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Key Lime Pie Layer Cake

It’s no secret I love cake, but what you may not know is that I also love pie just as much! This Key Lime Pie Layer cake allows me (and you) to have the best of both worlds! The cake has three layers of homemade lime cake that’s filled with lime curd and a graham cracker crust. Then it’s frosted with a luscious lime flavored Swiss meringue buttercream. And garnished with fresh lime slices and more graham cracker crust.

Key Lime Pie Layer Cake

How To Make Graham Cracker Crumbs

  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Key Lime Pie Layer Cake
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl or food processor, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar, and salt until moist and combined.
  3. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spread graham cracker mixture on top in an even layer.
  4. Bake in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool before using.
Key Lime Pie Layer Cake

Reverse Creaming Method

This recipe uses the reverse creaming method instead of the usual creaming method. Reverse creaming is when you combine the dry ingredients with softened butter instead of combining the butter with the sugar.

When the reverse creaming method is used, you can be sure your cake will be ultra tender and sturdy, with a fine crumb and an even rise. That’s right you shouldn’t have to trim any domes off your cake layers when using reverse creaming.

Key Lime Pie Layer Cake Ingredients

  • Whole milk: The fat in whole milk helps to tenderize the cakes crumb. It also interacts with the flour to create just enough gluten to form the cakes structure.
  • Egg whites: helps create structure.
  • Key lime flavoring: helps with flavor.
  • Cake flour: has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour which helps create a delicate crumb.
  • Granulated sugar: Sugar not only sweetens the cake but it also helps tenderize, leavens and browns.
  • Baking powder: is a leavener that contains baking soda and cornstarch. Baking soda reacts twice. The first is when it comes into contact with liquid and then when it is heated. Baking soda can’t be used as a substitute for baking powder.
  • Salt: helps bring out the sweetness in the cake.
  • Fresh lime zest: helps with flavor.
  • Unsalted butter: tenderizes, moistens, leavens, browns, and flavors.
Key Lime Pie Layer Cake

Lime Swiss Meringue Buttercream Tips

  • Your mixer bowl should be completely dry and clean before use.
  • There should be no grease residue on the bowl and your egg whites should be free of egg yolks.
  • Whisk together the sugar and egg whites well, or the eggs may start to cook on their own.
  • Make sure the double boiler stays at a simmer. 
  • Your butter should be room temperature before using.
  • Add your butter by tablespoon to the meringue.
  • The buttercream should be as smooth as possible. 
  • To help remove air bubbles, run the mixer on low speed for one minute.

Assembling The Cake

  • Place a nonslip mat on top of a cake turntable and place a cake board on top.
  • Center the first cake layer on top of the cake board, making sure there’s even spacing from all around the edges. 
  • Fit a piping bag with a round piping tip or coupler and fill the piping bag with about 1 1/2 cup buttercream.
  • Pipe a buttercream dam around the outer edge of the cake.
  • Fill the center with half of the filling and spread out in an even layer with a small offset cake spatula.
  • Place the second cake layer on top and gently press to adhere to the bottom cake layer. 
  • Pipe a buttercream dam around the outer edge and spread the remaining filling out in an even layer until it reaches the buttercream dam.
  • Add the third and final cake layer (bottom side up) on top and gently press to adhere.
  • Apply a thin layer of buttercream over the top and sides of the cake, creating a crumb coat.
  • Chill the crumb coated cake in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Applying A Crumb Coat

A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting that holds in the loose crumbs and seals the cake.

  • Place a medium dollop of buttercream on top of the cake. 
  • Using a small offset spatula, start spreading the buttercream out. 
  • Continue to spread buttercream on the sides of the cake. The buttercream does not have to be perfectly smooth. 
  • Refrigerate the cake uncovered for at least 15 minutes to set before adding the final coat of buttercream.
Key Lime Pie Layer Cake

Frosting The Cake

Apply a generous amount of buttercream on top of the chilled cake and spread out the buttercream just over the top of the cake. You should have excess buttercream hanging off the edges.

Line an 8-inch acrylic cake disc with parchment paper and disc parchment side down on to the cake making sure its level and the bottom cake board and the top acrylic disc line up. Apply buttercream over the sides of the cake.

Key Lime Pie Layer Cake

Gently press a cake scraper against the bottom cake board and the top acrylic disc and rotate the turntable to remove the excess buttercream and to smooth the sides of the cake. Apply more frosting to any gaps and use the cake scraper and rotate the turntable again until the sides are smooth. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before removing the acrylic disc.

Key Lime Pie Layer Cake

Carefully insert your offset cake spatula under the acrylic disc and rotate the turntable to loosen. Remove the disc and the parchment paper. Smooth out the top of the cake with a cake spatula. 

Key Lime Pie Layer Cake

Set a large rimmed baking sheet over your work surface and gently pick up the cake by the bottom cake board and place in one hand. With the other hand, gently apply graham cracker crumbs to the bottom edge of the cake (You can also cover the entire sides of the cake with graham cracker crumbs if you’d like. There’s plenty of cracker crumbs to get creative with here.). Now that you have the cake in your hand, it’s a good time to place it on to a cake pedestal or serving platter. 

Key Lime Pie Layer Cake

Cake Decorating Tools For Key Lime Pie Layer Cake

  • Cake turntable
  • Piping bags
  • Plain round piping tip or coupler
  • Small offset spatula
  • 8-inch round acrylic disc
  • Cake scraper
  • Ateco piping tip #828
Key Lime Pie Layer Cake

Key Lime Pie Layer Cake Baking Schedule

  • Day 1: Prepare the lime curd.
  • Day 2: Bake the cake layers.
  • Day 3: Make the graham cracker crumbs, assemble, decorate and serve the cake!
Key Lime Pie Layer Cake

Make Ahead

  • Cake layers can be made up to 3 days in advance, wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Lime curd can be prepared up to 5 days in advance, covered and stored in the refrigerator.
  • Graham crackers can be made up to 3 days in advance, stored in a zip top bag at room temperature.
  • Assembled cake can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Key Lime Pie Layer Cake

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Key Lime Pie Layer Cake
Key Lime Pie Layer Cake

Key Lime Pie Layer Cake

Yield: 12
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour

Three layers of lime cake, filled with lime curd and graham cracker crumbs, and frosted with lime flavored Swiss meringue buttercream!

Ingredients

SPECIAL TOOLS

  • Food processor
  • 3 8-inch round cake pans
  • Nonstick baking spray
  • Stand mixer
  • Candy thermometer
  • 8-inch round cake board
  • Cake turntable
  • Piping bags (2)
  • Plain round piping tip our coupler
  • Small offset cake spatula
  • 8-inch round acrylic disc
  • Cake scraper
  • Ateco piping tip #828
  • Fresh lime slices (garnish)

GRAHAM CRACKER CRUMBS

  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs, about 24 rectangles
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

LIME CAKE

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lime flavoring
  • 2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) cake flour
  • 1 3/4 cup (12 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime zest
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon sized pieces, at room temperature

LIME CURD FILLING

  • 3 whole eggs
  • 3/4 cup (5.25 ounces) granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon sized pieces

LIME SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups (8.75 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon sized pieces, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon key lime flavoring

Instructions

GRAHAM CRACKER CRUMBS

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. In a food processor, process the graham crackers until coarsely ground. Add the melted butter, sugar and salt and pulse several times to combine. Leave a few larger chunks in the mix.
  2. Spread the graham cracker crumbs in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely before using.

LIME CAKE

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 3 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick baking spray and set aside.
  2. In a bowl or a 4 cup liquid measuring cup, whisk together milk, egg whites and lime flavoring. In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment attached, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lime zest on low speed until combined. Add butter one tablespoon at a time until the mixture forms pea-sized pieces, about 1 minute. Reserve ½ cup of the milk mixture and pour the remaining to the flour mixture and mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and add the reserved ½ cup milk mixture to the batter and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Do not over mix. The batter may look curdled. Give the batter a final stir by hand with a rubber spatula.
  3. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and smooth tops with a rubber spatula. Gently tap cake pans on the counter to settle the batter and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 20 to 25 minutes, switching and rotating pans halfway through baking.
  4. Let cakes cook in their pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Invert cakes on to wire racks to cool completely, about 2 hours.

LIME CURD

  1. In a medium sized saucepan, whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt, lime juice and zest.
  2. Over low heat, whisk constantly for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken and the temperature reaches 160 degrees. The curd should coat the back of a wooden spoon without being translucent
  3. Remove the curd from the heat and stir in the butter. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl to remove any solids that may have formed while cooking. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the curd and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.


LIME SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, pour in the egg whites and sugar and whisk by hand until combined. Fill a medium saucepan with about 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place mixer bowl on top, being sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water and attach a candy thermometer.
  2. Whisking occasionally, heat the egg mixture until the temperature reaches 160 degrees. Once the mixture reaches 160 degrees, transfer to a stand mixer and beat the mixture on high speed for 10 minutes or until medium-stiff peaks form. At this point the outside of the mixer bowl should be room temperature. Switch out the whisk attachment with the paddle attachment and with the mixer on low speed, add the butter one tablespoon at a time, and then add the vanilla extract and lime flavoring. Once combined, turn the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until buttercream is smooth, about 4 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat for 1 more minute to remove as many air bubbles from the buttercream as possible.

ASSEMBLE

  1. Place an 8-inch round cake board on a turntable and center the first layer of cake on the cake board, making sure there’s even spacing around from all the edges. Fit a piping bag with a round piping tip or coupler and fill with about 1 1/2 cups of buttercream. Pipe a buttercream dam around the edge of the cake. Spread half of the lime curd with an offset spatula until it reaches the buttercream dam. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs on top.
  2. Place the second cake layer on top and gently press down to adhere. Pipe another buttercream dam around the cake edge. Spread the remaining lime curd in the center in an even layer until it reaches the buttercream dam. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs on top.
  3. Place the third cake layer on top (bottom side up) making sure the cake is level and the edges line up straight.
  4. Apply a thin layer of buttercream on the top and sides of the cake to create a crumb coat. Chill the crumb coated cake for 15 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  5. Apply a generous amount of buttercream on top of the chilled cake and spread out the buttercream just over the top of the cake. You should have excess buttercream hanging off the edges. Line an 8-inch acrylic cake disc with parchment paper and disc parchment side down on to the cake, making sure its level and the bottom cake board and the top acrylic disc line up.
  6. Apply buttercream over the sides of the cake. Gently press a cake scraper against the bottom cake board and the top acrylic disc and rotate the turntable to remove the excess buttercream and to smooth the sides of the cake. Apply more frosting to any gaps and use the cake scraper and rotate the turntable again until the sides are smooth. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before removing the acrylic disc.
  7. Carefully insert your offset cake spatula under the acrylic disc and rotate the turntable to loosen. Remove the disc and the parchment paper. Smooth out the top of the cake with a cake spatula.
  8. Set a large rimmed baking sheet over your work surface and gently pick up the cake by the bottom cake board and place in one hand. With the other hand, gently apply graham cracker crumbs to the bottom edge of the cake (You can also cover the entire sides of the cake with graham cracker crumbs if you’d like. There’s plenty of cracker crumbs to get creative with here.). Now that you have the cake in your hand, it’s a good time to place it on to a cake pedestal or serving platter.
  9. Fit Ateco piping tip #827 on to a piping bag and fill with remaining buttercream. Pipe swirls around the top edge of the cake. Place a slice of lime between each swirl. Fill the top center of the cake with remaining graham cracker crumbs and serve.

Notes

Make Ahead

Cake layers can be made up to 3 days in advance, wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Lime curd can be prepared up to 5 days in advance, covered and stored in the refrigerator.

Graham crackers can be made up to 3 days in advance, stored in a zip top bag at room temperature.

Assembled cake can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 543Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 126mgSodium: 724mgCarbohydrates: 62gFiber: 2gSugar: 25gProtein: 10g

*Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary.*

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