Key Lime Cake Recipe

Key lime cake
    55 mins

Enjoy this delectable 3-layer, from-scratch cake recipe to add to your collection of Key lime recipes.

Key lime pie is an American dessert made of Key lime juice, egg yolks, and oftentimes sweetened condensed milk (or in the case of this recipe, buttermilk) in a pie crust. 

Variations of Sweet Treats Made with Limes

Feel more like cake than pie? Try out this Key Lime Cake recipe. Or, if you are being tempted by something on the cooler side, make this Lime Sherbet. You get to keep the sweet and tart fruit flavor of the sorbet while adding some of the great benefits of ice cream. If you enjoy margaritas, then you'll love this adult-only recipe for Margarita Pie. It comes complete with a pretzel crust.


Key lime pie is named after the small Key limes (Citrus aurantifolia 'Swingle') that are naturalized throughout the Florida Keys. Key limes are tarter and smell stronger than the common Persian limes seen year-round at grocery stores in the United States.

Key lime juice, unlike regular lime juice, is a pale yellow. The filling in Key lime pie is also yellow, largely because of the egg yolks.

During mixing, a reaction between the milk and the acidic lime juice occurs that causes the filling to thicken on its own without requiring baking. Many early recipes for Key lime pie did not require baking the pie, relying on this chemical reaction (called thickening) to produce the proper consistency of the filling. Today, because consuming raw eggs can be dangerous, pies of this nature are usually baked for a short time. The baking also thickens the texture more than the reaction alone.

What You'll Need

  • 2-1/3 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • zest and juice and zest of 4 key limes
  • 1/2 teaspoon green food coloring, optional*
  • 1 cup buttermilk**
  • cream cheese frosting***
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted

How to Make It

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 8 x 1-1/2-inch or two 9 x 1-1/2-inch round cake pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, with a wire whisk combine flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl cream butter and sugar with a stand or electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Mixing well after each addition. Mix in key lime juice. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk. Mix on low after each addition until just combined. Hand stir in key lime zest. Pour into prepared pans.
  1. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.
  2. Cool cakes in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove cakes from pans.
  4. Allow cakes to completely cool on wire racks.
  5. Frost with cream cheese frosting. Use toasted pecans to decorate sides of cake.

* Although, the Key Lime Cake in the photo has the green food coloring added, most Key Lime purists will tell you that key limes are not green, they are yellow. It's up to you.

** Buttermilk can be substituted with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup.

*** Recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting