Key Lime Pie with Cornmeal-Cocoa Graham Crust

July 13, 2013

key lime pie with cornmeal-cocoa graham crust | une gamine dans la cuisine

Yesterday, as I was about to commence the pre-weekend vacuum cleaner run, I heard a dusty, gritty, thump on the chimney flue - followed by another...and another. My cats, of course, were oblivious. I quickly herded the clueless "mouse hunters" out of the living room - which only required saying *voom* *voom* nonchalantly (they have an understandable dislike of the prehistoric "retro" vacuum cleaner).

I cleared most of the furniture away from the fireplace, except for the stupid lamp that will stop working if you just look at it funny, and I opened the patio door (luckily it's in the same room!). I grabbed the swiffer sweeper broom, removed the sweeper head, and, standing as far away as possible, tried using the headless end to pull down the flue opener. This seemingly-clever method did not work. The end of the broom was not strong enough to pull down the heavy, iron 'O.'  So I had to resort to plan B, the Hand-Pull & Flee technique. In keeping with the streak of cleverness, I placed a towel-lined basket under the flue, hoping the mysterious creature would fall in and allow me to calmly walk it outside. I pulled open the flue, made a stuntman-like dive over the back of the sofa, and peeked over the top. After only three seconds an adorbs little red squirrel came tumbling out. Naturally it landed far away from the waiting basket (apparently my flue is wider than an 8-inch Pier 1 wicker basket). It scurried around the chimney a bit and then, almost instinctively, made it's way outside via the open patio door - leaving only a trail of tiny paw prints.

The little squirrel immediately made his way up a nearby tree and onto a branch, where he proceeded to obsessively groom himself and chirp at me - I'm quite certain he's ok.


Aside from the realization that I need to do a better job of dusting the fireplace when it's not in use (I don't want to think about the spider webs), everything ended well. My reward was a slice of key lime pie - which I was going to have anyway, but it felt more 'rewarding.'

key lime pie with cornmeal-cocoa graham crust | une gamine dans la cuisine

The photos fail to capture the amazingness going on in this pie. It's difficult to see just how fluffy and light the filling is was. Unlike other key lime recipes I've tried, this one included folding whipped egg whites into the filling, giving the pie a silky, sublime texture. The crust was my own concoction of traditional graham cracker crumbs, cocoa powder, and cornmeal. I didn't use too much cocoa because I wanted the lime flavour to be dominant, but the crumbly crust does have a soft hint of chocolate. The cornmeal gives the crust an added dimension of 'crunch.'

Last but not least, the filling is perfectly tart. Perfectly perfect in every way possible. I'm almost always disappointed by key lime pies because the filling is usually too sweet - any citrusy dessert should be more tart than sweet. This recipe uses lime zest + half a cup of lime juice, so there's just the right amount of luscious lime love.

This pie is best served cold after a light summer dinner (or an unexpected mid-morning squirrel rescue).

key lime pie with cornmeal-cocoa graham crust | une gamine dans la cuisine

Key Lime Pie
makes one 9 1/2-inch pie

for the crust
113 g unsalted butter (that's 1 stick, or 1/2 cup) *have an extra Tablespoon on reserve*
154 g Graham cracker crumbs (about ten 2-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers, or (1 cup + a heaping 1/4 cup)
50 g granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt

for the filling
4 egg yolks
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Finely grated zest from 3 limes (about 1 Tablespoon)
122 ml fresh lime juice (about 1/2 cup) *If they're tiny, about 10-12 limes
2 egg whites

for the topping
240 ml  heavy cream (232 g, or 1 cup)
3 Tablespoons confectioners' sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a 9 1/2 or 10-inch glass pie plate.

Prepare the crust: Melt the 1 stick (113 g) of butter and set it aside for a few minutes. If you're starting off with whole graham crackers, place them in a food processor and pulse until they turn to crumbs (not too fine). In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cocoa powder, cornmeal, and salt. Add the melted butter and use a fork to work the butter into the dry ingredients until well combined (the texture will be similar to wet sand). The mixture should hold together slightly when squeezed - if it's too dry, melt the reserved 1 Tablespoon of butter and stir until combined.

Press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of prepared pie plate. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to help the process - it's less sticky. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and place onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before adding the filling. Leave the oven set to 350 F.

Prepare the filling: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sweet milk, lime zest, lime juice, and egg yolks; set aside.

In the *bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the whites just until stiff peaks start to form. (Don't overbeat). * When beating egg whites (meringue) always use a clean, bone-dry, bowl.

Using a large rubber spatula, fold about 1/3 of the egg whites into the sweet milk/lime mixture. Add remaining whites and continue to fold, gently, until just combined. (Don't go too crazy folding in the egg whites, you want the filling to retain some of the fluff.) Pour the filling into the now-cool, partially baked crust.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until the middle is set. Remove the pie from the oven place onto cooling rack. Cool completely before adding the whipped topping.

Prepare the topping: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream and confectioners' sugar. Beat until soft peaks form.

Assemble: Scrape the whipped cream onto the cool pie. Use an off-set spatula to spread the whipped cream into an even layer. For added dimension, use the back of a soup spoon to make random wave-like indentations in the whipped cream. Refrigerate assembled pie for at least 3 hours before serving.

adapted from epicurious


  1. Hehe. I wish we had some nice animal friends come to visit. ;) Snakes, bears, insects, etc. can stay away, though.

    And I LOVE key lime pie! And what an interesting crust you've given it. Awesome!

  2. How fun that a cute little squirrel friend came to visit! Now if only I had a nice wedge of this pie to reward me for today's vacuuming/dusting and I'd be one happy girl :).

  3. Sounds like you've had quite a bit of excitement :) Glad it all worked out okay!

    And this pie - it looks incredible! I havent had key lime pie in years and I am craving it now. How refreshing! And that crust - so creative!

  4. Mmmmhhh, heavenly! I love that second picture.



  5. Your reaction to the unknown animal sounds like what mine would be in the same situation. (Although I'm not sure how "stuntman-like" my dive would be.) This key lime pie would be a perfect reward, too.

  6. I think you're slice of pie was well deserved :) I was a bit worried that the creature was going to get into the pie! Whew! What a delicious twist on a classic recipe!

  7. Haha, you're so brave! This pie sounds amazing - I agree, citrus desserts should definitely be more tart than sweet!

  8. Cute a squirrel ^.^
    I like that you are folding the stiff egg whites into your key lime pie, fluffiness is a must in my house (according to my husband especially). Interesting crust too.

  9. I would be so scared! I almost had a heart attack last time I cleaned out my shed.I though I saw a mouse but it was a stuff toy... Ultimate fail.
    I love limes and The cocoa crust is nice change, it is like the English lime and chocolate humbugs. Delicious

  10. What an adventure you had! I bet your heart skipped a beat. This pie was a nice reward to your scurring this fellow out of your house. Lovely photos!!

  11. I love lime, and the idea of a hint of cocoa in the crust sounds fantastic. You are brave to clean out the fireplace!

  12. I had a snake visit a couple of weeks back that was enough of communing with wild life for me. your key lime pie looks magnificent!

  13. You're so much braver than me. I'd evacuate the house and wait for my husband to come home and deal with a creature in the chimney :) You definitely earned a slice (or two or three) of pie for your efforts! I love key lime pie, but so rarely have it. Can't wait to try this!

  14. At least the squirrel made its way out and didn't go bonkers trying to get there. This pie looks amazing. I love the mood you captured in your photos.

  15. If it's your house then you should put a cap on top of the chimney to prevent that, can get at HD and glue on, just need to get on the roof. We've done it in SD and here, no squirrels but have had birds in ours.
    A lot better than raccoons.

  16. Valerie, seriously?! Drooling! This sounds amazing!!!

    We once had a raccoon in the attic... EEEWWWW! I wanted to sell the house and move away as far as possible. Eventually, we did. :)

  17. @Joe, Thanks for the tips! I read about putting a cap over the chimney but I'm worried that there could be a nest...I wouldn't want to trap anything inside. I'll definitely cover it up in autumn though! :D

  18. Cute little story, glad it escaped out the door and didn't go exploring the rest of your house. The pie is def. a reward, what a great crust you created to go with it. I agree with your citrus dessert should be more tart than sweet :)

  19. yes this is a killer crust Val.
    you really nailed this one.
    one of the rentals we lived in, we found there was a nice family of raccoons living in the attic, who had just had crying babies.
    Imagine that noise?

  20. Gorgeous post Valerie. I love the description of your squirrel hunt! Unfortunately (or fortunately!) the only adventurers we get in our house are ants. Not nearly as exciting! Thanks for this beautiful recipe. The pie looks absolutely beautiful... fluffy, light meringue with a gorgeously creamy tart filling. Mmm!

  21. What a gorgeous pie, Val! …and you certainly deserved it after your squirrel bravery! You actually deserved it because it was so beautifully created! Looks delicious, and so refreshing!

  22. That's pretty funny. With my luck the damn squirrel would have made it's way to my closet and set up a new home.
    I love the idea of this pie, it looks fantastic!

  23. I would have freaked out!! Glad it was only a little squirrel!
    Key Lime pie is a favorite around here, what a fun crust!

  24. your key lime pie looks delish. I love the whipped cream topping.

  25. lol, glad the squirrel made it to safety :) i've been to afraid to make a key lime pie, but this sounds too irresistible to not try! i especially love the sound of that crust!


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Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie


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