Note: There are about 8 million entries I want to write. If I haven’t addressed your question or posted the recipe for that thing you liked—sorry. I probably haven’t forgotten about it. I just had a dissertation to finish, a wedding to plan, a honeymoon to go on, a book chapter to write, and three new classes to create. There’s no way I will get to all of the entries on my to-do list before the semester begins. In the meantime: have a cupcake recipe.
TeacherPatti hosted a fiesta-themed cookout for the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers last weekend, and I decided tor take margarita-flavored cupcakes. Which are basically just lime cupcakes spiked with tequila and triple sec (or Cointreau, because that’s what I had on hand. If you really wanted to get fancy you could use Grand Marnier).
I used Brown Eyed Baker’s recipe, adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride, because BEB added booze to the batter and I’m also of the "More booze = better” school of baking. However, I’m not sure it mattered, as the tequila flavor didn’t come through in the cakes much. Not to worry: there’s more tequila and triple sec brushed on top after baking, and still more in the frosting. So this is probably not the recipe to make for a kid’s birthday party or playdate, unless your intention is to mellow the rugrats out a bit.
BEB used a classic American buttercream, but I opted for the original CFB choice of a Swiss buttercream. The former is just softened butter whipped with powdered sugar, which is what you get on most bakery cakes. The latter begins with egg whites and sugar cooked on the stovetop and then whipped into an airy meringue, which you gradually add softened butter to, bit by bit, until it forms an airy emulsion. It’s silkier, richer, and much less sweet than American buttercream. For these cupcakes, it also gets a splash of lime juice, tequila, and triple sec. I halved the recipe below because the full recipe made more than twice as much as I needed.
To further boost the margarita mimic factor, I made a “rim” around the top of each cupcake with coarse salt & sugar before piping the frosting in the middle and I topped them with slices of candied lime.
Needs More Tequila
If I make them again, I’ll use a tequila with a stronger flavor. Hornitos silver turned out to be a little too smooth. Their resposado might have worked, and classic Cuervo Gold probably would have been okay, too. This is definitely not the place for sipping-quality tequila, for much the same reason that it’s usually foolish to cook with expensive wine.
I’ll also let cut the limes differently and let them simmer in the simple syrup longer. This time, I cut them in half and then into thin slices, and they kind of fell apart in the blanching and candying process. I removed them from the simple syrup before the pith was completely translucent because I was afraid I was going to end up with just candied lime rinds. As a result, they were kind of bitter—which I enjoy, but I know not everyone does. Next time: full round slices for candying. I’ll cut them in half before using them
Despite the subtlety of the tequila and the bitterness of the candied limes, the MLFBs seemed to enjoy them—several described it as a “nice adult cupcake.” And that’s not just because of the tequila. Unlike most cupcakes, these are not overly sweet, dominated instead by the richness of the butter and the tartness of the lime. Nice ending for a smoky, spicy meal.
Recipe: Margarita Cupcakes (from Brown Eyed Baker)
makes 24 cupcakes
For the liquor:
- 6 Tablespoons tequila (Sauza Hornitos or your favorite inexpensive brand)
- 2 Tablespoons Grand Mariner, Cointreau or other orange liqueur
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs (room temp)
- zest and juice of 3 large limes
- 1/4 cup liquor
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1-2 Tablespoons liquor for brushing
For the frosting:
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 egg whites
- 12 Tablespoons butter, softened
- 1-2 Tablespoons lime juice (zest before juicing if desired for garnishing)
- 1-2 Tablespoons liquor
For the candied limes:
- 2 large or 4 small limes
- 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup water
For the salty-sugar rim:
- 2 Tablespoons sanding sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
To candy the limes:
Slice thinly, and blanche in boiling water—meaning, boil some water, drop the slices in, let them simmer for 2 minutes, and then drain them well. Next, combine 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in the same pot and bring the mixture to a simmer. Return the blanched lime slices to the pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the white pith looks translucent. Place the slices on a cooling rack and let dry for about an hour. Toss with the remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugar and spread on waxed paper. Let dry overnight or at least another 6-8 hours. Store in an airtight container.
For the cupcakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Either grease and flour muffin tins or line them with cups.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar for at least 5 minutes with an electric mixer (or 10 minutes by hand with a whisk), until fluffy and lightened in color. The sugar cuts through the butter and helps aerate it, which is part of what leavens the cake, so don’t skip or shorten this step.
4. Add the eggs to the whipped butter one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.
5. Add the lime zest, juice, vanilla, and liquor. Mix until combined. Don’t worry if it looks curdled.
6. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk, starting and ending with dry—first, 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then 1/2 the buttermilk, then another 1/3 of the dry, then the second 1/2 of the buttermilk, and lastly the remaining 1/3 dry. After each addition, stir just until combined. I like to do this part by hand with a spatula so as not to over-mix the batter, which will create gluten networks and make the cake tough.
7. Divide the batter between the prepared muffin tins—they should be about 2/3 full. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it.
8. Allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, and then remove and cool completely on a rack.
For the frosting:
1. Fill a large pot or skillet with 1-2” water and heat to a simmer.
2. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Hold the bowl over the simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160F.
3. Attach the bowl to the mixer and beat at high speed with the whisk attachment until the mixture is cool and holds stiff, glossy peaks (about 10 minutes).
4. Using the paddle attachment, beat in the softened butter one tablespoon at a time. Beat each addition in fully before adding more. The mixture might seem to curdle or separate, just keep beating. You’re creating an emulsion, and sometimes it takes time to come together.
Buttercream troubleshooting: If you’ve added all the butter and beaten it for 20 minutes and it’s just not coming together, put the entire bowl in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes and then try beating it again. If that fails, scoop out about a cup, zap it in the microwave on high for 15-20 seconds, and then slowly pour the melted buttercream into the bowl while beating at medium speed with the whisk attachment.
5. Add 1 Tablespoon of the liquor and lime juice, beat until combined and taste. Add more of either or both if desired.
1. Combine the sanding sugar and salt.
2. Brush the surface of each cupcake with some of the liquor mix.