Food & Drink

Lemon Icebox Pie

A Southern summer dessert

I have never met a dessert I didn’t like—ten-layer caramel cakes, crunchy crème brulees, flaming bananas foster; you name it. But it’s the simpler sweets—my grandmother’s buttery teacakes, my great-aunt’s bourbon-spiked pound cake, and pastry chef (no relation) David Guas’s, of Bayou Bakery in Virginia, lemon icebox pie—that have become full-blown sugar-fueled obsessions.

A New Orleans native, Guas’s version of the cool classic pays tribute to the lemon icebox pie served at Clancy’s, a white-tablecloth neighborhood establishment and local favorite, on the corner of Annunciation Street. “Clancy’s has been around forever,” Guas says. “It just fits. If it wasn’t there, there would be a hole in the ground.”  Essentially a key lime pie made with lemons, the nostalgic confection is what Guas calls a “psychological summer dessert,” where the refreshing citrus flavor gives the impression of a lighter finish. His straightforward recipe is simple and easy to prepare. Plus, kept frozen, it will keep for up to a week—just don’t expect it to last long once your guests have tasted a slice.

Notes from the chef: If you’re tempted to skimp on the fresh-squeezed juice and use store bought instead, don’t. Freshness counts big with the flavor of this pie. Also, try adding cracked pepper to the graham cracker crust for a surprising punch of heat.


  • Crust

    • 14 whole graham crackers

    • 1/4 cup sugar

    • 1/4 tsp. salt

    • 6 tsp. unsalted butter, melted and still warm

  • Filling

    • 2 (14-oz.) cans condensed milk (also known as sweetened condensed milk)

    • 1¼ cups strained lemon juice (from the 2 zested lemons below plus an additional 4–6)

    • Zest of 2 lemons

    • 8 large egg yolks

  • Chantilly Cream

    • 2 cups heavy cream

    • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

    • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar


  1. For the crust:
    Heat the oven to 325°F.

  2. Break the graham crackers into small pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor along with the sugar and salt. Pulse 8 times, until the cracker crumbs are semi-fine (they shouldn’t be powdery but not in large shards either) and the crackers and sugar are combined. Pour in the butter and pulse until the butter is blended in and the mixture isn’t crumbly and holds its shape when you squeeze it, about twelve 1-second pulses.

  3. Transfer the crust to a 9-inch springform pan and push and press the crumb mixture into the bottom and two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pan. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the crust into place. Set aside.

  4. For the filling:
    Whisk the condensed milk with the lemon juice and set aside.

  5. Whisk the zest with the egg yolks in a medium bowl until pale, 30 to 60 seconds, and then whisk in the lemon juice-condensed milk mixture. Place the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet, pour the mixture into the crust, and carefully transfer the baking sheet to the oven.

  6. Bake until the center jiggles slightly, like a soft-setting custard, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 1 hour on a cooling rack. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap (be careful not to let the plastic wrap touch the top of the pie) and freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight.

  7. For the Chantilly Cream:
    Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer). Add the vanilla and sift in the confectioners’ sugar. Whip on low speed to combine and then increase the speed to medium-high and whip until medium-stiff peaks form, about 1 1/2 minutes.

  8. To Serve
    Wrap a wet, warm kitchen towel around the edges of the springform pan to release the pie from the pan’s sides. Unclasp the pan and remove the pie.

  9. Fill a pitcher with hot water, dunk your knife in, wipe off the blade, and slice. Top with a dollop of Chantilly cream and serve immediately, or keep in the freezer for up to 1 week.

Recipe by Chef David Guas Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington, Virginia and excerpted from DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth New Orleans Style