Monday, January 9, 2012

Lemon, Lime and Clementine Icebox Pie with Little Meringue Buttons

Lemon Icebox Pie with Lime and Clementine and Little Meringue Buttons

I’ve never met a man who didn’t like lemon pie. Especially Lemon Icebox Pie with its sweet and crumbly graham cracker crust, the very (very) tart lemon filling, and a topping soft meringue or billowy whipped cream.

And for those in charge of preparation, the recipe could not be easier. It’s the kind that you remember, with no need for written directions. Lemon juice, egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk. Mix it up, pour in a crust, and let it chill. That’s it.

Lemon Icebox Pie is usually thought of as dessert for spring and summer months, but I made one last month while I was in central Louisiana visiting family. My sister’s Meyer lemon tree yielded a dozen sweetly fragrant fruit and we used some to make a pie. What remained of the pie went home with our parents because lemon pie is Daddy’s favorite dessert.

Returning to Iowa and its unseasonable, snowless warmth, I longed for another pie. Alas, I could not find Meyer lemons at any local supermarkets in Cedar Rapids. (Hy-Vee, are you listening?) There were classic lemons, limes and several varieties of oranges, including Clementines — oh, wait, the marketing deparment wants them to be called Cuties.

In the spirit of wine and coffee blends, I opted for a trio of citrus to make my pie. The combination of lemon, lime and Clementine orange was such a revelation. The filling still was tart, but more complex — flowery, sweet, bitter, tangy. That’s why think this is an Improved Lemon Icebox Pie. It is a classic way to celebrate the whole of citrus season, that bright spot of sunshine arriving in the dead of winter.

Another reason Lemon Icebox Pie is popular is that you don’t need to bake it. As I was told years ago, the lemon juice’s acid “cooks” the egg yolks. It’s a bit like making ceviche only, well, it’s egg yolks instead of fish. Lately, though, I bake mine a little bit because I find that it creates a firmer filling which slices a bit more cleanly.

Traditionally the only time you slide an icebox pie in the oven is to brown the meringue topping, if you’re using that. Meringue topping has its fans and foes. I’m in the middle, happy with it or without.
Not wanting to waste the 2 egg whites, I decided to make crispy little meringue buttons instead of a soft, fluffy topping. It was an inspiration from last month’s #baketogether project, Chocolate Meringue Cake. They added a sweetly crisp texture to the pie. I’ve included the general directions for how I made the meringue buttons.

Remember, when life doesn’t give you Meyer lemons, you can still make a good pie.

Light, crispy vanilla meringue buttons

Improved Lemon Icebox Pie
No one seems to know the true origin of Lemon Icebox Pie.
This is adapted from how my mother makes it.

1/2 cup freshly squeezed juice from lemon, lime and Clementine orange. I used 2 lemons, half a lime and one Clementine to yield 1/2 cup juice.
zest from the above fruit
2 eggs, separated
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 graham cracker crust, either homemade (good for you) or storebought (my pick)

Juice the citrus, taking care to remove any seeds. Pour juice and zest into a medium sized bowl. Add 2 egg yolks and stir with a whisk until egg and juice are incorporated. Add the sweetened condensed milk, whisking well.

Pour into the graham cracker pie crust. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours or until nicely chilled. Serve with whipped cream.

Baking option: Put the pie on a sturdy baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove and let it cool, then refrigerate.

Meringue Buttons
recipe adapted from Abby Dodge
2 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place egg whites into the bowl of a mixer. Beat until they start to get fluffy. Add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla and beat until it is fully incorporated. Place meringue in a pastry bag and pipe small button shapes onto a parchment covered baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes. Meringues will brown a bit. Turn off the oven. Let the meringues rest in the oven for about 30 minutes until they feel firm. Remove from the oven and let cool. Place them on top of your pie or serve as snacks.


  1. This sounds like something even I could make. And it's so pretty too!

  2. Jill:
    You could indeed make this pie! Very easy.

  3. Oh yum! What a perfect recipe for #citruslove and I totally agree it's my mans' favorite dessert.

  4. How adorably cute with the little meringue buttons on top!! I love this easy to make pie and must save this for a summer picnic!!

  5. Georgie and Linda: Thank you so much!


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