Key Lime Margarita Cheesecake Cake

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Key Lime Margarita Cheesecake CakeOn Love, Gratitude & Margaritas

Dedication: This recipe is dedicated to my sweet, loving husband and best friend, The Big Lug. Thank you for your unbridled support, Sweetheart. And, for always inspiring me. I. Love. You. xo ~Stacy

Blog Update

Today, some of my blogging pals are attending the BlogHer Food Conference in Austin, Texas. Oh, how I wish I were there to meet my favorite peeps! If you are reading this, and in Austin now at BHF, please champion for BlogHer Food to return to Austin in 2014…you know, like in “by popular demand”? Pretty please? For all of us who adore everything BBQ and Texas? Hahaha! Thanks! I know I would just love Austin. It seems…well, so me.

Truly, I had fully planned on attending BlogHer Food 2013. However, offline real life often gets in the way of such plans. The Big Lug and I have been on vacation all this week tackling a home project. My decision not to attend the conference was based on this as well as deciding to invest in a new camera (yay!) and other upgraded photography equipment as well as in my blog’s redesign in preparation of the next big step. In all honesty, I will feel that I actually earned the trip if I go next year after having had my blog live for at least one full year.

Key Lime Margarita Cheesecake Cake 3

Now for a blog update and other news. It may not appear so, but I have been working feverishly behind the scenes on some new features I think my readers will be thrilled to see. Meanwhile, of course, I am also working hard on developing cutting edge gluten free and grain free recipes. Over the next several months, each new feature will be unveiled. I’m so excited about everything!

Key Lime Margarita Cheesecake Cake by ~ Key lime cheesecake and Margarita cake frosted with key lime curd and cream cheese buttercream with a coconut-macadamia nut graham cracker crunch. #dessert #recipe

Also, I have been working on another important project–a cookbook. Yes, I am enjoying the challenge and journey as the baking recipes are all gluten free and grain free. To my knowledge, a book such as this has not yet been published. Sure, there are books that include paleo desserts or books on the subject of paleo desserts requiring a certain brand of sweetener. However, my book will concentrate on all natural whole foods ingredients—right down to natural sweeteners. Think Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible for gluten free and grain free baking.

If Dianne Jacob, author of Will Write for Food, is correct in her statements that baking cookbooks and paleo cookbooks rank the highest in overall book sales, I have a good inkling I am pursuing the right path by doing both in one book. I sincerely believe I was born to write this cookbook, y’all. So, please be patient if I am away for a spell from either the blog or social media. I cannot express enough how much I appreciate your support!

Key Lime Margarita Cheesecake Cake by ~ Key lime cheesecake and Margarita cake frosted with key lime curd and cream cheese buttercream with a coconut-macadamia nut graham cracker crunch. #dessert #recipe

Okay. Let’s get on with this recipe post for Key Lime Margarita Cheesecake Cake. I’ve been eager to share it with you! Also, The Big Lug gave me permission to share some photos of him. He is shy and I respect him too much to post a photo without his approval. Since the theme of this post is about giving and gratitude, I thought I would share some photos to include a few leading up to and from our wedding day. The wedding photos I am sharing are actually scans of my wedding proofs since our actual wedding photos are hardbound.

Key Lime Margarita Cheesecake Cake 2

On Love, Gratitude and Margaritas

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that my favorite cocktail on Earth is the Margarita…and, for the most part, all of its incarnations. It was at a Jimmy Buffett concert when I first conceived the idea of this special cake. Jimmy has a way of doing this to a girl. I was driven to develop the recipe for my love, The Big Lug.

The Big Lug happens to love Key Lime Pie and claims that my Classic New York Style Cheesecake (recipe coming soon to the blog) is the best he’s ever tasted. Aww, isn’t that sweet? Well, it was there, at the Jimmy Buffett concert, under the summer stars, that I thought of combining Margarita Cake and Key Lime Cheesecake into a “cheesecake cake” for my sweetheart–a Key Lime Margarita Cheesecake Cake. The Margarita Cake was inspired by the concept of Chef Andy Husbands’ recipe from his fabulous first cookbook, The Fearless Chef, which was inspired by the popular Latin “cake with three milks” or “pastel de tres leches” incorporating whole milk, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. However, I had envisioned using “Margarita” simple syrup instead to flavor and moisten the cake layers.

night we met

This is a snapshot taken by my friend, Gina, on the night I met The Big Lug–at his cousin’s Christmas party. Gina just got her new “big girl” camera and was getting used to it. I was wearing a white sweater with metallic threads and the front yoke had a white leather accent with silver tone metal rivets and turquoise stones with pretty leather fringe. (Sounds kind of tacky, but was tastefully done. Does anyone remember Gantos?) My earrings are real silver feather drops. And, yes…I had my cowgirl boots on! But (sadly), I was also wearing my “acid wash” jeans. Hahaha!

When I shared the idea of this layer cake with my hubby, the look on his face was one of fascination and pure joy as I detailed every component recipe to make it. He loved the idea of using key lime curd between the cake and cheesecake layers, my adaptation of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s  White Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream (of which he is quite familiar) for the icing and a coconut-nut graham cracker crunch comprised of lightly toasted macadamia nuts and unsweetened shredded coconut for a delightful taste and texture sensation in lieu of just plain ordinary graham cracker crumbs.

After I detailed this cake from my mind’s eye, The Big Lug gave me the same look of approval that he gives me when he hugs me from behind while I’m working in the kitchen and I glance up at him—that look of anticipation and feeling loved because I am creating or making something especially for him, something he enjoys. The rabbis are correct when they give marital advice. Marriage truly is all about giving. Yes, giving even in the form of making favorite dishes like cheesecakes and key lime pies. The love always seems to flow right back as I suddenly find myself being the recipient of the kindest and most thoughtful of little gifts.

our engagement 1

This photo was taken by The Big Lug the day we were engaged and ordered my ring. It was at a family reunion picnic where we announced our engagement. I can be kind of sassy. He should have run for the hills!

The summer of 2011 was a special one for me and The Big Lug as a couple. The experiences of love and laughter will forever be burned in my memory and heart. That summer will always be remembered as the one when we fell in love for the second time. It didn’t hurt that he carried out an act of valor when I was accosted by a co-worker’s wife during an outing when she put me down in front of a large group of people for not working outside the home. He replied, without hesitation, “Her job is taking care of me and my job is taking care of her.” It was like Westley, stating to Prince Humperdinck near the end of The Princess Bride, “Drop. Your. Sword.” That ended THAT discussion right quick. Before this, we shared many special moments. However, at that moment in time, my heart swelled knowing he would always, always be there for me in a time of need. From something simple like this when someone tramples on our sacred ground (as to our marriage and the arrangements or decisions we’ve made) or something greater, I know he will always defend my honor. The Bible calls for husbands to do this for their brides and he always does it flawlessly. Yep, I shall keep him.

I’ve heard peeps talk about this “falling in love again” thing as if it were some strange phenomenon that only happens to certain people. I had always smiled hearing their tales while privately thinking it was kind of corny. Never in a million years did I believe my love for my husband, or his love for me, could grow any deeper than on our wedding day. Well, without getting too mushy here, let me tell you…it really does happen.

our engagement 2

The above snapshot was taken by my brother-in-law. God bless him for picking up that camera to document that day and this moment! (Love him.) And, oh! Look at those nails! They are not false. They’re real. But, I had just stood up in my best friend, Kathy’s, wedding the night before. I’m wearing The Big Lug’s jacket because it was a chilly day that Labor Day weekend at the park.

When we attended a family wedding the following September, the female minister talked of this phenomenon as a gift and reward that comes to a marriage between best friends who express a deep and profound appreciation for each other. She spoke about this intensified love as something to look forward to as marital love grows. Just then, as the marriage ceremony progressed, The Big Lug squeezed my hand and I squeezed right back in recognition and as living examples of the wisdom she was sharing during her homily. When I looked at his handsome face, and saw his kind smile and the twinkle in his blue-blue eyes as he gazed at me, it was all I could do to keep tears from welling up in my eyes then running down my cheeks (and ruining my makeup!). His famous lines to me whenever I tear up are, “Oh Blanche, stop blubbering.” Or, “There’s no crying in baseball!” (Quick, name those two films!)

Our entire family was present at the wedding on my husband’s side and when I shared the news privately with my sisters-in-law at the reception (the falling in love again part), in tandem they asked me, “What’s it like?” Immediately, without a moment of hesitation, I answered, “Like skyrockets in flight…on steroids.” As the words rolled off my tongue, I couldn’t believe how succinctly I managed to communicate my emotions. The expressions on their faces were priceless exhibiting a great hope and wonderment.

our wedding 1

Obviously, this photo is of our wedding ceremony. Father Francis was the best and fresh out of the seminary. He had a heart of gold. Everyone loved him. Any wonder why I refer to my hubby as “The Big Lug”? He’s 6’5″ tall! Also, blonde and blue-eyed handsome. He, too, has a heart of gold. I don’t know what I would do without him.

And, guess which film I am watching on DVR right now as I write this post late at night? The Princess Bride. All of which is about true love. Well, there’s also sword fights, bonding between friends, surviving a fire swamp, single-handedly fighting off ROUSes and cheating death–not to mention seeking revenge on a six-fingered man. But, I find it rather ironic that this is the film The Big Lug turned on for me before he kissed me goodnight and headed off to bed. He does these sweet little things all the time. They’re akin to sweet Valentines opened each and every single day. Because I yield to him 100% control of the television remote (I don’t watch much TV and enjoy nearly everything he selects to watch anyway), he, in turn, records all sorts of good things for me to watch or listen to while I work late. Reciprocation in marriage really does work wonders.

Did I ever share with you my adoration for William Goldman? He’s my favorite novelist and screenwriter of all time. I studied film at both the junior college and university levels purely because I love it so. If you have not yet read the novel, The Princess Bride, place it on your bucket list and don’t delay. The 30th Anniversary Edition was released on May 2, 2013 and is available now. Read it ASAP. You are in for a real trip! (No. At this time, I am not an affiliate. I just adore both the film and the novel, The Princess Bride. And, William Goldman. And, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And, the late Paul Newman.)

our wedding 2

The above photo was taken after our marriage ceremony at the side of our church in Ann Arbor. This was a rather romantic moment because The Big Lug did not get down on his knee when he proposed. So, he had secretly arranged this shot with our photographer. I was pleasantly surprised.

This Key Lime Margarita Cheesecake Cake was developed last summer, on June 15, 2012 to be exact. At the time, I had already wanted to have my blog launched. When I attended my first blogging conference a year ago April, I had slated a blog launch date of June 1st. That date had come and gone and I was a bit down in the dumps about my illness. Not two weeks later did Nora Efron (another favorite writer of mine) pass away. No one other than close family and a handful of confidantes ever knew she was ill. To say the news took me by surprise is an understatement. I was in total shock. If you look at my Twitter feed during that time, I was absent due to being in a total funk. (I think that I even expressed this to Dianne Jacob via Twitter.) It was a wretched funk. My illness had worsened and was God-awful by the time July 4th rolled around.

our wedding 3

Our wedding day was gorgeous. It was a warm 70-degree Indian Summer autumn day, without a cloud in sight, and a big football Saturday for the U. of M. To this day, fall is my favorite season! Note: The guests did not listen to directions. Everyone was supposed to walk up the path and then release their balloons for the sendoff–once beyond the trees. Instead, some got stuck in the pretty fall trees!

It was not only the dog days of summer, but it was one of the worst heat waves in recorded history—not only for our area here in the Midwest, but everywhere around the country. The severe heat made things worse for my condition and I felt sicker by the day—to the point of having to cut short our summer vacation in early June. Life was unbearable. But, somehow, I managed to make my Sweet-Tart Cherry Cobbler for The Big Lug on the morning of the 4th of July and even uploaded my image to my Flickr stream the following week.

Sweet Tart Cherry Cobbler

That following week, on July 11th, I tweeted a message to David Leite and shared the link to the photo of my Sweet-Tart Cherry Cobbler. His reply made my day when he tweeted back, “I’m going to tell your husband you’re cheating on him with me. This is gorgeous! Sinfully sexy.” I was incredibly ill at the time and his comments made my day. My week. Okay, my year as far as the food world goes. Talk about immense gratitude.

Sweet Tart Cherry Cobbler 2012 Twitter

During this time, all I could do was keep tweeting and supporting others until I was better. Some food bloggers sent me DMs asking if I was going to launch already or not. When I wrote back, I had explained briefly that I was ill and fighting a terrible infection. Most wrote back wishing me well and stating they hoped I would get better soon. Meanwhile, one blogger (at the time, she was following me and I was following her) never even bothered to write back.

By the end of summer, I faced the fight of my life concerning this infection. And, I beat it through diet. By removing all dairy, grains and sugar from my diet, as well as keeping my body alkaline, I was able to finally persevere and become well again by late September/early October and only had to fight off a cold in October. By the time our wedding anniversary rolled around in October, I was finally ready to hire a web designer to design my blog. Please believe me when I say that I fought tooth and nail to get this blog live, up and running before the end of 2012—just as I had promised in my Twitter header for a “holiday 2012 launch”. It is amazing what drive and passion can do. And, not to mention, a very dedicated web designer who just happens to work her day job as an attorney. It’s like, totally a unique blend of adrenaline…that’s fer shure (in my best 1980s “valley girl” voice).

Key Lime Margarita Cheesecake Cake 41

The important message I wanted to share in this post is this…appreciate each and every day as a gift. Appreciate everyone close to you in your life and make certain they know it. Ignore those who do not support you or act negatively toward you. If there is one thing I have learned about the food blogging community is that we are here for each other to support and encourage one another. The more gratitude we express to one another, the more blessings will be bestowed upon us. And, whenever you welcome the blessings from The Lord Above, don’t forget to thank Him.

A Few Recipe Inspiration Notes About This Cake

Our cheesecake recipe is based on the Key Lime Cheesecake from first published in Bon Appétit magazine, October 2006. Recipe developed by Jeanne Thiel Kelley. Also adapted from the Cheesecake Layers of the “cheesecake cakes” by Lori Lange of These recipes were chosen for their flavor profile and creamy texture, respectively.

Our cake recipe is based on Kathleen King’s Yellow Cake recipe (found on page 76) from her much-loved first cookbook, Kathleen’s Bake Shop Cookbook; St. Martin’s Press, 1990 (now, out-of-print), with recipes from her first bakery in Southampton, NY that she opened at the age of 20. Known today as the Hamptons’ most beloved baker, at Tate’s Bake Shop (named after her father, Tate King), Kathleen’s award-winning cookies are now sold at over 5,000 gourmet retailers throughout the United States and her bakery has been the recipient of multiple best bakery awards and is regarded as a “must-visit” Hamptons’ destination. As for her yellow cake recipe, I decreased the flour by ¼ cup, added ¼ teaspoon baking soda, used part butter and part shortening, substituted egg whites for whole eggs (using a bit less for a moist cake) and doubled the pure vanilla extract for a good white cake. This recipe was selected because it calls for regular all-purpose flour versus cake flour and sour cream for a moist and tangy yet somewhat sturdy cake to complement as well as stand up to the weight of the middle cheesecake layer.

Our Margarita Simple Syrup recipe is based on Rich Simple Syrup at and my own Top-Shelf Margarita cocktail recipe. By using a “rich” simple syrup, with a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water, versus 1:1 ratio for traditional simple syrup used in cocktails, the thickness of the syrup allows for the addition of the tequila and liqueurs without becoming too thin and causing the cake to get overly moist or mushy.

The Coco-Nutty Graham Cracker Crunch recipe is my own concoction and embellishment to make the cake more tropical in nature. It was inspired by a slice of Key Lime Pie I shared with The Big Lug at Mitchell’s Fish Market, Seafood Restaurant & Bar, here in Carmel, Indiana. The pastry chef had incorporated chopped macadamia nuts in the crispy and buttery graham cracker crust and the top of the pie was embellished with shredded coconut.

What makes our Key Lime Margarita Cheesecake Cake wicked good?

Moist Margarita Cake layers drizzled with Margarita syrup. A fresh and “cool as a cucumber” key lime flavor profile in a rich and creamy middle Key Lime Cheesecake layer. A pleasantly tart homemade or fine-quality Key Lime Custard filling. A to-die-for ivory cream cheese buttercream frosting—either our classic Cream Cheese Buttercream or our White Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream. And, to top it off…a delightful Coco-Nutty Graham Cracker Crunch. Need we say more?





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Key Lime Margarita Cheesecake Cake

Yield: Makes one 9-inch layer cake.

Key Lime Margarita Cheesecake Cake

Moist Margarita Cake layers drizzled with Margarita syrup. A fresh and “cool as a cucumber” key lime flavor profile in a rich and creamy middle Key Lime Cheesecake layer. A pleasantly tart homemade or fine-quality Key Lime Custard filling. A to-die-for ivory cream cheese buttercream frosting—either our classic Cream Cheese Buttercream or our White Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream. And, to top it off…a delightful Coco-Nutty Graham Cracker Crunch. Need we say more?


  • For the Key Lime Cheesecake Layer
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages (452 grams) cream cheese, such as Philadelphia®, softened to room temperature
  • ¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs (mine were 103 grams total w/o shells)
  • ¼ cup (60 grams) dairy sour cream, such as Daisy® Brand
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 1½ tablespoons (22.5ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1½ tablespoons (22.5ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1½ teaspoons (3 grams) freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1½ teaspoons (3 grams) freshly grated lime zest
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) pure vanilla extract, such as Nielsen-Massey®
  • Butter or favorite cooking oil, for greasing springform pan
  • For the Margarita Cake Layers
  • 2¼ cups (270 grams) all-purpose flour, such as Gold Medal®, plus extra for cake pans, see Notes below for Gluten Free Option
  • 1 teaspoon (4.8 grams) baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon (3.6 grams) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (4.8 grams) kosher salt
  • ½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup (96 grams) organic palm shortening, such as Spectrum®
  • 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
  • 7 egg whites (about 210 grams), at room temperature, divided
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract, such as Nielsen-Massey®
  • 1 cup (240 grams) dairy sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1½ teaspoons (3 grams) freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1½ teaspoons (3 grams) freshly grated lime zest
  • Butter or favorite cooking oil, for greasing cake pans
  • For the Margarita Simple Syrup
  • ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) purified water
  • 1½ tablespoons(22.5ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1½ tablespoons (22.5ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) fine-quality tequila, I prefer Cabo Wabo® Reposado
  • 1½ teaspoons (7.5ml) fine-quality orange liqueur, such as Cointreau®
  • 1½ teaspoons (7.5ml) Grand Marnier® Orange Cognac
  • For the Key Lime Curd Filling
  • Homemade “Key Lime” Curd, recipe by Wicked Good Kitchen™
  • Or, 1 (11.5 ounce/326 grams) jar prepared key lime curd, such as Stonewall Kitchen®

  • For the Optional Coco-Nutty Graham Cracker Crunch
  • 6 (about 98 grams) graham crackers, such as Honey Maid by Nabisco®
  • ½ cup (70 grams) whole macadamia nuts
  • 1 tablespoon (about 13 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (about 13 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • Two pinches or more fine sea salt (I used Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt, ground in mortar & pestle)
  • 3 tablespoons (about 42 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • ¾ cup (60 grams) organic unsweetened shredded coconut, such as Let’s Do Organic®
  • For the Cream Cheese Buttercream
  • 1 (8-ounce) package (226 grams) cream cheese, such as Philadelphia®, softened
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 226 grams) unsalted butter, softened (or 1 stick salted & 1 stick unsalted)
  • 2½ teaspoons (12.5ml) pure vanilla extract, such as Nielsen-Massey®
  • 4 to 4½ cups (480 to 540 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted (spooned into cup, leveled off & then sifted)
  • Or, White Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream, recipe by Wicked Good Kitchen™
  • For the Optional Cake and Plating Adornments
  • Shredded sweetened coconut, such as Baker’s® Angel Flake® Coconut
  • Fresh lime slices, sliced very thin
  • Fresh strawberries, sliced & fanned for plating
  • Whipped cream, garnish for plating
  • Special Equipment
  • One 9-inch nonstick springform pan
  • Two 9-inch by 1½- to 2-inch round cake pans
  • One baking sheet
  • Two insulated cake strips, such as Wilton® Small Bake Even Strips (Set of 2), necessary for even cake layers
  • Three wire cooling racks, the third being used to flip cake layers right side up
  • One 9-inch cardboard cake round, helpful but not necessary
  • Cake Turntable, such as Ateco ®, helpful but not necessary
  • Metal Angled or Offset Icing Spatula, such as Ateco® or Wilton®, helpful
  • Metal Icing Spatula, such as Ateco® or Wilton®, helpful
  • Wax paper, for lining cake pans and cake plate for icing & crunch coating
  • Pastry brush for brushing simple syrup over cakes
  • Parchment paper, for lining baking sheet
  • Piping bag, coupler and no. 21 star decorating tip, not necessary if no piping is desired
  • Mini prep food processor


Prepare the Key Lime Cheesecake Layer: Arrange oven racks to lower and middle positions and preheat oven to 325ºF. Place a 9x13-inch baking dish or pan on the lower rack of oven and fill it halfway with water. The middle rack should be just above the pan of water which will provide added moisture to help prevent the cheesecake from cracking during baking. Generously grease springform pan with butter and set aside.

Using an electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or handheld mixer and large bowl, beat the cream cheese until creamy. Gradually add sugar and beat until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of bowl as necessary with rubber spatula. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add the sour cream, heavy cream, citrus juices and zest as well as vanilla; mix until fully incorporated and smooth. Using rubber spatula, scrape and pour batter into prepared pan. Place springform pan on middle rack in preheated oven above the pan of water.

Bake in preheated oven until cheesecake is just set around perimeter and center is puffy and only slightly jiggles, about 55 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven and place on wire cooling rack. Immediately, run thin metal icing spatula around edge of pan to loosen cheesecake from sides of pan. This will prevent any surface cracking as the cheesecake cools and contracts. Allow cheesecake to cool completely, at least 1 hour. Once the cheesecake has cooled, place it (while still in the springform pan) into the freezer, covered with plastic wrap. Let the cheesecake freeze completely, about 4 to 5 hours or overnight.

Prepare the Margarita Cake Layers: Arrange oven rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350º F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans with butter or oil. Line bottoms with parchment or wax paper circles. Grease paper linings and dust lined pans with flour, tapping out the excess. Prepare the pans with insulated cake strips per manufacturer’s directions and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Using an electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or handheld mixer and large bowl, beat butter and shortening until creamy and no longer lumpy. Gradually add sugar and beat until well blended scraping down the sides of bowl as necessary with rubber spatula. Add vanilla, citrus juices and zest. Continue to beat until well incorporated. Add 2 eggs whites and beat until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with flour. (I add the flour in 3 batches with 2 batches of sour cream in between.)

Using a clean bowl and clean, dry whisk attachment, beat remaining 5 egg whites on medium speed until bubbly and foamy. Increase mixer speed to high and beat whites until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the beaten whites into batter until just incorporated. Do not overmix as the egg whites will deflate. Using rubber spatula, scrape and pour batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly (a little over 3½ cups of batter per cake pan.) Smooth tops evenly with rubber spatula.

Bake in center of preheated oven until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Run thin metal spatula around edges of each cake to loosen, then invert onto wire rack and peel away parchment or wax paper. Turn right side up onto wire racks (using an additional rack to flip); cool for 10 to 15 minutes. The cakes need to remain warm to accept the syrup.

Meanwhile, as the cake bakes, prepare the simple syrup.

Prepare the Margarita Simple Syrup: In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water and citrus juices. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves completely and mixture comes to a boil. Remove pan from heat; stir in tequila and liqueurs. Allow to cool to room temperature.

To Glaze the Cake Layers with Margarita Syrup: While the cake layers are still warm, use a pastry brush to brush the syrup over the tops of the cakes and sides until absorbed. (My cakes absorbed about 4 ounces, or 2 ounces each with 1 ounce left over.) Cool cakes completely on wire racks.

Prepare the Cream Cheese Buttercream: Using an electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or handheld mixer and large bowl, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla on medium speed. Gradually increase mixer speed to high and continue beating until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of bowl as necessary with rubber spatula. Gradually add 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, beating on low speed (stir), until well combined. Add additional confectioners’ sugar until desired consistency for spreading and level of sweetness is reached. Beat on high speed until well combined and smooth, about 1 minute.

Prepare the Coco-Nutty Graham Cracker Crunch: Arrange oven rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350º F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Break graham crackers into small pieces. Add to work bowl of mini prep food processor and pulse until made into fine crumbs. Pour fine crumbs into a medium bowl. Add macadamia nuts to work bowl of processor and pulse until very finely chopped. (Be careful and do not process to the point of turning nuts into nut butter.) Add chopped nuts to graham cracker crumbs and stir with a fork. Add sugars and salt; stir with fork until well combined. (Grab a tasting spoon and taste for sweet/salty ratio and adjust to taste.) Add melted butter and toss with fork. Scrape and pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet using a rubber spatula and pat out into a 10x12-inch area.

Bake in center of preheated oven until toasted and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and place on large wire rack. Carefully, stir with a fork and return to oven and bake for an additional 3 minutes. Cool completely on large wire rack. Add shredded coconut and toss with fork until well combined.

Assemble & Ice the Cake: Place one cake layer onto serving plate, platter or cake pedestal or stand in the center. With icing spatula, spread about 4 tablespoons “key lime” curd evenly over top of cake; then spread 6 tablespoons buttercream over curd. Remove cheesecake layer from the freezer. Loosen cheesecake from sides of pan by running thin metal spatula around the inside rim. Unmold cheesecake by removing sides of pan. Carefully, slide a hot knife (warmed under hot running water and wiped dry) under the cheesecake, and slide knife around the circumference, to release it from bottom of springform pan. (I used my chef’s knife for this task. However, a long serrated knife will work as well. Be careful!)

If necessary, trim cheesecake to match the size of the cake layers. This is done by measuring the cheesecake layer against the cake layers on a cutting board. (I did this by using a sheet of wax paper between the cheesecake layer and the remaining cake layer on cutting board.) If the cheesecake layer is slightly larger in circumference, use a knife to carefully shave away some of the outer edge of the frozen cheesecake to match the outer edges of the cakes until all sides are even or flush. (When trimming the cheesecake layer, I lifted the wax paper upward to take a peek and then sliced the cheesecake using my chef’s knife.)

Place cheesecake layer on top of the first cake layer. Spread 4 tablespoons curd over top of cheesecake; then spread 6 tablespoons buttercream over curd. Place second cake layer on top of the cheesecake layer. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake neatly and evenly. You may do a crumb coat and then chill the cake for 30 to 45 minutes before completing the icing, if desired. However, if decorating the sides of the cake with graham cracker crunch, you can skip the crumb coat because the crunch crumbs will hide any cake crumbs showing.

To Decorate the Cake: If decorating the cake, gently press graham cracker crunch onto sides of cake. This is easy to do if the cake layers are assembled onto a cardboard cake round. Simply hold and balance the cake on the cake round in one hand and use free hand to press the crunch into the sides of the cake. Use a sheet of parchment or wax paper, or even a sheet pan, to catch the excess.

If not using a cardboard cake round to hold the cake and press crunch into sides of cake, it is still easy to do. Simply line your cake plate or pedestal with four 4- to 5-inch wide strips of wax paper and use hand to press the crunch onto sides of cake. The wax paper strips will catch the crunch crumbs that fall away. Turn the cake as you work (a cake turntable is helpful, but not necessary) all the way around. Once finished, scoop away the fallen crumbs with spoon and pull the wax paper sheets away leaving a clean cake plate or pedestal.

Pipe a simple or fancy border with your favorite tip (I used a no. 21 star tip) around the perimeter of the top layer. Chill the cake for at least 1 to 2 hours. This will “set” the buttercream.

To Embellish Top of Cake: Artfully arrange thin halves of lime slices around the perimeter of the cake. Sprinkle shredded coconut in a circle on top of the cake, just inside the piped border and limes. Then follow with a bit of crunch crumbs just inside the perimeter of the coconut.

To Store the Cake: Keep cake covered and stored in refrigerator until ready to slice and serve.

To Slice & Serve the Cake: Slice the chilled cake with a thin knife that has been dipped in hot water. Wipe knife clean after each cut. Use a cake server to transfer slices of cake to dessert plates. Serve immediately or after allowing the cake to come to room temperature for a softer cake.

Recipe Notes


In general, prepare as many component recipes in advance for a stress-free day in the kitchen the day you assemble and frost the cake. Read through each of the tips below to determine how to store each component recipe until ready to assemble and frost the cake. I like to prepare each component in advance, with the exception of the buttercream, and then prepare the buttercream the day I assemble and frost the cake. By preparing component recipes in advance, it will assure you have enough time to chill the cake before slicing and serving.

For the Key Lime Cheesecake Layer: Cheesecake layer can be made 1 or 2 days ahead. This will make for less time in the kitchen the day you assemble and frost the cake.

For the Margarita Cake: Cake may be made 1 day in advance. Keep wrapped in plastic food wrap at room temperature overnight. Use insulated cake strips such as those by Wilton® to ensure cake layers bake evenly. If you do not have insulated cake strips, you can always trim your cake layers so the top of each is level. After assembling and frosting the layered cake it is best to chill it until firm, about 1 to 2 hours. Chilling, before slicing the cake, will yield neater cake slices for a better plated presentation.

For the Margarita Simple Syrup: Simple syrup can be made 1 day ahead. Keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

For the Coco-Nutty Graham Cracker Crunch: The graham cracker crunch can be made 1 day ahead and stored at room temperature in a zip-top food storage bag until ready to use.

For Measuring: When measuring all-purpose flour for this recipe, aerate your flour by stirring it then gingerly use the dip and sweep method. Dip your 1-cup dry measuring cup into the flour and scoop lightly, then use a thin metal icing spatula or straight edge of knife to sweep. This way, you should get approximately 120 to 125 grams of flour per cup measure, or 300 to 312 grams of flour for the cake layers. This tip is provided for home bakers who do not use a kitchen scale to measure ingredients by weight.

For Gluten Free Option: Substitute 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (272 grams) Cup4Cup (C4C) Gluten-Free Flour, available at Williams-Sonoma, or your favorite gluten-free flour blend measured cup for cup or by grams in place of the all-purpose wheat flour called for in the cake recipe. You will need extra flour for dusting cake pans. In addition, substitute the graham crackers with equivalent of Graham Style Crumbs by Kinnikinnick.

Visual Step-by-Step for Key Lime Margarita Cheesecake Cake

Including Recommended Brands

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About Stacy

Stacy Bryce is a recipe developer and member of the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals). Her passion is developing original conventional baking recipes as well as special diet recipes to include dairy-free, gluten-free and grain-free. You can follow Stacy at Pinterest.


  1. Oh my gosh. This post. This post! I loved it! I ate it up.
    Thank you for sharing your story. And all of your photos.
    I’m so happy you are writing a cookbook! You have such a unique voice and such a great dedication and passion that I know you will be succesful! xo

    • Thank you for the sweet comments, my friend! You have totally made my day, Christina. I deeply appreciate all of your support and encouragement! xo

  2. Wow, I just found your blog and it is absolutely stunning!! Everything is so impressive from your writing, photos, recipe and baking. This cake looks wonderful and it shows your passion and attention to detail with every step:) Thank you for sharing your great story and photos! Amazing post!

    • Aww…thank you so much, Kelly! I truly appreciate your compliments and kind words. Just visited your blog and enjoyed reading about your family and your “little guy”. Happy sweet life baking!

  3. Oh my gosh this cake is absolutely amazing. I can’t even begin to express my love for key lime…and cheesecake…and margaritas! Just gorgeous, and I can’t even imagine what it tastes like. A perfect dessert for a summer party.

    • Thank you, Jaclyn! I visited your blog and enjoyed reading your About page. You and your hubby make a gorgeous couple! May all your hopes and dreams come true in your new life together. Meanwhile, I look forward to sharing more tasty recipes with you via our blogs! xo

  4. Such an impressive cake! I’m literally drooling!! You know I love key lime anything Stacy! And I love your pretty cake stand. 🙂

    • Thank you, Sally! I actually have another idea for assembling a Key Lime Margarita Cheesecake Cake, so that will have to be version 2.0. Hahaha! Oh, I adore vintage kitchen accessories…really, of any kind, but particularly mid-century. The hobnail milk glass cake stand was a fabulous find. Thanks for your support and dropping by, Sally! xo

  5. Dalila G. says:

    What a beautiful post Stacy! ((hugs))
    Thank you for sharing with us and for your hubby on allowing his picture to be seen.
    I enjoy seeing wedding pictures, cute!!
    I really like your blog, especially your pictures of the food, they’re wonderful, just wonderful!
    Now, down to business, this cake….it’s FABULOUS!!!!
    I will be over with my own spoon, no need for a plate thank you! LOL!!
    It’s divine!!
    Have a nice day!

    • Thank you, Dalila! You have just made my day. So very sweet of you to take the time to drop by and share your thoughts. And, thank you for the compliments on the photography and the cake! I am still learning about food styling and photography. Thanks again for stopping by and happy baking! xo

  6. This cake is over the top amazing…and your photos are too! What a journey for you Stacy…you know I’m wishing you all the best!

    • Aww…thank you, B! I truly appreciate all of your support and encouragement. It means so much to me. You know I love ya! xo

  7. Hi Stacy

    How is that stonewall kitchen key lime curd, is it better than the homemade version.

    • Hi there, Jackie! Thanks for stopping by. To answer your question about Stonewall Kitchen Key Lime Curd, it is truly delicious and why I selected it as an alternative to homemade. In my opinion, in a side-by-side taste test, the Stonewall Kitchen Key Lime Curd had a more sour punch to it with a hint of bitterness–just like key lime juice and key lime pie. The homemade version is nice and citrus-y but slightly less tart (more mellow) and creamier on the tongue. Either choice for this cake would be divine. I hope that I have answered your question. Meanwhile, thanks again for dropping by and happy baking!

  8. First off (((HUGS))). As someone who has a chronic illness I can relate to you and how nice it was of your hubby to stand up for you that way. People definitely say major rude stuff. Ugh.

    And WOW on that cake. I love all things key lime and this is down right spectacular!

    • Aww…thank you, P-Bods! I love ya. Thanks for stopping by and reading my story. Major {{{hugs}}} back! People do say the rudest things…sometimes innocently, other times for kicks apparently. I have another key lime layer cake idea in my head. So look for version 2.0 sometime in the near future! xo

  9. I just poured over this post- thank you for writing every bit of it and for sharing your life and your pictures- and wow your BIG news! I couldn’t be happier for you my friend! ANd this cake? The bomb diggity.

  10. That is one heck of a cake, Stacy! Now…will you make a grain free version of this sweet thang???

    • Thank you, Carolyn! Hahaha! Believe me, I have toyed with that very idea. Making it a low carb cake, and non-paleo (due to the cream cheese as most paleos don’t eat dairy) would be easier. But, I could certainly do a cashew cheesecake filling, like a mousse, and use my cashew buttercream as a frosting. I do have a version 2.0 knocking around in my head as well. Thanks again for stopping by, girlfriend! xo

  11. It’s amazing what diet can do isn’t it? I’m happy that you were able to find your way back to health and start this blog, you are a natural and your creations never cease to amaze me.

    • Thank you, Sylvie! Yes, so very true regarding diet. Don’t know what I would have done without and The Primal Blueprint, by Mark Sisson, and all I learned from him back in 2010. I used all that knowledge when physicians could not (or would not) help me, misdiagnosed and even prescribed antibiotic meds I had informed them of being allergic to (like clindamycin). Never ever underestimate the power of prayer, educating yourself and natural healing. Thanks again for stopping by! xo

  12. Wow! Stacy this cake looks frikkin AMAZING! I love key lime anything. I enjoyed looking at all of your photos. You were indeed a stunning bride. Just marveling that someone would have the unmitigated gall to make such a rude comment to you. Glad your hubby put the person in check. Thanks for sharing all of these beautiful photos.

    • Thank you, LV! I just adore your blog. You offer up everything a girl needs…advice, tips, words of wisdom as well as both healthy and indulgent recipes. You are gorgeous inside and out, girl! Thank you so much for dropping by and happy blogging! xo

  13. I’m new to your site. I was so excited when I saw all of your incredibly gorgeous photos and wonderful recipes….I mean seriously I couldn’t decided which I wanted to look at first!! Then I read this post. Wow! What a lovely, heartfelt post! You have a new reader!!

    Oh…and I love William Goldman too!

    • Thank you, Deborah! I truly appreciate your kind words. And, yes…William Goldman will always have my heart. He’s phenomenal. Any chance I get, I enjoy reading about him–not just his body of work. It is so nice to know that I have a new reader in you. Just visited your blog and your site is not loading. It is sort of just stuck. Have you experienced any trouble? I will try again in the morning. Meanwhile, I placed your blog in my Bloglovin’ reader so I won’t miss a post! You have a new reader in me as well. Once again, thank you for stopping by!

  14. What an amazing post (seriously) and an amazing recipe! SO gorgeous! And your photos…drool worthy!

  15. Hi Stacy

    What is purified water. Can I use Earth Balance organic shortening sticks for this recipe instead of spectrum. Also, do I really need 41/2 cups of frosting to frost this cake.

    • Hi there, Jackie! Thank you for stopping by. To answer your questions… 1) Purified water just means filtered. I am a stickler for using distilled or filtered water in baking and cooking. I apologize for any confusion. 2) I have never baked with Earth Balance Shortening as I try to stay away from over-processed canola oil and all soy products due to its effects on hormones. (Earth Balance Shortening contains both.) Since organic Earth Balance Shortening is all fat like organic palm shortening, I see no reason why it wouldn’t be an equivalent substitute. (I called for it to create white cake layers.) I hope that I have answered your questions fully and completely. Thanks for dropping by and happy baking!

  16. dennis weaver says:

    cheese cake and cake together, the best of both worlds.

  17. Hi Stacy

    Do I really need 41/2 cups of frosting for this cake.

    • Hi, Jackie! My sincere apologies for missing this question previously. To answer your question…I used every bit of the frosting when constructing this cake to include the amount to go in the pastry bag for piping. If you are not a fan of frosting, perhaps, in order to cut down, you could just frost the top and fill between the layers and omit frosting the sides and top piped border. In this case, you could make a half recipe. I hope this information has been helpful to you!

  18. Stacy, you have done it again!! The pictures of the cake are making my mouth water. You got me started on cheesecake cakes with your amazing carrot cake cheesecake cake, and now I will absolutely have to try this one. I didn’t even make it through reading the title before my mouth dropped open in amazement. Thanks for this awesome recipe!
    Your wedding pictures are beautiful as well!
    Jenn @ Once Upon a Tier recently posted…Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Cake {Recipe}My Profile

    • Thank you, Jenn! I appreciate the sweet compliments. Believe it or not, I was just thinking of you the other day when I made my latest cake. I swear! And, I simply cannot wait to share it. I was wondering what you’ve been up to. Busy catering? Well, I hope this cheesecake cake has inspired you and that you’ll get back in the kitchen and get baking and blogging in the New Year…soon. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂 Wishing you all the best in 2014, my baking friend! xo

      • You are too sweet! I’ve been super busy with college and working, but I’m hoping to get back into the kitchen very soon! I am so excited to see your latest cake. I know I will be amazed as always! 🙂

        • Thank you for the update, Jenn! I can only imagine how busy you are with school, work and everything else. I can’t wait to share my latest. Meanwhile, I look forward to your next posts. I know cakes will be fabulous! 🙂

  19. This looks absolutely incredible. Your photographs are so clean and enticing. Congratulations! Well this will have to be a Saturday bake, cake, of course leaving Sunday to consume with the lovies. Can’t wait, thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you, BeeDee. My pleasure. I hope you and your lovies enjoy this special cake. If baking and assembling on a Saturday, I highly recommend baking the cheesecake part the night before on a Friday night. It’s fast and easy, plus it will be frozen to tier the day you bake and frost your cake. 🙂

  20. Stacy,
    I am so excited to see your website/blog. My daughter graduates this May from college and I have lots of family coming from Louisiana, Alabama, and Louisiana!!! Several of the women in our family fancy themselves as bakers. So glad this is a cake that can be pre-made and assembled day of. I really want to offer something special to those family members traveling to celebrate our joy. Can’t wait.

    • Thank you for writing, Susan! I’m glad you like this recipe enough to try baking it for a special occasion. I will say this, the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream is not as sweet as some like their frosting. (There’s no added sugar, just what is in the white chocolate.) So, if your friends and family enjoy sweeter frostings, you may want to go with my Best Ever Cream Cheese Buttercream recipe and adjust the confectioners’ sugar to you liking. Thanks again for writing, Susan. Good luck and I hope the cake at the bash is a smash hit!

  21. The bride looks like from 1984 😉


  1. […] much photo documentation, as it was made in the thick of party prep time.  For that, I relied on this recipe from Stacy’s Wicked Good Kitchen to help me modify my favorite 1-2-3-4 cake.  (I did NOT […]

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