Key Lime Cake — An EASY and refreshing poke cake with plenty of zippy lime flavor that’s perfect for summer parties, picnics, and potlucks!! Everyone loves this tangy-and-sweet, light, and airy cake!!

slice of key lime cake on white plate with bite missing

Easy Key Lime Cake Recipe

This key lime cake has spring and summer written all over it. If a cake can be refreshing, this cake is most definitely that.

It’s light, airy, and has such wonderful lime flavor that I kept going back to straighten the rows with a fork every time I walked past the fridge.

It’s not dry in the least, and there’s plenty of lime flavor without it overpowering the cake or making is taste sour.

If you’re in need of a spring or summer dessert for a baby or bridal shower, graduation parties, summer holidays like Fourth of July or Memorial/Labor Day, or for a potluck or picnic, this cake is a crowd-favorite that’s so easy to make!

slice of key lime cake on white plate with half a lime

What’s in Key Lime Poke Cake? 

To make this easy key lime dessert, you’ll need the following: 

  • Boxed white cake mix
  • Eggs
  • Water
  • Canola oil
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Key lime juice and zest
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Whipped topping

How to Make Key Lime Cake

This cake is super easy and starts off with a box of white cake mix. I’m sure you could prepare the cake according to the directions on the box but I didn’t. For this cake, I used four eggs rather than three, and used less oil than called for. This seemed to help keep the cake really light.

After the cake is done baking, poke holes in the cake all over the surface of the cake using the blunt end of a wooden spatula. Hence, this is why it’s called a poke cake. I poked approximately 100 holes.

After poking the holes, make the filling mixture. The mixture is thick and sets up very quickly due to the reaction from the heavy cream and lime juice. As necessary, help to encourage the filling mixture to sink into the holes by gently scraping the cake’s surface with a spatula, going back and forth. Some pooling at the surface is normal and okay because the filling mixture is very thick.

Refrigerate the key lime cake for at least an hour, but overnight is fine, before you plan to add the whipped topping and final lime zest.

slice of key lime cake on white plate with bite missing

Are Key Limes and Key Lime Juice Necessary?

In a word, they are not absolutely necessary and regular limes and lime juice are just fine. Key limes are more aromatic and I find them to have a stronger and more pronounced flavor than regular limes and in this cake they add an extra punch of flavor.

Sometimes key limes are called Mexican limes and in Mexico, they are much more popular and common than the bigger green limes we typically see in American supermarkets. Use what you can find.

Can I Use Bottled Lime Juice?

For lime juice in almost any recipe from sweet to savory, this Santa Cruz brand lime juice is really good and I’ve been using it for years in everything from key lime pie bars to curry. Freshly squeezed is generally superior, but sometimes in a recipe where you need a considerable quantity of lime juice, bottled lime juice is more practical.

I’ve made this cake with both freshly squeezed key lime juice and bottled regular lime juice, and they were both great.

Key Lime Poke Cake - An EASY and refreshing cake with plenty of zippy lime flavor that's perfect for summer parties, picnics, and potlucks!! Everyone loves this tangy-and-sweet, light, and airy cake!!

Tips for Making Key Lime Cake

A couple baking tips are that I recommend checking on this cake early and often to avoid burning it.

I also suggest rotating your pan midway through baking to ensure even cooking. White and light-colored cakes show every baking imperfection that can result from ovens that bake unevenly and while you ultimately are going to cover up the surface with whipped topping, starting with the best possible cake that’s baked as evenly as possible is best.

If you want to amp up the lime flavor, add additional lime zest to either or both the filling and/or sprinkled over the topping.

Key Lime Poke Cake - An EASY and refreshing cake with plenty of zippy lime flavor that's perfect for summer parties, picnics, and potlucks!! Everyone loves this tangy-and-sweet, light, and airy cake!!
Yield: 18

Key Lime Poke Cake

Key Lime Poke Cake – An EASY and refreshing cake with plenty of zippy lime flavor that’s perfect for summer parties, picnics, and potlucks!! Everyone loves this tangy-and-sweet, light, and airy cake!!

Ingredients

Cake

  • one 15.25-ounce box white cake mix
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

Filling

  • one 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup (key) lime juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon (key) lime zest

Topping

  • one 8-ounce container whipped topping, thawed (I used lite)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (key) lime zest

Instructions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, line a 9×13-inch pan with aluminum foil for easier cleanup, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. To a large bowl, add all ingredients and beat with a handheld electric mixer for about 2 minutes. Turn batter out into prepared pan and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until done. A toothpick should come out clean with a few moist crumbs but no batter. I recommend checking on this cake early and often to avoid burning it. I also suggest rotating your pan midway through baking to ensure even cooking.
  3. After cake comes out of the oven, poke holes all over the surface of the cake using the blunt end of a wooden spatula. I poked approximately 100 holes; set cake aside.

Filling 

  1. To a medium bowl, add all ingredients, and whisk until combined. Mixture will thicken very quickly.
  2. Slowly and evenly pour mixture over the surface of the cake, allowing the mixture to seep into the holes. As necessary, help to encourage the mixture to sink into the holes by gently scraping the cake’s surface with a spatula, going back and forth. Some pooling at the surface is normal and okay because the filling mixture is very thick. Cover the cake and allow it to rest in the fridge for about 1 hour, or overnight.

Topping 

  1. Evenly smooth the whipped topping over the surface, evenly sprinkle the zest, and serve. Cake will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Adapted from Betty Crocker

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

18

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 274Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 59mgSodium: 143mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 0gSugar: 29gProtein: 6g

More Poke Cake Recipes:

ALL OF MY POKE CAKE RECIPES!

Orange Poke Cake with Honey-Orange Glaze — BOLD orange flavor in this EASY, 100% scratch, no mixer poke cake!! Orange juice, orange extract, and orange zest make this cake the BEST way ever to get your Vitamin C!!

Caramel Coconut Poke Cake — An incredibly EASY and super moist cake thanks to a creamy caramel mixture that’s poked into the cake!! Topped with crispy toasted coconut, this cake is a DELISH winner!!

Strawberry Poke Cake— This strawberry Jello cake uses just four ingredients and is a hit at parties and potlucks! It’s a moist, refreshing dessert you’ll definitely want seconds of! 

S’mores Cake — Chocolate cake gets poked all over and soaked in a marshmallow creme mixture before being topped with crushed graham crackers, toasted marshmallows, and hot fudge sauce. 

Crushed Pineapple Cake — This pineapple cake is an easy, from-scratch poke cake recipe! It’s screaming with pineapple flavor from the crushed pineapple in the cake and the pineapple juice in the glaze.

Orange Crush Poke Cake — This is a perfect summer cake. It’s easy, super moist yet light, and just looks cheerful. Who can resist a tie-dyed looking cake?!

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