This is a story about how a failed Lemon Pie turned into No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake Squares. Grab a snack and settle in.
It was a hot Saturday afternoon, and so far my day had been crap. Anything and everything that could go wrong, did. Four lemons were staring at me from their perch in the kitchen, nagging me. “Use us before we go bad” they were saying (well, I think – they are just lemons after all). I racked my brain thinking of how I could use them – lemonade? Tarts? Some sort of sauce? Then I remembered I had pie crusts in the freezer – I could make a lemon pie! Should be easy enough, right?
So off I go, hunting for a recipe online hoping I could find something that was easy (I did mention it was a hot Saturday and I was lazy but determined). Lo and behold I found one, and it was scary easy (after I ignored the part about the crust – I already have a crust remember). Apparently, all I had to do was toss some ingredients in a blender, pour into the crust and bake.
I was excited, but should have known it was too good to be true. I happily, and quickly, put together the pie, popped that baby in the oven, set a timer and resumed to losing myself in episodes of Cake Wars on Amazon Prime.
A short time later I check on the pie – it appears to be done! The crust is nice and golden (from the part I can see) and I guessed the lemon curd was cooked (the top had actually browned a bit – is that supposed to happen??) So I take the pie out and leave it on a cooling rack. After a few minutes I got super impatient waiting for it to cool – I wanted to take pictures for my blog! I decided to try and take the pie out of the tin thing (actually what it’s called) so it will cool faster.
This is where my problems began (really they began as soon as I grabbed the lemons, but I digress). I start to cut away the tin thing, as from experience I know the frozen pie crusts are far too delicate to just be lifted out. As I’m carefully cutting away, the crust starts to crumble. I grumble.
Trying to be even more so careful, I keep cutting. Then I see it. The sides, and the bottom from what I could see, were raw. WTF’s were running through my head. But it was cooked! I thought to myself, grumbling some more. OF COURSE this would happen, on the day when nothing could seem to go right. I slowly and carefully cut away some more tin thing – maybe it was a trick of the light! Alas, no it was not. The pie was raw. But if I were to put it back in the oven, other parts would burn. I was so frustrated. I abandoned the pie and returned, withdrawn, to the safety of my couch.
I felt defeated. I text a friend to complain. I whined. I felt defeated. A lemon pie had got the better of me. That was it.
Some time passed. I couldn’t help but ponder – I wonder what the lemon curd at least tastes like? So I got up, left the safety of my couch, grabbed a spoon, scraped the brown top off the curd (seriously – is it supposed to do that?) and what was underneath was breathtaking. Beautiful, bright yellow, lemon curd. I tasted it – expectations low, given on what had been my day so far – but, guys – it was SO GOOD. Tangy. Sweet. Delicious. I could not let this go to waste! I could save this day!
I immediately grabbed my phone and started Googling “what to do with lemon curd”. A lot of options turned up. A lot of them time consuming and difficult. I wanted something easy. And hopefully with ingredients I had on hand. And then I found it – No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake Squares. There was no baking involved, so I wouldn’t be able to mess this up – right? I did a quick inventory of ingredients. I had everything I needed but Cool Whip. Easy enough – I text my husband and asked him to pick up some on his way home.
The waiting took forever. Felt like days. Finally, my husband called me – the store he went to did not have any Cool Whip. This was it. This was the end. I decided, begrudgingly, that I would walk to the store first thing the next morning to obtain Cool Whip and I would just have to wait until then to make them. I sat in sad silence on the safety of my couch.
After a few minutes I decided – screw it – I was not letting this day get the better of me. I WILL make those No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake Squares, gosh darn it! Even if I have to walk to the grocery store tonight! I advised my husband of the situation (he had just gotten home) and he graciously offered to drive me to the store so I could obtain the ever-eluding Cool Whip. IT WAS HAPPENING.
We rushed to our closest grocery store, I masked up (we are still in the middle of a pandemic, let’s not forget) and went in the store. I bee-lined it for the frozen section – I knew exactly where the Cool Whip should be – between the ice cream and frozen waffles. As I approach, I panic slightly. The freezer was looking oddly empty. I rush up to the doors and fling them open. And let out a huge sigh of relief. There on the bottom shelf, were several tubs of Cool Whip. I quickly grab two (you know, just in case), rush through self-checkout and back to the car.
I gleefully squealed as I tell my husband I have successfully obtained the Cool Whip. The entire 5-minute car ride home was filled with glee – my day was finally turning around! I got home, unpacked the Cool Whip and read the container (as one does with an unfamiliar ingredient – I’ve never used Cool Whip before, believe it or not). There it was – it takes 4-5 hours to thaw in the fridge. It was already after 6:00 p.m. – was I going to have to wait until 11:00 p.m. to make these bars?! No, I decided, I was not. Rules and recommendations out the window, I let it thaw on the counter for a couple of hours.
It was 8:00 p.m. and I could FINALLY start making these no-bake cheesecake bars! Thankfully, the steps were pretty simple. Mix graham crumbs with melted butter, let chill while you mix the cheesecake (cream cheese, cool whip and sugar), then layer the cheese cake mixture on top of the graham cracker crust, then layer the lemon curd and top with more Cool Whip.
I felt really good by the time I was done. I turned a pretty miserable day into a good one – I was insanely determined not to let the day get the best of me. I’m sure there’s a lesson here somewhere – never give up? Too cliché? .
Since you’ve read this far, you deserve some drool-worthy photographs of No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake Bars!
Have you ever just had one of those days where nothing could go right, but you were determined to turn it around?
ETA: Thank you to the reader who messaged me to advise me that I accidentally called Cool Whip “Miracle Whip” throughout my story. I have now fixed it. I assure you I did not make these with mayonnaise.