Cranberry Margarita Cupcakes

/// November 10th, 2014

Cranberry Margarita Cupcakes Hello! And happy Monday. Today is a very special day here in food blogging land… today is our SURPRISE virtual bridal shower for the wonderful Joanne  of Eats Well With OthersSurprise Joanne! We love you!!!

Joanne's Shower Graphic Today is also very special because we’re starting off the week with fruity, boozy cupcakes. The theme of this special shower is Autumn! And really, what could be more Autumn than a boozed up cranberry cupcake?! Cranberries + Tequila + Citrus ALL PACKED IN A CUPPY CAKE. These are impossible not to love!

This cupcake recipe was heavily inspired by the Lemon Cupcakes with Blackberry Buttercream I made over the Summer. I decided to perk up the already bright cupcake base by adding a pop of lime and orange zest in addition to the already existing lemon situation, and the buttercream got a ruby red makeover thanks to cranberry puree! Also: TEQUILA. Joanne and I have sipped our fair share of cocktails together, so a fun, cocktail inspired treat just seemed right.

Now I’ll give you a fair warning: this recipe is not a quick and easy one-bowl situation. If you need one of those, my Perfect “One Bowl” Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting will have you eating a cupcake in no time!

That said. If you’re looking for a cupcake recipe that’s fun to make, delicious to eat, and SURE to impress —-> This is your cupcake!

To save time, you can make the cranberry puree (which is definitely the most time consuming part of the recipe) up to three days ahead. It has to cool off COMPLETELY before it gets added to the buttercream, so I actually recommend making a mental note to do this at least a few hours before you plan on making the rest of the recipe.

To make the cranberry puree you’ll add 2 cups of crannies and some lemon juice to a sauté pan and cook the mixture until the berries have soften and are easily smash-able. Then you run the mixture through a fine mesh sieve (be sure to scrape the back of the sieve, as that’s where a lot of the puree sticks) and into a clean bowl, leaving any seeds/skin behind. After that the puree just needs to cool. See… not too hard, right?

The cupcake part of the recipe is quite simple. There are just three important things to remember!

1. Please (please please please) measure your flour correctly. This means lightly scooping it into the measuring cup (I use a large cereal spoon to do this) and then leveling it off with a knife once full. Absolutely no packing! Packed flour will always lead to dry, dense cupcakes.

2. Mix in the flour *just until combined. I was teaching a baking class over the weekend and I cannot tell you how many of my students (after hearing this *very warning) were caught beating the bloody hell out of their cake batter. Wanna guess how their cakes came out? Dry-as-a-bone. Be gentle and delicate and cautious during this step. Your reward will be pillowy soft cupcakes. It’s worth it.

3) Grate the zest into the sugar, then rub away! By rubbing the zest into the sugar you’re actually releasing their oils and making a flavored sugar that really carries through during the baking process. Plus, it’s fun to play with your food! Your hands with smell like a little slice of citrus heaven.

If you have any questions before baking these pretty little cupcakes, I’m here for you! Just shoot me a line and we’ll get through this delicious adventure hand-in-hand. Because I love you… and pretty cupcakes make life bright. xoxo

Cranberry Margarita Cupcakes


  • For the Cupcakes:
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (do not pack your flour!)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (full fat)
  • 1/2 cup milk (whole)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • For the Cranberry Tequila Buttercream:
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, VERY soft
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 tablespoon tequila
  • Lime slices and salt, for decoration


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
  2. Line a 12 mold muffin tin with paper liners, lightly spray liners with non-stick spray; set aside.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt; mix well to combine. Set aside.
  4. In a large measuring cup or bowl combine sour cream, milk, vanilla, and egg whites; mix well to combine. Set aside.
  5. In a small bowl combine sugar, lemon zest, lime zest, and orange zest. Using your fingertips, rub the zest IN to the sugar, until fragrant and well combined.
  6. In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat melted butter and zesty sugar on medium speed until well combined; about 2 minutes.
  7. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar combination, beating until just combined. Add in sour cream/milk/egg combo and beat on low until *just combined. Over-mixing will result in a dryer/denser cake.
  8. Divide the cupcake batter evenly into the 12 molds (each should be 3/4 full), then place the pan in the oven. Bake for about 15-16 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before topping with frosting.
  9. For the Cranberry Tequila Buttercream:
  10. Combine the cranberries and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook, stirring frequently, until berries become soft enough to mash effortlessly. It will look like thick cranberry jam. Once the mixture can mashed easily into "jam", remove from the heat.
  11. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a small bowl and push the puree though, leaving any seeds/large chunks behind. Allow mixture to cool completely before using.
  12. When ready to make buttercream:
  13. Place butter in a large bowl, or in the body of a stand mixer. With a handheld mixer, or with the whisk attachment on your stand mixer, beat butter on medium-high until completely smooth; about 1 minute. Add in the cranberry puree and beat until completely combined. Add in the confectioners sugar, one cup at a time, on low speed. Once all of the sugar has been added, add in the tequila and salt, then beat on high-speed for 1-2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. If the buttercream is too thin, add a little more confectioners sugar as needed to thicken it up. If it appears to thick add a little more tequila (or cream) to thin it out. Ice cupcakes as desired and decorate with lime wedges and salt. Store cupcakes in refrigerator until needed.
  14. *Cupcakes can be made up to 6 hours ahead of time, but be sure to store in the fridge and bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving.


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33 thoughts on “Cranberry Margarita Cupcakes

  1. Joanne

    Tequila is hands down my fave of ALL THE ALCOHOLS, so these cupcakes?! Wowza. One shot for one cupcake?! That sounds like my kind of bridal shower game. 😛

    Thanks so much love!! I am so glad we are real life friends and we need to plan a hangout session again the next time you’re in NYC!!

  2. Annie

    I love margarita cupcakes and I adore this seasonal spin on them! So pretty and I can only imagine how good they are with the addition of cranberry. Great idea!

  3. Hayley @ The Domestic Rebel

    I love love LOVE that I can now EAT my margarita while drinking one :) these pictures are simply divine, Ashley! So bright and white and gorgeous, and that pop of pink from the sky-high cranberry frosting is absolutely superb. BRB dying.

  4. Kellie

    The icing recipe did not work for me at all. I’m an avid baker but the ratios can’t be right. I ended up with a watery redish-pink mess. The texture was nothing like the pic! Ugh. So sad!

    1. bakerbynature Post author

      Hi Kellie. I can assure you the ratios for the icing are correct. The key, as noted in the post, is to really reduce the cranberries down. With 5 cups of confectioners sugar and so little liquid, the icing should not be a watery mess. Feel free to ask any questions you may have if you decide to try again; I’m happy to help.

  5. Laila

    These sound absolutely amazing! I’m just wondering if it’s possible to substitute a different kind of berry, say raspberries, for the cranberry. Just because I’m thinking of making these in the future when cranberries might be hard to come by in the super market…

  6. Vanessa

    Why can the cupcakes be made only 6 hours in advance?

    Also, I just made the cake portion of this and it’s texture and flavor is amazing!!


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