Margarita Cake

It wouldn’t be a proper Birthday Party without cake and alcohol, would it? So why not save time by mixing the two together? After all, that’s exactly what I did for my husband this year when I made this three-tier Margarita Cake.

Choosing a birthday cake is always a bit of a challenge for me. My default choice would usually be a basic vanilla sponge with some slightly excessive decoration. Or maybe a super rich chocolate cake, covered in a silky ganache. Here’s where I sneak in a plug for my Ultimate Chocolate Cake Bites, which can easily be scaled up into a multi-layered masterpiece if you so desire.

But this year neither of those felt quite right. After a run of warm, sunny weather I wanted to make something that better suited the season. Knowing that Michael is a big fan of a frozen margarita (or two) I didn’t need too long to decide…

Not that turning a cocktail into food is always easy, mind you. There have been several attempts at new recipes for Cocktail Collection that haven’t made the cut. I find the trickiest part of cooking with booze comes in finding the balance between the flavour and the alcohol content.

Too little and you might as well not bother. Too much and it becomes overpowering to the point of being unpleasant. I don’t know about you, but the ubiquitous Sherry Trifle of the 1980s was a serial offender in that regard.

I like to think that this Margarita Cake finds that balance nicely. Although every component contains tequila and triple sec the only real hit of alcohol comes from the frosting. The drizzle is flambéed to burn off the alcohol, leaving behind a sweet syrup rather than a boozy burn. The rest of the sponge inevitably mellows as it bakes, but the tequila/orange flavour is still very much there.

The end result is a wonderfully moist, light sponge that is the perfect centrepiece for any occasion. This recipe makes three layers – which is a perfect match for the amount of buttercream that you get to slather over the top. You could also make this as a set of cupcakes if you preferred – just make sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Oh, and you’ll notice that I decorated the cake with some homemade candied limes. This was mostly for show – it was a birthday cake after all – but they were so easy to make (and rather tasty to boot) that it’s worthwhile taking the extra time to make them. You have to admit that they do look good, eh?

Margarita Cake

It wouldn't be a proper Birthday Party without cake and alcohol, would it? So why not save time by mixing the two together and making this fresh, zesty and rather indulgent Margarita Cake?
Prep Time1 hr 30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time2 hrs
Course: Baking, Dessert
Cuisine: Baking, Cakes, Dessert
Servings: 16
Calories: 491kcal


For the Candied Limes

  • 2 Limes
  • 150 ml Water
  • 100 g Caster Sugar

For the Cake

  • 3 Limes juice and zest
  • 250 g Caster Sugar
  • 250 g Baking Spread or Softened Unsalted Butter
  • 4 large Free Range Eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 250 g Plain Flour
  • tsp Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 4 tbsp Tequila
  • 2 tbsp Triple Sec
  • 2 tbsp Milk

For the Drizzle

  • 60 g Caster Sugar
  • 2 Limes juice and zest
  • 2 tbsp Tequila
  • 1 tbsp Triple Sec

For the Buttercream Frosting

  • 350 g Softened Unsalted Butter
  • 700 g Icing Sugar
  • 2 Limes juice and zest
  • 1 tbsp Tequila
  • 2 tsp Triple Sec


Prepare the Candied Limes

  • Place the limes into a bowl of hot water for a few seconds to remove any wax from the surface. Pat dry to remove any excess moisture.
  • Cut each lime in half lengthways. Slice into thin half moon shapes – you want each slice to be around 2-3mm thick.
  • Put the sugar and water into a small saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently to ensure the sugar fully dissolves.
  • Add the slices of lime to the mixture and stir to ensure they’re coated in the syrup. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • When cooled, remove the limes from the syrup and store until needed.

Make the Cake

  • Stir the lime zest into the caster sugar and put to one side for a few minutes to allow the flavours to mix.
  • Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 180°C
  • Lightly grease and flour (or linthree 20cm sandwich tins and put to one side until needed.
  • Put the caster sugar and baking spread (or butteinto a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy and smooth. You want the mixture to be light and aerated, which will take about 5 minutes.
  • When smooth add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until well combined and smooth. Stir in the lime juice and vanilla extract.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a second bowl. Add around a quarter of the flour mixture to the batter. Stir until combined, but don’t overwork the mixture as you want a light fluffy cake – not a loaf of bread. Repeat this process with the remaining flour until everything is fully combined.
  • Add the tequila, triple sec and milk to the batter and stir gently until well mixed.
  • Divide the mixture between the three sandwich pans and spread it out to the edges, ensuring it’s level across each pan.
  • Transfer to the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until springy to the touch and cooked through. Start checking after 15 minutes or so with a skewer – when it comes out clean the cake will be cooked.
  • Remove from the oven and place the tins on a wire rack. Allow the cakes to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes, before turning them out onto the rack to finish cooling.

Make the Drizzle

  • While the cakes are cooling in the tins you should make the drizzle, as you want to spread this across the cakes whilst they’re still warm.
  • Put the caster sugar, lime juice, lime zest, tequila and triple sec into a small saucepan. Heat over a medium heat until just below a simmer, stirring gently until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Remove from the heat, then carefully light the vapours coming off of the syrup to burn off the alcohol.
  • Allow to cool slightly, then spoon or brush the drizzle over each of the cake layers allowing it to soak into the sponge.

Prepare the Frosting

  • Put the butter into a mixing bowl and beat with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.
  • Sift in a third of the icing sugar and beat again until combined with the butter.
  • Mix together the lime juice, lime zest, tequila and triple sec. Pour 2 tbsp of the mixture into the butter and sugar mixture, then beat until smooth.
  • Repeat this process with the remaining sugar and margarita mixture until you have a smooth, fluffy frosting.

Decorate the Cake

  • Put a small amount of frosting onto a cake stand or board. This will hold the first cake layer in place.
  • Spread the top of the first sponge with enough frosting to give a layer around 5mm thick. Place the next sponge layer on top and repeat the process, followed by the final sponge layer.
  • The next stage is to create a crumb coat over the whole sponge. This first stage of frosting will ensure that the finished cake has a smooth, crumb-free finish. To do this, spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and side of the cake with a palette knife – filling in any gaps as you go. Pop the cake into the fridge for 10-15 minutes to firm up the frosting. Cover the remaining frosting until needed.
  • When you’re ready to decorate the rest of the cake apply a generous layer of frosting to the top and sides of the cake, smoothing out with a palette knife as you see fit.
  • Decorate with the candied lime slices, then store in an airtight container until ready to serve.
  • The cake should keep for a few days without too many issues – though I honestly doubt any will be left to worry about…


Estimated Values per Serving
of which Saturates15g
of which Sugars44g
Note: Nutritional information shown is per serving of the above recipe. Any side dishes or garnishes shown in photos are not included in these values, unless they are specifically listed as part of the recipe.

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