Fluffy lime cupcakes topped with creamy frosting spiked with tequila and cointreau—these margarita cupcakes are a margarita-lover’s dream dessert!
Every fall Saturday when I was growing up my parents made margaritas for their tailgaters. I was SO IN LOVE with that bright green color, and even more in love with the tart flavor, on the rare occasions when my parents let my 5-year-old self stick her finger in their drink.
To this day, margaritas are my very favorite adult beverage—the mort tart, the better.
But I leave my tart-ness to drinks and prefer sweetness in my desserts.
And that’s why today I made us a batch of tart-sweet margarita cupcakes! Just in time for Cinco de Mayo and summer BBQs!
The cupcake base is a fluffy and moist lime cupcake, brushed with tequila and lime juice when they’re fresh out of the oven. This imparts the perfect amount of booziness. Who doesn’t like a boozy cupcake?
The sprinkle of salt on top is totally optional.
To make our lives easy, which I think is extra necessary when we’re talking summer desserts, we use a white cake mix for the cupcakes. I have, like, a gazillion box cake mix recipes on my site and I will not apologize for taking a shortcut here and there. But if you prefer a from-scratch cake, feel free to sub in any lime cupcake you wish.
I love the addition of cointreau in the frosting because to me, a margarita isn’t legit without it. (In other words, my parents added cointreau to theirs so I feel I must follow in their footsteps.) Feel free to omit it/replace it with more tequila. I just like to give you options!
The only thing that’s not optional, though, is making a batch of margarita cupcakes sometime soon. They’re summer on a plate!
- 1 16-ounce box white cake mix
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- Zest of 3 limes
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon tequila
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 1/2 to 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons tequila
- 2 teaspoons cointreau
- zest of half a lime
- 1/4 teaspoon salt or more to taste
- lime zest and coarse salt for sprinkling (if desired)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 20 to 22 muffin cups with paper liners and set pans aside.
Place all cupcake ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Divide batter between the prepared muffin cups and bake 14 to 18 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.
While your cupcakes are in the oven, prepare the tequila-lime syrup.
Heat the lime juice in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves, then stir in the tequila.
Remove cupcakes from the oven and use a toothpick to poke several holes about 1 inch deep into each of the cupcakes. Use a pastry brush to brush the syrup over the cupcakes. Carefully remove cupcakes from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
Once cupcakes are cool, make the frosting. Beat butter until very smooth, then add 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, tequila, cointreau, lime zest, and salt and mix to combine. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then turn mixer to high and beat 3 to 4 minutes, until very fluffy. Add additional powdered sugar if frosting is too thin and additional milk if frosting is too thick. Frost cupcakes and sprinkle with salt and lime zest as desired.
Be sure you zest your limes before juicing them—it’s next to impossible to zest limes once the juice has been squeezed out.