Chocolate Key Lime Pie

Do I ever have a doozy of a recipe to share with you today. I made this key lime pie for our anniversary last week, and I spent nearly all day on Thursday making it/washing dishes I dirtied while making it.

If you've ever made a key lime pie, you probably think I'm lying. Usually, even if you make the crust from scratch, key lime pie only has about four ingredients, and it's perfect that way. Why gild the lily on this one?

Well, let's back up here for a second: Judson doesn't like sweets (except root beer floats, the ingredients for which he forbids himself from keeping in his own kitchen because if he had them, he would eat nothing but root beer floats all day long). Oh, sure, he'll have a bite of cake or a cookie if they're around, but if there are any other snacks around, he'll always choose salty over sweet-- the opposite of me. His only exception to this rule, other than the aforementioned root beer float, is key lime pie. And since this year it fell to me to plan our anniversary, I knew I had to make a key lime pie, especially once I realised there was a recipe for it in the box.

Recently we spent a weekend in the Florida Keys, the birthplace of key lime pie, and while there we saw a lot of chocolate-covered key lime pie on menus around the islands. We made so much fun of it, thinking it was a flavour combo that, although both ingredients are good enough on their own, taste terrible together... but then I found a recipe for “Laura York's Fudge Surprise Key Lime Pie” in the box and was immediately chagrined that we'd have to eat it.

It's one of those recipes that fool you into thinking you're just making a pie, and then you realise that it's actually THREE recipes in disguise: a crust, a chocolate filling, and a key lime pie. Not to mention the insane amount of substitutions I had to make: I couldn't find key lime juice (duh), macadamia nuts (a little bit puzzling), “butter flavour Crisco” (doesn't exist here in the UK/possibly doesn't exist anywhere since it's no longer 1989), chocolate fudge topping (weird), or gelatin (thoroughly puzzling), but, you know, other than those FIVE ingredients I had to make do without, it's practically exactly the same. Also, here is a direct quote from the recipe, as written in the St. Pete Times on March 8, 1990, just to prove how much of a pain it is:

“Cut slits around edge of pastry leaving 1 1/8 inches between slits. Fold top left corner down to the bottom right of each dough section forming triangles. Prick bottom and sides 50 times with a fork.”

One and an eighth inches? Fifty pricks? Anyway, I think I deserve to have this dumb pie named after myself after the amount of work I put into it. So we're changing the name on this one to “Blair Cowan's Irritatingly Difficult and Highly Specific but Completely Adaptable Key Lime Surprise Pie.”*

I have to say, Ms. York didn't let us down. I was ready to hate this pie, I really was: it's extremely time-consuming, it requires a ton of ingredients that aren't easy to find in the UK, it includes two flavours I didn't expect to enjoy together, and worst of all (to me), it includes cooking cornstarch, which I can almost never do successfully. But then a weird thing happened. After it chilled and everything set and we served it with the incredibly irritating chocolate-covered hazelnuts I had made earlier and a “cloud” of whipped cream... it turned out to be delicious. Judson loved it, I loved it, and our only disappointment is that we went out of town for the weekend and couldn't finish it on our own.

*As a sidenote, I was gonna include a joke in here about not knowing who Laura York was, but then I looked her up and found this.

The Verdict:

3.5 spoons out of five. This pie is good. Really good (which it should be, since it will dirty every dish in your kitchen and take you an entire afternoon to make, a fact which is rendered even more irksome by the fact that normal key lime pies are so easy). If you aren't stuck making the recipe word for word like I am, it's definitely possible to adapt it to be easier and quicker: use a pre-made pie crust, use hot fudge ice cream topping instead of the homemade filling I had to make because I couldn't find anything premade, don't bother coating your own macadamia nuts in chocolate, buy a bottle of key lime juice instead of juicing your own limes, and you could even skip the whipped cream, as the real treat here is the pie itself. I'd rank it higher if it was easier to make, but the awesome taste and texture don't quite outweigh the amount of work I put into this one.

(It's worth noting that Judson, who didn't have to make it and just got to eat it, is voting hard for a 5 Spoon rating. He loved it.)


Blair Cowan's Irritatingly Difficult and Highly Specific but Completely Adaptable Key Lime Surprise Pie

The Ingredients:

The Crust:

1 1/3 c flour
½ tsp salt
½ c shortening (or Stork, if you live in the UK)
3 tbsp ice water

The Fudge:

6 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1/3 c sugar
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg, beaten 
1/3 c macadamia nuts or hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

The Key Lime:

¼ c water
1 c sugar
1/3 c cornstarch
1 c milk
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/3 c key lime or plain lime juice
¼ c shortening (or Stork, if you live in the UK)
1 c sour cream


The Topping (optional):

2 c whipping cream
¼ c powdered sugar (icing sugar in the UK)
8 whole macadamia nuts or hazelnuts
¼ c semisweet chocolate, melted



Combine flour and salt in a bowl.
Cut in shortening with two knives until flour is blended in and dough has made pea-sized chunks.
Sprinkle in water, one tbsp at a time, tossing dough lightly with your hands until it forms a ball.
Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.
After dough has chilled, preheat oven to 425F/218C.
Lightly flour countertop and rolling pin.
Roll dough into circle one inch larger than a 9 inch pie plate.
Loosen dough carefully and press into pie plate gently.
(Optional: for decorative edge, cut slits around edge of pastry and fold dough sections into triangles to resemble a sun)
Prick dough all over with a fork to prevent shrinkage, then line the pan with foil and fill with dry beans, rice, or pie weights.
Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown, then let cool.


Chop nuts coarsely and set aside.
Melt chocolate slowly in the microwave, stirring every 10 seconds until smooth.
While chocolate is melting, combine sugar, milk, butter, vanilla, and egg in a small bowl.
Combine chocolate and sugar mixture, stirring constantly and briskly, until butter is melted.
Pour fudge into crust and use a spatula to spread it evenly.
Press nuts into the chocolate, then pop crust in fridge to set.

Key Lime:

Heat sugar and cornstarch over medium heat in a saucepan, stirring frequently.
Add milk and stir until smooth.
Add yolks and lime juice, stirring constantly.
Add shortening and keep stirring until mixture comes to a boil.
Boil one minute then remove from heat and pour into a large bowl.
Chill 45 minutes, then fold in sour cream. (Mine looked lumpy at this point because of the cornstarch, but it smoothed out when the pie set).
Pour into the chocolate-lined shell and chill at least two hours before serving.

TOPPING (optional):

Melt chocolate slowly in the microwave, stirring every 10 seconds until smooth.
Dip whole nuts into melted chocolate and place on a sheet of parchment paper.
Refrigerate until chocolate sets, at least 15 minutes.
Combine powdered sugar and whipping cream in a bowl and beat with a whisk or mixer until stiff.
“Spoon tablespoons around the edge to form 'clouds.' Top each cloud with a chocolate-covered nut.”

Yields one delicious pie and a whole lot of dishes.