Shirley Temple cupcakes are perfect celebration cupcakes for kids when you need something classier than funfetti cupcakes! Shirley Temple cupcakes are inspired by the Shirley Temple cocktail and contain grenadine, lemon, and lime.
I remember that, as a kid, it felt so grown-up to be able to go up to the bar at a wedding and order a cocktail. The drink of choice for all the kids was always a Shirley Temple. The cocktail is made with lemon-lime soda and grenadine, and always topped with a maraschino cherry.
These Shirley Temple cupcakes are moist and light (they use a similar base recipe to my perfect vanilla cupcakes). They are flavored with fresh lemon and lime zest. And, of course, there is grenadine in both the cupcakes and the frosting.
Special Ingredients for Shirley Temple Cupcakes
You can’t make a Shirley Temple cupcake without grenadine and maraschino cherries.
You should be able to find both of these items at a grocery store or wherever you buy your alcohol.
However, if you have the time, I highly recommend making both grenadine and the maraschino cherries from scratch. The store-bought versions of both typically contain lots of red dye and high-fructose corn syrup. When you make them from scratch, you can make them naturally using pomegranate juice.
How to Make Shirley Temple Cupcakes
These cupcakes use the same basic techniques as all of my cupcake recipes. If you are new to baking cupcakes, check out my post on how to make cupcakes before jumping into this recipe.
The recipe starts by mixing all of your dry ingredients. This includes the lemon and lime zest. The easiest way to zest is with a microplane zester. However, to get the best flavor out of your zest, follow my guide on how to zest a lemon.
This recipe uses two kinds of fat – butter and oil. The butter gives the cupcakes that important buttery flavor and the oil keeps them moist.
First, mix the room temperature butter into your dry ingredients. Then, add the oil in along with the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla.
Grenadine and water get added last. The batter ends up being liquidy – this is normal.
Bake the cupcakes for about 14 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Shirley Temple Frosting
I make this Shirley Temple frosting the same way that I make my vanilla buttercream. Instead of flavoring the frosting with vanilla, I flavor it with grenadine. It makes it such a nice pretty color, too!
For the best success with this frosting:
- Make sure the butter is at room temperature.
- Beat the butter for three minutes at high speed with an electric mixer. This will make sure that it is light and fluffy.
If you are an adult who likes Shirley Temples and drinks alcohol, you can make this recipe a little more adult by topping the Shirley Temple cupcakes with homemade Luxardo cherries instead of maraschino cherries. The Luxardo cherries are made with cherry liquor. Or, if you’d prefer, you can use the grenadine to make Tequila Sunrise cupcakes.
Some people make Shirley Temple cocktails using Ginger Ale in addition to the lemon-lime soda. If you fit that description, you can add two teaspoons of ground ginger to the recipe to give it a little ginger flavor.
If you prefer fresh cherries to syrup-soaked cherries, consider making my fresh cherry cupcakes instead.
Shirley Temple Cupcakes
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- zest of 1 small lemon
- zest of 1 small lime
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1/3 cup full-fat sour cream
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup grenadine
- 1/3 cup water
Shirley Temple Cupcakes Instructions
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, mix together sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, lemon zest, and lime zest.
- Add butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes. Because there is so little butter, you'll end up with a very fine crumb texture.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, oil, and vanilla extract until smooth.
- Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.
- Slowly add grenadine and water and mix on low speed until just combined. The batter will be liquid. (Don't worry, you didn't do anything wrong. It's supposed to be that way.)
- Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.
- Bake for 14 minutes and then test to see if they are done. They are done when a toothpick comes out without wet batter stuck to it. If they are not done, test again in two minute increments.
- When the cupcakes are done, remove them immediately from the tins and leave them on a cooling rack (or just on your counter if you don't own a cooling rack) to cool.
Shirley Temple Frosting Instructions
- Beat butter on high speed in the bowl of a stand mixer for about three minutes, until light and fluffy.
- Mix in powdered sugar a little bit at a time.
- Mix in grenadine and salt.
- Spread or pipe onto cooled cupcakes.
- Top with cherries and decorate with paper straws.