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Deliciously soft and moist margarita cupcakes begin with a simple sweet lime cupcake base and are topped with fluffy tequila lime frosting. Like classic margaritas, these cupcakes are full of zippy, fresh lime flavor. See my recipe note for a non-alcoholic version. Cheers!

margarita cupcakes

Today’s margarita cupcakes get you in the mood for vacation, are the perfect dessert for warm spring/summer weather, are great for Cinco de Mayo, and satisfy your margarita craving. They’re buttery and moist with a light fluffy texture and fresh, tangy lime flavor. Out of the dozens of cupcakes I’ve made, these lime cupcakes are towards the tippy top. They’re everything we expect from a margarita in cupcake form.

If you love these cupcakes, you’ll also love these mini margarita cheesecakes. (Because, yes, I have a recipe for those too!) We’re eating our margs, ok?

margarita cupcakes

These Margarita Cupcakes Are:

  • Light and fluffy
  • Ultra moist
  • Packed with fresh lime flavor (just like these coconut lime cookies)
  • Topped with tequila lime frosting
  • Everything we love about margaritas in cupcake form
  • Great for parties and celebrations
margarita cupcake batter

Let’s Make these Margarita Cupcakes!

These lime cupcakes are incredibly simple to prepare. Using my lemon cupcakes as the starting point, I replaced lemon with lime. I’m a firm believer in finding a bunch of quality base recipes, then developing new flavors and combinations from there. Like lime cupcakes from lemon cupcakes. There wasn’t enough lime flavor for it to really shine through, so I added a little more zest to these. Here’s an overview of how to make these cupcakes:

  1. Whisk the dry ingredients together.
  2. Cream the wet ingredients together. Begin by creaming the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla extract.
  3. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Add some of the dry ingredients alternating with some of the milk until it’s all mixed. Mix in the lime zest and juice.
  4. Fill the cupcake liners. These cupcakes rise a lot, so remember to only fill your cupcake liners about halfway.
  5. Bake.
  6. Brush the warm cupcakes with tequila. This infuses extra tequila flavor.
  7. Frost the completely cooled cupcakes.

Baker’s Tip: Try adding 1 cup of berries to the batter before filling the cupcake liners. Blackberry lime margarita cupcakes sound delicious, right?

creamy tequila lime frosting

How to Make Tequila Lime Frosting

While most of my frosting recipes are made with cream for a super smooth consistency, today’s frosting recipe is cream free. How? Tequila! We use standard frosting ingredients like softened butter and confectioners’ sugar, but replace the cream with tequila– only about 3-4 Tablespoons total.

Beat the butter until it’s silky smooth and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes on high speed. Then, add the confectioner’s sugar 1 cup at a time to maintain the ultra smooth consistency and add even more fluff. Once creamy and combined, beat in the tequila, vanilla extract, and lime flavoring. I also like to add a little salt to this frosting. Just a pinch or two to cut down on sweetness and because salted rims are the best part of an actual margarita. Taste and add more salt or flavoring as needed.

This is not salty, heavily tequila flavored frosting. You’ll mostly taste sweet lime with a hint of tequila. 🙂

For lime flavor in the frosting, you have a couple options.

  1. Lime extract or lime oil. These are specialty ingredients that you’d have to order, but I highly suggest picking up a bottle. I recommend starting with 2 teaspoons of lime extract or 1 teaspoon of lime oil, but taste as you beat it in and add more as you find necessary. I also prefer lime extract or lime oil because it has incredibly concentrated flavor as opposed to just lime juice and lime zest (next option).
  2. Lime juice and lime zest. Adding enough lime juice for flavor will thin out your frosting, making it more difficult to pipe. Similarly, lime zest in your frosting complicates piping because the little chunks can get stuck in the piping tip.

If piping isn’t a concern and you’d like to just free-hand swipe frosting on top, you can use lime juice and lime zest together. If you’re going for looks and a true thick buttercream texture, pick up some lime extract or lime oil.

margarita cupcakes with tequila lime frosting

Decorating Margarita Cupcakes

You have a few options! I used a Wilton 1M tip for today’s cupcakes, but you could certainly use a Wilton #12 round tip. Here are even more of my favorite piping tips with a video tutorial showing you how to use each. Garnish frosted cupcakes with lime slices, lime zest, coarse sugar, or even strawberries.

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margarita cupcakes

Margarita Cupcakes

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes
  • Yield: 12 cupcakes or 30 mini cupcakes 1x
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Margarita cupcakes begin with a simple sweet lime cupcake base and are topped with fluffy tequila lime frosting!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (188g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115g; 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature preferred
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk*
  • zest + fresh juice of 3 medium limes*
  • optional: 2 Tablespoons tequila (for brushing in step 5)

Tequila Lime Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g; 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 cups (480g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 34 Tablespoons (45-60ml) tequila*
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • lime flavoring (please see notes– there are options)*
  • pinch of salt, to taste
  • optional: lime slices, lime zest, and/or coarse sugar for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  2. Make the batter: Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter on high speed in a large bowl until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the granulated sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer running on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla extract. Beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed.
  4. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add some of the dry ingredients alternating with some of the milk until all is mixed. Increase to high speed and beat in the lime zest and juice until incorporated. Try to avoid overmixing.
  5. Pour/spoon the batter into the liners – fill only 1/2 – 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For around 30 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature. While still warm, brush finished cupcakes with tequila. This infuses extra tequila flavor. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
  6. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, beating on low at first then increasing to high speed. Once incorporated, add the next cup. Once creamy and combined, beat in the tequila, vanilla extract, lime flavoring, and pinch of salt on high speed. Taste. Add more salt or flavoring as needed.
  7. Frost cooled cupcakes. I used a Wilton 1M tip for these photos. (Another favorite is this Wilton #12 round tip.) Garnish with lime slices, lime zest, or coarse sugar.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Milk: For richest taste and texture, I strongly recommend whole milk or buttermilk.
  3. Lime Zest & Juice: You’ll want about 2 Tablespoons zest and 1/4 cup lime juice.
  4. Tequila: Any tequila works! Want them alcohol free? Use 3 Tbsp of milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream instead.
  5. Lime Flavoring: 2 options! You can use 2 teaspoons lime extract or 1 teaspoon lime oil. Start with those amounts then taste the frosting and add more to taste. I use exactly 2 teaspoons of key lime flavoring when I make these. You can use 3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice and lime zest from 1 lime instead. Zest is optional. This amount of lime juice will add flavor, but it will thin out the frosting. The zest makes it difficult to pipe. See the post above for more detail.

Keywords: margarita cupcakes, tequila lime frosting

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Hi Sally,
    Could you please tell me where you got your cup cake liners.

    1. Hi Marylou! We can’t find them on Amazon anymore. Sally bought them there! But search for colorful wrappers on there and a lot of options will come up. Hope you enjoy the cupcakes!

  2. I love making these!!!! They are always a big hit! I get requests to make them for backyard bashes during the summer!!!! I wish I could post a picture!!!

  3. Thank you so much. I have looked on Amazon but the colors are rainbow and not as fiesta looking. I’m making for a fiesta theme engagement party of up to 100 people.
    I guess the rainbow will have to do but Sally’s are sooooo cute.
    Thanks again!

    1. Wilton makes a fiesta looking set, less rainbow-ish I just bought today and are in the oven!

  4. Hi,
    I finally found the same cup cake liners on Etsy at Sweettreatssupplies. So happy!

  5. In the frosting, would subbing the tequila and the lime flavoring for margarita mix work? Thanks!

    1. Hi Karen! We haven’t tested a margarita mix in this frosting, but I fear the mix would be too sweet to add to an already sweet buttercream. But let us know if you try anything!

  6. I made these for my cousin’s bridal shower yesterday and they were a HIT! I had someone request I make this for them in cake form for a birthday! 🙂 I just wish I had made more of them as I only did a dozen (because I also baked 3 dozen vanilla/vanilla) and I also took a risk because I had never made this recipe before. Thank you, Sally!!! 🙂

  7. Sally, I made these tonight. Overall, the feedback was great. LOVED the frosting! In the cake part, I feel the lime zest almost tasted bitter or metallic. If I leave it out, should I increase the lime juice in the batter or do you have another suggestion?

    1. Hi Karen, We are so happy these cupcakes were enjoyed! When you zest a lime (or lemon!) make sure you are only using the green outer layer. The white part under the green (called the pith) has a very bitter taste. When zest tastes bitter it’s usually because of accidentally including some pith – an easy fix for next time!

  8. Hi Sally,
    I made these, but did a marshmallow topping (Italian meringue) instead of a buttercream. When I made the topping, the tequila flavor was strong but by the time I served the cupcakes the next day, there was no tequila flavor at all! Any ideas as to why that would be?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Jaimie, I bet a marshmallow and tequila Italian meringue was wonderful here. I haven’t tried something like that for this recipe, though, so I can’t say exactly why the tequila flavor faded by day 2. Did you cook the tequila at all? Apologies if I’m misunderstanding your question.

      1. No, the tequila wasn’t cooked at all, I used the tequila like I would any other extract or flavoring in an Italian meringue (whipped egg whites, cooked the sugar/water, added tequila after everything was mixed together and cooled down).
        I’ve made Italian meringue buttercreams with alcohol for flavoring and had no issues. Is it possible that the alcohol needs to cling to the fat from the butter or it evaporates? Does that even make sense or am I making up my own science?

  9. Hi Sally,
    How would you adjust these to be Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes? Someone requested it . Is it possible to leave the lime or would it clash with the strawberry?

  10. I have made these cupcakes several times now. I used tequila in both the cupcake and frosting as directed and Watkins lime flavoring for the icing. I absolutely love them. The first time I made them, I garnished the icing with a small lime slice and coarse sugar. I have since garnished with coarse kosher salt and the family’s consensus was that they love them even more.

  11. These were a hit at my party! The only thing is, I didn’t taste any of the alcohol.

    Also, I tried the suggestion in one of the comments about freezing the lime juice and then letting it defrost to capture the lime flavoring without the extra liquid and it worked! So much easier than trying to find lime oil.

  12. Hey Sally! Is this recipe easily doubled? Or would it be better to make single batches? Thanks!

    1. Hi Chelsey, for best results, we recommend making two separate batches. Happy baking!

  13. Hi Sally,
    I cannot seem to find lime extract or oil anywhere locally. would lemon extract completely change the flavor?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Jamie! You can use 3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice and lime zest from 1 lime instead. See recipe notes for more details. Lemon extract will work, but the taste will be different.

  14. Im looking to make these for a work party for Cinco De Mayo, will the tequila in the cupcakes actually be of influence or will baking them get rid of the actual alcohol? Sort of a ‘cooking with red wine’ kind of thing?

    1. Hi Courtney! The tequila isn’t baked at all (just brushed on the top and in the frosting), so use your best judgement. The tequila taste isn’t strong, but do what you are most comfortable with. See recipe notes for a non-alcoholic version if you’d like!

  15. Love these cupcakes! Any suggestions when using lime juice & zest in the frosting (since I was unable to find lime extract) how to make the frosting thicker? Thanks for another amazing recipe!!!

    1. Hi Kathy, we’re so glad you loved these cupcakes! You can try adding more confectioners’ sugar to the frosting to help thicken it a bit (or cut back on the liquids).

  16. I’m interested in using this as a base to make coconut lime cupcakes. Do you think it would work to add 3/4 c. or 1 c. of sweetened shredded coconut (pulsed in food processor) to this batter? I might reduce the vanilla extract and add 1/2 t. of coconut extract and 1/2 t. lime extract too. Any advice?

    1. Hi Jennifer! We haven’t tested a coconut lime cupcake, so can’t offer much advice, but your ideas sound like a good place to start! Shredded coconut can act as a dry ingredient, so you may need to reduce the flour. Our coconut cake recipe may be helpful to reference as well. Let us know what you try!

  17. These were very tasty (no complaints), but I can’t help but feeling like they have sort of a “corn bread” flavor/texture. I’ve noticed this is other cupcake recipes as well. Is this from something I’m doing in the preparation? I try to follow the recipe as it’s written but I very well may be doing a technique wrong or something.

  18. Hi Sally! I don’t have fresh limes, but I have bottled lime juice. Is that okay to use? or will it take away from the lime flavor?

    1. Hi Krystal! Fresh lime juice and zest are really best for flavor here.

  19. I made these a couple of weeks ago and while I usually have willpower when I bake your amazing desserts, not this time! They are the perfect bite size and nice and cold a hot summer day. They were so fun to make and simply delicious. My husband just requested I make another batch this weekend! Thank you for another amazing recipe and a HUGE thank you for your substitution suggestions, especially for those of us in the U.K.

  20. Hi! I read in the answer to an earlier question that this recipe can be converted into 6 inch layer cake, which is great! I’m wondering, though, would I make the icing, as written above, to frost the cake? If not, how should I modify? Thank you!

    1. Hi Jamie! You need about 2.5-3 cups of frosting for a 3 layer 6 inch cake, which is usually the amount used for 1 dozen cupcakes – this recipe will work great!

  21. Amazing!! A must make recipe! I added a citric acid to the frosting to balance the sweet. I topped the cupcake with a pipette of tequila and a twist/fine grind of pink Himalayan salt. Sally’s recipes never disappoint!

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