Key lime cake

I’m feeling much better today. It’s not Tuesday. We’re inching toward the weekend and I’m thinking about cake. Cake, particularly the homemade variety, makes everything better.

The 2012 cake has caused a struggle through the summer months because all I want to do is smash sugar cookies onto peaches and make other fruit laden desserts… not layer cakes. Oh, sure I have tons of ideas stored for the colder fall and winter months. But summer does not scream “Make a layer cake!” to me.  


Hubster has a penchant for tart desserts and suggested I look for something citrusy. I found plenty on a quick Google search, but they all called for Jello. Do I seem like someone who wants to put Jello in a layer cake? I am the woman who made caramel from scratch for July’s cake… So yeah, no Jello.

Thanks to Pinterest, I found Alaska from Scratch’s Jello-less take on Key Lime Cake.



This layer cake is SO easy! No fancy fillings, no cake shaving (thanks to layers that baked flat). If you’ve been waiting to dip your toes in cake making, this is the recipe for you.

And you get to play with key limes. They’re tiny and cute and surprisingly juice. Win!



The biggest win is that the finished cake is sweet, but not overly so, and almost tastes light. It’s a layer cake that’s made for summer.

With fall on the horizon and only 4 more cakes this year, I’m thinking chocolate will be back on the menu for September.


Key Lime Cake
From Alaska from Scratch

½ cup butter
12 – 14 key limes
1¾ cup cake flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1¼ cup sugar
2 eggs
1-3 drops green food coloring
¾ cup buttermilk

½ cup butter
8 oz cream cheese
2 ½ – 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Reserved 1 Tbsp key lime zest
Green food coloring, optional
Lime slices for garnish, optional

Place butter (for cake and icing) and cream cheese on counter to soften. Zest limes to get 2 tablespoons of zest. Reserve 1 tablespoon for the icing. Juice limes to get 2 ½ tablespoons of juice.

For the cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8” cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with wax paper and coat the paper in butter. Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs one at a time. Add the lime juice, zest, and food coloring and beat until mixed. (The mixture will look curdled.)

On low speed, add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape the bowl and beater between additions. Mix only until blended. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and spread flat. Sharply tap each cake pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Then remove the cakes from the pans and finish cooling on the rack.

For the frosting
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar on a low speed until the consistency you desire is achieved. Fold in zest and food color. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Once the cakes have cooled, level each with a serrated knife, if necessary. Place one layer on a cake stand and spread with 3/4 cup of icing. Top with second layer and cover with a thin layer of frosting. Refrigerate cake and frosting for 30 minutes. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of the cake. Garnish with lime slices. Chill for 1 hour before serving.

Notes: I used about a dozen limes for the zest and 6 for the juice. This will vary based on the size and juicy-ness (totally word, right?) of your limes. In decidely non-tropical Missouri, key limes come in bags of around 20, which will be more than enough. I tried whipping up a cocktail with some of the remaining key lime juice and cake batter vodka. It was a fail… but of course I drank it because I’m not wasteful.

Also, normally I have lots of icing left over and regret not sticking more in the middle of the cake. This recipe produces an almost exact amount of icing. So don’t go overboard when you frost the middle.

The Meaning of Me - August 23, 2012 - 7:31 pm

Heather, you are killing me with this! I absolutely LOVE good key lime pie. Right now, in my freezer, is something called Ciao Bella Key Lime Graham Gelato. It makes me cry it tastes so good – just like real key lime pie turned in to ice cream. Oh, wait, that’s exactly what it is! But this cake??? You have to be kidding me. Honestly, right after I saw “key lime cake,” I saw the words “easy” and “butter.” I do not like baking, but for this I will convert. Thank you and sorry I am babbling. I really can’t get over this recipe.

ModernMealsForTwo - August 23, 2012 - 7:51 pm

That gelato sounds awesome. Hubster would love it!
I will say this cake is not as tart as actual key lime pie, but it’s still a nice riff. And it really is super easy. You should definitely try it and let me know what you think!

Renee - August 23, 2012 - 8:46 pm

Key limes are the cutest of all the fruits. Cuties be damned.

Maya @ Alaska from Scratch - August 23, 2012 - 10:44 pm

Looks awesome! So glad you enjoyed the recipe. Thanks for sharing! :)

Josh - August 24, 2012 - 12:59 am

The cake looks good, but those peach cookies are amazing!! I completely forgot about them since last year. TODO this weekend: make peach cookies!

ModernMealsForTwo - August 27, 2012 - 1:57 pm

Thanks for posting a recipe without Jello! :)

ModernMealsForTwo - August 27, 2012 - 1:57 pm

Peach season is running out, so definitely smash sugar cookies onto peaches as often as possible ;)

Paula - January 15, 2013 - 1:14 am

I have been able to find key limes year round in several gcrreoy stores in the western Chicago suburbs. I’m not sure what major city you’re near to make suggestions as to where to look. If you have a Trader Joe’s near you I would start there. I would also try going to where the lemon juice is at and some stores have the Nellie and Joe’s Key Lime Juice in a yellow bottle. In a pinch it would work and still better than the Persian (plain) limes.

ModernMealsForTwo - January 15, 2013 - 10:46 am

I’ve had pretty good luck finding key limes, though the bottled juice does work in a pinch :)

[…] Let me amend that, they are the answer if you’re not looking for something that will steal the show. If you want to bring the star of the buffet table, make a key lime cake. […]

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