Key Lime Cheesecake

published Mar 3, 2022
Key Lime Cheesecake Recipe

Combine your two favorite desserts in one zesty recipe.

Serves8 to 12

Makes1 (9-inch) cheesecake

Prep15 minutes

Cook1 hour 30 minutes

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a keylime cheesecake with whipped topping and sliced lime
Credit: Kayla Hoang

Fresh key lime juice (and zest!) provides a bright punch of flavor in this creamy key lime pie-inspired cheesecake. The graham cracker crust and golden hue of the finished cake makes it reminiscent of the tangy classic. The buttery cheesecake contrasts the key limes to provide the perfect balance between sweet and tart. 

The lush texture of this cheesecake is similar to that of my family’s favorite cheesecake from the Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market in Pennsylvania — it’s smooth and ultra creamy. Whereas some recipes opt to use a bit of cornstarch or flour in the batter for structure, I skip it to keep the cheesecake as velvety as possible. Sour cream accentuates the citrusy tang of the key limes and a bit of heavy cream lightens the filling, making for silky bites. 

Tips to Successfully Make a Cheesecake

Cheesecake can be daunting, but thanks to some trial-and-error and advice from trusted mentors and friends, I’ve learned some tricks along the way that can help. 

  • If you’ve had trouble with creating a foil barrier from standard-sized foil that actually keeps water out, consider using extra-long foil that can wrap comfortably around your springform pan in one sheet. 
  • Resist the temptation to over-beat the cream cheese mixture. This can incorporate too much air, which will cause collapsing and cracking.
  • Don’t be afraid of a little jiggle. This cheesecake is baked when it is puffed, set around the edges, and the center wiggles when the pan is gently shaken. The cheesecake will continue to set and firm as it cools. 
  • Speaking of cooling, don’t skip cooling the cheesecake in a turned-off oven with the door cracked or propped open. This helps the cheesecake cool slowly, lessening the likelihood of any cracks. 

Can I Use Regular Lime Juice Instead of Key Lime Juice?

Yes! While there are several key differences attributed to key limes — thinner skin and a more floral, aromatic flavor — regular limes will work just as well. 

Credit: Kayla Hoang

How to Make Key Lime Cheesecake 

  • The crust: Graham crackers are crushed with salt and mixed with melted butter to form a sandy mixture that’s then pressed into a springform pan and baked until golden-brown. 
  • The batter: Room-temperature cream cheese is beaten until smooth. Sugar, salt, and key lime zest are then beaten into the cream cheese. As fat carries flavor, the fat from the cream cheese carries the flavor of the lime zest through each bite of the cheesecake. Once the mixture is smooth, key lime juice and sour cream are beaten in. Then, the eggs are beaten in one at a time and the mixture is finished off with a bit of heavy cream. The smooth cream cheese mixture is then added to the crust. 
  • Baking and cooling: The cheesecake is baked in a water bath and then cooled slowly in the turned-off oven before being cooled at room temperature and chilled. Don’t rush the cooling process! The long cooling process helps create that silky-smooth texture. 

How to Store Key Lime Cheesecake 

The baked key lime cheesecake can be wrapped well or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. 

Key Lime Cheesecake Recipe

Combine your two favorite desserts in one zesty recipe.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes

Makes 1 (9-inch) cheesecake

Serves 8 to 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cheesecake:

  • 2 1/2 pounds

    full-fat cream cheese (five 8-ounce packages)

  • 1/3 cup

    sour cream

  • 4

    large eggs

  • 1/4 cup

    heavy cream

  • 5 to 6

    key limes

  • 1 1/2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the crust:

  • Cooking spray

  • 6 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 15

    whole graham crackers sheets (about 8 ounces)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For serving (optional):

Instructions

  1. Place 2 1/2 pounds cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Place 1/3 cup sour cream, 4 large eggs, and 1/4 cup heavy cream on the counter. Let sit at room temperature until the cream cheese is softened, about 1 hour.

Make the crust:

  1. Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven and remove any racks above it. Heat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Wrap the bottom and outside of the pan with 3 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil to prevent any water from entering the pan.

  2. Place 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted, 30 to 45 seconds. (Alternatively, melt on the stovetop and pour into a medium bowl.) Break up 15 whole graham cracker sheets with your hands into large pieces and place in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and pulse until fine crumbs form, about 12 (1-second) pulses. Transfer to the bowl with melted butter and stir until combined and it looks like wet sand.

  3. Transfer to the springform pan and use the bottom of a measuring cup or glass to press the crust into an even layer on the bottom.

  4. Bake until golden brown and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool while you make the filling.

Make the filling:

  1. Bring a kettle or large saucepan of water to a boil for the water bath. Meanwhile, make the filling.

  2. Finely grate the zest of 4 to 6 key limes until you have 1 tablespoon. Juice the limes until you have 1/4 cup.

  3. Beat the cream cheese with the paddle attachment on medium-low speed, stopping to scrape the bowl well with a rubber spatula as needed, until smooth, creamy, and no lumps remain, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Do not overmix.

  4. Add the lime zest, 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Beat on medium-low speed, scraping the bowl as needed, until slightly fluffy, smooth, and has a texture similar to a thick frosting, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

  5. Add the lime juice and sour cream beat on medium-low speed until just combined, about 15 seconds. With the mixer still on medium-low speed, beat in the eggs one at a time, waiting until each egg is just incorporated before adding the next. Stop and scrape down the bowl as needed.

  6. Add the heavy cream and beat on medium-low speed until just combined, 6 to 10 seconds more. Do not overmix. Scrape down the paddle attachment and sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula. Give the batter a couple good stirs by hand, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl, to ensure everything has been incorporated.

  7. Pour into the cooled crust and smooth the top. Pop any bubbles on the surface with the tip of a paring knife, toothpick, or spatula.

  8. Place the springform pan in a roasting pan or high-sided baking dish large enough to hold. Place on the oven rack. Taking care to not splash any water onto the cheesecake, carefully pour in enough water into the roasting pan or baking dish to go halfway up the side of the springform pan.

  9. Bake until slightly puffed and the edges are set, but the center still jiggles when you gently shake the pan, about 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes. It should not look wet, and a golden color on top is okay.

  10. Turn the oven off but leave the cheesecake in the oven. Prop the door open a crack with a wooden spoon. Let the cheesecake cool slowly in the turned-off oven for 1 hour.

  11. Carefully remove the roasting pan or baking dish from the oven. Remove the cheesecake from the water bath, and remove the foil. Place the cheesecake on a wire rack and let cool completely, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The bottom of the springform pan should be at room temperature.

  12. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight to completely set. To serve, run a paring knife or small offset spatula around the cheesecake. Remove the outer ring from the springform pan. Serve the cheesecake from the bottom of the springform pan, or use a large offset spatula to carefully transfer it to a serving platter or cake stand. Top with whipped cream and key lime zest and slices if desired.

Recipe Notes

Key lime substitute: 2 to 3 regular limes can be used in place of the key limes.

Storage: The chilled cheesecake can be wrapped tightly or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.