let’s share a pie: lemon icebox pie

Well, hello there. I’ve missed you.

After I posted this story about my dad’s dementia, I hightailed it off to Puerto Rico with my husband and kids for a much needed family vacation. When I was twelve, my father spent three months in Puerto Rico, installing stained glass windows in a cathedral in San Juan. I have happy memories of visiting him for a few days that summer, with my little brother and my mom. Mostly, though, I remember that the hotel we stayed in had an outdoor atrium with palm trees and tropical flowers. In that atrium was a pond with a path of stepping stones connecting one side of the pond to the other. Hundreds of flamingos, or maybe just a dozen, lived there amongst the lilypads. My brother – who always ran and never walked – barreled across those stepping stones one morning, lost his footing, and promptly fell right in the middle of the pond, soaking his shoes, shorts, and t-shirt. I loved every minute of it.

There were no pond accidents on our recent trip to Puerto Rico. Instead, there was lots of exploring — the rainforest of El Yunque, the historic Castillo San Felipe del Morro, the streets of Old San Juan, and the massive resort in Fajardo where we spent our nights.  I’ll share photos of the trip soon, once I have a spare minute to myself to sort through the hundreds of images. And, you know, get rid of all the bad photos of me.

lemon icebox pie | the merry gourmet

But today, I have a pie for you, just because you deserve one. You’ve stuck with me here, as I’ve dealt with — and posted about — lots of sad stuff. I’ve received so many wonderful messages of support, especially whenever I write about my father. It’s overwhelming, really. (Thank you, thank you, thank you!)

I always hesitate before writing those posts, or any posts, really, that aren’t happy and bubbly. What I’ve found, though, is that you all get it. You completely get it. You understand that life is hard — because it’s hard for you, too. You each are dealing with crap that sucks. Life is hard, and for each of us, it’s hard in ways that are alike and in ways that are not so alike. But regardless, we all understand what it is like to hurt.

Those moments that get us down bring us together as humans. It’s easy to feel alone, isolated. But we are SO not alone. We have each other.

lemon icebox pie | the merry gourmet

So have pie with me, won’t you? I think we’ve earned it.

This lemon icebox pie was our Father’s Day dessert this year. My kids were pushing for cake – they love when I make cakes – but I didn’t want something so heavy. I wanted a dessert that was light (in texture, anyway), cold, refreshing. Lemon always fits that bill.

This recipe is adapted from one in an issue of Cook’s Country, those same people behind America’s Test Kitchen. Of all of the food magazines I subscribe to, the America’s Test Kitchen line of periodicals (Cook’s Country, Cook’s Illustrated) is my most reliable source, and their magazines and websites are often the first place I look when I’m searching for a recipe.

Go forth and make pie!

lemon icebox pie | the merry gourmet

Yield: Serves 8.

Lemon Icebox Pie

This recipe is tweaked, just slightly, from a recipe from Cook's Country, the June/July 2013 issue.


9 whole graham crackers
6 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 5 or 6 lemons)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with rack in middle position.

Break up graham crackers into the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Pour crumbs into a medium bowl and whisk in 3 tablespoons granulated sugar. Stir in melted butter until all the crumbs are coated evenly. Transfer to 9-inch pie plate and, using the bottom of a measuring cup or small glass, press evenly into the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 15 minutes. Let crust cool completely on a wire rack, about 35 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk sweetened condensed milk together with the egg yolks. Slowly whisk in the lemon juice. Pour into cooled pie crust and bake until the edges are beginning to set but the center still jiggles when shaken, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool for 1 hour on a wire rack. Refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, and vanilla together. Beat on medium low speed for about 1 minute, then increase speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Spread whipped topping evenly on top of the pie. Chill until ready to serve.

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13 Responses to “let’s share a pie: lemon icebox pie”

  1. 1
    Macaroni Mama — July 5, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

    Nice post!

  2. 2
    Liren — July 5, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

    I’m glad you were able to steal away to Puerto Rico with the family, and a place that has significance to you and memories of your childhood…and your father’s work. I hope you don’t get rid of too many photos of you 😉

    This pie is wonderful, I would happily share a slice with you!

    • 2.1
      Merry-Jennifer — July 5, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

      Liren, we are long over due for sharing a slice of pie. LONG overdue.

  3. 3

    I will gladly share a slice of pie with you – especially this lovely lemon pie!!! It reminds me of times spent in the kitchen with my grandmother as she made her amazing lemon pies, among many other creations. Your pie looks divine!

    And yes…we all get it. xoxo

    • 3.1
      Merry-Jennifer — July 5, 2013 @ 9:43 pm

      Thanks, Robyn. I love that you found a connection to an old memory of your grandmother. xo

  4. 4
    Monica — July 6, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

    This looks like such a delicious and refreshing pie! I always find so much pleasure in reading your posts. I feel that by revealing the parts of our lives that aren’t the prettiest, not only takes courage but also is a reminder that no one’s life is perfect. And I feel like you’re more real that way. I’m glad to hear you had a relaxing trip to Puerto Rico! I’ve heard lots of fun things about that place (:

  5. 5
    Tara @ TheButterDish — July 6, 2013 @ 6:40 pm

    You have a strong heart Jennifer and are a strong woman. Life is not always easy during the times when we must face the lows, but how we face them says a lot about our character. Your tremendous character shows each day here in your personal space, and no doubt in your professional space. SHANDS is a phenomenal system and ironically my client.

    Sending you strength Jenn.

    As for the pie, lemon icebox happens to be one of my hubby’s absolute favorite!!! Being just south of you in Tampa, the rains each day are doing little to squash the heat of summer. I can’t wait to make this for him!!!

  6. 6
    Eileen — July 6, 2013 @ 9:03 pm

    You’re right, we all get it. Life isn’t always a bowl of cherries. Now, let eat! That pie looks delicious 🙂

  7. 7
    Kathryn — July 8, 2013 @ 4:49 am

    I’m so glad you got a bit of time away with your family – I hope you were able to unwind while you were there.

  8. 8
    Paula — July 8, 2013 @ 5:28 pm

    Glad to are back safe and sound from your vacation and hope that you feel well- rested and rejuvenated. Your pie looks wonderful.

  9. 9
    Katie — July 12, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

    You are so right. We are not alone. We have each other. I’m so glad to read that you and your family had such a wonderful trip to Puerto Rico! I can’t wait to see photos of your trip. I think this is the perfect recipe for a summer celebration. Adding to my “must make” list!

  10. 10
    Nutmeg Nanny — July 18, 2013 @ 8:49 pm

    This pie looks lovely 🙂 I bet it tastes like heaven!

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