key lime pie with vanilla whipped cream

One of the beautiful things about the town we live in is its proximity to some of the best places in Florida. We’re nestled in between some of Florida’s better known cities – about two driving hours away, give or take, from Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa – and many of the state’s lesser known gems, including numerous natural fresh-water springs and state parks. When we crave the sea and sand, a short hour and a half drive east or west brings us to a coastline. To the west, Cedar Key, a quaint fishing village, sits on the Gulf of Mexico and has been a favorite lunch spot and day trip for us since I was a kid. In the other direction, on the east side of the state, is the Atlantic Ocean. I grew up going to the wide sandy beaches on the Atlantic, just south of Jacksonville. We used to stop at fruit stands along the way for fresh peaches, oranges, and nectarines to pack with us in our beach bags for snacks later in the day. And, if I went with my parents, we tended to stop for a bucket of fried chicken to eat at lunchtime, with hands still covered in sand and salt from the ocean.

We headed eastward this past weekend, over to a resort on Palm Coast, a beach community that sits between Daytona Beach and St. Augustine Beach. We were only gone a couple of nights, but those 48 hours were filled with pure fun balanced with the right amount of rest. We soaked up the sun, wiggled our toes in the sand, splashed in the pool, and ate cold ice cream in the afternoons. It was pretty much perfect.

One of the pies I associate with Florida and the beach is key lime pie. It was created initially in the Florida Keys, after all. And, apparently it’s the Official State Pie of Florida – which I did not learn until about 3 hours ago.

My husband is partial to key lime pies. Our kids are learning many of their eating patterns – both good (the love of broccoli) and bad (the complete hate and avoidance of anything resembling a tomato) – from him, including a real passion for this sweet tart pie. Madeline requested a key lime pie for our July 4th cookout, so I obliged.

This key lime pie recipe is not dissimilar to many you’ll find on the internet. I’ve added cream cheese to my version, something that is not traditional but adds a creamy note to the filling. I’ve tried it with reduced-fat cream cheese, which is really sort of a silly thing to do if you think about it. Don’t do it. The texture is not as good and the lumps in the batter tend to stick around. So, take my advice and go full-fat on this one. I like the traditional graham cracker crust, but I add shredded coconut to mine for some extra depth of flavor. Topped with a dollop of sweetened vanilla whipped cream, this pie has become a real favorite in my house.

Key Lime Pie with Vanilla Whipped Cream

Resist the temptation to reduce the fat in this by using reduced fat or light cream cheese. Stick with full-fat cream cheese for the best texture. For the key lime juice, I use Nelly & Joe's Key Lime Juice instead of squeezing fresh limes, but you could certainly do that if you prefer.


1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (from 9 graham crackers)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut
Pinch kosher salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup key lime juice
Zest of 2 limes

1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place oven rack in middle position.

Make crust: In the bowl of a food processor, process the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, shredded coconut, and salt until blended. Pour into a bowl and add melted butter. Stir well to combine; pour into 9-inch pie plate. Press graham cracker mixture evenly onto the bottom and sides of pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool on a rack. Leave oven on.

Make filling: In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks and cream cheese until well blended and no lumps remain. Add sweetened condensed milk, key lime juice, and lime zest and beat until incorporated and smooth. Pour into pie crust and bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely on rack, then cover and refrigerate overnight or 8 hours.

Make topping: With an electric mixer (or a stand mixer using the whisk attachment), beat cream, vanilla, and sugar together on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Serve with key lime pie.

    Pin It

12 Responses to “on the first father’s day, and a recipe: black-bottom peanut butter pie”

  1. Marly — June 19, 2014 @ 10:13 am

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your father. My dad died a couple of years ago and it is very hard. It’s hard to know he won’t be calling again, stopping by to say hello. It does get easier at times, but then there are other times when it’s right back with you again. My thoughts are with you.

  2. Gail — June 19, 2014 @ 10:24 am

    The first Fathers’ Day is tough, that’s for sure.
    It will be melancholy for a while, I’m afraid.
    Celebrate Sam; revel in the kids celebraing their dad.


  3. Mimi — June 19, 2014 @ 10:48 am

    Sounds like your husband had a wonderful Father’s Day! I never had a father, or a decent father, so those dad-daughter photos just piss me off, but if you atually had a father you liked, I can certainly understand the sadness. I’m really sorry for both of your losses. You just can’t pick your parents, can you?!!! It makes me sad when I read something like this, because my mother is the meanest person alive and she’s 85 and still kicking! But that pie looks absolutely perfect and delicious!!! sorry for my rambling!

  4. Beth @ The First Year — June 19, 2014 @ 1:30 pm

    It sounds like your travels will be a vacation to remember! As for the pie, I would dig in immediately!

  5. Liren — June 19, 2014 @ 2:34 pm

    Oh, it will be good to get away. Especially without the technology, so I understand your inner cheers. Your father’s day was my mother’s day, and these holidays are just so hard, aren’t they? It’s so easy to feel envy and grief when social media is full of images we wish we still had. I send you hugs and hope you and the family enjoy every bit of your trip. I have a feeling it will be perfect 🙂

  6. Aw MJ, my heart went out to both you and Sam this Fathers’ Day. Sam is an amazing dad, for sure and it sounds like he had the day he deserves 🙂 I can’t wait to read more about your adventures (just stay away from those bears!)

  7. Martha @ A Family Feast — June 19, 2014 @ 5:24 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss. My father passed over 20 years ago (and my mother just 2 years ago) – and it’s just plain hard not to have your parents around, especially at all of the different holidays. The first year is definitely the most difficult! But – I did also want to tell you that your pie looks absolutely fantastic! I make a similar peanut butter pie recipe – but love the black bottom of yours! I am going to try your version the next time!

  8. Joelen Tan — June 19, 2014 @ 9:27 pm

    This is a wonderful dessert choice to celebrate, albeit bittersweetly. Your upcoming vacation sounds wonderful and I look forward to reading all about it soon!

  9. dina — June 19, 2014 @ 10:34 pm

    it looks sooo good!

  10. Kathryn — June 20, 2014 @ 6:07 am

    Sending you lots and lots of love. We had a similar Mother’s Day last year as both my grandmothers had died in the previous year – it was so hard for both my parents and the day was tinged with such sadness.

  11. Di — June 24, 2014 @ 10:11 am

    The first year after a loved one’s passing is the most difficult because of the all those “firsts” without them. Sounds like you and your husband handled it in a healthy way …. putting one foot infront the other when your heart isn’t in it is not easy. I am happy to read your posts again. I missed them. Enjoy your family time off the grid.

  12. Liesl — June 27, 2014 @ 6:39 pm

    I so know how you feel. I wrote a month or so ago, having just lost my dad in February. I completely understand the “grief surprising you in it’s ferocity.” That is such a good way to state what I am feeling. Even though I knew it would be extremely hard to lose him, I just didn’t know how it would feel.
    Sending love your way.

Leave a Comment