Key Lime Cheesecake with Homemade Graham Cracker Crust

Key Lime Cheesecake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

This key lime cheesecake is bright, citrusy and rich enough to satisfy even in the cold of February! I was in the mood for cheesecake, something smooth and velvety but not too sweet. Key Limes are readily available right now and have the magical ability to transport us to a warmer place of bright colors and sunshine, if only for a moment!

You can certainly use packaged graham crackers but why not make your own graham cracker crust, it is so easy and the flavor is so much more impressive! I like to bake my cheesecake in a cake pan instead of a spring form pan. I bake it in a water bath and find the cake pan easier to deal with. Getting the cheesecake out of the pan is easy if you follow my directions!

Makes on 9″ key lime cheesecake:

1 1/2 pounds Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature

12 large egg yolks (Freeze the whites or use them for vanilla bean meringue cookies, recipe coming soon), room temperature

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 1/4 cups fresh or bottled key lime juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons key lime zest


1 1/2 cups sour cream

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Graham Cracker Crust:

1 1/2 cups finely ground home-made graham cracker or packaged

4 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 2″ cake pan (If you have a 9 x 3″ pan then use that instead), with butter and a parchment round.

Lining Cake Pan with Parchment | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Combine the ground graham cracker, melted butter and ginger.

Pulverized Graham Cracker Crust | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Press into the prepared pan until smooth and bottom is completely covered. Bake the crust in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes to set the crust. If you don’t bake it first you will end up with a soggy crust.

Pressing Homemade Graham Cracker Crust Into Pan | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Cream together the cream cheese so that there are no lumps, you will want to scrape down the side of the bowl several times. (If your cream cheese is not at room temperature when you start then let it mix alone for several minutes to really smooth it out.) Add the egg yolks one at a time and mix until they are totally combined. Scrape down the sides after each addition. The glory of a cheesecake comes in the smooth texture and this only happens if all the ingredients are perfectly combined.

Beating Cheesecake Batter | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Add the sweetened condensed milk, lime juice and sugar. mix to combine, scrape down the sides.

Beating Cheesecake Batter | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Add the lime zest. (If your cheesecake has lumps in it and you want to strain it, do that before you add the zest.)

Zesting Key Limes | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Pour the cheesecake into the prepared pan. Set the pan into a broiler pan with a kitchen towel on the bottom. (The kitchen towel allows the water bath to go under the cake pan and helps to insulate the cheesecake.)

Pouring Cheesecake Batter Into Graham Cracker Crust | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Add HOT water to the broiler pan. (The water needs to be as close to the temperature of the oven as possible. My tap water comes out very hot so I just use it straight from the sink.)

Key Lime Cheesecake Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Tent the cheesecake with foil so the top of your cake doesn’t develop a hard skin. You want to poke holes in the foil so the steam can get out and not drip on your cake.

Tenting Cheesecake With Foil | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

After about 60 minutes remove the foil and check your cake. It should no longer seem wet and when jiggled it should be set all the way through, like jello. If it isn’t completely set then put it back in the oven, covered and let it go for another 5-8 minutes. Once the eggs begin to set, they bake quickly so you want to check in short intervals.

Baking Key Lime Cheesecake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Once your cheesecake is set remove it and allow it to cool, uncovered in the broiler pan. This allows the cheesecake to cool slowly and will prevent cracking. If you run a knife around the edge it will release the cheesecake from the pan and this too prevents cracking.

Removing Cheesecake From Pan | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

While the cake is cooling mix together the sour cream and sugar. After about 15 minutes very carefully spread the sour cream over the top of the cheesecake. The cheesecake won’t be completely set so you want to use as little pressure as possible. Bake with the topping on for 5 minutes. It will not seem completely set until cool, so don’t be tempted to over bake.

Key Lime Cheesecake Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Let the cheesecake cool until until it is room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Once it is thoroughly chilled remove the plastic and run the pan quickly over an open flame or on your electric burner. This loosens the cake from the pan and allows you to remove it easily.

Key Lime Cheesecake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Quickly run a knife around the edge.

Removing Cheesecake From Pan | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Put the plastic back on the top so you can invert the cheesecake.

Key Lime Cheesecake Covered With Saran Wrap | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Invert the cake onto a flat surface. I am using the false bottom of a tart pan.

Covered Key Lime Cheesecake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Tap the top of the pan with your hand until it sounds hollow, which means the cake has released.

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The pan should slip off.

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Then invert to the serving plate.

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Flip the cake over.

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Smooth the edges with a knife.

Key Lime Cheesecake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Decorate, serve and enjoy!!!

Key Lime Cheesecake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

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29 thoughts to “Key Lime Cheesecake with Homemade Graham Cracker Crust”

  1. If that’s not the perfect slice of cheesecake, I don’t know what is!

    I just received my copy of Artisan Bread in the mail and have dough made and in the fridge for tomorrow, I can’t wait to go through the whole book!

  2. Hi Beth,

    Hey, you might try reducing the amount of yeast in the dough? It works really well, but you have to increase all the rise times!

    Thanks for the kind words about the cheesecake!


  3. Hi Zoe – this cheesecake looks so yummy! I have a question that maybe you’ve answered before, but I haven’t seen it, so here goes: when you freeze part of the dough for any of the breads, is it best to let it have some fridge time first? I’m assuming you need to do that first 2 hour rise – but not sure what else it needs. Thanks for the help – we just picked up a small upright freezer so I’m thinking frozen dough will now become a lot more doable! We have loved every dough I’ve tried so far – but the European Peasant dough is my fave. It’s better than what I used to buy at Breadsmith.

  4. Hi Kris,

    When you freeze any of the doughs just let them defrost in the fridge overnight and use them as though they are just refrigerated in the bucket. No need to go through the initial 2 hour rise.

    So glad you are enjoying the peasant bread. Let me know if I answered your question well enough!


  5. Zoe – thank you – that does answer part of my question. But I’m also wondering about before I put the dough in the freezer.

    So, first I mix the dough – then do I let it rise the 2 hrs or put right in freezer?
    If I let it rise 2 hrs, do I then let it sit in the fridge for a day or a few days – or do I put it right in the freezer after the 2 hr rise?

    I’m probably being really dense here, but I do appreciate your help!! Thanks!

  6. Hi Kris,

    Yes, you need to let the dough have its initial rise and then you can pop it into the freezer. I usually portion mine into one pound packages and then freeze it.

    The one thing to consider when you freeze the dough is that it won’t ferment while it is frozen. If you like the flavor of the fresh dough then freeze it right away. If you like the flavor better after it has stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days then wait until then to freeze the dough.

    Thanks! I hope this makes more sense.


  7. Thanks Zoe – that totally answers my question. I’m looking forward to having several doughs tucked into the freezer. And as a bonus I’ll have a little extra room in the fridge again! 🙂

  8. Hi Kris,

    It took me a while but I’m glad I finally answered your entire question! 😉

    Let me know how it all works out!


  9. Thanks for this wonderful recipe, Zoe! Your photos were so helpful. I enjoyed making the cheesecake – my first ever. 🙂
    I have one question: after baking until set, my cheesecake cracked. I had let it cool on the broiler pan, uncovered, on my counter. Was I supposed to let it cool on the broiler pan while still IN the oven, with the oven turned off? (I did run a knife around the edge.)

  10. Hi Laurie,

    It was probably just over baked by a few minutes. It sounds like you did everything just right! Next time remove it when the sides seem well set but the center looks like jello.

    Thankfully a cracked cheesecake tastes as good as one without! 🙂

    Thanks, Zoë

  11. Hi Zoe,
    I love the pictures and the directions seem easy enough to follow. But if I don’t have a broiler pan, can I use a longer baking dish for the water bath and set the cheesecake in that?

  12. Hi Diane,

    You can use anything that will hold the water and is deep enough for you to cover the pan with foil, without it touching the top of the cheesecake.

    Enjoy, Zoë

  13. I have this cheesecake in the oven but wanted to mention that I don’t see where in your directions the lime juice is to be added. I did add it after the condensed milk since I was following your directions. Was it suppose to be added with the cream cheese at the beginning? Since this sentence makes me think it would:

    “Cream together the cream cheese so that there are no lumps, you will want to scrape down the side of the bowl several times. (If your cream cheese is not at room temperature when you start then let it mix alone for several minutes to really smooth it out.)”

  14. Hi Sneezles,

    Thanks for pointing out that omission from the recipe. I’ll add the lime to the directions.

    BTW you did exactly what I do!

    Enjoy, Zoë

  15. Hi Adrienne,

    The cake will still taste great, it may just have a slightly different texture and it may crack. The water bath just helps to keep a slow steady temperature so that the eggs bake evenly and come out nice and smooth. Without it the eggs may want to souffle a little.

    Thanks, Zoë

  16. Hi, I LOVE your website and your amazing pictures! I was wondering if there are any modifications to making this in a 9″ spring form pan?


  17. Hi, would you be able to tell me how to make mini cheesecakes using this same recipe? The very small mini cupcake pans, not the regular cupcake pans? (i.e. how long to bake and cool, etc.)


    1. Hi Kattie,

      The great thing about cheesecake is that you can open and close the oven door as often as you like without ruining the cake. I would check them after about 15 to 20 minutes and gauge how long they need. They may be done or need several more minutes.

      Thanks, Zoë

  18. Thank you for your quick reply……I think this is going to be a great recipe using my key limes off my own tree !!

    Thanks for helping me with the baking time…I wanted to make them in the very small miniature cupcake pan, not the regular cupcake size. If you have any other directions on the minis, I look back to check your response.

    Have a great day,

  19. Hope this is as easy as you make it look, going to give a try for company. After putting the cake on the serving plate should it go back in the fridge until serving time? I’d like to have it done before my guests arrive.

      1. Thanks, Zoe! I guess I wrap it in plastic again? I may make them in a mini cheesecakes pan I just found today (love that pop up bottom option) which means I could likely leave them in the tin until tomorrow and plate them just before. Thinking I might serve them with bittersweet chocolate blueberry clusters (Lucy Waverman) and my friend’s amazing cookies to fill the plate. Thanks again!

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