The #3 and #4 most popular recipes on this site both came out of a box: Margarita Cupcakes and Pink Lemonade Cupcakes. I’ve been wanting to make both from scratch since those first batches came out of the oven.
The original Margarita Cupcakes used a boxed white cake mix mixed with a homemade margarita and were topped with an American-style buttercream. To make the scratch Margarita Cupcakes fresher, I nixed the box and used Martha Stewart’s lemon cupcake recipe, swapping the lemon with lime. I topped the cupcakes with Martha’s perfectly fluffy Swiss Meringue Buttercream and spiked it with fresh lime juice and tequila.
No preservatives. No anti-caking agents. No artificial coloring. Just cake, frosting, and booze. The way dessert should be 🙂
Cupcake and Swiss Meringue Buttercream FAQs
Is a frosting with raw eggs safe?
The eggs aren’t raw – bringing them to 160 degrees is key. If you’re uncomfortable or concerned about the eggs, use this American-style Tequila Lime Buttercream instead.
Can I make this without tequila?
Sure. Don’t brush the cupcakes with tequila and replace the tequila in the frosting with more lime juice.
Having problems with your swiss meringue buttercream? Read how to fix it here.
A boozy, homemade cupcake and fun frosting inspired by our favorite cocktail.
- For the Lime Cupcakes
- 3 cups flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs, at room temp
- 3 limes, zested and juiced
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup tequila, for brushing cupcakes (or half tequila/half orange liqueur, optional)
- For the Tequila-Lime Buttercream
- 2 cups sugar
- 8 egg whites
- 3 sticks butter, room temperature
- 2 1/2 Tbsp lime juice
- 1-2 Tbsp Tequila
- Preheat oven to 325. Prepare muffin tins with paper liners or baking spray.
- Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside. Cream butter and sugar on a high until pale, light, and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
- Add eggs one at at time, mixing thoroughly before adding the next one.
- Add lime zest and lime juice.
- Turn mixer to the low. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk in two batches. Mix only until just incorporated.
- Fill each muffin cup ~3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer shows only moist crumbs attached, rotating the pans at the halfway point. Allow cupcakes to cool completely in the pans before removing.
- (Optional) While the cupcakes are still warm, brush the tops with tequila or tequila/orange mixture.
- To make the frosting, place the stand mixer bowl over a simmering pot of water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water). Whisk the sugar and egg whites until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture registers 160 degrees with a candy thermometer.
- Place bowl on the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on high speed until the mixture is cool and holds stiff, glossy peaks (approximately 10 minutes).
- Change to the paddle attachment and beat in one tablespoon of butter at a time on medium. The mixture might appear curdled but keep beating, it will pull back together.
- Add lime juice and 1 Tbsp tequila. Increase speed to high and beat until the frosting reincorporates and is smooth and fluffy. Beat in remaining tablespoon of tequila, if desired. Having problems with your swiss meringue buttercream? Read how to fix it here.
Yields: 24 Cupcakes
Estimated time: 1 hour
I’ve been wanting to make margarita cupcakes, but was frustrated that so many recipes I found were from a box. This version looks fabulous, and would make a great addition to one of our many Mexican nights!
SO funny that you posted these, because I was just getting ready to try a version that doesn’t require a box mix very soon. Great minds think alike!
These look beautiful! I am on the hunt for great cupcakes. I need to make some “special” cupcakes for my BIL’s 40th birthday party. I have high expectations to live up to- last year I made the Irish Car Bomb cupcakes and also some Pina Colada cupcakes. They were a hit.
These would be great!
Perfect! I’ve looked at your margarita cupcake recipe before, but was disappointed by the box aspect of it. I’m looking forward to trying this version! But I’m totally adding tequila to the cake batter, even though I very well know that alcohol flavor always bakes out of cake.
Sounds like my kind of cake! 😉 I like the tangy flavor of the lime in the cupcakes! Yum!
The piped frosting and lime zest atop those cupcakes look so beautiful! The cupcakes sound delicious.
I love that you put tequila in the frosting!
I’m so excited that you adapted these! I try to never use cake mixes because when I have flour, sugar, eggs, and butter at home it just seems silly to buy a mix. I’ve wanted to make these for a while! They look so good!
Your cupcakes look amazing! I never use cake mix, but I have always like the boxed mix taste and texture better than any scratch cake, I’m weird, I know.
The cupcakes sound really delicious and I love how you have done the piping. I’ll give this a try as I am always on the lookout for a good cupcake recipe.
Simply gorgeous! Love the flavours, and the attractive way in which you’ve piped the buttercream. Wow 🙂
I’ve made your earlier version of margarita cupcakes and while they were great, I too was hoping for a from-scratch version but hadn’t taken the time to figure one out yet. These look great!
These are sooo beautiful!
These sounds amazing! I think I’m going to have to make them for the Cinco de Mayo party I was just invited to. Thanks!
I made the pink lemonade cupcakes once and they were horrible!!! Cupcakes don’t last longer than a day or two in my house and these were so bad they were thrown away!! Just a warning!!
PS- Just realized that my recipe for the lemonade cupcakes is different from yours!! I wasn’t saying your cupcakes were horrible at all- I thought you meant you wanted to try them out but hadn’t yet! That’s what I get for reading, typing, talking and working all at once.
I love this frosting recipe! I tried it for the first time a few weeks ago. So delicious! Yours looks amazing! What tip did you use to to pipe it?
GypsyGirlGourmet – I used the 1M tip.
These look great. I love margaritas and cupcakes, so what could be better!
margarita cupcakes!!!! I can make them for cinco de mayo….my girls will love them!
OOOO! These are the perfect summertime cupcake! Thanks for sharing this!
This is a great post just in time for cinco de mayo!! I’ll be making a batch of these beauties!! THANK YOU!!!
thank you so much for posting this recipe. I live in germany-where it is hard to near impossible to get a box mix and…..
Will be trying this out this weekend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
These look AMAZING. I was just wondering, what piping nib did you use?
It was either Wilton’s 1M or 2D – I can never remember which one makes the “ruffle swirl” and which one makes the “smooth swirl.”
This may sound weird, but is there any way to make tequila lime buttercream with meringue powder? I don’t have enough eggs to make it with 8 egg whites & I can’t go out & get any.
Not sure, I haven’t made frosting using meringue powder instead of egg whites. I’d try to aim for a half or 3/4 batch (there are leftovers with a full batch) if I had enough egg whites.
I’ve made these cupcakes a couple of times, and they are soooo good. The first time I made them according to the recipe, but the second time I added lemon and orange zest as well, to make sangria cupcakes. They were good, but I think I’ll stick to the recipe next time and just use limes. The lime flavor is amazing. The first time I made the cupcakes I tried to make the buttercream frosting, but it turned out liquidy and tasted very much like egg whites. Now that I’ve made a successful buttercream (with a different recipe) I will definitely try this one again. Thank you for posting this recipe!
These cupcakes look great. I plan on making your box mix recipe very soon. Can you please answer a question for me? I have made plenty of homemade cakes and I do not like the crumby dry texture so that is why I plan on using your box mix recipe instead of the from scratch recipe. Why is it box mixes are so moist and homemade cakes are not? How can I adapt recipes using a box mix like you have? Thanks so much! Love you blog!!!!
Thanks, Vanessa! I personally have tasted lots of dry cake, both homemade and boxed, and I’ve always attributed that to the baker over-baking the cake. I look for moist crumbs on a skewer when I check a cake for doneness. If the skewer is perfectly clean, it has gone a few minutes too long. You might look into the Cake Mix Doctor cookbook – it’s full of tips/recipes to alter cake mixes for a larger variety.
The reason why most cakes you have are probably dry is that they have a lower fat ratio. When you have higher fat ratios, you have moister cakes. Cake mixes incorporate fat in the form of shortening in the cake mix. If you want to make a cake that is very moist and doesn’t have a crumbly texture, make a high ratio cake. You’ll find lots of information about them on culinary school sites. I make high ratio cupcakes for my business. It never fails that when I use them, the cakes come out great. Also, careful when you are mixing. Over mixing causes dense cakes and cakes that are dry because too much gluten was released. Use lower gluten flour also if you want it to have less of a crumbly texture. Foodie, thanks for the recipe. I’m going to alter it a bit but you’ve given me great ideas for cupcakes in my business. Thanks.
Thanks so much. I will have to check that out. Again, I love your recipes and look forward to trying them all out =)
To make the buttercream frosting without a stand mixer would take at least double the time and some serious hand whisking, eh?
Laura – I think “serious” is a nice way to put it 🙂 I’ll be honest – by hand wouldn’t even be an option for me. I’d at least go electric mixer.
Beautiful blog you have!
And BEAUTIFUL swirls on those cupcakes!
This looks absolutely amazing! I love that there is no artificial coloring and the addition of the booze. Very timely with spring coming up! I just did a blog on the best New York City bakeries (check out here: http://www.mycookingtherapy.com), but I think this cupcake wins it all. Thanks!
These look fantastic! I’m totally trying these!
A couple questions:
1. What kind of flour are you using in the cupcakes? (all-purpose vs. cake flour)
2. What type of sugar are you using in the frosting? (powdered vs. granulated)
3. Are you using lemon juice or lime juice in the buttercream?
I want to wrap myself up in the frosting, like a chiffon dress… simply gorgeous. And I love that you nixed the box. Happy Cinco de Mayo 🙂
I found your blog through the Pioneer woman 🙂 and will be back! This margarita cupcake is to die for!
My buttercream frosting turned out watery, any ideas on how to bring it back to life?
@Megan – keep mixing it on high! It will often appear curdled before coming back. You can also scoop out about 1/4 of it, reheat that portion just until warm, and then put it back in to the mixer bowl with the rest of the frosting. Then let it mix on high until comes together.
Great, I’ll give it a try. Here’s hoping! Thank you =)
This was my first time making a meringue frosting. I was skeered 🙂 but now i might never go back! This stuff is amazing.
These sound awesome!! Thanks for sharing!
I saw your recipe and just had to whip up a batch. I am on a quest for the perfect margarita and had to try these. I had frosting issues too and my cupcakes were not pretty, but they still tasted great! I will just have to keep practicing! Thanks for sharing!
This is a great recipe…I’ve been making this exact one for years…I don’t add the tequila though. YUM!
The frosting on the cupcakes is so pretty. Did you use a special tip to put it on? What technique did you use?
Now that’s a pretty piece of kitchen equipment I sure wouldn’t mind putting in my kitchen!
I made these for Cinco de Mayo (made a few alterations), and they were absolutely delicious!! Thank you so much for posting. 🙂 Link to post: http://sweetcarolinescooking.com/2011/05/05/one-tequila-two-tequila-three-tequila-margarita-cupcakes-w-tequila-lime-meringue-buttercream-frosting/
I made these today and they are perfect!!! I got 28 cupcakes and used the full amount of tequila in the buttercream. The frosting is definitely more time consuming than regular American buttercream but so worth it. I plan to rub some lime zest into green sugar and sprinkle at little on each cupcake. Thanks!
Quick question… I am making a lot…over 100 cupcakes for a 40th birthday party and was wondering if I could freeze the cupcakes? What about he frosting? How does the frosting hold up in the heat?
You can freeze the cupcakes, minus frosting, no problem. Swiss Meringue Buttercream is not summer heat friendly. I would consider using a half-shortening/half-butter American-style buttercream or keeping the cupcakes inside in the A/C until ready to serve.
Sooo yummy! 🙂 Definatley going on my blog! 😀 (imherehi.blogspot.com)
These cupcakes are superb!! I made your recipe this past weekend and all 32 were gone within 24 hours. Just the smell of the tequila while mixing the frosting made me want to stick a straw in the bowl and slurp it all up!! Thank you 🙂
This looks delicious! May you tell me what piping tip you are using?
These look amazing!!! I think I am also going to add some strawberry puree to the frosting and make these Strawberry Margarita cupcakes! Thanks so much for the recipe 🙂
I made these tonight and while everyone said they were really good, they were so heavy. I followed the recipe with only one change I added an extra lime. The cakes were also kind of bland.
I love your blog! You have so many yummy looking recipes. I stumbled across this cupcake recipe while looking for something to make for a Tex/Mex inspired menu party. I made them yesterday (I tried a tequila and lime cream cheese frosting instead) and they came out with a lumpy texture and a little lacking in the flavor department, at least to me. I know that the batter gets lumpy at one point. I am not sure if I didn’t mix enough but I didn’t want to over mix. Is there anything you can think of for me to try next time to resolve the situation?
Are these kid friendly with taquilla in the frosting? I know when you bake alcohol it baked out; but j imagine the alcohol still remains in the frosting?
Not so kid friendly – the alcohol does still remain in the frosting.
I was SO excited to try these for Cinco de Mayo, but was so disappointed with the frosting. I’ve made SMB frostings in the past without any problems and figured this would go as smoothly as before. Everything was going great until I started to add the butter to the cooled, whipped egg whites/sugar. The icing completely liquefied. I tried to beat the mixture longer. 30 minutes later, no improvement. Obviously, adding the lime juice and tequila only made the situation worse. There was no saving it. It seemed like there were way too many egg whites and not enough butter compared to other SMB recipes. The cupcakes were delicious though (minus the frosting)! This is the first recipe of yours that hasn’t worked out perfectly for me. I’ll remain a loyal reader regardless of this blunder!
Bummer! Sounds like the meringue broke, it can be a little finicky sometimes. There’s a link at the top of the recipe with troubleshooting tips for the SMB, I’ve always been able to rescue a broken frosting using those techniques. (And it looks like there are a lot of egg whites because it’s a larger recipe – I have a tendency to use obscene amounts of frosting on cupcakes – but that’s the same egg white:sugar ratio I always use for SMB.)
So I finally gave these another try this weekend, and the same thing happened with the buttercream. BUT, I followed the link that you suggested, and after throwing the whole mixing bowl in the fridge for a little while and mixing it again it came together perfectly!! I feel so silly that I wasted not one but TWO batches of the frosting in my previous attempt! Thanks for your help, and for the awesome recipe!
I do believe I’m going to make this recipe for a cake I’m making for my 25th high school reunion! Do you think this would need any modifications going from cuppies to cake? I usually just follow the recipe, but I will not have a chance to try it out beforehand… Thoughts? Thanks!!
You might want to reduce the frosting recipe a bit, it will *generously* frost the cupcakes but you find you might have leftovers doing a cake… unless you’re making 8- or 9-inch rounds into 4-layers and then you’ll have plenty of frosting to put between the layers.. Otherwise, you won’t really have to change anything!
Thank you 🙂 Can’t wait to make it!
I just made these and they are AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I did one or two things differently. For frosting, I just used 1 C heavy whipping cream + 2 T powdered sugar + lime juice from half a lime and piped it on top. Then I topped with some lime zest and crushed up pretzels. The pretzels add a nice bit of saltiness and a little crunch! Also… I noticed there’s nowhere in the directions where you add the vanilla mentioned in the ingredients. Is that because you can either do vanilla OR tequila? I just did both… I even threw in a few T of tequila into the batter since I wasn’t going to put it into my frosting. DELICIOUS!!!!! I can’t wait to bring these to the housewarming I’m going to this evening!!
This is by far the best recipe for Swiss Buttercream that I have found. It is easier than several others, including the one that I have used for years. You have eliminated a few steps and streamlined the directions making it considerably less daunting. The results were perfection! Thank you! Anyone who does not at least give this delectable Buttercream a try is really missing out, it is the best!
Making these today! Is the 1/4 cup tequila listed under the cupcake ingredients supposed to go in the batter? Or is it for brushing on top? Thanks!
For brushing the tops of the cupcakes. Good luck! Those are boozy and delicious 🙂
I want to know how you get the frosting so pretty!? How do you make the ribbon looking swirls.
I use the Wilton 2D tip – or a large/jumbo closed star tip from any brand.
I am planning a Cinco de Mayo dinner party with recipes that give a nod to the flavors of Mexico and these will be perfect. I am sharing the link back here on my blog at acreativespirit.com. Thanks for the great recipe.
What tip was used to frost the cupcakes in the picture? It is so pretty and I can’t get over it!
Thanks! It was a large ‘closed star” tip – Wilton 2D.