Mr. SGCC is a caveman. He loves meat. And, he doesn’t care for sweets. I know! Crazy, right? There are a few exceptions to this, though. He does enjoy a good cheesecake now and then. He’s also been known to sneak bites of Key lime pie right out of the pan from time to time. So, these Key Lime Cheesecake Minis are the perfect Labor Day dessert for him. Actually, they’re a perfect dessert for anyone who loves creamy, dreamy cheesecake with a bright , fresh pop of citrus.
Key limes are small, round citrus fruits with a sharp, tart flavor – more so than regular Persian limes. Commercially picked Key limes are green, but when allowed to ripen on the tree, the fruit has more of a yellowish skin. Native to Southeast Asia, Key limes made their way to North America via the Caribbean by early Spanish settlers to Florida. Key lime cultivation flourished in South Florida, particularly in the Keys, until the early 20th century, when most of the groves were destroyed by the great hurricane of 1926. They’re still widely associated with Florida, even though they’re not grown here commercially anymore.
Most of the Key limes I find at the supermarket are from Mexico, and they are often sickly and sad looking little things. If you’re lucky enough to have a tree in your own backyard, you’re all set. If not, but you have any family/friends/neighbors with one, start schmoozing, because I promise you’re gonna want to make these dreamcakes …er…cheesecakes.
When I decided to make a dessert using Key limes, my first thought was a classic Key lime pie. However, I knew that I wanted to make individual servings, and worried that mini pies or tartlets would be kind of messy to eat out of hand. So I took my basic Key lime pie recipe, added cream cheese and extra eggs to it, baked it in paper baking cups and voilà - Key Lime Cheesecake Minis! These scrumptious little morsels were just what I was going for. And, they were super easy to pull together. I love making super rich treats like these in individual servings. They not only help with portion control, but they’re easy to eat. And, I think they’re pretty cute too!
I started with a basic graham cracker crust. To give the cakes a little “tropical” flair, I also added some toasted, ground macadamia nuts to the graham cracker crumbs. I find that this not only gives the crust a nice nutty flavor, but also keeps it from getting soggy.
I pressed about a tablespoon full of the crust mixture into the bottom of paper muffin cups. Then, I filled each cup with cheesecake batter and baked them in a “steamy oven”. Placing a shallow pan filled with boiling water in the oven with your cheesecakes creates a moist environment which discourages cracking. Though, if you do get a few cracks, don’t sweat it. Swirl a little whipped cream cloud on top and no one will ever know.
After they’re baked, they need a good, long chill in the fridge to firm up. Then, just peel off the paper and dive in!
Whatever you’re planning to do to celebrate summer’s last hurrah this Labor Day, these sunny little cheesecakes will make everybody’s day a little bit brighter. So, go forth and make some cheesecake!
Key Lime Cheesecake Minis with Macadamia Graham Cracker Crusts
for the crusts:
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 cup ground, toasted macadamia nuts
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
for the filling:
- 24 ounces cream cheese
- 7 egg yolks
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup key lime juice
- Preheat oven to 325 F. Put a kettle of water on the stove to boil. Line a muffin tin with paper baking cups.
- When the water comes to a boil, fill a cake pan or baking dish about halfway up the sides with boiling water. Place pan or dish on the bottom rack in your oven. This will create a moist environment for baking the cheesecakes.
- Prepare the crust: Whisk crumbs, ground nuts and sugar together in a bowl. Add melted butter and mix with a fork until mixture resembles wet sand. Press 1 tablespoon of crumb mixture into the bottom of each baking cup. Set aside.
- Prepare the filling: Place cream cheese in the bowl of an electric stand mixer and beat on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and add the egg yolks, one at a time, until well combined. Add condensed milk, sugar and Key lime juice and continue mixing until completely blended. The batter should be thick and velvety.
- Fill each baking cup with the cheesecake batter, and place on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for approximately 23-25 minutes, until cheesecakes are set, but still slightly jiggly in the center – like Jell-O. Remove cakes from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool. When cooled to room temperature, chill cheesecakes in the fridge for several hours to firm up.
- Serve with a garnish of fresh whipped cream, if desired.
Makes about 18 mini cheesecakes.