Key Lime Cheesecake

One of the best things about making a homemade treat for someone else, aside from their surprise/appreciation/love/affection, is the opportunity to try out a recipe you might not otherwise make.  I’m a bona fide chocoholic and the idea of a dessert that doesn’t involve copious amounts of chocolate rarely shows up on my radar.  So when I was faced with making a birthday dessert for my uncle whose favorite treat is key lime pie and cheesecake, I was pushed out of my comfort zone.  No chocolate?  Whatever would I do!

Key Lime Cheesecake

Knowing practically nothing about key lime pie (like I said, unless it’s made from or covered in chocolate I’m generally not interested), I set about doing some research.  Apparently, authentic key lime pie isn’t actually baked.  The acid in the lime juice “cooks” the eggs while it rests in the fridge for hours on end (think ceviche).  Not knowing if my uncle was a key lime purist, I wanted to do a key lime cheesecake that incorporated the most authentic flavors possible.  I found a recipe from Zoe Bakes that uses sweetened condensed milk, which is the hallmark of traditional key lime pie.

Key Lime Cheesecake

Now, for a small confession … they had key limes when I was at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago … I swear they did!!  Sadly, they didn’t have them when I went back to stock up for this dessert.  And neither did the three other stores I checked!  My quest for authenticity was reduced to the practicality of reality and I had to accept the fate of using regular, not key limes.  You can generally buy bottled key lime juice at the grocery store … just make sure to read the label to avoid buying key west lemon juice, like I did!  The major difference between regular limes and key limes is the juiciness factor.  Key limes are much juicier so you don’t need as many.  Flavor-wise, I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t fessed up, no one would have known that they were regular limes.

limes for key lime cheesecake

The combination of flavors in this cheesecake was perfect.  Tartness balanced with just enough sweetness.  I felt compelled to add a coconut graham cracker crust and some toasted coconut to the top.  Despite not having a drop of chocolate, these were delicious!  I’m not giving up my double chocolate layer cake or chocolate brownies anytime soon, but this was really good.  I’m not going to brag, but the reviews from my uncle were, ahem, raving.

coconut graham crust

Briefly, a word on following directions.  I’m pretty terrible at it.  I frequently commit the ultimate sin of starting to make a recipe before reading it all the way through.  Zoe’s original recipe was for a regular-sized 9 inch cheesecake.  Because I think everything tastes better when it’s in a mini portion, I adapted the recipe to make mini cheesecakes instead.  A wonderful bonus to mini cheesecakes, is that they don’t require a fussy water bath to prevent cracking.  Knowing that I wouldn’t need the instructions about the water bath, I skimmed right past the instruction to tent the cheesecake with foil to prevent it from developing a hard skin.

Key Lime Cheesecake

Predictably, mine developed the dreaded hard skin.  Tears ensued.  Fits of rage.  The whole batch nearly ended up in the trash.  But after a few deep breaths I sat back down, reread the recipe and realized that they could be salvaged.  The sour cream topping covered up the not-so pretty tops and after chilling in the fridge over night, they firmed up.  The consistency of the cheesecake filling was a bit off, but that was due entirely to my freaking out over the hard skins and pulling them out of the oven too soon.  The flavor was perfect and, despite not being covered in chocolate, it’s a desert I will absolutely be making again.  With a foil tent the next time around.

Moral of the Story: Don’t be me. Read the directions. Tent your cheesecakes. Know that they will not be actually be set until after a few hours in the fridge. Don’t judge a dessert by it’s lack of chocolate.

Key Lime Cheesecake


Mini Key Lime Cheesecake

Yield: 12 mini cheesecakes


For the Filling:
1 1/2 8 oz packages (3/4 pound) Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
6 large egg yolks, room temperature**
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cups fresh or bottled key lime juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon key lime zest

For the Sour Cream Topping:
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the Coconut Graham Cracker Crust:
3/4 cup finely ground graham crackers
3/4 cup sweetened, shredded coconut (plus extra for topping)
4 tablespoons melted butter


- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a mini cheesecake pan by spraying lightly with baking spray or brushing with melted butter or vegetable oil.
- Combine the ground graham cracker, coconut and melted butter in a food processor. Pulse until thoroughly combined. Press into the prepared pan until smooth and bottom is completely covered.
- Bake the crust in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes to set the crust.
- In a mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese so that there are no lumps, you will want to scrape down the side of the bowl several times. (If your cream cheese is not at room temperature when you start then let it mix alone for several minutes to really smooth it out.)
- Add the egg yolks one at a time and mix until they are totally combined. Scrape down the sides after each addition.
- Add the sweetened condensed milk and sugar. Mix to combine, scrape down the sides.
- Add the lime juice and zest.
- Pour the cheesecake into the prepared pan. Fill each tin about 3/4 of the way up.
- Tent the cheesecake with foil so the top of your cake doesn’t develop a hard skin. You want to poke holes in the foil so the steam can get out and not drip on your cake.
- After about 30-35 minutes remove the foil and check your cake. It should no longer seem wet and when jiggled it should be set all the way through, like jello. If it isn’t completely set then put it back in the oven, covered and let it go for another 5-8 minutes. Once the eggs begin to set, they bake quickly so you want to check in short intervals.
- Once your cheesecake is set remove it and allow it to cool, uncovered.
- While the cake is cooling mix together the sour cream and sugar.
- After about 15 minutes very carefully spread the sour cream over the top of the cheesecake. The cheesecake won’t be completely set so you want to use as little pressure as possible.
- Bake with the topping on for 5 minutes. It will not seem completely set until cool, so don’t be tempted to over bake.
- Let the cheesecake cool until until it is room temperature.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Once it is thoroughly chilled remove the plastic and run the pan quickly over an open flame or on your electric burner. This loosens the cake from the pan and allows you to remove it easily.
- Quickly run a knife around the edge.
- Push the mini cheesecakes up from the bottom out of the pan.
- Smooth the edges with a knife, if needed.
- Decorate with toasted coconut, serve chilled or at room temperature and enjoy!!!

* If you want to make a full-sized 9' cheesecake, the filling recipe should be doubled. The topping and crust recipe would remain the same. I recommend you check out Zoe's fabulous directions for baking the full-sized cheesecake in a water bath and her fool proof method for avoiding cracks and removing the cake from the pan.

** Save the egg whites to make some peanut butter crepes! Egg whites can be stored, refrigerated in an air tight container for a few days or frozen for even longer.

Adapted from Zoe Bakes' Key Lime Cheesecake

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22 Responses to “Key Lime Cheesecake”

  1. 1
    pannybear — April 3, 2009 1:16 am


  2. 2
    Zita — April 3, 2009 4:33 am

    Wow..those are perrfect shapes keylime cheesecake, lovely :)

  3. 3
    Zoë François — April 3, 2009 8:54 am

    They look fantastic! I so agree about things tasting better when they are little! ;)

  4. 4

    oh these are right up my alley- LOVE lime, LOVE cheesecake, and LOVE little miniature desserts!

  5. 5
    Foodess — April 6, 2009 12:27 am

    Cute! And fabulous flavour combo!

  6. 6
    Kevin — April 6, 2009 8:39 pm

    Key lime cheesecake sounds so good! I like the mini sized portions!

  7. 7
    maggie (p&c) — April 8, 2009 3:23 pm

    Yum, these look great! I wonder if you could use a muffin tin instead of a mini-cheesecake tin?

    • kate replied: — April 9th, 2009 9:58 am

      Maggie – The mini cheesecake pan is pretty unique because each tin has a removable bottom (it’s basically a disk that sits on the bottom of each tin). This allows you to push the entire cheesecake up through the pan without having to touch the sides. If you try a muffin tin, be sure to grease it really well so that hopefully they will slide out. Report back and let me know how it goes!

  8. 8
    Alisa@Foodista — April 8, 2009 11:08 pm

    They look SO good! Ill follow some of your tips and hopefully they turn out as pretty as this :)

  9. 9
    Bonnie — June 17, 2009 9:54 am

    could you clarify on the broiler pan you mention using when removing the cheesecakes from the oven for cooling? Is the broiler pan under the mini-cheesecake pan during baking? I probably just haven’t had enough coffee yet to clear my head, but that part doesn’t make sense to me – thanks!

    • kate replied: — June 17th, 2009 10:08 am

      Bonnie – Yep, that was a reference to the original recipe which called for baking the regular-sized cheesecake in a boiler pan filled with water. I’ve corrected it now, but you basically want to let the cheesecake cool in the mini-cheesecake pan that you baked it in. Hope that you enjoy the recipe! It was a huge hit around these parts.

  10. 10
    Bonnie — June 17, 2009 1:13 pm

    Perfect – thanks!

  11. 11
    Karen — August 6, 2009 5:13 pm

    A couple of your pics show the mini cheesecakes atop muffin papers. Did you ever consider and/or attempt your recipe using a paper-lined muffin pan? I’m looking for a recipe that can be made ahead then transported in a cooler. I’m predicting the filling will stick to the paper, but considering it’s just going to be a bunch of gals at the coast for the weekend, I don’t think anyone will mind if we have to lick the yumminess off the paper liners!

  12. 12
    TheWoman — September 15, 2009 5:28 am

    These are adorable!

  13. 13
    Daisy Reams — August 10, 2010 8:46 pm

    Think however you like. As for me and my family we are sticking with the world’s best key lime pies from Kutchie’s Key West Restaurant and Grill. Kutchie’s Rules the Key Lime Pie World!

    Miss Daisy

  14. 14
    Howard Stienburg — December 10, 2010 9:34 pm

    Your cheesecakes look very tempting to me. My wife insists that when it comes to key lime that only the famous key lime pies from Kutchie’s Key West will please her. I guess that you could call it her slobbering love affair with Kutchie’s Key Lime Pies. All of her friends seem to share the same problem. What is it with women these days? Go figure.


  15. 15
    Brian Boroff — December 24, 2010 9:40 pm

    Is 6 egg yolks correct? My filling seemed very runny …

  16. 16
    Sara — December 27, 2010 3:28 pm

    I once saw a place that dipped pieces of key lime pie in dark chocolate, they looked so good! Maybe to satisfy your chocolate urges, stick these on Popsicle sticks and put them in the freezer until hard and then dip them in melted semi-sweet chocolate chips and then sprinkle them with the toasted coconut, just an idea :)

  17. 17
    Mary — January 24, 2011 4:25 pm

    This may sound crazy, but I have never been a fan of sour cream topped cheesecake…yuck. I think I will use the egg whites for meringue topping for these little cheesecakes…sprinkled with the coconut. Now to find one of the mini cheesecake pans with the removable bottoms. Who knew such a superb thing existed!?

    • kate replied: — January 24th, 2011 7:39 pm

      Mary — Try this link! This is the mini-cheesecake pan that I use. It’s fabulous for all kinds of mini baked goods. Just be careful not to loose one of the bottoms!

  18. 18
    kattie — November 14, 2011 7:21 pm

    I tried the recipe today and it didn’t turn out. I used the miniature cups which were very tiny and after baking for 25 miinutes, there was nothing left of the cheesecake. When you say mini, did you use the regular cupcake pans? I’ve never baked cupcakes and thought when you said mini, you meant the very small cupcake pans using the tiny cups.

    I was so disappointed because I had just picked and used up the last of my key limes off my tree. The flavor of the filling was delicious so I would like to try it again, I just need more clarification so I don’t waste more ingredients and time.

    I appreciate your reply so I can give it another try.
    Thanks much !

    • kate replied: — November 27th, 2011 4:26 pm

      Kattie — Sorry to hear that the recipe didn’t work out for you! Yes, the pan you were using was too small. A mini-cheesecake pan (not the same as a mini-cupcake pan) in essentially the size of a standard cupcake pan but with removable bottoms. Here is a link to the pan that I used. These definitely need to be made with some type of spring-form pan with a removable bottom or sides. A standard cupcake pan would cause a pretty big mess. Give it a try with the right pan and that should help.

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