Margarita Cupcake Recipe: Tequila Buttercream with a Pretzel Crust

Looking to make fun cupcakes that are a little different from the norm? You’ve come to the right place! Dangerous Cupcake is a lifestyle website, but we started making “dangerous” cupcakes many years ago. It’s been a hot minute since we shared a new recipe here, but with a nod to our roots (and that of our website before this one), we’re getting back in our baking groove. First up? A margarita cupcake, a fluffy sweet-and-sour batter baked on top of a pretzel crust and covered with tequila buttercream. It’s like a margarita in cake form.

margarita cupcake recipe with tequila buttercream and a pretzel crust

This booze-infused cupcake was inspired by a homemade sweet and sour mix I made a few weeks ago for a mango margarita on the rocks. I had a lot left over, and wanted a way to use it…and while I love a good margarita, I don’t drink tequila that often. The next day, we went to a party with cupcakes for dessert, and that’s where I realized what I could do with the rest of the sweet and sour: a margarita-themed cupcake!

Side note: homemade sweet and sour is too easy to make and tastes so much better than store-bought. You can find my recipe here; you’ll never go back to buying a bottle again AND you’ll save money.

If you’re worried about cupcakes having alcohol in them, keep in mind that alcohol typically bakes out of the batter. However, this cupcake gets the tequila flavor from actual alcohol in the buttercream. These boozy margarita cupcakes aren’t going to get you buzzed, but it is alcohol so keep that in mind if there are kids around.

There are a lot of versions of margarita cupcakes out there, many of them with tequila lime buttercream. I chose to use only lime zest on the top of the buttercream, but there is a heavy lime presence in the batter due to the sweet and sour mix.

snyder pretzels for the margarita cupcake crust

One key ingredient that is not homemade in this recipe is the bag of pretzels you’ll need. You want a very crispy, quality pretzel that will hold up against the moisture of the cake, and one that is salty. The salt in the pretzel plays off the tequila buttercream perfectly. You’ll need them pretty pulverized, but not so much that it’s pretzel dust. Instead of putting them in a food processor, I chose to do it the old-fashioned way: fill a sturdy plastic sealed bag and smash them with the bottom of a glass. If the chunks are too big, they won’t hold together; if they’re too small, you get less of a pretzel feel.

pretzel crust for this margarita cupcake recipe

This cupcake recipe comes together in three phases: making and baking the pretzel crust, filling the cupcakes with one ice cream scoop of batter and baking again, and when cooled, topping them with the tequila buttercream with your favorite decorating tip or spatula for a flat top.

pretzel crust for margarita cupcakes

Another suggestion to really help with the lime flavor in the batter: infuse your sugar with the two tablespoons of fresh lime zest for one to two hours before you begin to bake. Cover it gently, stirring every 20-30 minutes. This adds another layer of flavor and it also adds some color to a batter that is otherwise a mild yellow.

margarita cupcake with a pretzel crust and tequila buttercream

See how the pretzel crust looks after it is baked? It’s a thin layer but you want it to be enough to really stick and be an actual part of the cocktail-turned-cupcake experience. If it’s too thin, you won’t get the crunch that makes this cupcake so unique.

pretzel crust in a margarita cupcake

The first time I made these cupcakes, I put a little tequila in the batter. It didn’t come through enough, so I switched to putting it in the buttercream. The one problem with flavoring any buttercream recipe is that you can only add so much liquid and still keep a proper consistency or the frosting will run. Sometimes, extracts are perfect, but in the absence of one — especially something like tequila, that you’re not likely to have in your pantry — you have to really balance the liquid while tamping down the sweet flavor a little. I think we achieved that in this recipe!

kerrygold butter for this margarita cupcake recipe

One last tip: buy good butter. I used Kerrygold, and while it’s more expensive, it makes the best buttercream for only a little more than other quality butter. For this particular recipe, you can use salted butter or unsalted, your choice.

margarita cupcake recipe with pretzel crust and tequila buttercream

Margarita Cupcake with Pretzel Crust and Tequila Buttercream


Pretzel Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed pretzels
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar

Margarita Cupcake Batter

  • 2 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt We used sea salt
  • 2 1/2 tsps baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsps lime zest
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature/softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup sweet and sour mix

Tequila Buttercream

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature/softened
  • 3 tbsps tequila We used 1800 blanco
  • 4 cups powdered sugar May need additional 1/2 cup.
  • Zest of one lime


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Put 24 cupcake liners in pans.

  3. Mix the crushed pretzels, butter and sugar together.

  4. Place 2 tbsps of mixture into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Press down to fill any gaps and compact to make it hold together.

  5. Bake for five minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

  6. While pretzel crusts are cooling, begin making the batter.

  7. Mix dry ingredients (flour, salt and baking powder) in a bowl.

  8. In larger mixing bowl, whip butter for 30-45 seconds until fluffy.

  9. Add in the sugar and lime zest. (If you've infused the sugar with the lime zest prior, this step is easier and you'll have a richer lime flavor.)

  10. Mix for approximately 30 seconds until sugar, zest and butter is thoroughly combined.

  11. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

  12. Add 1/2 of the dry ingredient mixture. Gently mix until just combined.

  13. Add the sweet and sour mix and melted butter. Gently mix until combined.

  14. Add remainder of dry ingredient, and mix again until just fully combined. Do not overmix.

  15. Drop one ice cream scoop into each cupcake liner on top of the cooled pretzel crust.

  16. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15-18 minutes. (This will depend on your oven; mine took 16 minutes.) Check to be sure thoroughly but not overbaked. Remove from oven and cool thoroughly.

  17. Once the cupcakes are entirely cool, zest the additional lime. Set aside.

  18. Mix softened butter for approximately 45 seconds until very fluffy. (If you have the whip attachment, use it.)

  19. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar to mixing bowl. (A stand mixer is very helpful when making buttercream.) Mix until combined, but it will get thick, and when it does, stop and add the 3 tbsp of tequila.

  20. Mix a little more and add the remaining cup of powdered sugar. If the frosting is too soft, add up to 1/2 cup more of powdered sugar, but add in small portions. If it's too thick, the only way to fix it is to add a small bit more of tequila but you can go back and forth on this so do small doses to make it work on the first try!

  21. Place frosting in large piping bag with your choice of tip and decorate! Immediately sprinkle with the lime zest.

Cupcakes typically use some form of milk as a liquid; we use sweet and sour mix instead, but the additional one tablespoon of melted butter helps replace some of the fat component.

Aren’t they gorgeous?

margarita cupcakes with tequila buttercream

Cupcakes are the perfect portable mini-dessert, but one peeve of mine is when the liners are hard to peel off the cake. That wasn’t a problem with these! The layers hold together and the liners don’t stick.

margarita cupcake cut in half to see the pretzel crust and batter

They are so good! Also, I hate to see teethmarks in food photos so here you have a photo of a cupcake cut neatly in half…which almost never happens, because everyone eats a whole cupcake, often asking for another. I made these again for our annual Memorial Day homemade pizza grilling party and they were a huge hit!

Let me know if you try these margarita cupcakes, and what you think of the tequila buttercream. (And that pretzel crust? It also tastes great with a strawberry cupcake!) Don’t miss the rest of our cupcake recipes!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating