Tammie Nestor of Hagerstown submitted a recipe for margarita cupcakes with key lime buttercream frosting for The Herald-Mail's second annual Cupcake Contest in April. The cupcake evokes the sun-drenched good times of Florida, where Maryland-born Nestor lived for many years.
Nestor said she got the idea for her margarita flavor profile from a TV cooking show.
"I like to watch 'Cupcake Wars' on Food Network, and someone made a margarita cupcake," she said. "But they didn't say how they made it."
So Nestor developed her own recipe by trial and error. She started with a white cake mix and margarita mix. To bring out the traditional flavors of lime, orange and tequila, she added lime zest, orange liqueur and real tequila.
She tested her cupcakes on her co-workers at Robinwood Early Childhood Center at Hagerstown Community College.
"My co-workers are my guinea pigs," Nestor said with a laugh. "I'll bring them something and they'll tell me what it needs more of."
Nestor said she likes to bake. She got to bake a lot while she attended culinary school at Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach.
Nestor cooks for her family — mother and father, two sons and a daughter. In particular, she cooks with her children.
"In my parents' generation, they really didn't want kids in the kitchen," she said. "The only time you really got to (cook) was with your grandmother."
Nestor also cooks with the 2-year-olds she oversees at work. She said she gets a good response from the children when she leads them in making soups in the fall.
"I did a butternut squash soup. The kids loved it," she said. "Their moms are like, 'They don't eat like this at home.'"
— Chris Copley, Lifestyle assistant editor
Margarita cupcakes with key lime buttercream frosting
18.25-ounce box white cake mix
1 1/3 cups bottled margarita mix
1/3 cup tequila
1 1/2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 large egg whites
Zest of one lime
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Blend cake mix, margarita mix, tequila, Grand Marnier, oil and eggs in a large bowl until moistened. Beat with mixer on low speed for 2 minutes.
Add zest of lime and continue to mix until lime zest is mixed in well.
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Key lime buttercream frosting
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 cup unsalted butter softened (2 sticks)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon key lime juice
In a large bowl, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended, then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
Add vanilla, cream and key lime juice. Continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
— Courtesy of Tammie Nestor of Hagerstown