What’s Cooking? Karen Barker’s Key Lime Coconut Pie with Rum Cream!

Karen Barker\'s Key Lime Coconut Pie with Rum CreamWell, the dog days of summer are upon us, and folks (down here, at least) are trying to keep cool any way they can. My new favorite method? A chilled slice of homemade Key Lime Coconut Pie with Rum Cream, just one of the many fail-proof recipes in Karen Barker’s fabulous dessert cookbook, Sweet Stuff: Karen Barker’s American Desserts.


As the award-winning pastry chef at Durham’s beloved Magnolia Grill restaurant, Barker’s got years of experience developing outstanding sweets, and it shows. Her recipes are clear and accessible, and they consistently hit the mark. As a result, Sweet Stuff has become my go-to dessert cookbook, whether I’m treating myself and my honey at home or entertaining for friends. My copy is dog-eared, scribbled on, and splattered with the remnants of goodies past; in short, it is a good friend.

I’d never made this particular pie before last week, but I can now attest that it was perhaps the least fussy pie I’ve ever made. (I whipped it up post-work, -gym, -grocery shopping, and -dinner, and still had time to catch a re-run of The Daily Show before bedtime.) Don’t let that fool you, though—the resulting silky, sweet-tart custard filling and crunchy, buttery crust won’t disappoint.

Here’s the recipe, along with some pictures I took (with some help from my husband!) when I made this sweet treat:

Key Lime Coconut Pie with Rum Cream

from Sweet Stuff: Karen Barker’s American Desserts

Serves 8

Karen’s note:

A simple crumb crust combined with a filling this quickly whisked together makes this dessert practically foolproof. I’ve added nontraditional accents of coconut and rum to create a unique version of this Florida favorite. If you have access to fresh key limes, by all means use them. I have substituted both bottled key lime juice and the more readily available Persian limes with delicious results.


1 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut (preferably the frozen kind, defrosted)
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, melted


3 egg yolks
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 14-ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk
1 cup key lime juice


1 ½ cups heavy cream
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ tablespoons dark rum
3 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut, toasted till light golden brown


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-inch pie plate.

2. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, sugar, and melted butter in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the reserved pie plate, tamping down the crumbs to form an even crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes till lightly golden. Reserve and prepare filling.

graham cracker crumbs, coconut, sugar, and melted butter Ready to shape the crustcrust is pressed and ready for filling


1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and cream of tartar. Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk. Gradually whisk in the lime juice till well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared shell.

Ingredients for the fillingMixing the fillingPour the filling into the crust

2. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15 minutes, until the filling is just set. Remove from the oven, cool completely, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Into the ovenSet your timer for 15 minutesLet it cool overnight


1. Whip the cream till lightly thickened and gradually whisk in the sugar. Beat to soft peaks and whisk in the vanilla and dark rum. Whip to medium stiff peaks.

2. Spread about two-thirds of the whipped cream over the pie filling. Place the remaining cream in a pastry bag fitted with a large open star tip and pipe a shell border or a series of whipped cream rosettes around the perimeter of the pie. Sprinkle the whipped cream with the toasted coconut. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Whip the cream Toasted coconutWith topping and coconut sprinkled

From Karen:

Baker’s Note: If you don’t want to bother with decorating the pie with a pastry bag, just serve slices of pie topped with a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkled with toasted coconut.

Serving Suggestions: Unless we’re talking ice cream or whipped cream, I don’t think pies need to be dressed up with extraneous garnishes. But if you really feel the occasion calls for more than a simple slice of pie on a plate, for this pie you could add a drizzle of lime caramel (page 46) or some strawberry crush (page 49).

I made the following modifications to this recipe—based on what I had on hand—for convenience’s sake: I used unsweetened, rather than sweetened shredded coconut. (I opted not to add any extra sugar in the crust to make up for that difference, and I thought it was plenty sweet as it was.) In addition, I omitted the rum from the whipped cream topping and reduced the sugar in the topping by about one-third.

Finally, here’s a handy cake- and pie-decorating trick you can use if, like me, you don’t have pastry bags and tips at your disposal. Snip a bottom corner off a plastic sandwich bag and use a spatula to fill the bag with the whipped cream topping. Use the bag as you would a pastry bag, pushing the whipped cream out through the hole in the corner to create swirls or rosettes.