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Simple Key Lime Cheesecake Recipe, No Springform Pan Needed


A freshly made homemade key lime cheesecake has been placed on a table beside a side plate, from a recipe by Kiano Moju

This twist on the classic American dessert, key lime pie, blends the tartness of key limes with the sweet tang of cheesecake, all atop a homemade crust. 


Me and key lime cheesecake go way back. My Sweet 16th was at the Cheesecake Factory, and when I tasted it for the first time, it spoke to me in ways no other dessert has! I prefer the denser, creamier filling of cheesecake over the custard-like texture of key lime pie, and it's now a staple dessert for my potlucks, dinner parties, and events.


Unlike traditional recipes that rely on graham crackers, this crust is in your own hands – I spice mine with ground cardamom, but you can use any ground spice that goes well in desserts. I also use a pie dish instead of a springform pan, simply because it's a more common kitchen item, and you don't need to buy special equipment just for this recipe. 


This was the cheesecake that got me excited about cheesecake.


A Little History...


Thought to have originated in Key West, Florida, in the late 19th century, key lime pie’s invention was likely influenced by the availability of sweetened condensed milk, as fresh milk was scarce in the Florida Keys until the 1930s.


However, despite its association with Florida, the iconic American dessert’s origins may actually trace back to New York City. Food historian Stella Parks discovered a similar recipe dating to 1931, created by the Borden condensed milk company as a Magic Lemon Cream Pie. This recipe supposedly made its way to Florida, where local cooks substituted lemons with the region's abundant key limes.


This cheesecake adaptation brings a fresh perspective to the timeless classic, honoring its history while introducing new flavors with what’s readily available to us.


 

For the crust:

1 1/4 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (80 grams) sugar 

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom (roughly 30 pods)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt 

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

Non-stick cooking spray or oil


For the filling: 

Two 8-ounce blocks cream cheese, softened at room temperature

2/3 cup (140 grams) granulated sugar 

One 8-ounce container sour cream

1/3 cup key lime juice and zest (roughly 12 limes)

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, or 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 large eggs 


For the crust:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C).

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cardamom, and sea salt. Pour in the melted butter and mix with a soft spatula or your hands until combined. Break up any clumps with your hands so the mixture is similar to wet sand.

  3. Grease a 9-inch pie dish with non-stick cooking spray or a small amount of butter or oil. Evenly distribute the mixture in the pie dish, and press into the bottom and sides using a measuring cup or flat-bottomed drinking glass to create a firm crust. 

  4. Bake in the center of the oven until lightly browned, roughly 15 to 20 minutes. 

  5. Remove from the oven to cool on a wire rack, and lower the oven temperature to 325°F (165°C). 


For the filling:

  1. Combine the cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl or stand mixer. Using an electric mixer, whip the mixture together until it has softened and the sugar is fully combined, roughly 2 to 3 minutes. 

  2. Add in the sour cream, lime zest, lime juice, and salt, and mix to combine. Taste the filling to make sure it’s the right balance of sweet and tart. 

  3. With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time, making sure one is fully incorporated before adding the other. Stop mixing as soon as the ingredients are just combined and smooth, otherwise, you may get too much air in the mixture which will make the surface crack, or not enough air in the mixture and it will fall flat. 

  4. Use a soft spatula to scrape the bottom and sides, making sure everything is incorporated, then pour the mixture into the half-cooked cooked crust. Swirl the surface with the spatula to evenly distribute the mixture. 

  5. Bake cheesecake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the center barely jiggles when you shake it. Turn off the oven, crack the door open, and leave for 30 minutes so the cheesecake can gradually cool down. 

  6. After 30 minutes, remove the cheesecake from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool at room temperature for another 30 minutes. 

  7. Finally, let the cheesecake chill in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 8 hours before serving. 


Notes: 

  • If you’re using cardamom pods, choose fresh green pods for the best flavor. Place a few pods on a clean, flat surface, and use the flat side of a knife or a rolling pin to gently press down on each pod to crack it open. Remove the small seeds and discard the empty husks. Grind the seeds in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. 

 

Heritage Highlight…


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