The Best Lemon Ice Box Pie

This post could have a number of subtitles, such as, Lemon Ice Box Pie: The Difference between Evaporated and Sweetened Condensed Milk, or Lemon Ice Box Pie: Why Liz Isn’t a Baker, Lemon Ice Box Pie: The Failure and Triumph, or Lemon Ice Box Pie: I’m Going to Make this Damn Pie if It Takes Till Midnight… you get the idea. But I am happy I spent time working on this recipe yesterday because not only did I learn some lessons, but I did end up making a fantastic dessert perfect for citrus season! I know, it’s cold outside, you’re on a diet, why would you want this in your life? But I promise you this tastes just like summertime and isn’t terribly difficult to make– if you are able to read ingredient lists. Learn from my trials and tribulations, please.

Chases away winter blues

So before I tell you the saga of my search on the internet and inability to read directions, I’m going to just give you the recipe with instructions.

1. Zest 3-4 lemons depending on size and how much you like lemon. Don’t do more than 4.

2. Juice the lemons for 1/2-3/4 a cup fresh lemon juice, depending on lemony preferences.

3. Separate 4 eggs– you’re going to use the yolks.

4. Beat with an EGGBEATER the lemon zest and yolks. About a minute or two.

4. Combine one 14oz. can SWEETENED CONDENSED milk– it should look like sticky white syrup–and lemon juice. Beat these together with the yolks and zest another minute or two until mixture is well-combined and a little frothy.

5. Set aside 20 minutes to 30 minutes in order to let the lemon juice work it’s magic and make everything more goopy.

6. Make a Graham Cracker crust in the meantime. You can get one pre-made or buy a box of pre-crumbled crackers or do it by hand. Make sure to bake the crust about 7-8 minutes at 350.

7. Turn oven to 325. Pour filling into pie crust. Bake 17-18 minutes. After baking the pie filling should look like jelly–a bit wiggly. Cool on a rack while moving things around in your freezer. Put pie in FREEZER (not fridge) minimum 4 hours.

8. To serve: Fill sink 2 inches with hot water. Put a butter knife in a mug of hot water. Lower pie pan into hot water for 30 second to a minute. Slice pie pieces with hot knife. Enjoy!

Pretty Pie

I had a fantastic piece of Lemon Ice Box Pie at Cafe Des Amis in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana over Christmas break. It was the perfect refreshment after a long drive.  It was silky and both sweet and tart which I LOVE in a dessert. I had been fantasizing about this dessert and now that Holidays are over and I had (have) a little time on my hands I wanted to make it. But here’s why I worked on a pie for about 5 hours yesterday: 1. I didn’t understand that evaporated milk and condensed milk are entirely different entities (clearly my problem) and 2. the internet failed me. Yes! This blog post on Kitchen Table is monumental because the internet will not help you make this pie. Emeril wants you to use cream cheese, Eagle Brand wants you to use lemonade powder, someone on wants you to used a can of condensed lemonade and this guy wants you to use a springform pan and 8 egg yolks! Seriously!

This is What Failure Pie Looks Like

Happy Egg Yolks

I tried the overwhelming springform recipe to start, and that’s where I made things a gajillion times worse by going to the crappy Wal-Mart by my house with no condensed milk and assumed evaporated milk was the same. I also didn’t realize that a springform pan is larger than a pie pan, so my filling overflowed and I created a massive toxic spill in my oven. Sigh. On the other hand, I had never separated eggs before in my life and got great joy out of tipping them from shell to shell and watching them plop into the mixing bowl. So cute!

Separating eggs-- fun!

Antique Juicer

I also had the opportunity to use my new antique juicer that I purchased in Louisiana– my dad used to use a juicer like this when we were kids and I was determined to find one. This is a great little tool for juicing lemons as long as you strain the liquid. Plus, it looks so pretty! I had to call a friend in despair when pie #1 didn’t come out. She referred to her The New Best Recipe cookbook which gave excellent instructions for the similarly made Key Lime Pie with a caveat: “This recipe just doesn’t work.” They’re are the authors who suggest only 4 egg yolks and allowing the mixture to sit 30 minutes before baking. But Best Recipe doesn’t put their pie in the freezer like I did, and I think it makes a difference for how the pie sets up and hold up. In any case, I’m sure you all have a had a cooking or baking disaster– I just hope they eventually turned out this well! I hope you’ll try this recipe with good results!

Lemon Love



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2 responses to “The Best Lemon Ice Box Pie

  1. Bea

    Dear Liz,
    Can you imagen trying to translate a recipe into an other language on an other continent. My friend is a good baker but has problems with condensed milk and sorts of sugar she already asked me differences but I couldn’t help her. What is is the difference between condensed and evaporated milk, or put it like this what are they? If summer comes I might try your lemon pie, for now I’m happy with the smile you put on my face for posting your story.
    Keep it up

  2. Bea,
    Glad you liked the post! I should clarify: SWEETENED condensed milk is what you want in this recipe. It has sugar added in and is syrupy. Evaporated milk is watery and lacks sugar. I hope the rest of the recipe translates well.
    Take care, friend,

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