Key Lime Cupcakes

Makes 1 dozen

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon key lime zest
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons fresh Key lime juice
Key Lime Filling (recipe follows)
Key Lime Buttercream (recipe follows)
Garnish: graham cracker crumbs, fresh Key lime slices

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners; set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar, and lime zest. Beat at high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together half-and-half and lime juice. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternately with half-and-half mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups until each cup is 2/3 full. Bake for 16 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack.
5. Using a melon baller, carefully remove a small amount of cake from center of each cupcake. Spoon or pipe about 1 teaspoon Key Lime Filling in center of each cupcake. Frost tops of cupcakes with Key Lime Buttercream. Garnish with graham cracker crumbs and fresh Key lime slices, if desired.

Key Lime Filling

Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 (10-ounce) jar lime curd

1. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sugar, beating until smooth. Add curd, beating until combined. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Key Lime Buttercream

Makes about 4 cups

1 1/2 cups sugar
4 egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons Key lime zest

1. In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, combine sugar and egg whites. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture reaches 140° on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat, and transfer to a large bowl. Beat at high speed with an electric mixer for 10 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to medium-low; add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in Key lime zest. Use immediately.

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