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Lemon Ice Box Pie, and other River Activities

June 29, 2009

(With food pictures!)

This weekend we took a trip out to the Shenandoah River Valley to float the river and generally enjoy nature. For those of you not in the DC area, the Shenandoah River Valley is a great place to go tubing, in true Guadeloupe fashion, with a cooler tube full of beer and sandwiches, and a group of great friends. This particular trip included staying at a cottage near the river (rather than having to drive the 2.5 hours up and 2.5 hours back in one day), courtesy of the Shenandoah River Outfitters, who also provided the tubing experience. SRO is a great place to visit the river, the cost for our tubes was $18 apiece, plus $7 for the cooler tubes. I highly recommend the experience to any of you who haven’t been!

The occasion for this weekend of nature and tubing was Victoria’s 24th birthday (Happy Birthday, Victoria!), and for her special birthday dessert, she requested “anything not chocolate,” as she’s not a huge chocolate fan. I (obviously) snapped up the opportunity to provide the dessert, and selected my grandmother’s (technically I think it’s Eagle Brand’s) recipe for Lemon Icebox Pie, which is elsewhere known as Lemon Meringue Pie.

It’s basically a lemony custard in a cookie crust with browned meringue on top, and it’s perfect for a hot summer day. The pie was fantastic, but because I used a big pie pan I had to double the recipe. Next time, if I make the bigger size again, I’ll use just a tad less lemon juice, as the custard layer in the double recipe is just a bit thicker than the regular one. I’ll also consider lining the sides of the pan with half-cookies cut-side down, and then stacking the outer cookies on top of them, as the crust was just a bit too short for the pan, in my opinion.

Lemon Icebox Pie – Small pie pan


1 can Eagle Brand (or other sweetened, condensed milk – I made this one with store brand)

1/2 c. lemon juice

2 egg yolks (save whites for meringue)


3 egg whites

3 T sugar

3 T cornstarch mixture

Cornstarch Mixture

Take 1/2 c. of cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 c. water, put on the stove, stirring constantly til it’s thick. Set aside to cool to room temperature.


1/2 box (or a bit less, or a bit more) Nilla wafer vanilla cookies


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Prepare cornstarch mixture.

While the cornstarch mixture is cooling, line your pie pan with Nilla wafer cookies (I never use store brand, though I don’t have a logical reason why not), like the picture below.

The best cookie crust EVAH.

The best cookie crust EVAH.

Lay the cookies flat on the bottom, then stack the edge cookies on top of the other ones so that the flat side is up against the edge of the pan (this is the part where I should have put an additional half-cookie between the bottom crust and the edges). When you’ve laid all the cookies you can, take a few extra cookies from the bag, and crush them, to fill in all the little holes (you want a solid crust across the whole bottom of the pan).

Lemon custard filling

Lemon custard filling

Once you’ve prepared the crust, take a large mixing bowl and whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks. Once the egg yolks are incorporated, add the lemon juice and whisk until thick.

As you’re adding the egg yolks to the filling, put the egg whites into a separate bowl. I like to add the sugar to the egg whites at this point, so that it melts into the whites faster. I’ve read online, however, that you should add them later as adding the sugar at this stage makes the whites take longer to whip up. To each his/her own, I suppose, but this is the way I do it.

Mixing the meringue

Mixing the meringue

Once you’ve got the filling sitting by, add the remaining egg white (and final 1 Tablespoon of sugar) to the mixture in the egg white bowl, then slowly mix with a hand mixer (or in my case, with my superawesometastic Kitchen Aid stand mixer) until the sugar is melted in pretty well. Then start whipping the egg whites at medium, then high speed.



Once the egg whites are starting to form soft peaks (when you stop the mixer and lift out the beaters, the egg whites are fluffy but plop down softly from the beaters), start adding the cornstarch mixture. I was a little shy about this part, because I’ve never used cornstarch in meringue before, but the principle is that the  cornstarch will help keep the moisture content of the egg whites down, thus preventing the meringue from “weeping” or leaking liquid egg white down between the meringue and the pie (which, while not necessarily bad for you, is messy when you’re trying to cut a slice of pie). This is particularly important for pies with room-temperature fillings, as they don’t have the luxury of instantly “cooking” the bottom layer of the meringue like heated filling pies (any custard pie prepared via stovetop) do. In any event, it was helpful, and had no impact on flavor, so I’ll definitely be less shy with it next time.

Once your corn starch is incorporated, whip it back up to high speeds until the peaks begin to stiffen (when you lift the still beater out of the egg whites, they don’t plop down anymore and when the beater is flung back and forth gently they are not wobbly), and then remove the beaters and use a spatula to spread the meringue across the pie.

An easy way to do this is to scoop up a dollop of meringue with your spatula, position your spatula over a section of the pie, and flick your wrist so that the dollop falls gently on top of the filling. Repeat this process with dollops going to the un-meringued portions of the pie until you have no more meringue, then gently massage the meringue to the edges with your spatula. (If anyone’s got a tip or trick for making interesting peaks and patterns in the meringue, please comment – mine almost always end up just sortof rounded and boring looking)

Place the pie in the oven on the center rack for 20 or so minutes (slow cooking at low temperatures browns the meringue more evenly in my experience) until the top of the pie looks brown (like this, minus the candles):

Becandled Pie!

Becandled Pie!

Once the pie is browned, carefully remove it from the oven (use mitts!!!), let it it cool on a rack (I use the metal thingies over my burners on the stove) and when it comes to room temperature stick it in the refrigerator. I like to let it sit over night, but you need at LEAST 2-3 hours before I would recommend eating it. The custard needs time to fully infiltrate the crust, because the texture sensation of gooey crunchy is fantastic.

When you’re ready to serve (and you can store it uncovered in the fridge, btw, as long as no roommates, significant others, or kids are going to drop stuff on it), get a regular table knife, wet it with a bit of water from the faucet (keeps the meringue from sticking), and cut right in. The top is like a fluffy sponge, the custard creamy and tart, and the crust is THE best part. The pic below is a little sloppy (someone did a poor job cutting, Lisa!) but the taste was yum. Enjoy!

Final Product (a little messy)

Final Product (a little messy)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Crystal permalink
    June 29, 2009 4:45 pm


    Remember the AMAZING pavlova you girls made for my 20th bday almost 5 years ago exactly???

    Such an amazing foodie! Love it!


    • lisam permalink
      June 29, 2009 4:50 pm

      Haha, yes I do remember the pavlova! I thought we ended up buying it though…maybe we never told you that…but either way, it was delicious! 🙂 Glad you like it!

  2. Victoria permalink
    July 5, 2009 11:43 am

    it really was delicious. i think the leftovers were even better, as the flavors had time to meld. i haven’t asked you yet, but i’m willing to buy another one from you. i want at least one more before the summer is over!!

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