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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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