Lemon icebox pie, a close relative of key lime pie, is a favorite in the South. It started as a no-bake pie – a bonus in the relentlessly hot and humid South – that is stored in the refrigerator and served chilled. Eaters love it for its cool, oh-so-creamy, sweet yet tart deliciousness. Home bakers love it because it’s so easy to make.
After preparing a slew of recipes that ranged from traditional to unique, we built a recipe that used the best parts and omitted everything else. (That meant no cream cheese, gelatin or crushed lemon drop candies, which one recipe called for in the crust and in the whipped cream topping.)
We opted to use three egg yolks for richness and two cans of sweetened condensed milk, which made for tall, generous slices of pie. Those selections aired on the side of tradition. But one innovation made it through: We noted that the baked pies set up and sliced much better than the raw pies, so after a few tests, we settled on baking the pie for 15 minutes at a relatively gentle 325 F.
Now we just needed to figure out the right amount of lemon. Recipes call for as little as 2 tablespoons of juice (these pies were bland) and as much as 2 cups (these pies were inedible and sour). Many pies later, we established that the perfect pucker appeared at 1 cup.
The result was a pie that featured a crisp crust, a sweet-tart filling with a cool, creamy texture, and an ethereally light whipped topping – the perfect dessert for a Father’s Day celebration.
Lemon Icebox Pie (Serves 8)
- 9 whole graham crackers, broken into 1-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
- 3 large egg yolks
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice (5 lemons)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 F. Process graham crackers and sugar in food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Add melted butter and pulse until combined, about 8 pulses.
Transfer crumbs to 9-inch pie plate. Using bottom of measuring cup, press crumbs into bottom and up sides of plate. Bake until crust is fragrant and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Let crust cool completely on wire rack, about 35 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 375 F.
3. Reserve 3 tablespoons condensed milk. Whisk remaining condensed milk and egg yolks together in bowl until smooth. Slowly whisk in lemon juice. Pour filling into cooled pie crust. Bake pie until edges are beginning to set but center still jiggles when shaken, about 15 minutes.
4. Let cool for 1 hour on wire rack. Refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.
5. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip cream, reserved condensed milk and the vanilla on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes. Spread whipped cream evenly over top of pie. Serve.