Don’t be fooled by the recipe’s simplicity- this is a seriously good thing to eat. Few desserts are more refreshing on a hot day than an icebox cake, and this one is especially cool due to its bright, citrusy character.
The basic recipe calls for fresh-squeezed lime juice and only 3 other ingredients, but the resulting flavor goes way beyond the sum of its parts. Lime works so well with other fruits, too, that the dessert can be substantially upgraded simply by adding fresh or canned fruit or canned pie filling.
This type of no-bake cake or pie recipe, made with alternating layers of thin cookies and a creamy liquid mixture, is greatly appreciated in Mexico, where ovens tend to be seen mainly as storage spaces and are used for cooking only on very special occasions.
This recipe is simple enough for even the most novice cooks (and the flavors are liked by almost everyone, young and old), so it´s a great choice for making with kids.
Since the cake needs to sit in the fridge for several hours before serving, it’s best to make this the night before you plan to eat it.
- 1 cup freshly squeezed Mexican lime/key lime juice*
- 1 12-ounce/355 milliliters can evaporated milk
- 1 14-ounce/414 milliliters can sweetened condensed milk
- About 50 packaged Maria cookies (Marie biscuits) (or other dry, thin, bland-tasting cookies)
- Optional: grated lime zest for decoration
- Optional: fresh or canned fruit (see variations)
*You may be tempted to use bottled lime juice for this recipe, but I strongly recommend fresh-squeezed; only the fresh product will provide the bright, punchy flavor that this cake deserves.
Mix the freshly-squeezed lime juice, the evaporated milk and the condensed milk thoroughly, either in a blender, with an electric mixer or with a vigorously-wielded whisk.
Cover the bottom of a 9-inch round baking pan (or other shape of similar volume—see notes below) with a layer of Maria cookies. Feel free to break some of the cookies to fit into nooks and crannies, but don’t obsess over this; as long as the bottom of the pan is reasonably covered, you’re good.
Pour about one fifth of the milk/juice mixture over the cookies, spreading it out evenly with a spoon or rubber spatula.
Gently place another layer of cookies over this. Follow that by about a fourth of the remaining milk mixture. Repeat layering of cookies and mixture until these ingredients run out, making sure to end with a creamy layer.
If you would like to decorate your cake, grate a little lime peel (green part only, no pith) over the top.
Gently tap the dish on the table or counter a few times to eliminate any big air bubbles and settle the layers. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours.
To serve, cut cake into wedges or squares and use a spatula to remove each piece from the pan. The once-dry cookies will have absorbed most of the liquid, turning everything into a moist cake-like block of creamy citrus goodness.
Cover and refrigerate any leftovers; this keeps well for a few days.
Variations on No-Bake Lime Cake:
- Top this yummy creation with fruit before you put it into the fridge and you’ll be adding another layer of flavor to the creamy and the citrusy. Fresh red and/or black raspberries are delicious here, as are sliced fresh strawberries or canned peach slices, mango cubes, or fruit cocktail. Make sure any canned fruit is well drained.
- Canned pie filling works well with this, too, especially cherry or blueberry.
- Since this is a no-bake/no-cook cake, it’s easy to change pan dimensions without flirting with disaster: Create individual portions (as in the photo above) in glass custard dishes or disposable cups. Try to use clear containers to ensure that the layers are visible.
- Use a rectangular (instead of round) pan if you’d prefer to cut squares instead of wedges.
- Make a taller dessert by assembling it in a loaf pan; slice to serve.
- Assemble your lime cake in a springform pan; carefully remove outer ring before cutting and serving.
- There’s no reason you would even have to use a metal or glass “pan” at all; make your lime refrigerator cake in a durable or disposable plastic container, if that fits your purpose—or your fridge—better.