Key lime is a small, round citrus fruit, about 1 or 2 inches in diameter (2.5 to 5 cm) that is popular for its tart, tangy flavor. It adds zest to many kinds of food and drink, and can be added to cake batter to create key lime cupcakes. The bright green color makes them unique.
This fruit is harvested before reaching maturity, when it is ripe enough to use but not so ripe that the intense lime flavor and dark green color is lost. If left to ripen, it will turn yellow and become much sweeter as the acidity level drops. They are named key limes because they have been a popular fruit crop in the Florida Keys for many years, though most of the commercial fruit now come from other areas such as Mexico and Asia. Other names for this fruit include Bartender’s lime and West Indian lime.
One very well-known dessert made with this fruit is key lime pie, a green pie that is often eaten around the holidays and is typically topped with meringue. People who love the flavor of the pie but don’t want to go to the trouble of making one sometimes substitute other lime desserts, such as key lime cupcakes, that give them the flavor they love but are much easier to make. There are many different recipes for key lime cupcakes, allowing cooks to experiment until they find a favorite. Choosing the right topping is important, too, since the top of a cupcake is the first thing to be seen, and its flavor can either enhance or overwhelm the cupcakes underneath. Some may choose to decorate each small cake with an individual flair, using several different toppings for the batch, so that there is something to appeal to a wider variety of tastes, while others will top the entire batch with a single kind of frosting.
Fans of key lime pie may particularly like upside-down key lime cupcakes, a recipe that puts very rich, moist cupcakes under a topping filled with crushed graham crackers that act like a crust. For a milder taste, cupcakes that call for less lime juice and have a smooth cream cheese frosting may be a better choice. Candy lovers can enjoy their key lime cupcakes with white chocolate frosting drizzled over the top, while some fans prefer to eat them without any frosting or topping at all.