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I almost couldn’t believe it when I looked through my posts over the last few months and realized the last time I shared cupcakes was all the way back at the end of March.  More than 2 months without a cupcake post, it just didn’t seem right.  So when our friends invited us to a barbecue this weekend I offered to bring dessert, and I knew I had to make cupcakes.  Since I always think of Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial start to summer, I wanted something fresh and fun to celebrate the season.  As much as I love chocolate, I ruled it out pretty early on.  I kept coming back to boozy desserts, which is sort of ironic given that I rarely drink these days.  These margarita cupcakes just barely beat out a few other contenders (primarily these rum punch cupcakes, how cute are they?).  I bought a giant bag of limes recently and this seemed like the perfect treat to make with them (among many others coming up in the next few weeks!).    

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There were only 4 of us at the cookout this weekend (plus a baby, no tequila for him yet) so I halved the recipe below to make just 6 cupcakes.  The cupcakes are full of lime flavor thanks to both lime zest and lime juice.  I chose not to include tequila in the cupcakes themselves; rather, when they emerged from the oven, I brushed their warm tops with tequila to infuse some flavor.  Shawnda topped her version of the cupcakes with a tequila-lime Swiss meringue buttercream, which looked terrific, but since I needed to frost so few cupcakes I chose to go with a no-fuss basic buttercream instead.  The buttercream includes both lime juice and tequila and pairs perfectly with the cupcakes.  Garnished with a lime wedge, lime zest and a sprinkle of salt, these were the perfect ending to our cookout. 

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Margarita Cupcakes
adapted slightly from Confections of a Foodie Bride

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 limes, zested and juiced
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon tequila (for brushing the tops, if desired)

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Line muffins tins with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Mix in the lime zest, juice and vanilla (it may look curdled at this point, don’t worry it will come together).  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients (in three additions) alternately with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat just until incorporated.

Divide the batter among the paper liners, filling each about 3/4-full.  Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the cupcakes spring back when pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and brush the warm cupcakes with tequila.  Let rest for about 5 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans and let cool completely before frosting.

Makes 12 cupcakes

Tequila-Lime Buttercream
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Easy Vanilla Buttercream and Brown Eyed Baker

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 3/4 – 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1-2 tablespoons tequila
pinch salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds.  With the mixer on low, slowly add 2 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar a little at a time until completely incorporated and the mixture is smooth.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl then beat in the lime juice, 1 tablespoon of tequila and the salt.  Increase the mixer to medium speed and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Taste the frosting and decide if you want to add the remaining tablespoon of tequila.  If so, beat to incorporate.  If you want a slightly firmer consistency for piping, add the remaining 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar to the frosting.

The frosting can be made a few days ahead and refrigerated.  When you are ready to use it, let it come to room temperature and then beat briefly before piping.

Frost the cooled cupcakes with the buttercream.  Garnish with lime zest or lime wedges, if desired.