Key Lime Cupcakes are light, moist, tangy, and sweet. With zest and key lime juice in both the cake and frosting. You’ll love this citrus dessert!

Key Lime Cupcakes sitting on a cake stand with lime wedges in frosting.

Citrus lovers will enjoy these tangy and refreshing key lime cupcakes. They’re easy to make from scratch with basic ingredients. You’ll be whipping up these cupcakes in no time!

Key lime cupcake on wrapper that has been peeled down on the sides.

Ode to Limes

I try not to play favorites with citrus fruits, but limes are probably at the top. There is just something about that tang in my mouth that makes me happy.

Not only are limes awesome, but being green makes them perfect to use for St. Patrick’s Day treats!

For these key lime cupcakes, the cake itself is more blonde without food coloring. But throw them in a green wrapper with a lime wedge on top — perfection!

Of course key lime is a great flavor for summer too. Key lime cupcakes just scream beaches and sunshine! A lot like my Coconut and Lime Cupcakes.

Top view of key lime cupcakes on cake stand.

Key Lime Juice

The most important ingredient in these cupcakes is key lime juice. These are key lime cupcakes after all. If you have ever seen key limes, you know they are about the size of a quarter. So small!

The difference between limes and key limes is so minimal that you can use them interchangeably in recipes. Key limes are slightly less sharp than regular limes. But both limes are great in dessert recipes.

Because key limes are so small, zesting and juicing them would be a nightmare. But if you’re up for the challenge go for it! (Be sure to zest the outside of the limes before slicing them in half and juicing them.)

I opt to use regular limes for the zest and will grab a bottle of key lime juice from the store. It’s easy to find and always available. (I love to add it to my Diet Dr. Pepper too.)

Bottle of Nellie & Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice From Concentrate.

Key Lime Cream Cheese Frosting

What better to top these key lime cupcakes than with a zesty key lime frosting?

I made my favorite cream cheese frosting recipe with the addition of lime zest and key lime juice for extra citrus flavor in every bite.

The creaminess marries well with the tart lime and the frosting isn’t too sweet, so that tang we know and love still comes through.

Frosted Key Lime Cupcakes on wire cooling rack.

Key Lime Cupcakes

These Key Lime Cupcakes may or may not be so good that I ate like 5 of them in one day… Oh my! Did I just admit that?! Better hit the gym real hard! Haha.

Good thing my husband took the rest of them to work for his co-workers. I tell ya, lime treats get gobbled up when they are in my house.

Anyway, if you are a citrus freak like I am, get to making these cupcakes ASAP! Delicious!

Key lime cupcake on wrapper that has been peeled down on the sides.

More Lime Recipes

Key lime cupcake on wrapper that has been peeled down on the sides.

Key Lime Cupcakes

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Inactive Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: 16 cupcakes

Key Lime Cupcakes are light, moist, tangy, and sweet. With zest and key lime juice in both the cake and frosting. You'll love this citrus dessert!



  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (stir, spoon & level)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup oil (canola/vegetable)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup key lime juice (I used Nellie & Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice)
  • 4 tsp lime zest (two regular limes)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk*


  • 8oz cream cheese, cold
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp key lime juice
  • 1 tsp lime zest (half a lime)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (or 400˚F for high altitude). Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add the lime juice and zest and mix until combined.
  4. Add the flour in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape the bowl as necessary. Mix until just combined. Do not over-mix. Fill each cupcake liner ⅔ full (not ¾ or they will overflow).
  5. Bake at 375˚F (or 400˚F for high altitude) for 15-20 minutes or until cake springs back when touched or a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Cool completely before frosting.
  6. FOR THE FROSTING: Using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add the butter 2 Tablespoons at a time, and continue beating until smooth and well blended. Add key lime juice and lime zest. Mix and scrape bowl. Add powdered sugar all at once and mix until just combined. CHILL frosting for 30 minutes before piping on top, if frosting seems too soft. Frost cupcakes as desired. (*If piping high, 1.5x the recipe.)


  • 1 lime = about 2 tsp lime zest
  • *Make buttermilk with 1/2 cup milk + 1 tsp key lime juice. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes before using.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 cupcake
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 270Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 38mgSodium: 172mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 0gSugar: 27gProtein: 3g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix, and is an estimation only.

*Originally published 2/24/13. Updated 2/10/21.