A few years ago, not long after moving to SF, a friend and I found our way into a meetup called Iron Cupcake.  It was a themed monthly amateur cupcake contest held over at Leland Tea near Polk St.  You could pay $10 to come judge/taste, or you could bring 48 mini cupcakes of your own and taste for free.

The organizers stopped running that meetup more than 2 years ago, and the tea shop has moved down the peninsula to Burlingame, but one of their themes is still sticking with me: Cocktails as Cupcakes. Since then, I’ve played with old fashioned cupcakes, fruity vodka drink cupcakes, whiskey cherry cupcakes, mojito cupcakes, chocolate tequila cupcakes, and a few different kinds of margarita cupcakes. It makes perfect sense that tequila, one of my favorite liquors to drink straight, would make it’s way into most of my favorite booze cakes.

This is my favorite version of the margarita cupcakes. They’re tart and fruity without being overwhelming. They’re fluffy and and satisfying, and they feel the most like a simple drink from a bar without a TV.


Mini Margarita Cupcakes

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon limoncello
  • 1 teaspoon tequila
  • zest of 2 meyer lemons, finely diced
  • zest of 3-4 limes, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup lemon or lime curd
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 lb powdered sugar
  • 1-3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 4 vanilla beans
  • 1 ounce tequila
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 2 grams yellow gel food coloring
  • 1-2 grams green gel food coloring
  • 1-2 tablespoons coarse or flaked sea salt


Baking the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare mini cupcake trays with enough liners for 48 mini cupcakes.

Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla extract, lemon and lime zest, limoncello, and tequila.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly beat half of the flour mix into the batter.  When the flour is fully incorporated, mix in the lime juice, then the rest of the flour mix, and then the milk.

Dispense batter into mini cupcake trays to that each liner is just over 2/3 of the way full.

Bake for 12 minutes.  Makes about 48 mini cupcakes.

Filling the cupcakes: Fill a piping bag with either lemon or lime curd. Both can be found easily in jars.  If you’re making your own, keep in mind that curd takes a few hours to set enough to hold a shape, and make it at least 4 hours ahead of time.

After removing cupcakes from the cupcake tray, let them cool completely. Pipe about 1/4 teaspoon of curd into the center of each cupcake. Pipe about another 1/4 teaspoon of curd into a small pyramid on top.

Make the frosting: Beat the softened butter on high speed and slowly add most of the powdered sugar. Add small amounts of milk as frosting thickens to keep it smooth.

Continue beating on high and add the vanilla beans, then very slowly add the tequila.  Continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth, then add a bit more sugar. When the frosting is completely smooth again, continue beating and very slowly add lime juice.  Add the rest of the sugar immediately after the lime juice is combined and keep beating until the frosting is completely smooth again.

Add the food coloring and beat until frosting is evenly colored and stiff peaks have formed.

Use a piping bag to frost around, then above the lemon or lime curd in the center of each cupcake.

Presentation: Sprinkle salt over each cupcake before the frosting dries. Don’t go too crazy – in something this tiny, “just enough to add some sparkle” is roughly proportional to the rim of your glass.

If you want more than a little sparkle, a ton of sparkle, snow falling off a mountain in the sun sparkle, don’t try to do that with salt or sugar for this one.  Get yourself some edible glitter or confetti.