Ring in a Sweet New Year with Cosmopolitan Cupcakes

I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise to anyone to learn that I like to ring in the New Year with sweets. Really, I’m not a big drinker, so celebrating with sweet treats is how I indulge. This year though, I’m going for a double whammy and combining one of my favorite cocktails, a Cosmopolitan, with one of my favorite desserts, cupcakes! Cosmopolitan + cupcake = what else?! Cosmopolicakes!

What a way to celebrate, huh?! I was certain that I wouldn’t be able to pull these off. I just didn’t think I could get the flavors of a Cosmopolitan to translate to cake, but I did, and am I ever glad!! They’re sweet with a zippy little punch to them, and definitely grown up! But they don’t have to be, I offer substitutions for all of the alcohol so that you can make these treats kid-friendly! Another awesome thing about these? They can easily be “vegan-ized!” I’ve included vegan substitutes in the recipe, as well!

The “grown up” version taste best after sitting overnight. The alcohol flavors have a chance to develop, especially in the frosting, so the cupcakes taste like the cocktail by the next day. But don’t worry, the alcohol isn’t overwhelming at all. in fact, the flavors blend wonderfully. The cake is sweet, moist, and just slightly dense, while the frosting is creamy and a little tart. They compliment each other perfectly. After sitting overnight, the frosting also has the perfect amount of bitterness, from the alcohol, to balance the sweetness.

I ended up having to make these cupcakes three times before I got them just right. I really wanted to make sure that I got the components of a Cosmo (cranberry, lime, and orange) in the cakes, but each of those ingredients adds not only liquid, but sugar to the recipe, so I had to work to balance that out. Plus, I really wanted these to be vegan, so I had some trial and error to work through for that.

The first batch of these that I made was delicious, but their texture was really off. Like I said, I wanted these to be vegan, so my starter recipe was based on a vegan margarita cupcake recipe. I used sugar, all-purpose flour, milk (soy or almond, for vegan), canola oil, triple sec, cranberry juice cocktail, salt, baking soda, baking powder, orange zest, lime or lemon zest, vanilla, and lime juice to make them.

First of all, I want to specify that lime zest is preferable to lemon zest. I, however, had to use lemon. Can you believe that the day I went to buy my groceries, there were no limes available anywhere?! I went to three separate grocery stores and nothing! Not even key limes!! I even have a lime tree in my yard, and it wasn’t giving any up for me either!

I digress… Using oil in this particular recipe was definitely not the way to go. They ended up being very dense, and chewy. Ick. The batter looked like liquid. It was just way too runny, and the cupcakes just turned out glue-y. I tried making them a second time, the same way, but mixed them less, in the hope that I had simply over mixed them, but no. They were still heavy and rubbery. Two batches down, no luck yet.

For the next try, I slightly altered the amounts of everything and replaced the oil with a stick of unsalted butter (margarine for vegan), and some apple sauce to bind everything together better

In a medium bowl, I combined the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set it aside.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the apple sauce then stir in the lime and orange zests. Add the cranberry juice, lime juice, triple sec and vanilla, and stir until combined. Sprinkle half of the flour mixture over the batter and beat until just combined. Stir in half of the milk, then add the remaining flour, and mix again until just combined. Finally, stir in the remaining milk and beat until thoroughly combined, but don’t over mix. I chose to color my cupcakes pink, but you can leave them white too. If you tint your batter, stir the coloring in at the end.

Next I placed two tablespoons of batter in each cupcake liner and baked at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

The frosting was much simpler than the cupcakes, and I got it right on the first try! You just need unsalted butter (at room temperature), confectioners’ sugar, cranberry juice cocktail, lime juice, triple sec (or orange juice), and vodka (optional). In a large bowl, cream the butter until smooth. Add one cup of sugar and beat until combined. Stir in the cranberry juice until just combined, then add another cup of sugar and mix until combined. Stir in the vodka, if using, and the lime juice until combined. Add another cup of sugar and mix well. Finally stir in the triple sec (or orange juice), then add the remaining cup of sugar and beat until well combined and light and fluffy.

I kept decorations on these minimal and just gave the cupcakes a swirl of frosting, sprinkled each one with Cosmopolitan flavored sanding sugar, and topped them with adorable pink elephant cocktail picks! Ideally, I would have liked to include a single spiral of lime zest, like you would get in the drink, but like I said…no limes.

Whoopsie! Looks like someone had one cupcake too many.

Admittedly, these are pretty girly cupcakes, but then again, a Cosmo is a relatively girly cocktail too. The girly factor can be toned down, though, if you like. Both the batter and the frosting start out white, and you can add any color to them that you like. If I were to have a swanky New Year’s Eve party, I think they’d look very elegant as all white cupcakes in black liners, with festive tinsel toppers. And an unexpected pink one sprinkled into the mix. But that’s just me.

I truly love how these turned out! From the taste to the look, they are sweet and festive, and perfect for counting down to 2011! Enjoy!

Makes 3 dozen

3 cups (381 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks, or 226 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature (margarine for vegan)
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
4 eggs or (3/4 cup apple sauce, for vegan)
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest (lemon is an okay substitution)
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons (30 ml) cranberry juice cocktail
2 tablespoons (30 ml)  lime juice
2 tablespoons (30 ml) triple sec (orange juice for non-alcoholic)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream (or Tofutti for vegan)
Food coloring (optional)

1/2 cup (1 stick or 113 grams) butter (margarine for vegan)
1 pound (about 4 cups or 500 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (15 ml) cranberry juice cocktail
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vodka (optional)
2 1/2 teaspoons (13 ml) lime juice
2 teaspoons (10 ml) triple sec (orange juice for non-alcoholic)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) milk (soy or almond for vegan), optional
Food coloring (optional)

To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time (or apple sauce, if using), then stir in the lime and orange zests. Add the cranberry juice, lime juice, triple sec and vanilla, and stir until combined.

Sprinkle 1/3 of the flour mixture over the batter and beat until just combined. Stir in half of the sour cream, then another 1/3 of the flour, and mix again until just combined. Stir in the remaining sour cream until just combined, then add the remaining flour and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Don’t over mix.

Place 3 tablespoons of batter in each cupcake liner and bake for 17 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter for about 30 seconds. Beat in the sugar and salt until combined. Add the cranberry, vodka, lime juice, and triple sec and whisk on high for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. If the frosting is too thick, add some of the milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Stir in food coloring, if using.

Recipe by Darla

Leave a comment


  1. Pinkchry says

    Altho I am pregnant right now I cant wait until feburary to have our second baby just so I can try these!! I am thinking the pink will work well for valentines day as well and with baby in hand I can try a cupcake based off of one of my favorite drinks. I just found your website a week or so ago and LOVE it!! Keep up the amazing recipies!!

  2. Scarletta says

    Absolutely adorable.

    It's always amazing to me the impact that oil vs. butter can have on various cake/cupcake batters.

    And I can't believe that you couldn't find any limes! But it doesn't look like the final product suffered at all – thanks so much for another fantastic and gorgeous recipe!!

  3. Erin says

    Ok – I just made these (for my party tomorrow night) and while the cupcakes look beautiful, something is definitely wrong with my frosting – what did I do wrong?? There is not enough moisture in it at all, I just have little balls of really dense, almost play-doh like consistency. (tastes good though!) I did leave out the vodka, but put a bit extra lime juice and triple sec (I'm actually using cointreau – it's what we had). I'll just experiment since I doubt you'll read this before I am done – I'm sure I can figure it out! Yummy recipe though!

  4. Darla says

    @Erin – Oh no! It sounds like you haven't done anything wrong, you just need extra liquid. I always worry about this happening because it's very humid where I live…it's a big concern that I don't compensate enough for dryer climates. 🙁 I know it may be too late, but to soften your frosting, try adding a little milk, one teaspoon at a time, until the consistency is right.

    I hope this helps and thank you so much for commenting – I'm going to alter the recipe to address this for others, just in case.

  5. Erin says

    Thanks! I figured that – and it's really dry here right now. I added an extra Tbsp of Cointreau and an extra Tbsp of lime juice, and got rave reviews! The frosting wasn't that "creamy", so I might try some milk next time, but they really were outstanding. My husband said hands down they were the best cupcakes he'd ever had – and I make a lot of cupcakes!! So thank you for your contribution to my new year's party!!

  6. CIA-Cooking In An Apron says

    What a cool way to bring in the new year or any other festive celebration! The cupcake recipe will definitely be made real soon! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Neka says

    Have been so excited to make these for a birthday party we are having tomorrow night. While I am waiting for them to bake I have been re-reading all of your other fabulous ideas. I go check on the deliciousness & GASP!! All of the middles are falling….bad. What did I do wrong??

  8. Darla says

    @Neka – Oh no!! I hate fallen cupcakes! There are a couple of reasons that fallen cupcakes happen. One, the most likely culprit, is over or under mixing. In the case of this recipe, it would have to be pretty drastically under mixed, so if the problem is mixing, it was likely over mixing.

    It could, however, have been your oven temperature. Opening the oven door at any point during baking cupcakes can sometimes cause them to fall, but the bigger problem is the oven's heating cycles. After my oven preheats, I always try to put my food in immediately after I hear the heating cycle kick off. This means you're putting the food in at the oven's hottest (i.e. the temperature it's supposed to be). Sometimes, if you put your food in after the heat cycle has been off for a while, the temperature will have dropped several degrees and your baked goods don't get the fast blast of heat that they need at the beginning of baking.

    I'm so sorry that your cupcakes fell! I know it doesn't solve your cupcake dilemma now, but I hope that these tips will help in the future.

  9. Glamamom says

    Hi! These cupcakes are so beautiful, and I am sure, taste delicicous!! Can’t wait to make them for my girlfriends! I’m curious how you piped the frosting. It looks like more than just a simple swirl to me. Love the photos, too.

    • says

      I used a large star tip (Bakery Crafts #9ST) and did a typical swirl of frosting, but this is a slightly softer frosting, so it spreads ever-so-slightly after piping, giving it a slightly different look.