Margarita Cupcakes

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.

We’re eating our margs, ok?

margarita cupcakes

These Margarita Cupcakes Are:

  • Light and fluffy
  • Ultra moist
  • Packed with fresh lime flavor
  • 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
  • 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

  • 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

61 Comments

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

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      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. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      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. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      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. Theresa Hurst says:

    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?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Theresa, For a strawberry margarita cupcake we would try filling these cupcakes with a homemade strawberry filling like we did in these strawberry shortcake cupcakes. Or, you could try our strawberry cupcakes with this tequila lime frosting. Let us know if you give either a try!

  10. Hi sally!

    Can this recipe be made into a cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Maria, definitely! This batter is the perfect amount for 3, 6 inch layers following the baking time and directions from this 6 inch cake post. Or, this cake pan sizes and conversions guide can help you scale it for different pan sizes. Enjoy!

  11. 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.

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