Margarita cake

I am going to admit right at the start, that I am far from a tequila fan (in fact, I am generally in the “I’ll have anything but tequila” camp). But, a good margarita can be a wonderful thing, and since I have a colleague who is a tequila enthusiast, I thought a margarita-inspired cake for his birthday was really the only way to go.


The basis for this cake was my absolute favourite vanilla sponge recipe from Mary Berry – it’s rich and buttery, with a wonderfully dense crumb and just… well… yum!

To add that little tequila twist, I brushed the warm sponge with a sugar tequila syrup which made for a delicious moist (and definitely 0ver-18) element.


Completing the margarita-ness of this beauty was a lime flavoured Italian meringue buttercream frosting.

As an aside, IMBC – as all the cool kids call it – is just the best icing, in my humble opinion. It is smooth and silky, can be flavoured with just about anything, and is less overpoweringly sweet as regular buttercream. Also, despite its reputation for being tricky, it’s not nearly as intimidating as it first seems – I reckon, once you try it once, you’ll never go back!


So, for this margarita cake, here’s what you need…

For the sponge:

  • 250g butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large free-range eggs (at room temperature, beaten)
  • 250g self-raising flour (or regular cake flour and 2½ tsp baking powder)
  • 2-3 Tbsp milk (if needed)

For the sugar syrup:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tbsp tequila (or to taste)

For the frosting:

  • 5 free-range egg whites
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 285g sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 455g butter (cubed)
  • Rind from 4 limes
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • Extra lime (sliced) for decoration)


  • Preheat the oven to 180°C
  • Beat the butter with an electric mixer, then slowly beat in the caster sugar and vanilla
  • Continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed
  • Add the eggs, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition and added a tablespoon of the flour with the last few egg additions to stop the mixture from curdling
  • Sift in the remaining flour and mix with a metal spoon until no streaks/specks of flour are visible
  • The mixture should just drop off the back of a spoon when lightly shaken (add a small amount of milk if necessary)
  • Spoon the mixture into two 7-inch baking tins (lined or greased – I use loose bottom tins lined with baking paper)
  • Bake for 35-40 mins (until golden and springy and a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean)
  • While the cake is in the oven, place the sugar and water for the syrup in a small saucepan and bring to the boil
  • Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and add in the tequila
  • When the cakes are ready, remove them from the tins and allow to cool slightly before cutting each in half (so your two sponge layers become four)
  • Brush the cut sides generously with the syrup while still warm
  • For the frosting, place the granulated sugar and the water in a saucepan and place over a medium-high heat (allow the sugar to melt slowly without stirring)
  • Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand-mixer, whip the egg whites until foamy
  • Add the caster sugar and then continue beating until stiff peaks
  • Allow the sugar and water mixture to bubble until all the sugar has dissolved and large rolling bubbles move from the edges to the centre of the pot (I found this IMBC tutorial really helpful when it came to making this for the first time as I don’t use a sugar thermometer)
  • Reduce the speed of the mixer and slowly (the mixture is really hot!) pour in the sugar  mixture in a steady stream
  • Turn the mixer back to high, and beat until the mixture comes down to room temperature
  • Reduce the speed of the mixer again, and add in the butter block by block and continue beating until smooth and silky
  • Add in the lime rind and the juice, tablespoon by tablespoon – scraping down the sides as needed and tasting to make sure you get enough lime-y deliciousness
  • Finally, when the cakes are cool, assemble them with the lime frosting between each layer and a good coating on the outside, topped with sliced limes for decoration
  • The last step… slice, and enjoy!

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