Cherry Key Lime Cupcakes

Cherry-lime is a perfect flavor combination; a little sweet, a little tangy. When I found key limes on sale for a jaw-droppingly low price, I snapped up two bags of them and then let my mind go wild.

It likes to do that . . . especially at three o’clock in the morning.

Since Valentine’s Day is almost here, cherries were a natural choice to complement the lime flavor. Both were used in the cake batter, and then I decorated the cupcakes with maraschino roses.

It took a lot of cherries before I figured out the easiest method to make roses. My fingers looked like I was part of a crime scene. Perma-red! And cutting the limes was a learning experience too. (Let’s just say that my favorite knife and I are no longer friends.) Please be careful; those limes are slippery little devils.

Gah! After making the roses. (But before attempting to cut my finger off.) Fun times.

If you aren’t familiar with key limes, they are smallmuch smaller than a regular lime.  And boy, oh boy, do they have a lot of flavor.They lighten in color as they ripen, so you want to look for shades of light green and yellow. Dark green limes are too firm and don’t produce much juice. Zesting and juicing them takes patience. I bounced between quartering them and squeezing with my fingers, and using a garlic press. (I made this recipe three times, and my hands got tired!) From experience, I can tell you that a good sturdy garlic press works well as long as the lime is quartered first, but have the skin side facing up, otherwise you’ll get sprayed in the face. I know this for a fact.

Stained hands, a cut finger, and lime juice in the face. Yes, I had a GREAT time making these. And you can, too. Bwa ha ha.

But look at these sweethearts. Worth it, right?

Here’s the recipe and instructions. Disclaimer: I don’t like using shortening. I really don’t. I tried this with butter. I tried this with coconut oil. The flavor was excellent, but the best color, best rise, came from shortening. So . . . if you substitute, you may not get a light, fluffy cake.

Cherry Key Lime Cupcakes
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Makes approximately 30 cupcakes or two 9-inch layers (with 2-inch sides) If making a rose for each cupcake, you will need two 16-ounce jars of cherries for the entire recipe.
Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • ½ cup (packed) finely chopped maraschino cherries, blotted dry
  • 12 key limes
  • ¾ cup shortening
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 5 eggs (1 whole egg plus 4 egg whites, separated) room temperature
  • 2¼ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • FROSTING:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (optional)
  • ¼ cup cream
  • ROSES (MAKES 30):
  • 45 cherries (a 16 ounce jar has between 30-35 cherries.)
  • 8 limes for leaves
Instructions
  1. Begin by prepping the limes. You'll need ½ cup of lime juice for the cake, and 2 tablespoons for the icing (optional). Zest them first, placing zest in a small bowl.Quarter the zested limes and either squeeze by hand or use a sturdy garlic press to juice them. (If you don't have quite enough juice, add water to make up the difference.) Strain out any stray seeds. Set aside 2 tablespoons for the icing and add ½ cup of juice to the zest.
  2. Heat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners, or prepare two 9-inch round pans (with 2-inch sides) by greasing and flouring or spraying with baking spray (like Baker's Joy).
  3. In a large bowl, beat the shortening and sugar together well.
  4. Add lime zest and juice. Mix well, scraping the sides of the bowl often.
  5. Add 1 whole egg and beat well.
  6. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  7. Add dry ingredients and milk alternately, ⅓ of each at a time, beginning with the dry ingredients and ending with the milk. Just mix until combined.
  8. In a small cup or bowl, stir the chopped cherries into 1 tablespoon flour. Fold into batter.
  9. In a medium bowl, beat the 4 egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold gently into batter.
  10. Spoon into cupcake liners, about ⅔ full. Or, if making a cake, divide between the two pans.
  11. Bake cupcakes approximately 20 minutes, (cake layers 25-30 minutes) or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Remove to rack to cool.
  12. FROSTING: Beat butter and shortening well. Add powdered sugar and lime juice and mix thoroughly - approximately 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl often.
  13. Add whipping cream and beat well. Pipe onto cool cupcakes or spread on cake. NOTE: The recipe given is adequate for the cupcakes, but if you are making a cake and want lots of embellishments (rosettes on the top, a generous design at the bottom) you may want to double the recipe.
  14. ROSES: 30 cherries will be used for the outer petals. 15 cherries will be used to create inner bud. Blot cherries with paper towel. Using a sharp knife and working your way around the cherry, cut 3-5 "petals", beginning from top and cutting down almost to the bottom. Use the tip of the knife or scissors to cut out center. Repeat with 29 more cherries. (Wear gloves if you don't want red fingers!)
  15. With the remaining 15 cherries, use a sharp knife, trim two thin pieces of cherry skin, working around the top half and then the bottom half. Roll each strip and place one in the center of each "petaled" cherry. Place one on each cupcake. (If you make these ahead, set them on a plate and refrigerate until ready to decorate.)
  16. With a sharp knife, cut 4 thin pieces of skin from the limes, working from top to bottom. Cut into leaf shapes. A scallop-edged pastry wheel makes them look more like rose leaves, if you have one. Place a leaf next to each rose. A thin strip for a stem is pretty too. Get creative!

 

A fine grater (or microplane) will do the job.

A sturdy garlic press works well, as long as you quarter the limes.

If you’d rather not make 30 roses, you could always make a cake and just put a few on top! I used some Tillen Farms Bada Bing cherries on this cake, but . . . well . . . they kinda look like olives, right? I love them, though. They don’t have artificial colors, which is very nice. But . . . olives.

I know I didn’t give you much time, and will totally understand if you aren’t able to pull this recipe off by Valentine’s day. (Slacker!) But hey, wouldn’t this be pretty for Christmas?

Lorinda

4 thoughts on “Cherry Key Lime Cupcakes

    • Thanks, Cydnee! I think I’m going to go back and get a few more bags of those limes so I can freeze the juice/zest for later. Love lime, too!

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