Coconut Key Lime Cupcakes


In several of my past posts, I have referred to our pair of Meyer lemon trees, both of which we planted a few months after moving into our house in 2003.  To be honest, Eric did most of the actual planting, while I did my share of pointing and directing.  It was a true team effort.

The same day that we planted the two lemon trees, we also planted a Valencia orange tree and a Key lime tree.  As expected, for the first few years the trees bore very little--if any--fruit.  During the third year, we reaped a "harvest" of half a dozen lemons and two limes.  The fourth year brought us a bag full of lemons, a couple of oranges......and two limes.  Last year, we had so many lemons that we were giving them away, we had enough oranges to make freshly squeezed juice on the weekends.......and we had two limes (Hey, at least it was consistent).  It became pretty clear which tree was the "Charlie Brown Christmas tree" of the batch.

Unfortunately, we had to dig up the lime tree, but in the spirit of Arbor Day (today), we are going to replace it with another.  Eric's goal is to have enough limes so that he can just pop outside whenever he needs to grab a garnish for his Pacifico throughout the summer.  Little does he know that my goal is to be able to make batches and batches of Key lime baked goods using my very own Key limes.

Before we dug up the tree, I salvaged the two little (very little) limes.  Supplemented with a few additional limes from the grocery store, I decided to create cupcakes inspired by Eric's favorite dessert: Key Lime Pie (What is it about men and Key Lime Pie anyhow?  They all seem to love it.)  Several years ago, I tried one of Bobby Flay's recipes that matched Key lime dessert bars with a white chocolate topping, and it paired really well, so that was behind my thinking for the buttercream.  I threw in the shredded coconut at the last minute.  I thought that it would keep the cupcakes moist, and coconut and lime is always a good combination. The lime curd filling adds an nice citrus kick, but it is optional.  For my cupcakes, I used a marinade injector to insert the curd into the center.  This is a little gadget that looks like a syringe, and it is usually used for infuse meats with flavoring.  I got the idea from my friend, Lorie Roach, who used this technique with her cupcakes on a Food Network competition a few years ago.  I remember thinking "That is so cool!  I can't wait to try it!"  I went out, bought the gadget, and it sat in my drawer for two years.  Finally, I tried it--still pretty cool.

These cupcakes are the perfect flavor as we head into warmer weather.  Hopefully next year, I will be able to make several dozen from my abundant crop of Key limes in the backyard!  Here are my extra tips for preparing these tropical tasting treats:IMG_0627

  • If you don't have access to Key limes and Key lime juice, then certainly substitute regular limes and lime juice
  • Be sure to thoroughly spray the pan with a good nonstick baking spray (I love Pam for Baking), and these cupcakes can tend to stick.  An alternative would be to use muffin liners.
  • Because I was short on time, I purchased a premade lime curd for this recipe, but you can also make a homemade version.  Here is a recipe for lemon curd--simply substitute lime juice for lemon juice.
  • You can also fill the cupcakes with lime-flavored pastry cream.
  • If you don't have a piping bag or a flavor injector, you can cut a corner off of a zip-top bag and fit it with a round tip.  Fill the bag with the curd and pipe away!

White Chocolate Coconut Key Lime Cupcakes

Makes about 20


For the cupcakes

½ pound unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

¼ cup Key Lime zest

4 large eggs

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

½ cup Key Lime juice

½ teaspoon coconut extract

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Lime Curd

For the White Chocolate ButtercreamIMG_0619

12 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped

3 cups confectioner's sugar

½ pound unsalted butter, softened

¼ teaspoon salt

2-4 tablespoons heavy cream

Graham cracker crumbs and lime twists for garnish

Prepare the cupcakes:  Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.  Spray 2 (12-cup) cupcake tins with nonstick baking spray and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the lime zest, mixing until well blended.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, lime juice, and coconut extract.  Add the flour and lime juice mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Stir in the shredded coconut.

Divide the batter among the muffin tins, filling about halfway full.  Bake the cupcakes for 20-22 minutes, until they spring back when lightly touched.  Let the cupcakes cool for 5 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

When the cupcakes are cool, fit a piping bag with a medium round tip.  Fill the piping bag with the lime curd.  Insert the tip of the piping bag into the center of each cupcake and squeeze until you start to feel some resistance (this will indicate that there has been enough lime curd inserted.)

Prepare the white chocolate buttercream:  In a small saucepan set over medium-low heat, melt the white chocolate until smooth, stirring frequently.  Set the saucepan aside until the white chocolate has cooled to room temperature.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the confectioner's sugar and the butter until it is light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.  Add the salt and the melted chocolate, beating until the mixture is well combines.  Add enough of the heavy cream so that the buttercream is very light, fluffy, and spreadable.

Pipe or frost the buttercream onto the cooled cupcakes.  Sprinkle the top with graham cracker crumbs and top with a lime twist.

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  1. Hi Lauren -- I dont see why you couldnt make mini cupcakes.  Just use a smaller tip for adding the key lime curd and adjust the baking time accordingly.  Hope you enjoy them 🙂

  2. Julie, these cupcakes look incredible!! I'm so glad you were able to replace your lime tree. Why did you have to dig it up?? You're making me want to plant some fruit trees 🙂 But really, you're making me want to make these cupcakes! They look fabulous.

  3. My husband and I both love anything key lime, but unfortunately, my husband does not like coconut. Now there's a question that should be asked before marriage "Do you like coconut". More coconut for me! I digress.... My question -- what do you think would happen if I left out the coconut? Does the coconut add moisture or anything else that I would need to "replace" in order to get a similar result? Any advice? Thanks!! LOVE YOUR SITE! Last weekend, I went away for a "girls" weekend and we made your warm butternut squash salad. I had made it before, but my friend had not and she loved it as much as I did. That recipe has a prominent place in my "tried and true" recipe binder. 🙂

  4. These look amazing! Even with my almost cut off index fingernail from my 'dangerous' tv show shoot yesterday, I might have to make these to take to a party tomorrow night!

  5. Key Lime is my husband's favorite too. The other day I made a key lime pound cake. It was good. The one reason we get to visit Key West so much is for the pie. I like the place so much in the winter I always encourage him about eating "real Key Lime West pie" in the Keys.

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