t they? Sitting there all pretty with lime zest laying like a feather on buttery pillows of frosting.
They are definitely not innocent. They are all things tequila and lime. The cupcakes are buttery and moist. The frosting is velvety and buttery (more butter!). And there is a prevalent lime/tequila taste throughout. They are a Cinco de Mayo dream. If you like margaritas (or just boozy cupcakes), you will fall in love with these babies. And they’re perfect for toting along to picnics and cook-outs all summer long!
My husband, mom, and in-laws all proclaimed that these are the best cupcakes I’ve ever made. SO… there you go!
For the Cupcakes
- 1½ cups (187.5 g) all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons (1.5 teaspoons) baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon (0.25 teaspoon) salt
- ½ cup (113.5 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1½ (1.5 ) limes, zested and juiced
- 2 tablespoons tequila
- ¼ teaspoon (0.25 teaspoon) vanilla extract
- ½ cup (120 ml) buttermilk
To Brush the Cupcakes
- 1 to 2 tablespoons tequila
For the Tequila-Lime Frosting
- 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2¾ cups (330 g) powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 2 tablespoons tequila
- Pinch of coarse salt
- Make the Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
- Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugar together until pale, light, and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
- Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the eggs one at at time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
- Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the lime zest, lime juice, vanilla extract and tequila. Mix until combined. (The mixture may start to look curdled at this point, but don't worry, it will all come back together!)
- Reduce the mixer speed low. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk in two batches. Mix only until just incorporated, using a rubber spatula to give it one last mix by hand.
- Divide the batter between the muffin cups. Bake until the cupcakes are light golden brown on top and a skewer inserted in the center has moist crumbs attached, about 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
- Allow cupcakes to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, and then remove to a cooling rack. Brush the tops of the cupcakes with the 1 to 2 tablespoons of tequila. Set the cupcakes aside to cool completely before frosting them.
- Make the Frosting: Whip the butter on medium-high speed of an electric mixer using the whisk attachment for 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low, and gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing and scraping the sides of the bowl until all is incorporated. Increase speed to medium and mix for 30 seconds. Add the lime juice, tequila and salt, and beat on medium-high speed until incorporated and fluffy. If the frosting appears a bit too soft, add some additional sugar, one spoonful at a time until desired consistency is reached. Frost cupcakes and garnish, if desired, with lime zest, an additional sprinkling of salt and a lime wedge.
- If you would prefer to not use liquor in these cupcakes, you can absolutely omit it from both the cupcakes and the frosting with no problem. If you do omit it, I would add 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract to the frosting.
- I used a Wilton 1M tip to frost the cupcakes.
- You can use whatever tequila you keep on hand; I've made them with both Patron and Jose Cuervo. You will want to use white or silver tequila, not gold.
This recipe was originally published on May 5, 2011.