June 18, 2019
Folks, your taste buds will dance with delight with every bite of this Key Lime cake…and I’m not kidding. Key limes are so plentiful now, that I wanted to make something other than the ubiquitous key lime pie. So, I went on a key lime cake baking adventure this week.
KEY LIME CAKE ATTEMPT #1: I made a Leah Chase butter cake recipe in honor of the iconic New Orleans chef who fed presidents and freedom fighters at her famed restaurant Dooky Chase. Chef Chase recently passed away at the ripe old age of 96 – and she was working until just a few days before she died. I had the privilege of interviewing her on my radio show a few years back – and even visited her kitchen in New Orleans. She was the best.
While I added key lime zest and juice to her cake – it wasn’t what I was looking for. So on to the next attempt.
KEY LIME CAKE ATTEMPT # 2: Next, I thought about adding key lime zest and juice to a pound cake would be a good flavor component – and I also decided to create a key lime buttercream to frost the pound cake. I hated it. The pound cake was good. The icing was incredible. But I found that I don’t like frosting on pound cakes. So on to the next attempt to create a wonderful cake I would be proud to serve.
KEY LIME CAKE ATTEMPT #3: The third time was the charm. A doozy of a cake. It will be one of my all-time favorite cakes to serve to family and friends. For sure. The frosting was nailed, it only needed the right cake to set it off. So, I went back to my tried-and-true yellow butter cake – adding both lime zest and fresh key lime juice. PERFECTION!!! It’s so good, a train would take a dirt road just to get to a slice.
- 4 large eggs (room temperature)
- 1/2 cup whole milk (room temperature)
- 1/2 cup fresh key lime juice
- 3 cups cake or all-purpose flour (measure after sifting)
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks salted butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 teaspoons lime zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or butter and flour 2 – 8” or 9” round cake pans. Don’t use 10” for they will make the layers too thin. I always use parchment paper to line the bottom of rounds and butter and flour those as well. But that is your preference.
Sift flour and measure 3 cups after sifting. Cream butter and sugar for about 5 minutes in your stand mixer. Hand mixers are ok – but they take a bit more time. Add eggs one at a time, and mix until each egg is totally incorporated before adding the other. After all eggs are incorporated beat on medium speed for an additional 5 to 8 minutes until light and fluffy.
Add vanilla, to milk and key lime juice. Add baking powder and salt to sifted flour. Starting with flour, incorporate 1/3 and blend on a very low speed (or even by hand) – it is important not to over mix flour for the cake will be tough. You do not want to activate the gluten in the flour. Add half the milk, vanilla, and key lime mixture, gently blend, added 1/3 flour, then the remaining liquid, then finish with flour. Stir with spatula until completely incorporated – making sure you mix from the bottom up.
Place equal amounts of batter in the 2 pans. Place on middle rack of preheated oven. Set timer for 12 minutes. Rotate. Set timer for 15 minutes. I can’t tell you exactly how long they will take to bake – for every oven is different. You just don’t want to overbake. The standard is when a toothpick comes out clean – but I like my toothpick to have a bit of crumb to make sure it is not overbaked.
Place cakes on rack for 10 minutes. Turn out with top sides up on the rack. Let cool completely before frosting.
- 1-8 ounce package (Philadelphia cream cheese
- 1 1/2 stick salted butter (room temperature)
- 2 pounds plus one cup powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup fresh key lime juice (regular limes can be used if you cannot find key limes)
- 4 teaspoons lime zest
Cream room temperature butter in stand mixer using the wire attachment until creamy. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, zest, and key lime juice. Slowly at first – combine the ingredients. Mixing to high will turn you into a sugar-coated mess. After all is combined, vigorously beat until light and fluffy. If too thin, add more sugar – if too thick add more lime juice. You want a spreadable consistency.
I use about 2 cups in the middle layer. Generously frost top and sides. Best served the next day – or give it at least 6 hours to meld. Trust me on this one…the icing needs time to seep into the cake.
KEY NOTES & VARIATIONS:
- Always use fresh limes or lemons. For anything really – but especially this cake. Never, ever bottled. If you use bottled juice, I wil come to your kitchen and haunt you until the end of your days.
- When key limes are not available, you can substitute fresh limes and it will be just as good. Matter of fact, I use regular limes, for key limes are just too small to zest.
- You can make this cake with fresh lemons as well – and it will be just as incredible. Always use fresh.
MY CULINARY CREATIVE PROCESS
Many ask what I did with the cakes I didn’t like. If I don’t like something – they never see the light of day. The rejects go immediately to my friend and co-worker Rosario, who’s family waits for my castoffs.
On any new dish I create for catering or for a particular restaurant I consult with, there are usually many attempts to get to the perfect creation – the perfect dish if you will. A pinch here, a dash there – a completely different ingredient altogether. You would be surprised at how many attempts go into creating the final product we are excited about serving. And even then, after all is said and done – we are always adjusting.
Sometimes (rarely), we get it the way we want it the first time – but it usually takes a good bit of finesse. And that is the fun aspect of cooking and creating a great dish.