Wednesday, May 25, 2011

retro-post: cinco de mayo & margarita cupcakes

I grew up in a culture that generally doesn't imbibe much. At all. So I remember the first time when my family vacationed in Mexico, my mom ordered a virgin margarita to enjoy out by the pool (or the pond) and the bartender replied, So you want lemonade? Right?

And maybe he wasn't being snarky. He was probably just making sure he understood that we all wanted fancy drinks with little umbrellas without the complimentary (at that hotel) booze.

So for Cinco de Mayo, in honor of a culturally irreverent/irrelevant gathering at my apartment, I made "virgin" "margarita" cupcakes. Which is code for lemon cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and a twist of lime that made the frosting taste ridiculously good. Look at that lil twist! I'm smacking my lips right now.
Here's my confession, though: this is another faker post. I made these cupcakes with (gasp!) a mix. A mix that I added some extra stuff to. So they're mix-plus, which is a pretty great way to enjoy a cupcake when you only have one hour to make and frost them before people start arriving with bean dips. It's a recipe that you may recognize from this blog post when I just wanted to cut to the chase and start putting frosting bikinis on Teddy Grahams.

Speedy Lemon Cupcakes

Here's what you need:

1 lemon or vanilla cake mix. Any brand. Whatever has the prettiest picture on the box.
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
4 eggs
1 cup of sour cream
1 package of lemon instant pudding mix
1 t lemon juice

Here's what you do:

1. Mix up the cake mix, water and oil until everything is all incorporated.
2. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing the batter between each egg (or if you have a stand mixer, you can just let it continue to churn through your batter while you add the eggs).
3. Add the sour cream, pudding mix and lemon juice. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix it up.
4. Use an ice cream scoop with a lever to scoop batter into each section of the muffin/cupcake pan (use cupcake wrappers if you want, or go naked, whatever your prefer).
5. Bake one pan (12 cupcakes) at a time at 350 for about 17 minutes. When you get them out of the oven, pop them out of the pan and onto a cooling rack so they don't sweat in the wrappers.
6. Cool It.
7. Frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting and Garnish

Here's what you need:

8 oz. of cream cheese. Don't use neufchatel. It's frosting, you're probably not going to cut that many calories. Well, okay you can, but you'll have a runnier consistency that's surprisingly hard to manipulate by adding extra powdered sugar. or maybe that was just me. Was that just me? Okay, never mind.
4-6 cups powdered sugar
3 T milk or cream
(if you're NOT topping them with sliced limes, add 1 T vanilla. if you ARE topping them with limes, adjust milk to create a consistency you like.)
3 Limes in thin slices. The thinner the better.

Here's what you do:

1. The cream cheese works best if it's room temp or close to room temp, but if it's not, don't stress out about it. Stick it in the microwave for like, 7 seconds. Pop it in a bowl and mix it up with your hand mixer.
2. Add powdered suger in manageable batches & mix into the cream cheese. At some point (possibly nearly immediately, depending on how much sugar you put in) you'll need to start adding the milk to get it to turn into frosting and not a cheese ball.
3. Alternate milk and powdered sugar until you like how thick/thin it is. For an alternative to the limes you could leave the frosting relatively thin and drizzle it over the cakes and maybe top with some fresh raspberries?
4. If you're sticking with limes: slice up your limes. Take each round and 3/4 of way through the slice, like you would if you were going to put it on a glass.  Make your lime do the splits and wedge it into the swirl of frosting you've heaped onto the cupcake. The thinner the slice of lime, the easier it will stay put on the cupcake.
Also note: the limes are perfect on the cupcakes for about two hours. After that the bitterness from the rind starts to transfer into the frosting. It's not horrible, but don't put the limes on 6 hours before serving.



  1. I am living, breathing proof of the addictive nature of these cupcakes. I will refrain from expounding upon the number I ate, suffice it to say, it was numerous and I heartily enjoyed every bite as much I dared in public. K, you ARE my Culinary Idol!

  2. Teeeeehehehehe. You are adorable. That lime twist made 'em pretty lip-smacky, if I may say so.