There’s something about key lime that conjures up the delightful warmth of basking in the Florida sunshine. The flavor is so bright and tart that eating key lime pie or any other key lime treat magically transports me away from the cold, wind and snow, to sunny south Florida.
It’s for this reason key lime pie is one of favorite desserts and is really the only non-chocolate sweet I willingly order in restaurants, aside from the occasional fruit crisp. Never lemon meringue; it has to be key lime, the tartiest of the tart.
As I’ve slowly become more and more excited about my upcoming Florida getaway, I started thinking about this classic dessert and decided to create my own treat using key lime juice.
I admit it, I used bottled key lime juice. Please don’t judge me – you just try finding fresh key limes in Chicago!
As for my creation, it was delicious miniature key lime cupcakes speckled with lime zest and topped with a toasted meringue that just mellowed the cake’s tartiness, making for an incredible bite.
These sweet and tart morsels of Florida sunshine are the perfect prescription brighten up a drab day.
Here’s the recipe:
Mini Key Lime Cupcakes with Toasted Meringue – makes 40 cupcakes, adapted from Bon Appetit
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lime zest
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoon key lime juice
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line miniature muffin tins with cupcake liners.
Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar and lime zest; beat until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition.
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add half the flour mixture to the butter and beat until well-combined.
Mix in the buttermilk and key lime juice, then the remaining flour. Mix until just combined.
Spoon the batter into the lined mini cupcake tins until three-quarters of the way full. Tap the tins on the counter a few times, then bake the cupcakes for 11 minutes at 350°F or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 5 minutes, then remove the cupcakes and cool to room temperature.
Toasted Meringue Topping, adapted from Martha Stewart
4 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon key lime juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fill a small pot 2-inches deep with water. Set it over medium-high heat to bring to a simmer.
Combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in the metal bowl of a stand mixer or a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the simmering water and whisk continuously until the sugar dissolves and the egg whites are warm to the touch, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to cook the egg whites.
Remove the bowl from the pot of water and turn off the heat. Set the bowl in the base of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or use a hand mixer. Beat the egg whites at high speed until shiny and hold stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted, about 5 minutes. Add the key lime juice and vanilla extract and whisk 2 minutes longer.
Fit a pastry bag with a small star tip and fill with meringue. Pipe the meringue onto the cooled cupcakes. Use a small kitchen torch to toast the meringue.