As featured in Bay Area Bites, September 16, 2009.

I once created a dessert inspired by a body lotion I fell in love with one summer. It was a creamy Coconut Lime Verbena lotion, and as I slathered it over my body, with the seductively warm coconut scent mingling with the sweet floral citrus notes of the lime verbena, my mind wandered to dessert.

Surely, such a match made in heaven could come together in flavor as well as aroma.

And indeed it could…in what I call my Key Lime Coconut Cheesecake. This decadent treat is like the tropical love child of a refreshing, tart, key lime pie and a rich cheesecake…with a coconut cream pie floozie thrown into the mix.

The citrus cuts through the richness, giving this dessert a surprisingly light feel to it. The addition of sour cream also gives it a sense of airiness, unlike some other cheesecakes that end up feeling like a brick in your stomach. I love adding nuts to my dessert crusts whenever possible, and this is no exception. I chose cashews here for their subtle, buttery flavor. And then there is the crowning shower of toasted coconut flakes. The coconut brings out the nuttiness of the crust, and the extra texture adds interest.

It takes some forethought to make, since it’s best served after chilling in the fridge overnight, but the wait is well worth it! Whip this up for your next BBQ or party and wait for the oohs and ahhs to rain down, you domestic goddess, you.

Key Lime Coconut Cheesecake

Yield: Makes One (10 inch) cheesecake, serves 8-10


    For the crust:
  • 1 package graham crackers (approx. 1 cup)
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • For the filling:
  • 1 (12 oz.) container sour cream
  • 2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated lime zest
  • ½ cup lime juice (if you can’t find key limes, substitute with regular limes)
  • ¼ cup Malibu (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • For the topping:
  • ½ cup sweetened coconut flakes, toasted
  • Slices of lime for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Butter or spray the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cover the outside of the pan in foil. Finely grind the graham crackers and cashews in a food processor. Add the melted butter and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest, and process until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake until the crust is golden, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.
  3. Mix together the sour cream, cream cheese, and sugar. Blend in the lime zest, lime juice, Malibu, and vanilla. Add eggs in one at a time.
  4. Pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the pan. Place the pan in a large roasting pan. Create a hot water bath by pouring enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the baking pan. Bake until the cheesecake is golden and the center of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour.
  5. Sprinkle the toasted coconut on top. I just toast the coconut in a dry skillet over medium heat. Keep stirring it so it doesn't burn; it will toast up quickly. Garnish with lime slices.
  6. Transfer the cake to a rack; cool 1 hour. Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold and firm, at least 8 hours (best overnight).