These delicious Margarita Cupcakes are one of the few reasons I will turn my oven on in the summer! Most of the time I just want to cool off with some popsicles or cocktails. But these cute cupcakes are easy to make, delicious, and have a fresh lime and tequila flavor. In order to pack the maximum margarita taste into these cupcakes, they're soaked in a tequila lime simple syrup, and then frosted with a smooth tequila and lime buttercream.
To start the margarita party, the base is a lime-flavored cupcake. The main way to get lime flavor into cakes is to rub the zest (the thin, dark green outside layer) into sugar. Then, let it sit for a little while for the flavors to come out of the zest. Another way to get lime flavor is to add lime juice to the batter.
For an extra pop of lime, you can also add in either lime extract or lime oil. They are concentrated lime flavorings, but won't add any sourness or tanginess to the cake.
Making the Cupcakes
This cupcake recipe makes a light, fluffy cake, but it is still moist and delicious, and will keep for a day or two. It will actually be more moist on the second day, especially with the margarita syrup! If you're going for a lighter style of cake, it's best to make it the same day you want to serve it.
To make the cupcakes, first put your butter and eggs on the counter to get to room temperature. Then, measure out your sugar, and zest your limes. Rub the lime zest into the sugar, cover, and let sit at room temperature for about a half hour.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325°F (165°C/gas mark 3) and put cupcake liners into the cupcake tray. Add the flour, sugar and zest mixture, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with a paddle attachment until it is all combined, and then add the room temperature butter.
Mix the butter into the dry ingredients until everything is crumbly and sandy, a little drier than a shortbread cookie dough. Then, you'll start adding your liquid ingredients. First add your eggs, then milk, and mix until combined. Finally, add the lime juice and lime or lemon extract.
Mix everything until it's all combined, and portion it into the cupcake liners. You can use an ice cream scoop to do this, which is what I usually do. However, this is kind of a sticky batter, so I used a reusable silicone piping bag to pipe it in to the liners.
Then just bake for about 18 minutes, until they start to spring back when you touch them lightly with your finger. They shouldn't brown much at all. You can use a probe thermometer to make sure they reach 205°F (96°C) internally.
Tequila Lime Syrup
A great way to add both moisture and flavor to a cake is to soak it with a flavored simple syrup. It's so simple to make! I use a method where I heat water and sugar together, then let it cool. But, you don't even have to do that. Just combine the water and sugar together in a container and let it sit, shaking occasionally, for a couple of hours. After it's all dissolved, you'll want to store your simple syrup in the fridge.
For this recipe, you can mix up a tequila lime simple syrup. To preserve the fresh tanginess of lime juice, I just made an unflavored simple syrup first. (You can add lime zest if you like while it's heating.) Then, when it was cool enough, I mixed in the lime juice and the tequila.
In order for the syrup to soak in, you'll want to poke some holes into the cupcakes so it can soak in more quickly. You can use a toothpick or skewer. When that's done, carefully use a spoon or a pastry brush to top each cupcake with the syrup. You'll see it soak in like a sponge.
Making the Buttercream
I used just under a half batch of my Easy Meringue Buttercream to top these cupcakes. The best part about buttercream is that it freezes so well! I just grabbed a package of frozen buttercream and let it defrost while making the cupcakes.
Of course, if you are making it fresh, you can make a half batch of the buttercream recipe and then just flavor it as you need. (Although I suggest making a full batch and freezing whatever you don't use!)
I was wondering how to get the most tequila per cupcake, so I experimented with a few different buttercream recipes, including American buttercream (butter, powdered sugar and milk or cream). I felt that the American buttercream was not only too sweet, but the texture was too chalky, even after adding a lot of liquid. So I still recommend sticking with my meringue buttercream! It can't take quite as much liquid as the American style, but the taste and silky texture of this frosting is worth it.
I recommend a blanco tequila for this recipe, and definitely not an expensive bottle. Check out this article for the best tequilas for under $30 USD.
Decorating the Cupcakes
A mini lime wedge is the perfect decoration for these cuties! Just cut thick slices of lime, and cut each round slice into quarters. Then, you can use that as a cupcake garnish like you would on a margarita cocktail.
For the buttercream frosting, I used an offset spatula to achieve the Magnolia-style swoops on top of each cupcake. Using a star-tip piping bag would also be a great and elegant option.
To Salt or Not To Salt?
In the pictures, I used salt as a garnish for these cupcakes, keeping with the salted-rim margarita tradition. Although it's a cute garnish, I would recommend sticking with a coarse sugar to sprinkle on top, because the large grains of salt cut through the sweetness a little too much.
I think a great option for introducing salt would be to use salted butter in the buttercream instead of unsalted. If you try it out, let me know what you like best!
Other Recipes You Might Like
- Use an apple corer to make a hole in the center of these cupcakes and fill it with Pineapple Curd for a pineapple twist
- Another citrus-forward and super easy dessert for the summer is this Glazed Lemon Loaf Cake
- A dairy-free option for cupcakes is here: Dairy Free Vanilla Cupcakes
Did You Try This Recipe?
I would love to hear how you liked this recipe! What other classic cocktails would make good cupcakes? Please leave me a star review and comment below! I truly appreciate hearing from you.
- Cupcake baking tray
- Cupcake liners
- Stand mixer with paddle attachment, or mixing bowl and electric hand mixer (optional but recommended)
- Kitchen scale (optional but recommended)
- Mixing bowls
- Fine tooth grater for lime zest
- Food coloring gel
Tequila Lime Simple Syrup
- 100 g sugar ½ cup
- 70 g water ⅓ cup
- 60 g fresh lime juice ¼ cup - from approx 1 lime
- 30 g tequila 2 tablespoon
Tequila Lime Buttercream
- 200 g sugar 1 cup
- 1 tablespoon lime zest from 1 lime
- 155 g all purpose flour 1¼ cups
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon fine grain salt
- 114 g butter 1 stick - room temperature
- 2 eggs room temperature
- 60 g whole milk ¼ cup
- 60 g lime juice ¼ cup
- 1 teaspoon lime extract
- coarse-grained sugar and/or salt optional - for decoration
- 1 lime optional - for decoration
Tequila Lime Simple Syrup
- Add sugar and water to a saucepan and stir together.100 g sugar, 70 g water
- Place saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
- Let the mixture simmer for 3 minutes, then take it off the heat.
- When the mixture cools to room temperature, stir in the lime juice and tequila.60 g fresh lime juice, 30 g tequila
- Store any unused syrup in the refrigerator. It will keep for several weeks.
Tequila Lime Buttercream
- Add unflavored buttercream to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Re-beat for about 2-3 minutes if it was previously refrigerated.½ batch Easy Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Measure out the lime juice and, optionally, dissolve the True Lime powder into the juice.30 g fresh lime juice, 1 packet True Lime
- Add the juice to the buttercream and beat until it is fully incorporated.
- Add the tequila to the buttercream and beat until it is fully incorporated.30 g tequila
- Using a clean spoon, taste the buttercream. You should be able to add about another tablespoon of liquid at this point if you need to adjust the flavor. Just add it and beat until incorporated.
- Add food coloring if desired.
- Combine the sugar and lime zest in a bowl by rubbing together with your fingers. Cover and let sit for about 30 minutes.200 g sugar, 1 tablespoon lime zest
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C/gas mark 3).
- Put cupcake liners into the cupcake baking tray.
- Add sugar mixture, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.200 g sugar, 1 tablespoon lime zest, 155 g all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, ¼ teaspoon fine grain salt
- Mix on low speed until it is all combined.
- Add the butter to the sugar/flour mixture and beat on medium low speed until the mixture looks all the same. It should be crumbly and sandy.114 g butter
- Add the eggs and mix on medium speed until fully incorporated.2 eggs
- Add the milk and mix until incorporated.60 g whole milk
- Add the lime juice and extract (optional) and mix until everything is well combined.60 g lime juice, 1 teaspoon lime extract
- Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl and beat again on medium speed for about 20 seconds. This will give the cupcakes a bit more structure.
- Portion the batter equally into the prepared cupcake liners. You can do this with an ice cream scoop, a spoon or a piping bag. Just fill them to about halfway full for flat topped cupcakes, or ⅔ full for larger cupcakes. You'll need to bake them a minute or two longer for the larger cupcakes.
- Bake the cupcakes for 17-19 minutes. The cupcakes will be done when they spring back when touched with your finger. They should be 205°F (96°C) internally when checked with a probe thermometer.
- Let the cupcakes cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then transfer them to a cooling rack.
- Using a toothpick or skewer, poke holes in the top of each cupcake. Use a pastry brush or spoon to top each cupcake with the Tequila Lime Simple Syrup.
- Frost each cupcake with the Tequila Lime Buttercream. You can use an offset spatula or a piping bag.
- Sprinkle coarse-grained sugar and/or salt on top of the buttercream if you like. Then add a small wedge of lime to top each cupcake.coarse-grained sugar and/or salt, 1 lime
- These cupcakes will keep at room temperature for about 2 days. If you would like to store them longer, I recommend wrapping each cupcake individually and freezing them in an airtight container.