Key Lime Cupcakes

All the brightness of the Sunshine State's favorite pie packed into a cupcake.

Key Lime Cupcakes
Photo: Photographer and props: Jennifer Causey Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall
Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
65 mins
Servings:
12

For a summery dessert that holds no punches when it comes to flavor, look no further than our bite-sized take on Key lime pie. (Okay, well, maybe five-bite-sized if you actually use the table manners your Mama taught you.) A creative combination of all-purpose flour and a "flour" made of crushed graham crackers serves as the base of the cake in this Florida-inspired treat, and it's topped with a zingy buttercream whipped together from fresh Key lime juice and sweetened condensed milk, an inventive—and equally delicious—riff on the sky-high meringue that typically decorates a Key lime pie. In short, it's everything we love about the hallmark dessert, but without the extra cooling and chilling time and the added bonus of being finger-food-friendly (hello, pool parties!). A note from the Test Kitchen: If you can't find fresh Key limes at your local grocery store, you can always substitute them with bottled Key lime juice.

Ingredients

Graham Cracker Cupcakes

  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (from 1 [13 1/2-oz.] pkg.), plus more for garnish

  • ½ cup (about 2 1/8 oz.) all-purpose flour

  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar

  • ½ cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • ¾ cup whole milk

Key Lime Buttercream

  • ¾ cup (6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 3 cups (about 12 oz.) unsifted powdered sugar

  • 1 teaspoon grated Key lime zest, plus 2 Tbsp. fresh juice (from 4 Key limes)

  • ¼ cup sweetened condensed milk (from 1 [14-oz.] can)

Additional Ingredient

  • Key lime slices

Directions

Prepare the Graham Cracker Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup (2 1/2-inch) muffin tray with paper liners. Whisk together graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

  2. Beat granulated sugar and butter with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until just combined after each addition, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla until just combined, about 15 seconds. Reduce mixer speed to medium-low. Beat in graham cracker crumb mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with crumb mixture and beating until just combined after each addition, about 1 minute, 30 seconds. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin trays, filling each cup about three-fourths full.

  3. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in centers of cupcakes comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in muffin tray 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from muffin tray; let cool completely on a wire rack, about 20 minutes.

Prepare the Key Lime Buttercream:

  1. Beat butter with a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment on medium speed until light and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low; gradually add powdered sugar, beating until just combined, about 1 minute. Add Key lime zest and juice; beat until just combined, about 15 seconds. Increase mixer speed to medium; gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until combined and fluffy, about 1 minute.

  2. Spoon Key Lime Buttercream into a piping bag or a large ziplock plastic bag with a 1-inch hole snipped in a corner; pipe onto cooled Graham Cracker Cupcakes. Lightly dust edges of Key Lime Buttercream with additional graham cracker crumbs, and garnish with Key lime slices.

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