Margarita Cupcakes

I first shared a margarita cupcake recipe back in the early months of this blog.  They were cute and tasty, but they were basically just a doctored up cake mix.  I’ve since come to avoid box mixes now that I realize just how easy and better tasting it is to make cakes and such from scratch.  So, I had been planning to come up with an updated margarita cupcake, not involving a box mix, but before I ever got around to it Shawnda did it for me.  A basic lime cupcake topped with tequila-lime Swiss meringue buttercream – fantastic idea!

Overall I really liked these and was happy with the way they turned out.  However, I didn’t feel like the tequila flavor came through, which seems the important distinction between margarita cupcakes and regular lime cupcakes.  I even brushed my cupcakes with a tequila simple syrup to help play up that flavor, but I don’t think it made a big difference.  I have a simple fix though – next time, I will brush the cakes with straight tequila.  I have a feeling that will have the effect I am hoping for.  And if you are one who enjoys salt on the rim of your margarita glass, you might consider a sprinkle of coarse salt over the top of the cupcake to incorporate that flavor.  These certainly are a fun and festive ending to any Mexican-inspired meal.

Note: The most frequently asked question on this blog is what tip I used to frost my cupcakes.  This particular tip is not labeled in any way, but is essentially just a large star tip.

Margarita Cupcakes
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Yield: about 24 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3 limes, zested and juiced
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

For the frosting:
2 cups sugar
8 large egg whites
Pinch fleur de sel (coarse salt)
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2-4 tbsp. tequila

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 325˚ F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir with a fork to blend.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat in the lime zest, lime juice and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ full.  Bake 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  If desired, brush the cooled cakes with tequila to emphasize the true margarita flavor.

To make the frosting, combine the sugar, egg whites, and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (don’t worry, it will come together, though it may take a long time!)  Stir in the lime juice and tequila and mix until fully incorporated and smooth.

Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

Frost the cooled cupcakes with the buttercream.  Garnish with lime zest and lime slices as desired.

Source: adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride, who adapted it from Martha Stewart

68 Responses

  1. These look delicious!! I’m definitely a salt on the rim kinda girl, so I will be adding a sprinkle of salt to these for sure. Beautiful pic!! 🙂

  2. Today I made cup cake also, but mine is so dark, like your sweet colour and nice cup cakes!

  3. Beautiful!! Simply beautiful! I am in love with that fluffy icing you used, it looks like a cloud piped on top of your lovely cupcake. So pretty!

  4. Annie- what number tip did you use to frost these cupcakes? They look great!

  5. Beautiful cupcakes! I really look forward to opening up your site every day to see what wonderful recipe you posted for us. I also wanted to tell you I made my first batch of sugar cookies decorated with royal icing for mother’s day. I was so happy with how they came out. Your instructions and tips were so helpful I don’t think I would have been able to do it without them. Thank you!

  6. Boy are you psychic! I was just thinking about asking you for frosting tips. The cupcakes look amazing and I love margaritas, so this is the recipe for me 🙂

  7. These are so cute and perfect for tomorrow… But I’m on a detox this week. What’s a girl to do!?

  8. These look great! I work in a cupcake shop and we have several alcohol-related flavors like this. We dip (just the tops of) the cupcakes in the alcohol, then let dry for a couple of minutes before frosting. You can also use a fork to poke a few holes in the top before dipping to absorb more.

  9. I love tequila – and margaritas – so these are prefect for me 🙂

  10. Simply gorgeous…and what a great idea to brush the cakes with tequila! Feliz Cinco de Mayo! *<:)

  11. I’ve already tried pina colada and mojito cupcakes but I’ve never made margarita cupcakes… Yours look absolutely delicious and I think I’m gonna bake them ! I love cocktail cupcakes !!

  12. I have recently discovered your blog, and don’t know whether I’m more in love with your fabulous food or your beautiful photography! What do you use for your colored backgrounds in your pictures. I really liked the bright fuschia in your Triple Chocolate Cupcake post the other day and the lime green seen here. Is it fabric? Paper? I’m dying to know. Thanks for sharing your wonderful blog!

    • Kim,
      It’s a variety of things, but mostly a combination of various colored/patterned cardstock, or colorful table linens/towels, etc. that I have around. This picture was with a green placemat, the cupcakes have a cardstock background.

  13. Nice recipe 🙂

  14. YUM! I’m making these this week from Shawnda’s recipe, too! Thanks for the tips about the tequila…I always want that flavor to come thru, too!

  15. Your cupcakes look so pretty and I love the frosting.
    Do you have a recipe for a tequila-lime buttercream frosting, not the swiss meringue. I don’t have the confidence or the tools to make it! I just make my frostings with a handheld mixer and it’s a mystery every time I attempt to make frosting, so I’m very skeptical about making the meringue 🙂

    • Grace, just use any regular vanilla buttercream, leave out the vanilla and add lime juice and tequila. I don’t know exact proportions though, you can just do it by taste and consistency.

  16. Thank you so much for the information about the tip. I figured that is what everyone uses for decor on cupcakes but I have been lazy and not purchased one yet.

    By the way, do you purchase your baking stuff (tips, bags, cupcake liners, etc) from the grocery store, online or specialty baking store? Do you think they are all similar in price? Thank you!

    • Kelly, mine are a combination collected from cooking/baking stores (Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table) arts and crafts stores (Michael’s, Joann’s, etc.) and ordered online. I’m sure the prices vary, I don’t pay much attention honestly.

  17. These look fantastic. My coworkers will love them. How many does this recipe make? You say two cupcake pans, so is that 12 or 24? I have both sized pans. Thanks!

  18. Hello Annie…once again…very nice cuppies.
    My Mom’s Birthday is around the corner…guess which cocktail drink she prefers???
    I just may surprise her with a small batch of these.
    Now, all I need is a shot of tequila ;o)
    Thanks for sharing and flavourful wishes,

  19. tequila and cupcakes! Couldnt ask for anything better! Lovely

  20. Gosh – they’re stunning! I love the focus on cream in the photo. They sound delish, too!

  21. Annie-

    You. Are. Awesome.

    Happy Eve of Cinco de Mayo!

  22. ooooh i’m drooling those look awesome..I personally love margaritas then again I love cupcakes too what a happy little marriage of yum!
    … okay now i’m licking the screen 🙂

  23. incredible cupcakes!! it is beautiful…i can only imagine how good it tastes

  24. These look amazing! I just took the second batch of cupcakes out of the oven (1 for work and 1 for school!) I am sure my co-workers and classmates will be very appreciative of the delicious recipe. Thanks!

  25. I love this frosting!

  26. A lovely picture and so apt for what I have on th agenda at the moment – a sex and the city evening and I need to make cupcakes so will definitely be giving these a go.
    Regarding the tip size that sooooo many people keep asking you about – the one that gives me the same effect as yours is a WILTON 1M so if anyone asks again, you can give them that size which can be purchased at any baking product store. I agree it must be the most frequently asked question you have!!heehee
    Lovely blog as always and you are a star x

  27. I was just checking out this recipe at Confections of a Foodie Bride! Last night I decided to make your strawberry cupcakes with this margarita frosting and all my tasters thought they were pretty great. This was my first swiss meringue buttercream and I’m so happy with how it turned out! Thanks for the great recipes (and beautiful photos!).

  28. These are such beautiful cupcakes! The Swiss meringue buttercream looks so velvety. I’ve never made Swiss meringue buttercream before, but I think I need to try it. It’s difficult (for me) to find such a smooth frosting. Haven’t had a chance to comment last/this week, but I’ve loved everything you’ve posted 🙂

  29. This tip seems slightly larger than the 1M…

  30. Haha, what a great idea! I love it. I will definitely make your cupcakes for next year cinco de mayo. Cheers!

  31. You’ve combined my two favourite things in the world 🙂 I’m going to have to make these!

  32. Do you use regular (granulated) sugar or confectioners? These look Yumm-o.

    • Natalie,
      If it says sugar, it means regular sugar. If I mean confectioners’, I always indicate that.

  33. The name itself takes me to happy place. Trying this recipe but hopefully will have some frosting left for the cupcake 🙂

    • Any tips on making the icing? I do not have a stand mixer, but was able to beat the egg whites & sugar to stiff peaks with a hand mixer. When I added the butter the frosting “broke” and would not go back to a smooth consistency regardless of how long I beat it. My kitchen gets extremely hot when I cook. Would this effect the consistency?

      • Melissa,
        It just needed to be beaten longer. Honestly, I don’t think a hand mixer is up to this job. I did have one reader tell me she successfully made Swiss meringue buttercream with a hand mixer, but it took over an hour. No frosting is worth that long in my opinion. The temperature of your kitchen may have delayed the process, but as I said, it always comes back together after the butter is added. I can just take a really long time.

  34. With my margarita cupcake I actually inject the straight tequila into the middle while the cake is still warm. Fabulous!

  35. Holy Swiss meringue! These were delicious! The frosting did take awhile, but that smooth, glossy texture was totally worth it!

  36. I made these tonight to celebrate after the first test of my second year of med school! They were great! Love your blog!

  37. So, when we’re talking about the frosting taking “awhile,” just how long are we talking about? My stand mixer has been on high for almost 20 minutes. The frosting is an amazingly smooth and glossy, but I can’t get it to firm up.

  38. Annie,
    Have you ever tried or had any luck using pasteurized egg whites in your recipes? I just hate to waste that many yokes…

    • No, eggs are pretty cheap so I don’t worry about tossing yolks or whites – it just doesn’t bother me. Sometimes I save the yolks to make ice cream or pastry cream though.

  39. Hi Annie:
    I just pulled a batch out awhile ago and had a few challenges. After baking for 22 minutes the toothpick inserted came clean but now it appears that the nice domes are collapsing (also giving a harder appearance). Also my cuppies turned out much more white than your beautiful pale yellow.
    Any thoughts?

    • It’s tough to say because I wasn’t there with you. Obviously oven temperatures vary so maybe yours need to bake a little longer. As for the color, I have no idea why it would be different if you followed the recipe.

  40. What tip do you use to decorate these cupcakes please?

    Also, could you recommend a fabulous vanilla cupcake using all purpose flour? Would this recipe above work if I simply substitued the lime juice and zest with vanilla bean paste?

    Many Thanks


    I absolutely adore your blog!

    • Susan, if you actually read the post, I addressed what tip I used. I have three different varieties of vanilla cupcakes to choose from in the blog, but the best use cake flour rather than all purpose. I would not recommend making these minus the margarita flavors. The best are hands down the vanilla bean cupcakes, and it is worth it to buy the cake flour.

  41. Came across these cupcakes and am making them for a house-cooling party. I’m so glad you mentioned about the frosting looking curdled. I would have given up if it weren’t for that note. I also filled my cupcakes with a triple sec lime curd to round out the lime flavor, and garnished with candied lime slices and pink salt.

  42. Hi Annie…I made the cupcakes last night! Lovely little creations! I brushed the tops with tequila as another visitor had recommended and really enjoyed the flavor that provided!

    I do have a question…I zested and juiced the 3 limes. Since the icing calls for 2.5 tbsp. of lime juice, did you take that away from the initial 3 limes or did you zest and juice additional limes.

    I removed that amount of juice from my original yield and I placed all the zest in the cupcake batter.

    Did I do this correctly? They were very tasty but not as “limey” as I would have wanted.

    I am making the icing this morning and I have butterflies in my tummy!! It’s my first time! I don’t have the corse salt, I am going to use just good ole every day salt..I hope it works! I am about a blink away from doing a buttercream ….HELP!!!



    • Sue, it really doesn’t matter which how you get the lime zest and juice as long as you use the correct amounts indicated in the ingredient list. I tend to zest first, then juice to maximize the use out of each lime. If it wasn’t limey enough, add more next time!

  43. I made these today and they are great!! Did not have any tequilla but had a big bottle of pre-made margaritas so I poked holes in the cakes and poured it on, then used all margaritas and skipped the lime juice in the frosting. They came out pretty darn good and def have less alcohol flavor than straight tequila would- but I am bringing these to work so that is probably for the best.
    For decoration I am sprinkling with white sugar crystals to look like salt and half a little lime slice- so stinkin cute!

    As always – super yummy Annie!!!

  44. I tried making the frosting last night with only a hand mixer and it was going relatively well until the end when I added the lime juice and tequila. The amount of liquid absolutely destroyed the consistency of the frosting, nothing I could do seemed to help.

    This morning I went out and bought a kitchenaid stand mixer (been wanting one forever anyhow!) and tried to salvage the buttercream I made last night by whipping the living hell out it! Of course, no dice but I had to try after investing so much time into it last night.

    So, I’m at it again today from scratch but am still extremely weary of the amount of liquid flavoring this recipe is calling for (recommend total of 4 and a half to 6 tbsp depending how boozy & limey you wanted it)! Think I’ll try adding lime zest instead of the juice and very little tequila to the frosting, as I am brushing the cakes heavily with the tequila.

    • If the frosting was the right consistency before adding the liquid, it should not have caused such a problem. It sounds like maybe it wasn’t quite where it needed to be beforehand. I added exactly the amount of liquid listed here, and as you can see in the pictures, the frosting held up very well.

      • Hi Annie!
        This recipe is fabulous and is the perfect ending to my husband’s birthday party next weekend!

        My question- I made the frosting exactly to your specifications and it turned out great, but it seemed to be a bit melted after I piped it onto my cupcakes. They were completely cooled, but it is very warm here right now. Do you think it is merely a temperature issue or do I need to mix the frosting even longer to make it hold up better?

        Thank you Annie!

      • Sounds like you didn’t beat it quite long enough.

  45. The large star tip is a 1M tip

    • Danielle,
      The tip I use is actually not a 1M tip. It has actually caused quite a lot of controversy within my blog. One reader actually accused me of keeping the tip a secret! The 1M is similar, but apparently doesn’t have quite the same results as the one I use (mine is from Williams Sonoma).

      • I forgot, I actually molded my 1M tip (by pressing the pointed parts at the top closer together so the opening is not as large) and it produces the same lovely swirls as yours.

  46. I am so excited to try this recipe. Thank you so much for all the info on your site. Its just wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  47. Hi Annie,

    We just finished making your margarita cupcakes, and while they taste AMAZING, we keep having problems with the cupcakes pulling away from the liners they’re in! We’ve tried several different kinds of liners (paper, foil, etc) and even the regular and convection bake settings on the oven. Do you have any suggestions to keep them from doing this?

    By the way, we LOVE your website – thanks so much!

    • I get this question a lot about various cupcakes and unfortunately I don’t have a good answer. I have never had this problem and I really don’t know what causes it. My assumption would be the type of liner, but I use different liners all the time and have never experienced this. Sorry!

  48. Hi Annie! I love your blog! This summer I made the margarita cupcakes using your cake mix recipe and loved it, but I can’t find that version on your site anymore. Do you still have the recipe for that? I would appreciate it so much! Thanks!

    • No, I removed it since I try not to use boxed mixes anymore. I’m sure you can find it via Google though, or on Confections of a Foodie Bride (in my blogroll) since that is where I found it originally.

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