Cheesecake has just never seemed worth it to me. All those calories, and what do you get? Yeah, good New York cheesecake is creamy, but even the best tends to lack flavor, and I’m not a fan of that syrupy sweet strawberry drizzle. As for all those crazy chocolate, cookie, peanut butter, and caramel cheesecake concoctions… well, why not just eat a peanut butter cup?
But this cheesecake is good. I mean really, really good.
It’s the perfect balance of creamy and tangy and sweet. I do love key lime pie, but it can be an intense taste bud experience. This key lime cheesecake, on the other hand, is smooth and delicate with just enough tart lime flavor to balance the richness of all that wonderful fat. If you can’t find fresh key limes, bottled key lime juice is just fine. But I wouldn’t suggest regular (Persian) limes here. Key lime juice has a much more intense flavor which can’t be replicated with lime juice.
When I was a teenager my mom took frequent business trips to the Florida Keys. She did her best to schedule them on school vacations and my brother and I tagged along. During one two-week stretch in Islamorada, Evan and I decided to embark on a quest, a key lime pie quest. We must have tasted more than two dozen key lime pies, some good some bad, but Manny and Isa’s was a clear winner (sadly they have since closed). We learned that we craved the creamiest custard, and that an overload of meringue really detracted from the pure, clean flavor of the key limes. I took these pie lessons with me when I started playing with the Key Lime Cheesecake recipe from Bon Apetit. After a few tweaks and some pretty kiwi slices, we devoured this cake.
Key Lime Cheesecake
Adapted from Bon Apetit Magazine 2006
For the Lime Curd:
2 tablespoons butter
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup key lime juice
2 teaspoons key lime zest or regular lime zest
For the Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For Filling and Topping:
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar, divided
3 tablespoons key lime juice
1 tablespoon key lime zest or regular lime zest
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
2 kiwis, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
To prepare the curd, combine butter, egg yolks, sugar, juice and zest in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat. Wisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and cool.
Meanwhile, prepare the crust. Mix together the crumbs, sugar and salt. Stir in the melted butter. Grease an 8 inch springform pan with three-inch sides with cooking spray. Press the crumb mixture along the bottom and halfway up the sides of the pan. Place the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the oven until set, about 10 minutes.
To prepare the filling, beat the cream cheese and all but 2 tablespoons of the sugar until fluffy, add in the eggs, juice and zest and beat to combine.
Decrease the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Spread the curd on the bottom of the prepared crust, then spread in the filling mixture. Smooth the top of the filling and bake for 1 hour, until mostly set. Mix the sour cream with the remaining sugar. Remove the cake from the oven and spread the sour cream mixture over the top. Return to the oven for 10-12 minutes until bubbles form along the edges.
Cool 1 hour at room temperature and then refrigerate overnight. To unmold, run a knife around the edge of the pan and then release. Just before serving, top the cake with the kiwi slices.