Key Lime Cupcakes

24 servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Refrigerate 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Key Lime Cupcakes bake tangy, sweet key lime pie flavor into light, fluffy cupcakes with real key lime juice and creamy sweet lime frosting.

These fun, tart treats have all the punchy, creamy flavor of Key Lime Pie but baked with all the ease of a classic Lemon Cupcake for the ultimate summery, citrus Desserts! For a showstopping summer Cake Recipe, try my Key Lime Layer Cake!

Sabrina’s Key Lime Cupcakes Recipe

Key Lime makes a great dessert anytime of the year, but there’s no doubt the tart, bright lime and creamy flavors are pure summertime joy in a bite. These delicious cupcakes are packed with real key lime juice in the tender cake and the creamy, key lime frosting, for a zesty, tangy and sweet flavor that will leave your taste buds feeling sunny. They are the perfect dessert for a summer BBQ, a birthday celebration, or just a sweet treat on a warm day.

If you love Key Lime flavor, are going to love this easy to make Key Lime Cupcakes recipe. The key ingredient of course is key lime juice, which you can squeeze from fresh key limes or grab a bottle from the juice aisle, just make sure it’s the good stuff from Key West. I put key lime juice in both the dreamy Cream Cheese Frosting and buttery, lightly coconut scented cake for maximum sweet citrusy flavor!

What are Key Limes?

Key limes and regular limes may look similar, but they have distinct differences. Key limes are smaller, more acidic, and have a more floral aroma than regular limes. They also have more seeds and a thinner skin.

Key Lime Cupcakes batter ingredients in separate prep bowls
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  • Key Lime Juice: I recommend using fresh squeezed key lime juice or ordering key lime juice that comes from Key West for the best flavor.
  • Coconut Extract: Instead of vanilla, I used coconut extract for even more delicious tropical flavor!
  • Cream Cheese: The creamy, tangy flavor of cream cheese pairs perfectly with the key lime flavor. Make sure to use softened cream cheese at room temperature to ensure a smooth and fluffy frosting.
  • Flour, Baking Powder, and Salt: Make sure to sift the flour before using to prevent any lumps in the batter that way it will mix easily without having to stir too much. Baking powder is used to create air pockets in the batter, resulting in a light and fluffy texture. Salt is added to balance and enhance the flavor.
  • Butter: Unsalted butter adds moisture to the cupcakes. Softened butter will whip up extra fluffy so make sure to bring it to room temperature first.
  • Milk: Whole milk is used to create a tender and moist cupcake. You could substitute sour cream or buttermilk for some more tangy flavor. Sweetened condensed milk is brushed over the tops of the baked cupcakes for extra sweetness and to bring more of that classic Key Lime Pie flavor.
  • Green Food Coloring: This is an optional ingredient but gives the cupcakes a beautiful green color that is characteristic of Key Lime desserts. You can use it in the cupcake batter, the frosting or both!
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Kitchen Tools & Equipment

  • Muffin Tin: This recipe will make 24 cupcakes so you’ll need 2 muffin tins or to bake them in batches.
  • Paper Liners: The paper liners work great for ensuring your cupcakes won’t stick to the tin. Use liners with bright green designs to make these extra fun!
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How to Make

Time needed: 1 hour and 10 minutes.

  1. Prep for Baking

    Preheat the oven and grease two muffin pans with butter and line with paper liners. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.Key Lime Cupcakes sifting flour and dry ingredients

  2. Cream the Butter

    Cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the coconut extract and reduce to low speed.Key Lime Cupcakes creamed butter and eggs in mixing bowl and remaining ingredients in prep bowls

  3. Add the Flour and Milk

    Starting with the flour mixture, alternate adding the flour mixture then the milk a little at a time, until combined. Key Lime Cupcakes adding milk and flour to cake batter

  4. (Optional) Color the Batter

    If you want to color the batter green, now is when you add the food coloring. Using a drop at a time, add the green coloring until it gets the color you like.Key Lime Cupcakes adding green food coloring to batter

  5. Bake the Cupcakes

    Use an ice cream scoop to evenly fill the muffin cups ¾ full. Bake cupcakes for 18-22 minutes, or until lightly golden on top and an inserted toothpick comes out clean with moist crumbs.Key Lime Cupcakes unbaked batter in muffin tin

  6. Cool Before Frosting

    Let the pan cool a few minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pan and finish cooling on a wire rack before frosting.Key Lime Cupcakes baked cupcakes in muffin tin

  7. Make the Frosting

    Beat the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, lime juice, and vanilla on medium speed until fluffy. Lower speed to the lowest setting and begin adding powdered sugar a cup at a time, until completely mixed in and smooth.Key Lime Cupcakes frosting mixed in bowl

  8. Pipe the Frosting

    Lightly brush the tops of the cupcakes with sweetened condensed milk. Use a piping bag with a large round tip to pipe frosting.Key Lime Cupcakes piping frosting onto cupcakes

  9. Decorate the Cupcakes

    For a garnish, thinly slice fresh limes and cut a ¼ inch on one side, then twist the slice and place in frosting. Sprinkle freshly grated lime zest and serve.

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Can these cupcakes be made ahead?

Yes, you can bake these Key Lime Cupcakes ahead of time. You can make the cupcakes and frosting in advance and store them separately in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. When ready to serve, bring the frosting to room temperature and frost the cupcakes. You can also freeze the baked cupcakes for up to 3 months, just wrap them individually to retain moisture and prevent freezer burn.

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Nutritional Facts

Nutrition Facts
Key Lime Cupcakes
Amount Per Serving
Calories 438 Calories from Fat 189
% Daily Value*
Fat 21g32%
Saturated Fat 13g81%
Trans Fat 0.4g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Cholesterol 82mg27%
Sodium 201mg9%
Potassium 109mg3%
Carbohydrates 59g20%
Fiber 0.3g1%
Sugar 48g53%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 755IU15%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 91mg9%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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What to Pair With Key Lime Cupcakes

Flavors: Some flavors that pair well with key lime include coconut, mint, white chocolate, and fresh berries like blueberry, strawberry and raspberry. These flavors complement the tangy and sweet taste of key limes, and adding them to classic Key Lime desserts is an easy way to make a fun, new treat!

Drinks: Serve up some delicious drinks with these fun, tropical cupcakes. For the adults at your party, have Mojitos with mint and lime flavors. For the kids and non-drinkers, have some sweet Strawberry Milkshakes!

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How to Store

Serve: Frosted cupcakes should be chilled because cream cheese frosting can’t be left out for more than a couple hours. Without frosting though, these Key Lime Cupcakes can be at room temperature for up to 3 days, just keep them covered and in a cool, dry place.

Store: With or without frosting, these cupcakes will keep in the fridge for about 1 week. Keep them in a sealed container so they don’t dry out and let them sit out for about 15-20 minutes before serving to soften.

Freeze: If you want to freeze these lime cupcakes, it’s best to do it without frosting. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and then store them in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.

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Frequent Questions

Are Key limes sweet or sour?

Key limes are known for their distinctively tart and acidic flavor, which is more intense and complex than regular limes. They have a higher acidity level due to their smaller size and thinner skin, making them a popular ingredient for desserts like key lime pie and Key Lime Cupcakes. Despite their acidity, they also have a slight sweetness that helps balance out their tartness.

What can I substitute for key lime juice?

You can substitute regular lime juice or a combination of lemon and lime juice for key lime juice, but keep in mind that the flavor will be slightly different. If you want to achieve the distinctive flavor of key lime, it’s best to use the real thing.

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Recipe Card

Key Lime Cupcakes

Key Lime Cupcakes bake tangy, sweet key lime pie flavor into light, fluffy cupcakes with real key lime juice and creamy sweet lime frosting.
Yield 24 servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Author Sabrina Snyder


Key Lime Cupcakes:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 cup whole milk , room temperature
  • 1/4 cup key lime juice
  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4-6 drops green food coloring , optional

Key Lime Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 24 ounces cream cheese , softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter , softened
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons key lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 1/2 cups powdered sugar , about 2 pounds
  • 4-6 drops green food coloring , optional


  • 1/2 cup condensed milk , for brushing


Key Lime Layer Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and add muffin liners to two 12-cup muffin tins.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt then set aside.
  • To your stand mixer add the butter and sugar and beat them together until light and fluffy on medium speed, 2-3 minutes, then add in the eggs one at a time 15 seconds apart along with the coconut extract then lower the speed to low.
  • Add the flour mixture, lime juice, and milk, alternating a little of each at a time.
  • Add in the green food coloring until you get a beautiful lime color, starting with just a drop at a time.
  • Pour into the muffin pans ¾ of the way full.
  • Baked for 18-22 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool cupcakes completely before frosting.

Key Lime Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • Add the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, lime juice, and vanilla to a stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy.
  • Add in the powdered sugar one cup at a time until smooth and incorporated.
  • Add in the green food coloring until you get a beautiful lime color, starting with just a drop at a time and stir.
  • Beat for 3 minutes until light and fluffy.

To Finish:

  • Brush with the cupcake tops condensed milk.
  • Pipe swirly mounds onto the top of the cupcakes.
  • Add thin slices of limes to the cake, cutting through one segment and twisting to create an "s" shape.
  • Grate fresh lime zest over the cake as a garnish (if you used key lime juice that is bottled, just zest from a normal lime).


Calories: 438kcal | Carbohydrates: 59g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 82mg | Sodium: 201mg | Potassium: 109mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 48g | Vitamin A: 755IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 91mg | Iron: 1mg

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Strawberry Filling: Strawberry and lime are delicious together, so pipe some Strawberry Jam into the center of your cupcakes. You could also add a teaspoon of ground freeze-dried strawberries to the frosting or try strawberry malt powder for a strawberry-lime milkshake flavor!

Lime Curd Filling: Turn Lemon Curd into Lime Curd with fresh lime juice and add it to your cupcakes for a punchy creamy filling. Just make sure to use fresh lime juice because bottled lime juice has preservatives that will alter the texture of the curd.

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More Fun Cupcakes for Summer!

Key Lime Cupcakes collage of preparing cupcakes and finished cupcakes, recipe name in red banner across center

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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