M is for May and Margarita Cupcakes

May has been a whirlwind and here we are already at Memorial Day weekend! Between Cinco de Mayo, Gold Cup, softball and bocce leagues, a fabulous wedding in Marco Island, FL, my birthday celebration  dinner and an O’s game, and my sister’s graduation in Connecticut after a 3-hour power nap… I’ve been on the go non-stop when I’m not at work. This weekend has many social plans booked on the calendar, but I’m at least glad to be spending it at home and not out of a suitcase for the third weekend in a row.

I made these cupcakes at the beginning of the month for Cinco de Mayo – now you understand why it’s taken me until now to post the recipe. I pinned my inspiration on Pinterest last summer and have been waiting all year to make them. I’ve made many homemade buttercream frostings before, but this Swiss meringue buttercream recipe is probably my most favorite – it has the buttery sweetness of buttercream, but the light, fluffy texture of meringue. How can you go wrong?

Well, a lot can go wrong when you’re trying to make meringue. And it did when I was making this frosting – it just wouldn’t fluff! But after reading these tips on how to fix Swiss meringue buttercream and popping it in the fridge for 30 minutes, I was good to go. If you have a stand mixer, I’d highly recommend using it. Don’t be like me and have to stand with a hand mixer on high for 25 minutes if you know what’s good for you.

Margarita Cupcakes

Margarita Cupcakes with Tequila-Lime Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Candied Key Limes 

Adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
3 limes, zested and juiced
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons tequila
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

Tequila-Lime Swiss Meringue Buttercream

2 cups sugar
8 egg whites
3 sticks butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons lime juice
3-4 tablespoons tequila

Candied Key Limes

Key limes
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare cupcake 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.

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. Add tequila and orange liqueur. Mix only until just combined. Fill each cupcake cup about 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.

Slice key  limes into thin rounds, and blanch in a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes and drain. In the same pot, combine water and 1 cup sugar. Bring to a simmer and add lime slices. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until white pith of limes looks translucent. Drain and spread limes on a cooling rack to dry for at least 1 hour. Put 2 tablespoons sugar in shallow bowl or saucer. When limes are dry, coat both sides of the lime slices by pressing them into the sugar. Store in an airtight container and layer between parchment paper or plastic wrap until ready to use, and refrigerate.

To make the frosting, place the stand mixer bowl or a stainless steel 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 the 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. Beat in one tablespoon of butter at a time on medium. Add lime juice and 1 tablespoon of tequila. Increase speed to high and beat until the frosting reincorporates and is smooth and fluffy. Beat in remaining tequila as desired.

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Semi-Homemade Lemon Cupcakes with Chardonnay Buttercream Frosting

Happy May! Do you realize how many holidays there are to celebrate this month? May Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, my birthday(!) and Memorial Day to name a few. Maybe you want to wow mom with a great homemade treat, but have only ever made dessert straight from the box and a tub of Pillsbury frosting? This recipe will have everyone thinking you made it from scratch, but in half the amount of time (Yup, cat’s out of the bag my fellow co-workers… I didn’t make the cupcakes from scratch last week. Oops!).

Boxed cake cupcakes are easy to glam up with a simple homemade frosting, and trust me, homemade frosting is a lot simpler than you may think. Most frosting consists only of a butter or cream cheese base, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract.

For these cupcakes, I wanted to use my Chardonnay Buttercream Frosting recipe, so I chose a lemon cake. Lemon and grapefruit usually pair well with the citrus flavors of the wine. For a lighter (and not so sweet) option, this chardonnay cake recipe with hints of orange (minus the almond sugar crust) also makes a great pairing. If you want more details on how I edited the chardonnay cake recipe for my treat, leave a comment or send an email!

I followed the ingredients and directions on a lemon boxed cake mix, and also added a package of lemon instant pudding to the mix to make them extra moist. I’ve learned you can add a package of instant pudding mix to almost any type of cake to keep it moist for longer. Now for the frosting…

Chardonnay Buttercream Frosting

1/2 lb. European-style butter, at room temperature (I used Kerrygold’s Irish)
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
6 tablespoons Chardonnay

Cream the butter with an electric mixer, or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on medium to high speed for about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese and continue to mix on medium to high speed for another 2 minutes or until soft and creamy!

Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar. Mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated, adding the last 2 cups of powdered sugar, and then increase speed to high speed and mix for another minute.

Add salt, lemon juice and chardonnay and mix on medium until the salt and liquid are incorporated. Refrigerate to stiffen before frosting cupcakes.

Frosted cupcakes should be refrigerated before serving. If you let them sit out too long, the butter in the frosting will start to melt!