a table topped with pies and other desserts
Barbara Cockerham’s Key lime pie topped with meringue. SAMANTHA DELLILO/Keys Weekly

A message I get quite often is, “Where can I find the best Key lime pie in the Keys?” Can I let you in on a little secret: They all taste slightly the same to me. 

Yes, some are better than others, but they are all in the same realm. Being born and raised in the Keys, I’ve grown sort of jaded to the whole Key lime pie obsession many seem to have. Few, if any, have wowed me. That is, until now. 

After 34 years on this earth, I have finally tasted a real Key lime pie I swear has awakened a love for this dessert I’ve never had before. I stumbled upon the most divine Key lime pie I ever had, crafted by none other than a lifelong local right here in our beloved town. She goes by the name Key Lime Pie Lady; others know her as Barbara Cockerham. She used to own the much-missed Ma’s Fish Camp restaurant with her partner, Mike Burgreen, from 2008 to 2017. She tells me back when the restaurant was open, she couldn’t make the pies fast enough for their customers to enjoy. 

She makes every pie size you can imagine, from 10-inch to miniature individual pie bites. You can even order Key lime pies in adorable wedding tins with custom stickers as a party favor. The one I decided to try first was her “old school” meringue-topped Key lime pie. Cockerham explained the reason she keeps this on the menu is because “the Conchs of the Keys enjoy the nostalgia from the tall sweet meringue paired with just tart enough filling.” 

So, what makes this slice of heaven so extraordinary? Listen, I don’t know how else to say this but this Key lime pie was an absolute vision. It was the most gorgeous dessert I’ve ever seen. Glorious, I tell you. Tall as the eye can see with little peaks of meringue impeccably toasted to different hues of golden brown. Still my hopes weren’t as high as the meringue since I’m not a huge Key lime pie lover. I cut out a slice and immediately noticed how Cockerham’s meringue didn’t have the normal cooked “eggy” look with air pockets. 

She attributes her superb meringue to elbow grease and a couple of trade secrets. Whatever it is she does results in a cool, creamy vanilla cloud nesting on top of your slice. I took a bite. Wowzah. I tasted actual Key limes, not limes, not cheap bottles of lime juice, but Key limes. I don’t know where she gets her Key lime juice supply but never change it. 

Typically, Key lime pies burn the back of my throat with an over-the-top condensed milk taste, but this tasted like Islamorada on a plate. A slice of sunshine, if you will. I pictured the Key Lime Pie lady baking away under the swaying palms and salt-kissed air, giving each pie little compliments before they make their way to the oven. The crust, which she meticulously hand-crafts herself for every single pie by the way, was delicate and buttery. It was firm and stout, acting as the foundation of the dessert from plate to fork, but the minute you bite into it, it simply crumbled oh-so-perfectly. The velvety filling was bursting with the tangy essence of actual Key limes. It was quite literally the scientific definition of a harmonious balance of tart and sweet. 

What truly sets this Key lime pie apart from the thousands offered down here is the dedication and devotion poured into every step of its creation. The Key Lime Pie Lady infuses each pie with a labor of passion, ensuring every slice is a little love letter from her to the Florida Keys. So, dear locals, if you find yourself yearning for a taste of euphoria, look no further than our own backyard. Head to keylimepielady.com to check out a list of retail stores to get your fix ASAP or text 305-393-0278 to put in a custom order for something like that marvelous mile-high-meringue Key lime pie. 

Key lime pie isn’t just a dessert down here, it’s a culinary icon deeply ingrained in our island’s history. Thank you, Key Lime Pie Lady, for sparking my love for my hometown’s quintessential sweet treat.

Samantha Dellilo
Samantha Dellilo has been in the Keys since she was 1 day old, so definitely consider her a Conch. Holding a passion for food since she can remember, while most kids were watching Barney, she was watching Emeril. "Being half Cuban and half Italian, food in those cultures is considered a love language. It's a total experience whether eating out or cooking." She's been with her other half, Marky, going on 17 years. The two met when they were 9 years old at Key Largo School. Samantha owns Florida Keys Eats, which is a blog of "must eat, must see, and must dos" from Key Largo to Key West.