Thanks To My Grandmother, These Mini Key Lime Pies Became One Of My Signature Desserts

Each time we bake them now, it’s an homage to her.

Mini Coconut-Key Lime Pies

Stacy K. Allen; Props: Josh Hoggle; Food Stylist: Melissa Gray

After being unable to gather for more than a year, Mother's Day 2021 was a very special day for my family. I was thrilled when my aunt asked if my husband and I could bring dessert to the brunch she was hosting for the occasion, where my paternal grandmother would be the matriarch star of the show. I knew my grandmother wasn’t picky and would eat anything I showed up with, but I really wanted to impress her with something delicious. I asked my parents what my grandmother's absolute favorite dessert was and became determined to make it myself, though I'm a novice baker.

Key lime pie. I have to admit, I was a little nervous. I'd never attempted a creamy citrus dessert—my baking experience at the time didn't really go beyond bunny cakes at Easter, Italian cream cakes at Christmas, and the occasional batch of cookies for friends. Being assigned dessert for Mother's Day was the perfect opportunity to launch me into my possible future as the family baker.

Of course, I went straight to to find a Key lime pie recipe. I found the recipe for Mini Coconut-Key Lime Pies and knew that's what I'd make. Not only is the presentation of these mini desserts adorable, but personal portions are also more hygienic and easier for the host to serve. Plus, I only had to buy a few ingredients that weren’t in the pantry already.

Our brunch was on Sunday morning, and since I'm always wary of serving a first-time recipe, my husband and I made the mini Key lime pies Saturday night. There would still be time to make an emergency run for a Publix Key lime pie replacement if we had a recipe disaster.

Luckily, this Mini Coconut-Key Lime Pie Recipe was incredibly easy to follow and so delicious (husband was happy to taste test, just in case). If you’re not a fan of coconut, don’t be deterred by the name of this recipe. The only coconut in it is actually in the graham cracker crust. It adds just the right hint of coconut flavor without overwhelming the whole dish, and it lends a nice consistency to the crust. 

crust pressed into bottom of mini muffin pan lined with paper

Stacy K. Allen; Props: Josh Hoggle; Food Stylist: Melissa Gray

This recipe doesn’t require expert baking skills or a catalog of complicated tools. After stirring the crust ingredients together, pressing them into your muffin tins, and baking for a few minutes, you simply have to whisk together the filling, pour it over the crusts, bake, and chill! 

filling mini key lime pies with filling

Stacy K. Allen; Props: Josh Hoggle; Food Stylist: Melissa Gray

After our initial Saturday success, we saved making the whipped cream and decorating the pies for Sunday morning to ensure they wouldn't get soggy overnight. I don't have my own piping tools, and the zip-top bag trick produced less-than-magazine-worthy results, so we decided to spread the whipped cream across the entire top of the pies. Our lack of decorating skills turned into an accidental win, since this resulted in having an equal amount of crust, filling, and whipped cream in every bite. Then, we sprinkled each pie with a little lime zest and some toasted coconut. Not only did these garnishes add a lovely touch of texture and color, but they hinted to the family what they were getting under the whipped cream (in case of coconut haters).

whipped cream in a bowl with a hand mixer beside it

Stacy K. Allen; Props: Josh Hoggle; Food Stylist: Melissa Gray

I brought my best cake plate to showcase our creation and waited for the fateful moment that everyone would try our Mini Coconut-Key Lime Pies. Of course, the opinion that mattered most was my grandmother's, the inspiration behind the dessert.

Let me tell you—not only did everyone rave over the pies, but they all asked for the recipe, which you know is the true sign of a dish's success. After telling my husband's family a few states away about these Mini Coconut-Key Lime Pies, they requested that we make them at the next holiday (we did, to the tune of more praise). Since we had a few leftover pies from doubling the recipe, I brought them to our friends who lived nearby, who also asked that they be a repeat dessert at our next supper club (they were). 

Two years after that Mother’s Day, these tiny pies have become a go-to in our kitchen. The recipe is simple but yields a beautiful result, and it makes serving a crowd a breeze. Each time we bake them now, it’s an homage and a thank you to my grandmother, who has since passed, for inspiring the recipe choice in the first place. I will forever think of her when I enjoy a cool bite of Key lime pie or show up to an event with these mini ones in tow. 

Get the Recipe: Mini Coconut-Key Lime Pies

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