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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. I made these for Cinco de Mayo and they were AMAZING. Thank you! 

  2. Hi Sally! 
    Just wanted to let you know that I made these for Cinco de Mayo & they were fantastic!! LOVE all the wonderful lime flavor!! Will have to get my hands on some lime extract for next time (cause there will certainly be a next time!) so the frosting holds a little better. Thanks again for another winner!!

  3. These cupcakes were amazing! I saw them last week, and knew I had to try them, I’m SO glad I did as did my family, they were a big hit!

    But I didn’t plan ahead well enough in advance to get the lime extract, so I tried something a little different and thought I would share it with you all in case it helps someone else. In place of the lime oil I juiced 1 lime, and then concentrated it myself by freezing the juice in a small container, once the juice was a solid block, I put it in a funnel in a cup, and let the lime juice ice begin to melt. Once the ice was partially melted and nearly white, I threw the white ice out and used the remaining lime juice for the frosting flavor. I found the frosting to be still bursting with lime flavor, without messing up the consistency of the frosting and I loved it because I meant I skipped zesting another lime. Hope that helps!

  4. Just made these today for a Cinco de Mayo party AND my friend’s graduation party, as mini’s, so I tripled the recipe. They turned out great! I was a little worried after I was done mixing the batter and ready to put into the liners, because the batter looked a little curdled. But all went well. I baked them at 325 for 13-14 minutes (I always lower the temp for minis) and came out perfect. I would actually add more lime zest to them, and maybe a little key lime flavoring. I made a POTENT tequila-lime-triple sec ermine buttercream frosting that goes so well with them. Thanks for the recipe. Going to keep this one 🙂

  5. Hey Sally, any tips on making this into a sheet cake?

    1. My advice would be to make the batter twice (instead of doubling) — I’m unsure of the bake time!

  6. I’m under time crunch here but I really want to bake these mini cupcakes. Can I substitute lime oil with lemon oil? I can’t find the lime oil and I don’t have time to order one. Is that ok?

  7. I made these for cinco de mayo and they were hit! So easy and so delicious 🙂

  8. I made these for my friend’s 30th birthday party on Cinco de Mayo. They were absolutely delicious. I took your advice and bought lime extract from a specialty kitchen store in the area and this worked really well for the frosting (lots of flavor without compromising the consistency of the icing). This was my first time using your site (I also made your chocolate cake pops which were fantastic!) and it was a wonderful experience. Plan to make many more of your recipes.

  9. How should I adjust the recipe in terms of cooking time and maybe temperature if I want to make this into 9″ rounds?

    1. Hi Olivia! First, I suggest making the batter twice (instead of doubling). Working with more batter risks overmixing and you don’t want to do that with these delicate cupcakes/cake. Divide the batter between a few 9-inch cake pans, filling halfway. You can use any extra batter for cupcakes. Unsure of the exact bake time but you can use a toothpick to test for doneness. Same oven temp.

  10. Hi!
    Want to make these as minis for my friends retirement party! Can I substitute the key west lime juice in the frosting for the extract??
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Chris! I don’t recommend regular lime juice or key lime juice as you’d need a lot of it to get the same amount of flavor, which could ruin the frosting’s texture. Lime flavoring has very concentrated flavor.

  11. These were a hit! Thank you for this recipe. It was very easy to follow and using a muffin baking tray, I was able to make 18 cupcakes! I also found candy lime and lemon slices in Bulk Barn to garnish 🙂
    Salud!

  12. Hi Sally,

    I’m thinking of making these cupcakes but using your 6 inch cake recipe. I also couldn’t find lime extract, do you think coconut extract would be a good substitute?

    1. Hi Olivia, For the frosting see the recipe notes on how to use fresh lime juice (like we do in the cupcakes), however it won’t pipe as well. You can use coconut extract for a different flavor though.

  13. Hi! I was thinking of making these since I have all the ingredients at home—except for lime extract—I do have the Nellie and Joes Key Lime Juice—thoughts on using this? Thanks!

    1. Hi Meg, see the recipe note. You can use the lime juice you have for the lime juice option. Feel free to skip the lime zest in the frosting.

  14. Love the recipe. Have made it twice before. I must admit I add more tequila because that’s how my friends roll. I also make a lime curd ( with a touch extra cornstarch) and add tequila to THAT when it cools then use it to fill the cupcakes. Happy Cinco de Drinko!

  15. We didn’t make the cupcakes, but we made the icing. This was amazing!! If you need to make 24 cupcakes, DON’T do a double batch of the icing, we ended up with a lot. We also didn’t use the tequila and they came out good. Overall, love this recipe.

  16. Just made these- amazing! The frosting is so delicious and fluffy, the cupcakes limey and yummy. Made both cupcakes and frosting according to recipe. So, so, SO good!

  17. I made the frosting, but not the cake. It was fantastic! I ended up using about 3 teaspoons of lime zest and 2 tablespoons of sweetened lime juice instead of the tequila. I halved the recipe of frosting since I only had 6 cupcakes, and it was more than enough. Absolutely would make this again!

  18. Hi Sally! I hope you & your sweet family are staying healthy & safe! These cupcakes look incredible & I’m jazzed to make them! I know you test your recipes rigorously, and I was wondering whether you experimented with also adding tequila to the batter when developing this one? I’m just wondering if doing so would give the cupcakes an extra oomph of tequila flavor. As always, thanks so much for your unmatched recipes & guidance!

    1. Thank you, Caitlin! I brushed finished cupcakes with tequila in step 5 but I haven’t added it to the batter. Let me know if you try!

  19. These turned out really tasting and were not hard to make. They were great for a Cinco De Mayo treat.

  20. I turned the cupcakes into a six inch cake and it was so good! I highly recommend this lime cake recipe for anyone who wants a delicious cake!!

  21. I made these cupcakes and they were perfect. How many 6 inch layers do you think the single batch will make?

  22. I love this cupcake recipe I’ve made them a couple times, but the problem is the cupcakes are flat and never rise when I make them. Do you have that problem with your cupcakes? If not do you have any suggestions?

    1. Hi Camlin, happy to help. It could be a few things. First, make sure your baking powder and soda are fresh. We find they lose strength after just 3-4 months. Use proper room temperature butter and other room temperature ingredients. Make sure you spoon and level the flour, too! Here’s an article about baking the best cupcakes that should be useful as well.

  23. Hi Sally – I loooove this idea! Any chance I can halve the recipe though? I only need a few fun cupcakes 🙂
    Planning on filling with a spiked lime curd and adding some fun colorful sprinkles!

    1. We don’t see why that would be a problem. Love the idea of a spiked lime curd – let us know how they go!

  24. Has anyone tried them without tequila? Were they just as good? Making these for mothers day but was just informed that a family member in recovery will be attending. I would like to make some for them as well minus the liquor.

  25. I’m having issues with the icing for this. The cupcake itself came out great, but the icing just won’t hold and keeps separating. I’ve already made it twice. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Hi Samantha, We are so glad you enjoyed the cupcakes! For your frosting, it sounds as if your butter is not at the right temperature. Here is what room temperature butter really means. If this happens there are fixes! If your butter is too cold the frosting can break apart and look curdled – but you can gently warm up the bowl and keep mixing and it should be ok. Or if your butter is too warm your frosting will be greasy and too thin. If this happens you can chill the whole bowl and then slowly mix it again. Hope this is an easy fix if you try it again!

  26. Hi Sally. Quick question for you. How would you tailor this recipe to make a Strawberry Margarita cupcake. I saw your comment on adding whole berries before placing the batter in the cupcake liners. Would this all you would do? Or would you add strawberry to the frosting as well?

    1. Hi Laura! For a strawberry margarita cupcake we would try filling these cupcakes with a homemade strawberry filling like we did in these strawberry shortcake cupcakes. Let us know if you give it a try!

  27. Made these to share with friends… wonderful! I couldn’t find lime extract or oil, but I used about 2 Tbs. lime juice and a bit of zest and got a nice flavor in the icing. It did thin it, but it was still easy to pipe and firmed up in the fridge. Will definitely be making these again!!!

  28. Hi Sally, can I put the lime slices a day before or it’s better to wait when serving them.? What would you suggest