RECIPE: Make Matthews Cafeteria’s Lemon Ice Box Pie

Matthews Cafeteria’s Lemon Ice Box Pie.
(Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
Matthews Cafeteria’s Lemon Ice Box Pie. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Matthews Cafeteria in Tucker has a Lemon Ice Box Pie that my family raves about. We would love it if you could get us their recipe.

Viola Pealock, Sugar Hill

Michael Greene, chef and co-owner of Matthews Cafeteria with his wife, Jenna, was happy to share the recipe. He laughed when he gave it to us, saying it’s really the recipe that’s been on the back of a can of Carnation sweetened condensed milk for the past 66 years.

One thing he said might concern some readers, and guests at the restaurant, is that the pie includes uncooked eggs. But he’s looked at the science and said the filling actually cooks — the acid in the lemon juice “cooking” the egg yolks — as it sits in the ice box. He said you can see the texture changing while whisking the filling together and then the refrigerator finishes the process.

This is a quick recipe to prepare because it calls for a store-bought graham cracker crust. Greene is partial to Keebler, but said that you can substitute your favorite brand, or make your own if you wish.

At the cafeteria, they top the pie with a meringue made using meringue powder available online and at specialty shops like Cake Art in Tucker. Greene prefers that to a meringue made with fresh egg whites since it makes a more stable meringue that doesn’t weep and doesn’t develop sugar spots as it sits. We’ve adapted the recipe to use the leftover egg whites, but if you want the Matthews experience, you’ll want to pick up some meringue powder and follow the directions on the package.

Greene said that another option is to top the pie with whipped cream instead of meringue and then toast an extra graham cracker crust and crumble some of it over the whipped cream.

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Matthews Cafeteria’s Lemon Ice Box Pie.
(Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
Matthews Cafeteria’s Lemon Ice Box Pie. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Matthews Cafeteria’s Lemon Ice Box Pie
  • Purchased 9-inch graham cracker crust
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put crust in hot oven and bake 4 to 5 minutes to crisp it up. Remove from oven and allow to cool before filling.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together condensed milk, lemon juice and egg yolks. Pour into cooled crust. Let pie sit, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
  • A few hours before serving, heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a bowl and using a hand mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar and whip until meringue forms stiff peaks. Spread meringue over the pie from edge to edge. Bake until the meringue browns slightly, 15 to 20 minutes. Chill again, at least 2 hours, before serving. Serves 8.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 328 calories (percent of calories from fat, 32), 7 grams protein, 49 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 12 grams total fat (4 grams saturated), 87 milligrams cholesterol, 198 milligrams sodium.

From the menu of...Matthews Cafeteria, 2299 Main St., Tucker. 770-939-2357, matthewscafeteria.net.

Is there a recipe from a metro Atlanta restaurant you’d like to make at home? Tell us and we’ll try to get it. We’ll also test it and adapt it for the home kitchen. Because of volume, we can’t answer all inquiries. Send your request, your address and phone number to fromthemenu@gmail.com and put “From the menu of” and the name of the restaurant in the subject line.

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