Here at West Palm Beach Food Tours, we believe Key Lime Pie is a must-have on any visit to the Sunshine State, and we know where to find the best Key Lime Pie in West Palm Beach or maybe in the entire state!
But how did Key Lime Pie become such a big deal in Florida? If you’ve ever wanted to know the secret history behind this sweet, tart and creamy dessert, you’re not alone. And if you can’t make it to Florida to try the best Key Lime Pie in West Palm Beach, we’re going to tell you exactly how to make it at home.
History of Key Lime Pie
Key Lime Pie was invented in — wait for it — Key West, Florida. (Though some gastronomic historians have recently made the shocking claim that this dessert wasn’t invented in Florida at all — but by the Borden condensed milk company in New York City!)
However, for the integrity of this post, please suspend your disbelief and pretend you didn’t hear that last part.
Back to the Keys. Before the first written account of Key Lime Pie in New York City, it was possibly made as far back as the 1800s. Two legends regarding the pie circulate, including one about William Curry, Florida’s first self-made millionaire and a sponge fisherman.
No matter what version of the story you believe, one thing is for certain: this pie truly proves that necessity is the mother of invention. Both tales utilized egg yolks, sugar, canned milk and key limes.
Why was canned milk so important to Key Lime Pie?
The first pie was made in Key West before Henry Flagler’s railroad tracks were laid. Before the railroad came to Key West (and West Palm Beach), fresh dairy was hard to come by. So, they used canned milk (like Eagle Brand milk, which was invented in the late 1800s) a lot for cooking.
They didn’t even bake the first pies. The acidity of the Key Lime thickens the mixture, so it really was the perfect Florida dessert.
What’s a Key Lime Anyway?
Key Limes look different from regular limes, much smaller and rounder. They’re also more tart and more acidic than your ordinary lime. It’s important to use a Key Lime in Key Lime Pie because it’s impossible to achieve that not-too-tart, not-too-sweet balance with an ordinary lime which by the way is known as a Persian Lime.
Key Lime Pie Topping: Meringue or Whipped Cream?
Years ago, meringue would have topped a Key Lime Pie since dairy was hard to come by. They were already using egg yolks for the filling, so why not make use of the whites and make meringue?
Today, we can get fresh dairy, so you more often see whipped cream. But if you want a historically accurate Key Lime Pie, you’ve gotta go with a meringue topping.
The Final Piece of the Pie: Key Lime Pie Crust
When it comes to Key lime pie, there are a lot of crusts out there. But what ingredients should you use in a traditional Key lime pie? A graham cracker crust is the traditional, but on our Downtown West Palm Beach Food Tour, we serve the best Key Lime Pie in town, and it’s served on a shortbread crust. Believe us, we’ve converted many purists to Ganache Bakery’s shortbread crust! The only problem is their Key Lime Pie is a secret family recipe, so we can’t share that recipe with you.
Best Key Lime Pie Recipe
Can’t make it to Florida to try the best Key Lime Pie in West Palm Beach? We’ve got you covered. This Key Lime Pie recipe will cure your sweet tooth and is super easy to make. The best part is that you only need three ingredients to make the filling: sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks and Key lime juice.
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup sweetened, flaked coconut toasted (optional, but a delicious addition)
- 1/3 cup butter, melted
- 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed key lime juice or Nellie & Joe’s bottled key lime juice
- whipped cream for serving
- Toast coconut by spreading it in a thin layer on baking sheet and baking at 300º for 7 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs, dark brown sugar, coconut and melted butter.
- Press graham cracker mixture onto the bottom and 2-inches up the side of a 9-inch springform pan or a 9-inch pie pan. I’m partial to springform pans because the slices always come out perfectly.
- Bake at 350º for 7 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks and key lime juice on low for 2 minutes or until smooth.
- Pour into baked crust.
- Bake at 350º for 18 minutes.
- Cool on wire rack for 1 hour.
- Refrigerate at least 5 hours before serving.
- Serve with whipped cream.
Best Key Lime Pie in West Palm Beach
When in Florida and on a food tour, Key lime pie is a must. After all, it’s our state dessert. We serve the best Key Lime Pie in West Palm Beach (or dare we say, in the entire state) on our Downtown West Palm Beach Food Tour. Let Ganache Bakery’s Key Lime Pie be your benchmark because it’s exactly the way it should taste. If you want to do your own Key Lime Pie taste test to determine the best Key Lime Pie in West Palm Beach, we also recommend Rhythm Cafe and Old Key Lime House.
It should never be green, if it is, they’ve added food coloring and chances are they didn’t bother to use Key Limes. And we would never, ever want you to be disappointed with a slice of our state dessert.
photo credit: @foodmamacita