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.
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.
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!
Table of Contents
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
- 1 baking dish*
- 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
- 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.
- 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).
- 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!
- 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.
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.
- Easy Guava and Cheese Empanadas Recipe
- Pastel de Chocolate Mexicano or Mexican Chocolate Cake
- Healthy Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips
- How to Make Rainbow Churros
- Lime Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- How to Make Cajeta (Easy Mexican Dulce de Leche)
- Concha Strawberry Shortcake or Stuffed Concha Recipe
- Calabaza En Tacha or Mexican Candied Pumpkin
- Mexican Sweet Potatoes | Camotes Enmielados
- Marranitos or Puerquitos: Mexican Piloncillo Spiced Cookies
- Dairy Free Donuts (Easy Baked Vegan Donuts Recipe)
- Fresas con Crema
- Vegan Fresas con Crema
- Easy Mango Ice Cream Recipe | No Churn
- Easy Vegan Arroz con Leche Recipe (Mexican Rice Pudding)
Nancy Lopez is a food blogger and author of the cookbook Mexican Tamales Made Meatless. Born in Mexico, raised in the US, and currently living in Southern Mexico, she has followed a meatless diet for almost 10 years. It is her passion and mission to share all she has learned about vegan Mexican cooking and vegetarian Mexican recipes. Mexican Made Meatless is a blog dedicated to preserving the authentic flavors of Mexican cuisine just without the meat. It’s a place to celebrate Mexican culture and all it’s delightfully delicious traditional foods. Read more…