my gratitude, and a recipe for key lime cheesecake

For many months now, I have wanted to write about my father.

I’ve wanted to write about how he forgets the names of my children at times. He calls my daughter by my name, and he calls Oliver by my brother’s name.  He doesn’t do this always, but just enough that it gets my attention. I wanted to write about how my father, an avid reader and accumulator of knowledge, stopped reading at least a year ago, or perhaps longer. He has my mother buy books for him, but they sit, untouched, on the table next to his recliner. I wanted to write about how he can no longer order from a restaurant menu without help. Instead, he just orders the same as my mother, probably because it’s easier for him that way.

I never wrote about these things, though, because he was still trying to live a normal life. What if his friends new? What if his business clients found out? But, of course, his business is dead, having essentially died the day this happened, two years ago. And I’m nearly certain his friends knew, in the way that good friends often know when something is wrong.

key lime cheesecake | the merry gourmet

Last weekend, I finally shared a piece of the story. I wrote about the difficult choice of placing my dad in a nursing home, and I wrote it simply because I had to. I was at a breaking point.

The comments you wrote on that post, the messages you sent through Twitter or Facebook, the emails you wrote to me — I have read, and reread, every single one. I am grateful to all of you who reached out to me. Every comment or message felt like a hug, a comforting squeeze of my hand. Thank you for that.

Mom and I are doing better. She finally shared what she’s been dealing with on her own blog. She sounds stronger than she has in the last 18 months. When I talk to her on the phone, her voice doesn’t tremble like it used to. I think she’s finally sleeping at night, the whole night through. She seems less frightened.

key lime cheesecake | the merry gourmet

Dad has been at the nursing home almost one week now. I don’t really like the place he’s in, but we don’t have a lot of other options right now. He has a new mystery book on his bedside table — and a huge magnifying glass to help him see the words — but he doesn’t read it. He keeps the television on, but he doesn’t really watch it. He picks at his meals, not remembering later what he ate. He mostly sleeps. He asks my mother if he can come home.

I know that we have more decisions ahead of us, but for now, my mom is catching her breath and regaining strength and I’m doing my thing – working, parenting, writing, and baking. We’re even going to do a bit of rest and relaxation on a warm, southern Florida beach very soon.

And about baking…

This is the cheesecake I baked on Saturday, the one that helped me to work through some of the stress of that day. Key lime pie is one of my husband’s favorite desserts, and, as it turns out, key lime cheesecake is now right up there as a favorite dessert contender.

And one more time, because I really mean it…thank you for being here.

key lime cheesecake | the merry gourmet

Yield: Serves 10-12.

Cook Time: 75 minutes

Key Lime Cheesecake

I think of Key lime pie as a classic Florida dessert, and if you have a cheesecake fan in your family, then you'll want to try combining the two. If you like the work of squeezing a bag full of tiny Key limes to get the juice needed for the recipe, then by all means, knock yourself out. If you're like me, though, you'll want an authentic Key lime taste without all of that work, so you'll use what I use - bottled juice. I highly recommend Nellie & Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice.

Don't want cracks in your cheesecake? A water bath is essential. And trust me when I tell you that it's not as hard to do as you may think.


Lime Curd:
7 large egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Key lime juice (I use Nellie & Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice)
Zest of one lime

1-3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (from 14 whole graham crackers)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
5 tablespoons Key lime juice
Zest of two limes


For Lime Curd:

Whisk egg yolks, sugar, Key lime juice, and lime zest in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until it thickens and comes to a boil, about 7-8 minutes. Let it boil for about 30 seconds, then remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

For Crust:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place oven rack in middle position.

Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Wrap the sides of the pan with a large sheet of aluminum foil (this will prevent leaking during final baking in the water bath). Whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt. Stir in the melted butter until combined. Press the crumbs onto the bottom and about 1-1/2 inches up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 5 minutes then let cool completely.

Decrease oven temperature to 325 degrees.

For Filling:

In a food processor or blender, process or puree the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lime juice, and lime zest until smooth.

Spread the lime curd evenly over the bottom of the crust. Carefully pour the filling into the crust, on top of the lime curd. Set the foil-wrapped springform pan into a roasting pan. Make the water bath by carefully pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come 1 inch up the sides of the cheesecake pan, taking care not to splash the cheesecake. Bake for 70-75 minutes at 325 degrees, until the cake is set but trembles slightly in the middle when the pan is gently shaken. Turn off oven, crack the oven door, and let cheesecake sit in the cooling oven for about 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven, carefully lift the springform pan out of the water bath, and let the cheesecake cool completely on a rack.

Chill, loosely covered, at least 8 hours (or overnight) prior to serving. When ready to serve, run a blunt knife around edge of cheesecake to loosen it from the springform pan and remove sides of the pan. Serve ungarnished or with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

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27 Responses to “my gratitude, and a recipe for key lime cheesecake”

  1. 1
    Paula — March 22, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

    Hugs and prayers continue for your entire family. Beautiful cheesecake. Enjoy that upcoming and much needed vacation.

  2. 2
    Michele — March 22, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

    You guys take care of yourselves. I’ll be thinking of you and your family. And that cheesecake!

  3. 3
    DessertForTwo — March 22, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

    We’re here for you anytime, MJ!

    Your Mom’s blog post hit me in the gut. I’m thinking of her & praying her lots. I hope she has easy days ahead and can heal.

    PS Is your maiden name George? Mine too!

  4. 4
    All that Gisters — March 22, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

    I really hope things get better for you, your Mum and Dad, I really hope you enjoy your holiday tpp because I think you deserve it. I absolutely love key lime cheesecake and I haven’t had it it so long, it brings back good memories from when I was tiny.
    from Emily xxx

  5. 5
    Gail — March 22, 2013 @ 4:02 pm

    I haven’t even read your mother’s blog yet, and I’m a weepy mess.

    Sending you big hugs. You know we’re all here for you.


  6. 6

    MJ such a sad, beautiful, hopeful, and articulate post. You are amazing. Sending love and hugs to you all, especially your mum and dad XO As Gail says, we’re all here if you need us.

  7. 7
    Kathryn — March 22, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

    Thinking of you all, have a wonderful vacation xxx

  8. 8
    Cookin Canuck — March 22, 2013 @ 4:30 pm

    You have popped into my mind multiple times since I read the post about your dad’s transition to the nursing home. You are in all of our thoughts.

    Key lime in any form has always been a favorite of mine, and this cheesecake looks like a “must try”.

  9. 9
    Michelle Ledesma — March 22, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

    Continuing to keep you, your folks, and family in my thoughts and prayers. May seem odd, but I feel the need to thank you. Thank you for sharing your stories. It’s comforting to connect with someone who clearly loves her dad and mom, but is moving through a difficult period in life’s transitions. I relate. Many can, I’m sure. Know you, too, are not alone. We’re all out here walking along side, holding you up in our hearts.
    Do get some r & r on your vacation.
    Oh, and that cheesecake looks divine.
    Hugs, Mac

  10. 10
    Kiran @ — March 23, 2013 @ 1:39 am

    Your mom’s post definitely resonated with a lot of tough decisions we had to do in our lives as well. Our thoughts and prayers goes out to her, your dad and the whole family during this trying times. xoxo

    That’s a beautiful cheesecake.

  11. 11
    cherie — March 23, 2013 @ 11:41 am

    I’m fairly new to your blog and did not read about the initial surgery until today – what a shock all this must have been for you and your mother.

    Prayers continue for you all – hugs too – I agree you both need time to recover from stress before moving forward with other decisions. I wish there were a way to make this easier – it sounds like you’re all doing the very best you can.

  12. 12
    jill lucas — March 24, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

    There will be so many good memories mingled with these difficult ones. Try to remember the times he offered his steady hand talked about your babies with knowledge and pride. I learned after my dad’s death that, the day before his heart attack, he was pressing a new snapshot of his toddler grandson – our son, now 22 – into the hands of friends at the post office. I took a lot of comfort in that and choose to remember it over details that have become less vivid with time.

  13. 13
    Natasha — March 24, 2013 @ 9:34 pm

    Time like these are never easy. I will certainly keep you and your family in my thoughts. And I’m sure cheesecake helps, as I know baking for me certainly does. All the best.

  14. 14
    Cheryl Arkison — March 25, 2013 @ 10:38 am

    I love that layer of curd!
    And I’m thrilled that things feel calmer, better.

  15. 15
    Nutmeg Nanny — March 25, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

    This is such a difficult and heartbreaking time, sending positive thoughts your way. There is nothing like a nice treat to ease things though, this cheesecake looks delicious 🙂

  16. 16

    you and your family is in my prayers Merry. I have realized how great it is to be surrounded by blogger community during tough times like this and I am glad baking is your comfort. Take Care.

  17. 17
    SMITH BITES — March 28, 2013 @ 7:51 am

    sending much love and prayers your way MJ and i’m grateful for this community who surrounds you with love, am grateful you have this space to share your deepest secrets and fears, am grateful to call you friend (((hugs)))

  18. 18
    Donna at NothingChocolate — April 1, 2013 @ 7:34 pm

    Oh my goodness!!! Your images are spectacular! My eyes “taste” the creamy tart-ness of this cake! So wonderful!
    And where did you find that nice, moderately high cake stand?

    • 18.1
      Merry-Jennifer — April 8, 2013 @ 4:42 pm

      The cake stand came from Crate & Barrel a few years ago. I love it and keep meaning to buy another!

  19. 19
    Kammie @ Sensual Appeal — April 3, 2013 @ 8:14 pm

    Wow , I love that there’s even lime curd in there! Amazing recipe! Pinned.

  20. 20
    Lucy Henderly — April 8, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

    I made this on saturday night for some friends birthday get together on Sunday night!!!! it was a hit! maybe one of the best cheesecakes i’ve ever had!

    • 20.1
      Merry-Jennifer — April 8, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

      Thanks for letting me know, Lucy. I’m so glad that everyone loved it!

  21. 21
    Lauren @ Dallas Duo Bakes — April 10, 2013 @ 9:45 pm

    Prayers for you and your family! As for your key lime cheesecake…it looks divine. I am a huge key lime fan, and know I will like this recipe.

  22. 22
    Aggie — April 11, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

    Ok, I’m officially in tears. I love key lime everything. I want a slice of this cheesecake. Love you friend. xoxo

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