Carlota de Limón (Mexican Lime Icebox Cake)

This Mexican key lime ice box cake, known as Carlota de Limon, is the easiest no-bake cake. It needs only 5 ingredients and there’s minimal cleaning up to do. It’s a perfect Mexican dessert that you can serve any time of the year, plus this easy recipe uses pantry staple ingredients.

This Mexican key lime ice box cake, known as Carlota de Limon, is the easiest no-bake cake. It needs only 5 ingredients and there's minimal cleaning up to do. It's a perfect Mexican dessert that you can serve all year long and uses pantry staple ingredients.

Carlota de limón is an incredibly delicious icebox-style cake. I promise the first time you taste it, your tastebuds will explode with delight and your mind will be blown at the simplicity of this killer dessert.

The first time I ate this cake was like 6 years ago. Well, I don’t have a memory of ever trying this postre de limón. before that. My first experience was with my neighbor who invited me over for a slice. I loved it so much that I secretly wanted another slice but was too shy to ask for one. Thankfully she gave me some to take home.

This Mexican key lime ice box cake, known as Carlota de Limon, is the easiest no-bake cake. It needs only 5 ingredients and there's minimal cleaning up to do. It's a perfect Mexican dessert that you can serve all year long and uses pantry staple ingredients.

There’s a vague memory of me asking for the recipe, but I’m not much of a baker so I never followed through with it. We moved away and I never had a chance to ask her again. Thank goodness there’s Google!

A couple of weeks ago I was at the mercado and bought one too many limónes aka limes. So what do you do when life gives you limónes? You make cake!

Mexican key limes and pure Mexican Vanilla

Mexican 5 Ingredient Dessert

If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t like to spend too much time baking a dessert you’re going to love this carlota. It uses just 5 ingredients. And there’s no baking involved! How great is that?!

5-ingredient Carlota de Limón

The ingredients for this easy Mexican no-bake dessert are pantry iteams.

  • Mexican limes or use key limes (the larger regular limes from the US aren’t as sweet)
  • condensed milk
  • evaporated milk
  • galletas Maria or maria biscuits
  • vanilla extract

I like to add vanilla but traditionally recipes don’t call for it. It adds a nice balance of flavor to the tart lime juice and sweetness, plus any chance I get to use my homemade vanilla is great!

There are other variations of to the carlota de limón recipe that can include cream cheese and media crema or the equivalent to half and half. I don’t use them because I feel the cake is rich, decadent and thick and creamy enough. But everyone’s taste is different so feel free to experiment if you’d like.

Ingredients for making Mexican Ice Box Lime Cake

What Are Maria Cookies

Galletas marías or Maria cookies or biscuits are a type of digestive cookie that is not too sweet, so perfect for the very sweet condensed milk.

They are very popular throughout Latin American and many other parts of the World. This makes it easy to find them pretty much everywhere. You can check the foreign food aisle, Hispanic markets or even Amazon carries many different brands.

Substitute for Maria Cookies or Galletas Maria

If you can’t find them locally then you can substitute Maria cookies with a digestive cookies or graham crackers. You should be able to find any of these cookies at any grocery stores near you.

How to Make Mexican Ice Box Lime Cake or Carlota de limon

No-Bake Lime Cake & Perfect For Any Occasion

One of the things I love most about this popular Mexican dessert, is that it’s an easy dessert and there’s little preparation involved — plus there’s no baking. Since I live in year-round summer this is a big plus for me. This is seriously one of my favorite, if not all time favorite, no bake desserts.

Just like key lime pie this dessert too uses fresh limes.

Moveover ice cream cake because this Mexican icebox cake during the hot summer days is all the cake you’ll want to eat.

During the holiday season the carlota de limon would be perfect so you can prep it ahead of time and just leave in the fridge until ready to serve. Also, it’s light citrus taste is a perfect balance to a heavy holiday meal. 

How is Mexican Lime Icebox Cake Made

It’s so easy! All you do is blend the liquid ingredients, then make layers of cookies and mix with the blended ingredients. To top you sprinkle some lime zest, then refrigerate the carlota and ¡listo! ready to eat.

Isn’t it crazy just how easy it is?!

Ok, let me share my recipe with you. Do watch the video for a visual guide and also read over the recipe card for more details.

How to Make Carlota de Limon
Blending the Carlota de Limon Ingredients

Step #1

Juice the fresh limes then strain the juice into the blender. Pour in the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and the vanilla extract. Blend until completely smooth. Don’t use a too high of a blender speed so that too many air bubbles aren’t created.

How to Make Carlota de Limon

Step #2

Once you have made the creamy lime mixture then you can begin to assemble the carlota. You’re going to need a casserole dish or deep baking dish or even a springform pan to create the layer of maria cookies with the lime cream mixture.

In a baking dish pour in a little bit of the sauce then arrange a single layer of Maria cookies. Next pour in a bit of the creamy mixture over the cookies to coat them, use the back of a spoon or spatula to help smooth out the surface.

Then add another layer of cookies and so on repeating until you have used up all of the milk mixture and created several tangy layers of creamy lime filling with the cookies.

You can use whole cookies and if you’d like you can break up some cookies to use to fill in the small gaps of the others.

Steps involved in making Mexican Ice Box Lime Cake or Carlota de limon

Step #3

For the last layer or the top layer it needs to be the creamy mixture. The absolute final layer should be just some fresh lime zest sprinkled around the top.

Since this is a no bake lime icebox cake, the final step is let it set in the refrigerator.

Use some plastic wrap to cover the dish, careful not to let it touch the surface of the Carlota. Now place in the refrigerator and let it sit overnight or at least 2 hours, 5 hours is probably best to guarantee it’s very set.

How to Serve Carlota de Limón

Once the cake has been allowed to set in the refrigerator then you’re ready to serve.

The final result will be a creamy texture, a burst of tangy lime followed by sweetness. It’s just a simple recipe and no wonder at all why it’s such a popular dessert.

Slice the cake into small square pieces and serve chilled, or right out of the refrigerator. Make sure you don’t take it out of the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator.

This Mexican key lime ice box cake, known as Carlota de Limon, is the easiest no-bake cake. It needs only 5 ingredients and there's minimal cleaning up to do. It's a perfect Mexican dessert that you can serve all year long and uses pantry staple ingredients.

What Does a Carlota De Limón Taste Like

A carlota de limón taste a little bit like heaven.

It tastes like a smooth, creamy whipped cream — but like the good, thick full fat whipped creams not the stuff out of a can. It has a creamy consistency. It has an airiness to it like the way a chocolate mousse does. The cookies turn into a perfect texture that’s neither crisp nor soggy.

It just kind of melts into your mouth.

There’s the velvety, sweet flavors from the condensed milk and hints of sweet from the Maria cookies. Then the tartness from the lime juice and the essence of the vanilla are bursts of flavor that just tickles your taste buds.

This is the perfect balance of sweet and tart in each bite. It feels like a refreshing dessert that’s sweet, but not a sweetness that leaves you feeling empalagoso or one that lingers for too long.

It’s a perfect dessert that will satisfy the sweet craving but won’t leave you with a heaviness that most cakes can.

This Mexican key lime ice box cake, known as Carlota de Limon, is the easiest no-bake cake. It needs only 5 ingredients and there's minimal cleaning up to do. It's a perfect Mexican dessert that you can serve all year long and uses pantry staple ingredients.

A Dessert for Any Occasion

If you ever find yourself in a pinch needing to prep a recipe in a short amount of time, this is that dessert. It’s perfect for a dinner party or holiday party and I promise your guests will be impressed and very satisfied.

How to Make Vegan Carlota de Limon

Making a vegan carlota de limon is just as easy as the dairy based one.

The first thing you need to know is that the more popular Maria cookies brand in Mexico, Gamesa, use milk powder so they’re not vegan. But there are other brands that are vegan, just read the labels. If you can find the Soriana or Gisa brand, those are vegan Maria cookies.

For the sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk you find several vegan options. On Amazon they have both vegan condensed milk and vegan evaporated milk. They are coconut based so should give your dessert a nice touch of coconut flavor.

The rest of the process or instructions are the same.

Carlota de Limon Recipe

Ok amigos, below is the recipe card for you to review or print out. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have.

If you make my recipe please make sure to leave a rating, I’d really appreciate it. Gracias!

Carlota De Limón (Mexican Lime Icebox Cake)

Nancy Lopez-McHugh & MexicanMadeMeatless.com
If you like light and airy desserts that don’t take a whole lot of time to prepare, then this is THE treat for you! It’s the perfect balance of tart and sweet flavors with a little twist.
4.81 from 72 votes
Save Recipe
Prep Time 15 mins
Refrigeration 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine hispanic, Mexican, vegetarian
Servings 10 servings
Calories 161 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 baking dish*

Ingredients
  

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup limes juice it's 6 small Mexican limes
  • 12 oz evaporated milk it's one regular can
  • 12 oz condensed milk it's one regular can, adjust to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 packs Maria cookies depending on the shape & size of your dish(es)
  • lime zest to taste
  • lime slices for decorating

Instructions
 

  • Juice the limes then strain them through a fine sieve and pour into a blender. Pour in the evaporated and condensed milks the add the vanilla extract. Blend for a couple of minutes or just until you achieve a smooth mixture. Don’t over do it so you don’t end up with lots of air bubbles.
    Juicing fresh limes for Mexican carlota cake
  • In a baking dish pour in a little bit of the sauce then arrange a single layer of Maria cookies. Next pour in a bit of the milk mixture over the cookies to coat them and use a spoon or spatula to help smooth, then add another layer of cookies and so on repeating until you have used up all of the milk mixtures. If you’d like you can break up some cookies to use to fill in the small gaps of the others (see video).
    How to Make Carlota de Limon
  • I would suggest that you try no to do more than 4 or 5 layers of cookies so that they don’t overpower the taste of the lime-milk mixture. They will soak up the liquid so you also don’t want too many of them because it’ll just end up being like a big soggy cookie — no one wants that!
    How to Make Carlota de Limon
  • The last or top layer should end with the milk mixture. Make sure you try to smooth it over as much as possible. I also like to give the dish a gentle tap on the table to help with any air bubbles. Coat the top layer with lime zest, if desired but will add an additional nice strong lime taste. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap or its own lid and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. I like to leave mine in the fridge overnight to make sure the dessert has solidified enough and also so the cookies have soaked up the milk mixture.
  • When ready to serve slice into as many and whatever size square pieces you’d like. If you’re not eating/serving the whole dessert at once do put it back in the refrigerator so it stays solid. This carlota de limon will keep in the fridge for up to a week but preferably consume in 2 days or the cookies become too soggy — still tastes great but the texture isn’t so nice.
    Mexican lime icebox cake inside a glass baking dish.

Video

Notes

* I used an 8×8 glass baking dish, I suggest you do the same so that your carlota will have a good height with plenty of creamy goodness.
** You can get from 9 to 12 servings. The calories are calculated for 10 servings or slices.

Nutrition

Serving: 10servingsCalories: 161kcalCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 5gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 21mgSodium: 81mgPotassium: 251mgFiber: 1gSugar: 22gVitamin A: 181IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 188mgIron: 1mg
Keyword cake, dessert, limes, no bake
Tried this recipe?Mention @MexicanMadeMeatless or tag #mexicamademeatless!
This Mexican key lime ice box cake, known as Carlota de Limon, is the easiest no-bake cake. It needs only 5 ingredients!

I really do hope you give this recipe a try. It’s a classic Mexican dessert and one the whole family should love. It’s not a regular cake, it’s a special treat with unique texture and crazy delicious sweet and tangy flavors in every single bite.

More Delicious Desserts to Try

Check out these Mexican recipes for easy to make and delicious sweet treats.

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71 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Love how good and easy this recipe is. I make almost every week because my family loves it !!

  2. Sad to say I don’t own a blender. Think I can use a food processor to blend the milks, juice, and vanilla?

    1. Hi Amy, you could also try a hand mixer or a whisk either should work perfectly. Even a fork could do the job, you’ll get a work out but it should work.
      I think the food processor may create more of a mess but you could try too.

    1. Hi Mary! This isn’t like a regular cake. The texture is soft. What should have happened is that the Maria cookies should have absorbed the liquid mixture and created a soft texture but that should hold up. If you followed the instructions exactly this really shouldn’t have happened. But let’s see perhaps you didn’t use enough layer of the cookies? Or another issue could be using too much liquid mixture for the amount of Maria cookies used. LEt me know, thanks!

    2. Can you substitue lemons for lime and will it setup if you add alcohol i was thinking lemoncello

      1. Hi Francine, I do think lemons would be ok — but I’ve never tried it myself.
        As for the alcohol, I really don’t know. I’ve never attempted it. But have fun experimenting.

  3. Hi Nancy!
    I’m from Denmark and want to make this tomorrow. I just want to clarify if “blend” means putting everything in a blender, or just mixing everything up, with a whisk or something like that?

    1. Hi Nanna,
      Yes you want to blend it in a blender for best result. You could use a whisk but you’ll need to make sure that it’s combined as very best as possible. Enjoy!

    1. I think you should have another, how much you’ll end up using of both will depend on the size of your baking dish and how many layers you want. Enjoy!

  4. 5 stars
    My friends and family absolutely LOVE this dessert. It is delectable using the recipe just as is, but the second time I made it, I did 2 minor changes that made it easier. First, instead of Maria cookies, I used rectangular tea biscuits, whose shape made it easier to fully and evenly cover the baking dish. And second, I added 4 ounces of softened cream cheese to the filling, which helped make the filling a bit more solid. Thank you again for sharing this amazing dessert with us!

  5. My Niece makes this in the summer but she adds peaches and it is SOO GOOD!! One of my favorite desserts!

  6. Did you ever try making this in short straight sided glasses for individual servings? Its sounds almost like an english truffle. Mexican deliciousness.

    1. Hi Carol,
      I have not but it should work perfectly as individual servings. Would be such a fun way to present it. Thank you!

  7. 5 stars
    My husband made this for a family gathering. It was delicious. We did not make any changes. He also told me about five times that it was the easiest dish ever. We both enjoyed the last couple bites for breakfast the next day.

    1. Thank you Johanna! I’m so happy you enjoyed the carlota as much as I do. I’ve also been know to have a piece for breakfast 🙂

  8. Your recipe repeatedly refers to condensed milk, not sweetened condensed milk, yet your photos of what ingredients you need includes a picture of sweetened condensed milk. So, which is it?

    1. Hi Julie! Condensed milk and sweetened condensed milk are the same ingredient. The recipe uses this milk plus evaporated milk. Thanks

      1. I’m looking forward to making this tomorrow but I’m worried about the size of cans of condensed and evaporated milk. The condensed milk is 300ml but evaporated milk is 354ml. Are those the sizes the recipe calls for? Thanks!

        1. Hi Shelley!
          Sorry for the delayed reply, but in case you haven’t made it yet, yes those are the correct size cans for both the milks. Thank you and enjoy!

  9. 5 stars
    Love LOVE this recipe! It’s so easy to make. I have made it several times and everyone always loves it!! I love delicious, no brainer recipes because a baker I’m not.

  10. 5 stars
    Hands down, BEST Carlota recipe ever!! I’ve made it 3 times already and plan on it for mother’s day this year. 10 stars!!

  11. 5 stars
    What I love about Mexican key lime ice box cake is that it’s no-bake cake.:) And it only needs only 5 ingredients. Perfect!:)

  12. 5 stars
    What a great dessert for summer entertaining. I love limes. This cake is just what I need for my next bbq party.

  13. 5 stars
    I can’t believe how easy this was a to make, feels like cheating when making a dessert! The creamy lime flavor was a hit with the kids, will definitely make this again!

  14. 5 stars
    My father in law is a lover of key lime anything and he’s visiting this Thursday. I think I have found my Cinco de Mayo dessert for our fiesta!!

  15. 5 stars
    We love lime flavored desserts, but have never had this carlota de limon before. It was so sweet and tart and absolutely perfect for us.

  16. 5 stars
    This cake is so delicious and it has so many delicious flavors for summer! Ice box cakes are my favorite for summer! Thanks for your recipe!

  17. 5 stars
    This was so simple to put together! The flavor was sooo… good. We will be making this again this summer for sure.

  18. 5 stars
    This sounds and looks amazing! I’m always in need of easy, no-bake treats for the summer and I cannot wait to make this. We love key lime pie so I know this will be a hit with everyone too!

  19. 5 stars
    This was delicious. Melt in the mouth creamy but zingy from the lime. The whole family loved it, which is hard with 5 kids!!!
    I used rectangular tea biscuits as that is all I could find, but I think that made it a bit easier to layer! GREAT RECIPE!

  20. 5 stars
    I made this today as written and my husband loved it. I’m not a fan of limes so I used lemons instead and it was so good!! I was afraid it may not set up but after 5 hours it was firm and so good!!

  21. 5 stars
    I have to confess, I am not a huge fan of Carlotas. Or at least I wasn’t. Growing up in Mexico it was a very common dessert to get at parties or at family gatherings. Probably because it’s a very simple recipe with few ingredients and no oven needed. My kids and husband love dessert specially baked goods. It’s been hot this summer so I don’t bake when it’s too hot outside. One night they were complaining how I haven’t made any dessert in a while. Scrolling through social media your recipe poped up on my news feed so I decided to give it a try. The next morning I went grocery shopping and got all the ingredients, I made it after lunch and set it in the fridge. We had unexpected guest that ended up staying for dinner. I served the Carlota for dessert and it was a hit, we all loved it. My friend liked it so much that she ended up taking the left overs and had me sent her the link to your recipe. This Carlota is light and refreshing super easy to make and just perfect for these hot summer days.

    1. This is so wonderful to hear. thank you so much for sharing this. I’m thrilled that you are now a fan of carlota de limon. Keep enjoying it!

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