Key Lime Cake

Homemade cake full of sweet & tangy key lime flavor. This 100% from scratch Key Lime Cake with homemade buttercream brings summer days close.

My absolute favorite pie is key lime pie. I really only have it when we are in Florida, so in my mind key lime equates to lazy, sunshiney days.

This cake recipe is for a lime cake and lime cream cheese icing. Both the cake and the frosting are full of lime juice and lime zest. But don’t worry…the lime flavor isn’t overpowering. It’s fresh and well-balanced with the sweetness of the cake and frosting ingredients!

key lime cake

What’s to love about this cake?

We often share quick and easy cake mix recipes, but the cakes you love best? 100% from scratch. We know you’ll love this cake for these reason:

  • homemade
  • no special mixing techniques needed
  • oil instead of butter, resulting in the perfectly moist cake
  • cream cheese frosting
homemade key lime cake with lime frosting

What is key lime?

Key limes are small and more “seedy” than larger limes (Persian limes). The skin is thin (they often remind me of a Mandarin orange in size and skin). They are full of tangy juicy though! Perfect for pies and cakes.

Key limes are in season June through August, but grow year round in Mexico and Central America. You should be able to find them in your local grocery store, but if you can’t, check a higher end grocery store such as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.

How to Make a Key Lime Cake

You’ll need two bowls to make this cake. It’s easiest if you use a hand mixer or stand mixer, but a whisk will work if you don’t have either of those.

  • Cream. In a large bowl, add oil, eggs, milk, vanilla, zest, and lime juice. Cream together on low until combined.
  • Stir. In another large bowl, add sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine.
  • Mix. Add the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Mix until combined.
Homemade cake full of sweet & tangy key lime flavor. This 100% from scratch Key Lime Cake with homemade buttercream brings summer days close.
  • Bake. Grease 2 9-inch cake pans with shortening, then dust with flour. Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Cool completely before icing. You can let the cake cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then loosen and remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lime Cream Cheese Frosting

This lime frosting will remind you of your favorite key lime cheesecake! It’s amazing and will melt in your mouth.

  • Using a power mixer, mix together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. This will take about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the powdered sugar, lime juice, and lime zest. Mix until combined and smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
Homemade cake full of sweet & tangy key lime flavor. This 100% from scratch Key Lime Cake with homemade buttercream brings summer days close.

A note about the frosting: This buttercream recipe makes enough to cover the cake and add decoration. If you aren’t planning to add additional icing to the top of the cake, you can divide ingredients for the icing in half.

Assemble the Cake

Place one cake on a cake plate. Using a straight spatula, add the frosting in a thin base layer around the cake, then add a final layer on top. You can add as little or as much frosting as you want.

To decorate, use leftover icing to pipe flowers on the top using a large Wilton tip 1M or 2D. Add lime zest or lime peel to garnish the top.

Homemade cake full of sweet & tangy key lime flavor. This 100% from scratch Key Lime Cake with homemade buttercream brings summer days close.

How to Store Cake

Store the cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 24 hours. After that it will be best if you store it in the fridge.

This cake also freezes well! Double wrap and freeze for up to 2 months. Then allow it to come to room temperature before unwrapping it to keep it fresh.

Slice of key lime cake with fork full out of it
Slice of key lime cake with fork full out of it

Key Lime Cake From Scratch

4.15 from 7 votes
Homemade key lime cake with a cream cheese frosting. It's tangy and sweet….delicious!
Servings 15
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes

Ingredients
 

For the cake:

  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup butter (softened)
  • 16 ounces cream cheese (softened)
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime zest

Instructions
 

Make the cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, add oil, eggs, milk, vanilla, zest, and lime juice. Cream together on low until combined.
  • In another large bowl, add sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine.
  • Add the flour mixture into the egg mixture.
  • Spray two 9 inch cake pans with nonstick spray. Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool completely before icing.

Make the frosting:

  • While the cake cools, in a large bowl, mix together the butter and cream cheese.
  • Add the powdered sugar, lime juice, and lime zest. Mix until combined and smooth.

Assemble the cake:

  • Remove the cakes from their pans. Spread icing over one cake layer, covering the top (this will be the filling of the cake).
  • Stack the second layer on the first and cover in icing.
  • Garnish with fresh lime slices and more icing, if desired.
  • Note: This icing recipe makes enough to cover the cake and add decoration. If you aren’t planning to add additional icing to the top of the cake, you can divide ingredients for the icing in half.

Notes

*This recipe can also be made in three 9” cake pans. If using 9” pans bake for 20 – 25 minutes.
*Tip: make sure your cake is completely cool before icing it. You may want to chill your icing until it’s ready to add to the cake.
*You could make this into a lemon-lime cake by switching out half of the lime zest and juice that it calls for with lemon.
The calories shown are based on the cake being cut into 15 pieces, with 1 serving being 1 slice of cake (all of the frosting used). Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the calories shown are just an estimate. **We are not dietitians and recommend you seek a nutritionist for exact nutritional information.**

Nutrition

Calories: 670kcal | Carbohydrates: 106g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 110mg | Sodium: 424mg | Potassium: 138mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 91g | Vitamin A: 881IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 78mg | Iron: 1mg
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Calories 670
Keyword fruit, lime, summer

About Julie Clark

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I was excited to make this for my husband’s birthday as he loves key lime pie. First, this is a heavy and dense cake, much better suited for a Bundt pan than a layer cake. It took longer for my layers to finish baking but that could be my oven. Despite greasing and flouring the pans I had to pry the layers out of the pans. Luckily the dense texture prevented them from falling apart. The icing looks pretty and is just slightly green. The end product looks fine. However, there is no nice tang from the limes in either… Read more »

5 stars
Super super delicious , it was easy to follow instructions, I had to bring one to work and it was gone in minutes