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Florida’s Dessert in the Limelight: Key Lime Pie

Take the traditional fruit of Florida's Key West region, mix it up into a cheesecake, and add a meringue-like topping. What do you get? The Floridian dessert that is Key Lime Pie. A dessert similar to a standard cheesecake, only it belongs to the sunshine state of Florida and packs a punch with its intense lime flavour.

Key Lime Pie from Ford's Garage Restaurant, Orlando

While this is the case to this day, the past reveals that there has been some controversy early over the origins of this pie. Two stories regarding this history directly oppose each other regarding the pie's location of origin and the person who created it. Both stories, however, seem to agree that condensed milk was involved in the creation of this dessert.

The first of these two stories focuses on a woman who went by the name of 'Aunt Sally'. Aunt Sally was someone who spent her time working at Curry Mansion Inn, located in the Key West region of this Sunshine State.

She came across a group of sponge fishermen who had rations of the ingredients needed for this pie, including soda crackers (in place of Graham crackers). With these core ingredients, they could create a Key Lime Pie, which they continuously made in their free time on their fishing trips.

With this knowledge collected, Aunt Sally was able to conjure up this pie back at the Curry Mansion Inn. It is presumed that she had the knowledge to make a lemon ice box pie, and instead of lemons, she was able to use some available Key West limes. Having created this pie for the first time, Aunt Sally proceeded to create a full recipe for the Key Lime Pie, which she would keep with her to repeatedly make. The ingredients noted for this recipe were as follows (Reverted to metric measures):

·        4 eggs, separated

·        Juice of 4 limes

·        397g can sweetened condensed milk

·        67g caster sugar

·        ¼ teaspoon Cream of Tartar

·        18-inch Graham Cracker Crust

A Key Lime Pie, made following Aunt Sally's 1890s recipe

The second of the two stories is one that takes place not in Florida but in New York City in 1931. A Borden condensed milk company held a competition revolving purely around recipes, having the good fortune to receive a recipe for a ‘Magic Lemon Cream Pie’.  They decided to swap the lemons in this recipe for limes imported from Florida, thus creating their version of the Key Lime Pie.

While the second story is shorter, it plays a huge part in food historians' debates regarding how the Key Lime Pie was created in the first instance. However, they both led to the pie becoming the official dessert of Florida in the 1950s and being voted the greatest American regional dessert award in 1987. I personally prefer the historical account containing Aunt Sally; however, whichever account you wish to believe is completely up to you.

To this day, many variations of Key Lime Pie have been created, and so many recipes give different methods for making it successfully. These range from using alternative ingredients to creating foods with the flavour of a Key Lime Pie (e.g. Key Lime S'mores). However, the best way to experience a Key Lime Pie is by stepping in the shoes of Aunt Sally and following the recipe she created, as I did. You can Click Here to follow this recipe.

Key Lime S'mores product from Universal Studios' Chocolate Emporium, Orlando

Foodie Facts and figures

  • In place of the Graham Cracker pie crust, I used crushed digestive biscuits mixed in with some demerara sugar and melted butter, to create the perfect alternative crust for a Key Lime Pie. This is useful if you live somewhere where Graham Crackers are not easy to come by.

  • Many food & drink places in Florida will sell Key Lime Pie, especially in the Key West region. A list of some of the best places to purchase this dessert can be found by Clicking Here.

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