Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Key Lime Pie Cupcakes and Key Lime Cream Cheese Tartlets

A little bag of key limes was practically calling my name from the citrus display at the grocery store last week.  What's a girl to do but take them home and make key lime curd?

They also just happen to be my favorite color, and looked so lovely in the photos.  I think there's nothing prettier or more fresh looking than a bowl of lemons and limes on the kitchen counter.

With a jar of beautiful pale green key lime curd on hand, I was faced with the dilemma of what to do with it.  Although, that's really not a dilemma at all, since eating it from the jar with a spoon is a perfectly reasonable solution, too.

A key lime pie would have been delicious, but I wanted something I could share at work with more people, so key lime pie cupcakes were the winning choice.

A spoonful of salted graham cracker crumbs at the bottom of each gave them the "pie" factor, as well as that delicious salty-sweet thing that's so good in desserts.

Moist vanilla cake baked on top of the crust.

A swirl of vanilla buttercream.

A dollop of creamy key lime curd in the middle.

Edible cupcake art.

The leftover key lime curd found a home in these cute little store-bought shortbread tartlet shells.  Swirled with a little cream cheese and sprinkled with freshly grated key lime zest, they were simple but so heavenly.  The key lime curd could also be spooned straight into the tartlet shells without the addition of cream cheese for more of the wonderfully tart lime flavor.

Happily, there's still a little more left in the jar for me and my spoon.

Key Lime Curd
printable recipe
  • 6 egg yolks (reserve whites for another use)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons key lime zest (from about 8-10 key limes)
  • 1/3 cup fresh key lime juice (from about 15 key limes)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

Fill a medium saucepan with an inch or two of water and place on the stove to come to a simmer over medium heat.  You will also need a heatproof bowl that can sit on top of the saucepan without touching the water, to serve as a double boiler.

In the bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until smooth (1-2 minutes).  Whisk in the key lime zest and juice.

Place the bowl over the saucepan.  Stirring constantly with a silicone whisk or spatula,cook the mixture for 7-10 minutes until thick enough to coat a spoon.  (Note that it will not appear as thick and jellied as store-bought lime curd, but will have the consistency of warm pudding.  It will also thicken with the addition of the butter as it cools.)

When mixture has thickened, remove from the heat.  Add the slices of butter one at a time, whisking until each slice disappears before adding the next.  Lastly, pour the curd through a mesh strainer into bowl to strain out the zest and any bits of cooked egg.

Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator; homemade citrus curd is best used within a few weeks.

Yields about 2 cups

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Key Lime Tartlets
printable recipe
  • 1/4 cup key lime curd, room temperature
  • 2 ounces low-fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
  • 16 store-bought shortbread mini tartlet shells
  • zest of 1 key lime
In a small bowl, beat the key lime curd, cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth.  Spoon into the tartlet shells.  Grate the lime zest over the tartlets.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Yields 16 tartlets (2-3 per person).

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Key Lime Pie Cupcakes
printable recipe

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (1 1/2 "sleeves")
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup key lime curd, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line cupcake pans with 30 cupcake liners.

In a bowl, combine the crushed graham crackers and salt (use 1/2 teaspoon salt if you don't want the salt as pronounced; I like the combination of sweet and salty, though).  Drizzle the melted butter over the crumbs and toss with a fork to moisten.  Scoop 1 level tablespoon of crumbs into each cupcake liner and gently press down with your fingers.  Reserve any leftover crumbs for sprinkling on top of the cupcakes.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cake mix, eggs, vanilla, buttermilk, yogurt and oil.  Mix on low speed to combine then beat on medium speed for 3 minutes.  Spoon the batter over the crumbs; cups will be about 2/3 full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the tops of the cakes spring back and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pans for 10 minutes then transfer to wire racks.  Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and cool completely.

To make the vanilla buttercream, combine all ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Mix on low to combine, then increase speed to medium high and whip until very light and fluffy.

Pipe the frosting around the edge of each cooled cupcake.  Spoon 1 teaspoon of the key lime curd into the center of each.

Chill cupcakes for about 30 minutes to firm up the frosting.  Before serving, sprinkle with the leftover graham cracker crumbs.

Yields 30 cupcakes.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen


  1. Your cupcakes are super cute! Key limes are so tricky to find in the grocery store, you just have to buy them when you see them! :) I wonder if my store has any... Key lime is my favorite pie!

  2. Wow. Absolutely beautiful. Great photography!

  3. Vicki, even with all the citrus this spring, I never saw any key limes in my grocery store until last week, and I'm so glad I grabbed some!

  4. Your photos are amazing and my mouth is watering!

  5. Love all the photos!!! Everything looks fantastic I bet they all tasted amazing!

  6. These are such nice cupcakes and I love all the variety in how you styled them.

  7. Every Spring, without fail, I get a hankering for key limes. I have no problem with using bottled key lime juice from Florida, I just can't get the real thing. These cupcakes and tarts look adorable and scrumptious.

  8. What a lovely post. Your gorgeous photos made me smile!

  9. This just screams spring! I'd be happy to eat the curd with a spoon but in those little tarts it would be even better!

  10. Edible cupcake art indeed! These are absolutely gorgeous :D and so wonderfully reminiscent of summer.

  11. This is all way to adorable.

  12. Oh Boy, all your pastries look so delicious, sure would like to try them. We are huge key lime fans. We especially love to order the key lime pies that Anita Pelaez and her husband Kutchie bake at their key lime pie factory in N.C. next to the Biltmore Estate. Have you ever tried on of Anita's famous key lime pies?
    Take-it from me, you will surely love it. I still want to try yours to.


  13. I've never had their pie, but I'm sure I would love it!


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