Monday, June 3, 2013

Key Lime Cheesecake

Last week, my dad called me to ask if I'd make a cake for my mother's birthday. 

Now I had already planned to make a something (not sure it was going to be cake) for her birthday, but I was still very surprised at his call.

Mostly because when I was a kid, I always had to remind my dad that Mom's birthday was coming up.

Coincidentally, the morning of his call, I had been texting my sister about what I should make.

Black Forest cake?  She likes cherries.

Cheesecake?  And if so, what kind?

She likes key lime pie... Could I make a key lime cheesecake?

Well, obviously I could.  But would it be any good??

And Black Forest cake would certainly be easier...

And as I don't live anywhere near Florida, it wouldn't be real key lime cheesecake.

But in the end, key lime cheesecake won anyway.

Because I bought a silicon springform pan several months ago, and I hadn't tried it out yet.

So without Further adieu...

Key Lime Cheesecake:
Graham crackers
3 8 oz. blocks softened cream cheese
3 eggs (separated - yolks in one bowl, whites in the other)
3/4 cup sugar (divided)
4-5 limes
1 can sweetened condensed milk (it only comes in one size)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
powdered sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Zest as many limes as you need to render 1 tablespoon of lime zest.  Be careful to only zest the peel and not zest into the rind.  The rind is bitter and will make your cake bitter.  Once you've zested your limes, roll them on the counter, using a good bit of pressure to soften them.  This makes them much easier to squeeze.  Juice as many limes as you need to render 1/2 cup of lime juice.  Add 2 tablespoons of orange juice to your lime juice.*  Set aside juice and zest for later use.

2.  In a food processor, crush 1 1/2 packs of graham crackers (you know how they come in envelopes in the box? You want to use 1 1/2 of them).  This will yield approximately 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs.  (You can also buy graham cracker crumbs at the grocery store and skip this step.

3.   Melt 6 tablespoons of butter and mix well with graham cracker crumbs.  Dump crust mixture into springform pan.  Using a measuring cup (or your hands) form crumbs along bottom and up sides of pan. Use the measuring cup.  Really.  It's so much easier.

4.  Place softened cream cheese in your mixer and beat on medium speed until smooth.**  Add 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and egg yolks to cream cheese.  Beat on low until incorporated.  Make sure to scrape the bottom of your bowl to get all of the cream cheese mixed in. 

5.  Stir together 1/2 a can of sweetened condensed milk and lime juice.  Add to cream cheese mixture and mix on low until incorporated.  Transfer batter to a large bowl.  Stir in lime zest.

6.  Wash  your mixing bowl and dry well.***  Return to mixer and add egg whites and 1/4 sugar to mixing bowl.  Using your whisk attachment, whisk on HIGH speed until meringue forms.  Once you have a thick meringue, add meringue into cheesecake batter, folding gently.  Do not over mix.  The meringue makes your cheesecake nice and light, but if you over mix, you lose the fluffiness.

7.  Pour cheesecake batter into crust.  Place in middle rack of oven.  Place a shallow pan filled with water on the rack under the cheesecake.  Bake for approximately 50-60 minutes.  Your cheesecake is done when the center no longer jiggles.  Turn off the oven, open the door several inches, and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven.

Unbaked cheesecake

8.  Once the cheesecake has cooled, run a knife around the inside of the ring of your springform pan to release the cheesecake from the ring.  Remove ring.  Place cheeesecake in the refrigerator to cool over night. 

Baked cheesecake


9. Prior to serving cheesecake, whip one cup of heavy whipping cream in mixer on HIGH speed.  When is starts to thicken, sprinkle in a little vanilla (1/2 teaspoon max) and about 2 tablespoons powdered sugar.  You can add more powdered sugar, but for me, the whipped cream is about muting the richness of the cheesecake.  Too much sugar defeats the purpose.

Slice cheesecake and serve with whipped cream.

I don't even like key lime pie, and this was delicious.  I received a ton of compliments. 


*  As we don't have key limes in this neck of the woods, I googled how to make a key lime pie using regular (persian) limes.  I found a reference to a little trick about adding some orange juice to your lime juice to sweeten it up.  Apparently key limes are sweeter than regular limes.

** It is very important that you allow your cream cheese to warm up to room temperature.  Cold cream cheese does not mix well.  If you attempt to use cold cream cheese, it will clump. Then you'll have clumpy cheesecake.  And no one wants that.  This is also why you beat the cream cheese first before adding any other ingredients.  Make sure your cream cheese is smooth before you add anything else.

*** If your mixing bowl is not completely clean, your egg whites will not fluff up into meringue.  Trust me on this.  I've made the mistake of thinking it wouldn't matter before, and then got angry because my egg whites wouldn't fluff up.

I was very happy with the silicon springform pan.  I had read in reviews that they can leak.  But I did not have any problems.  The outer ring remove easily, and because the bottom is a glass plate, it can be used for serving, so you don't have to worry about transferring your cheesecake to a separate plate.