Make Ahead

Pumpkin Cream Pie

September 14, 2021
37 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 2 hours
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Makes 1 (9-inch) pie
Author Notes

It’s pumpkin pie, just not the one you’d expect. This cream pie-ified rendition features a gingery graham cracker crust, pumpkin pastry cream, and a sour cream–spiked whipped cream. A few ways to make this in advance: Prepare the pastry cream up to three days in advance; just cover with plastic, refrigerate, and whisk well to smooth out before filling the crust. Make the crust, fill with pastry cream, and keep in the fridge for up to one day. Morning-of, top with the whipped cream. —Emma Laperruque

Test Kitchen Notes

This is one of the best make-ahead pumpkin pie recipes you can make during the fall, especially to close out a holiday dinner like Thanksgiving. Featuring a pumpkin pastry cream, graham cracker crust, and sour cream whipped cream, this pie evokes the aromas and flavors of autumn like nothing else can. For the best results, leave the cream filling in the refrigerator overnight to make sure that it sets fully. You and your guests won't be able to get enough of this one.

Cream pies may not scream "fall" to you, but the developer of the recipe, Emma Laperruque, would highly disagree. She writes: "Cream pies are often seen as summery, but I’m here to say loud and proud that I’ve eaten a cream pie every month of the year and enjoyed every one. At the bakery where I used to work, we always had a cream pie in rotation. During the summer, the type relied on in-season fruit, like peaches or blackberries, which we’d layer with vanilla pastry cream. During colder months, we had to get creative—say, a malted-banana number or cayenne-spiced chocolate pudding. Likewise, this recipe takes a summery template and makes it Thanksgiving-y as heck."

And keep this in mind when you're prepping, in terms of the timing and how long you need to make this recipe: "The pie needs to chill before it’s sliced and served. Call it your excuse to get dessert out of the way beforehand and have more fun on the holiday itself—a sweet idea, indeed." —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Pumpkin Cream Pie
  • Pumpkin Pastry Cream
  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin purée
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Gingery Graham Cracker Crust
  • 12 graham crackers (about 6½ ounces), processed into crumbs
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more as needed
  • Sour Cream–Whipped Cream
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  1. Make the pumpkin pastry cream: In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and pumpkin. Set on the stove over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until just starting to steam. Meanwhile, in a medium heatproof bowl, combine the egg yolks, brown sugar, cornstarch, salt, and pumpkin pie spice; whisk until smooth. When the pumpkin-milk is hot, add a small splash to the sugar-egg mixture. Whisk to combine. Add another small splash and whisk to combine. Continue this process until you’ve added about three-quarters of the pumpkin-milk. Now pour the tempered sugar-egg mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium to medium-low heat, whisking slowly but constantly (making sure to scrape along the edges, too), until the mixture thickens like a dense pudding, with your whisk leaving a distinct trail. (This took me about 6 minutes, but it can significantly vary by your stove.) Remove from the heat. Add the butter and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Press the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof bowl. Cover the top with plastic wrap to avoid a skin forming, then refrigerate until cool.
  2. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch pie pan with butter.
  3. Make the gingery graham cracker crust: In a medium bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, brown sugar, ginger, and salt. Pour the melted butter on top. Mix until the crumbs are completely moistened. If you grab a palmful of the mixture and gently squeeze, it should easily hold together (but not seem overly saturated or greasy). If it doesn’t hold together, add another tablespoon of melted butter or even water, mix, and test again.
  4. Press the cracker mixture into the greased pie pan, evenly distributing along the bottom and up the sides (a measuring cup really helps here). Bake for about 13 minutes, until the crust is browned. Let cool at room temperature, then freeze for at least 30 minutes before filling with the pastry cream (this makes filling it a lot easier and neater).
  5. Make the sour cream whipped cream: In a medium bowl, whisk the sour cream and brown sugar until smooth. Add the cream and whisk until soft-ish peaks form. You want it a little stiffer than you would for, say, dolloping on top of a sundae, because the pie needs to cut cleanly without the whipped cream slouching all over.
  6. Assemble the pie: Fill the just-frozen graham cracker crust with all the pumpkin pastry cream, spreading evenly to completely fill the crust. Top with the whipped cream. Using a spoon or offset spatula, create swoops and swirls. Chill for at least 1 hour or up to 18 hours before serving. Sprinkle with more pumpkin pie spice just before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jen Sorenson
    Jen Sorenson
  • Sweet__Kate
  • Lisa Powers
    Lisa Powers
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

61 Reviews

Jen S. November 24, 2023
I am a good cook and home baker, so I am totally puzzled by what went wrong here. The crust has way too much salt. The pastry cream came together, but needs a bit more sugar, in my opinion. The whipped cream was also under-sweet. Separately, everyone was doing the correct texture thing and then BOOM, disaster. I don't know if it was the chemical combination, but after hours chilling, and perfect texture as separate entities, the pie was soup. It made a mess, and the under sweet filling with the salty crust ... I cried a little, actually. I would suggest experimenting with the recipe and not relying on it to work and taste good as written.
aitkenmail November 20, 2023
Serious bakers weigh ingredients. It's precise. It's easy and a lot less messy. Plus leaves less room for error. Please start listing ingredients in grams.
sam I. October 30, 2023
I was originally planning not to make the crust even before I read the comments about it not working out to save time so I bought the graham cracker crust. The pumpkin base turned out good (I followed other peoples comments to use half the corn starch, twice the pumpkin spice, and to let it sit for a minute to bubble and let the before adding the vanilla and butter so that it sets. The sour-whipped cream did nit work out well for me.. I was using lactose free sour cream and heavy cream so that may be why it never formed "soft peaks" so I ended up buying some extra creamy cool whip and used the rest of my sour cream on a 1:3 ratio and it worked out perfect. Have not actually tried the pie yet (it is on its fist hour of chilling now) but the components were good tasting and the right texture/thickness separately. I am super excited to try!
Elle C. October 28, 2023
This is a delicious pie and a nice change from classic pumpkin pie. It’s DIVINE in flavor and texture. Two years ago I test baked this and my favorite classic pumpkin pie recipe at Halloween. I never risk new recipes on Thanksgiving. And this was so good it nearly unseated the classic one entirely! We shall see - at thanksgiving I make lattice crust apple pie and a pecan pie - so having a cream pie is a nice balance.
Maria E. December 29, 2022
Someone at food 52 needs to seriously remove this recipe once and for all! I made this failed recipe over three years ago. I’m amazed every time I get an alert with a comment about how much of a failure this pie was for other people. So many other great recipes on food 52 that are yummy and successful… No need for this one. Please remove!!!
Sweet__Kate December 29, 2022
Lol - I totally agree! BUT, with appropriate modifications and practice, this pie is the BEST. I have made it successfully 4 times, and I will ALWAYS make it for Thanksgiving. FOREVER. It is SO good when made correctly. What really needs to happen is the author @EmmaLaperruque needs to edit the recipe to do it justice. Meanwhile, I am a little entertained by everyone's failed attempt. Always. READ. The. COMMENTS. Before trying a new recipe on the internet...
j9schaefer December 29, 2022
Well, here’s a brand new experience for you for the new year! A comment about how much I loved it and I’m adding it to my yearly pie recipes! Happy 2023!
Cheri November 19, 2023
Tell us your successful modifications! Inquiring minds need to know ;-)
rsgreen December 29, 2022
Made this pie early this week closely following the recipe. The filling thickened but would not set enough for slicing. I expected it to be a flop, to be served (if at all) in a bowl with a spoon. I attributed the failure to set to having used homemade puree thinking it was too wet despite having drained in a sieve. As a last resort, I put the pie in the freezer removing it about twenty minutes before serving. As a frozen pie it was delicious and a big hit. I would make it again AS A FROZEN PIE1
Sweet__Kate December 29, 2022
Nope. Not the pumpkin is likely that your creme patisserie did not set, because the author failed to write the recipe correctly. If you follow these directions, the pie will set:
rsgreen January 1, 2023
Thanks for the heads up. I'll try it with your changes next time.
Irene November 30, 2022
When I start to think I'm a decent cook, Thanksgiving rolls around, and then the elusive pumpkin pie brings me back to Earth. There's the hideous crack, the overly browned spots, the crust shrinkage, etc...and every year I learn something that I might tweak the following year or just use a different recipe entirely. I don't know, maybe pumpkin just doesn't like to play with me. I think what most folks are hoping for on Thanksgiving, a holiday where hosting is stressful enough, is a fool-proof recipe allowing the freedom to be able to follow it to the T (nod to the goddess that is Samin Nosrat)--not accounting for the adjustments based on personal preference e.g., less sugar, more salt, +/- spice--without catastrophic effects. What I think is the most offensive part of *this* recipe as-is is the ungodly amount of cornstarch. When I think of pastry cream, I think Tartine's lovely, oozy banana cream pie. If a pie is going to be like jello, then why call it pumpkin cream? It should just be filed under another pumpkin pie or more aptly, pumpkin jello pie. LOL. I tried this recipe again with some of @Sweet__Kate's recommendations and even less cornstarch (35 g to be exact). It's great, but it's not THIS recipe as originally written. Isn't that why the internet must have 10,000 roasted cauliflower recipes and still counting? Now who can offer tips with the crust? My hunch is the recipe calls for too much butter. I embrace the pecans and additional spices, but this crust won't stay in place to save my life, even with a tamper. It literally becomes hot lava, running down the sides and pools at the bottom of the pan. 9" pancake, anyone? I'll be enjoying my pumpkin jello "in a bowl" with broken graham cracker pecan cookies sprinkled on top. A new way to enjoy pumpkin, so there's that!
Irene November 30, 2022
*typo: 25 g, not 35 g.
Jay B. November 24, 2022
I followed this recipe to a T. Emma definitely held back on how to successfully make this pie. The sour cream in the whip cream just turned it to liquid. And forget about the pumpkin filling. It never set so basically ended up with literal pudding pie. Never breaking pumpkin pie tradition again. Thanks Em. No Thanksgiving dessert this year.
j9schaefer November 24, 2022
Man people are real mad about this! I made this yesterday (albeit with the corn starch lessened to 3tbs) with my kids (8 and 6) and it was a SMASH HIT! And when I say most of our measurements were approximate, I mean at least a few spoonfuls got splattered out of every mixture, and it still turned out great! Thank you so much!!!
AmyWirth November 24, 2022
I know! I’ve made it multiple times, following the recipe and never had any trouble with it. It performed as expected, didn’t produce any of the poor results others have mentioned, and is frequently requested by my family. I guess we chalk this one up to YMMV and don’t judge a recipe by its reviews.
Pokejon! November 25, 2022
Right?! It’s so good! I’ve made it once before and made it again for thanksgiving and it turned out great. Maybe we just lucked out? Maybe the pumpkin Gods have shined on us? Either way it’s going in my recipe book for keeps :)
IDon'tWantOne November 25, 2022
It would be irresponsible to not "judge" a recipe for its reviews. People are stating their honest opinions as I stated mine. Since most reviewers had to make many adjustments? It is irresponsible for a food site to post a flawed and inaccurate recipe and expect people to blindly follow without commenting, if appropriate.
IDon'tWantOne November 25, 2022
I'm glad that you found the recipe to be satisfactory for you and your family. However, you DID admit to adjusting a major ingredient which again, proves the comments that the recipe is indeed, flawed and absolutely should be either removed or corrected to reflect the inaccurate measurements, ingredients and processes.
AmyWirth November 25, 2022
I didn’t adjust a thing. I’ve made it multiple times without problems. I’m a very experienced baker, so I may understand the techniques or chemistry better. Who knows. I was being tongue in cheek when I said not to judge a recipe by its reviews, but seriously, why would you trust other people’s reviews more than your own gut or how good you think it looks. If we all did that no one would ever try anything new or take risks in the kitchen.
Pokejon! November 25, 2022
The reality is all recipes are jumping off points. We alter them to suit our tastes and desires. The recipe works as is, but the joy of cooking is discovering how it works for you :)
j9schaefer November 25, 2022
Nowhere did I say you couldn’t comment? I’m glad some people did so I could get the community suggestion to use 3tbs of cornstarch. My point was that the level of vitriol is truly out of pocket. Which is it.
AmyWirth November 25, 2022
Haha. I was responding to someone’s response to my reply. We’ve gone beyond the bounds of threading that this comment section can handle. We’re in agree- carry on!
IDon'tWantOne November 25, 2022
I'm a chef Amy so I do have experience. I trust opinions and read them for opinions, for any changes, for suggestions. In other words, I have an open mind. This recipe is iressponsible and flawed. Period.
Pokejon! November 26, 2022
I’m confused by your anger. The recipe works. You are a chef, yes, but are you a dessert chef or an avid baker? I have worked in restaurants for 15 years and know many lovely chefs who aren’t necessarily marvels when it comes to dessert. This is a recipe of patience. Even if it didn’t set it would taste good, just serve it in a bowl haha. Not every make is a success, it does not mean you have to crucify the recipe. Failures in the kitchen are part of life. Enjoy them! Use them! So many of our most wonderful foods are mistakes :)
j9schaefer November 26, 2022
I’m loving my new thanksgiving tradition of getting tipsy and arguing with people on recipe sites! I love the way you think about cooking, using recipes as a jumping off point and using your own gut at certain points. I’ve been cooking with my kids so they can experience the failure of a cook gone bad and how to pívot and it’s been like 80% successful (if I can keep my s together lol) Hope you had a good holiday! <3
Suzanne B. November 23, 2022
How sad to see that this mess of a recipe is still on the food52 site. Do us all a favor, accept that it was NEVER properly tested and remove it!!!! Happy thanksgiving everyone and thank goodness there are 100’s of other sites for thanksgiving recipes!
Irene November 23, 2022
I wish I read the reviews before I attempted to make it and turned out a shiny, unappetizing looking pumpkin jello. Cornstarch needs to be added by weight, not volume...The range of cornstarch that one could add, even if the author had mentioned sifted or packed or something more in the appropriate range, would still be highly variable. Use WEIGHT for baking. But yes, this recipe is a no-go!
IDon'tWantOne November 5, 2022
This is an incredibly irresponsible recipe post. The author made so many mistakes and for those people wanting to make a lovely dessert? It's mostly an epic fail. It's tasteless, too much cornstarch, the topping is not flavorful, adding WATER to the pie crust if needed? Not mentioning the fact that the butter needs to be melted for the pie crust portion. Do NOT freeze the crust. Here's my suggestions. Find another recipe. This one is incredibly flawed and let me direct this to those that tried to make this mess for Thanksgiving? My apologies from my kitchen to yours!
Irene November 23, 2022
YES! 100% Agree.
Pokejon! October 16, 2022
I made this pie yesterday and I think it’s wonderful! I made one mistake but I think it actually worked in my favor: I used a whole 15 oz can of pumpkin purée instead of 3/4 cup for the pumpkin cream. Careless mistake but it made the cream perfectly pumpkin-y and I think it actually helped it set better. It’s still soft and light, but incorporates a bit more of that autumnal flavor that makes pumpkin so beloved. Thanks so much for the yummo recipe :) When I make it again I might amp up the spices a bit, but overall I think it’s a smash!
Sweet__Kate November 13, 2021
This recipe could be 5 stars, AND it is still worth making. After reading the reviews and suggestions AND after reading Serious Eats' "How to Make Pastry Creme" - I was able to confidently modify the pumpkin creme pat to a better flavor and texture. Here are all of my modifications: I added 1/2 C. pecans and 1 tsp. of cinnamon into the food processor with the graham crackers for the crust. I used 1 C. pumpkin puree (twice baked squash puree), I used 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (1/2 tsp. is WAY too little), I added 1/4 tsp. cardamon for a little chai spice flavor, and I used 5 Tbs. corn starch (I can't believe the recipe author stands by her 1/2 C. - unnecessarily excessive) - the extra pumpkin and spice bring it to Thanksgiving-Dessert-Level. I had to trouble-shoot my creme pat twice and it still turned out - use Google if it isn't right. I added 1 tsp. vanilla to the whipped cream, and I wished I had added another Tbs. of brown sugar - it needed to be just a touch sweeter IMO. I practiced this in advance to see if it was worth bringing to Thanksgiving, and it definitely is.
Sweet__Kate November 13, 2021
Also - I DID strain my creme pat to get some clumps and larger spice bits out. It made a big difference, and it came out nice and smooth.
Kelly4yr November 2, 2021
I would not recommend this one. It took forever with so many steps and a lot of waiting. There was also a step about straining the filling through a sieve that was frustrating and in the end, not a single clump was left behind so it was just an exercise in time waste. The pie tasted good but the whipped cream was bland and tasteless. If you make this, make sure you have a lot of time to do it + don't do the sieve step + make your whipped cream from another recipe that includes powdered sugar so it will at least have taste. I won't be making this one again.
hotelalfalima October 23, 2021
Amazing! It came out perfectly and is now one of my favorite pies ever. Love the sour cream whipped cream. I halved the corn starch and let the mixture bubble for a minute - this deactivates the amylase enzyme in the egg. If it doesn't get hot enough the amylase will dissolve the starch and make the filling runny.
Steve November 17, 2021
This comment needs to be a part of the recipe. Love the explanation (outside of just the typical “need to activate the cornstarch” or “cook till thick”) which is WHY 1/2 cup is way too much. You have to boil/bring to bubbling for a minute. Otherwise just cooking till thick won’t allow the filling to fully set.
Beasti November 25, 2021
Why oh why didn’t I read your comments first? Mine never set. What a waste. Bubbling for one minute is a perfect explanation.
Suzanne B. January 3, 2021
1/2 cup of cornstarch. Yikes!!! Way way way too gummy and tastes like corn starch. Ugh. And this is an all time food52 fave!!! Seriously? Oh well you can’t win em all. Definitely NOT A WINNER.....
Lori M. December 28, 2020
Move over regular pumpkin pie, there’s a new Thanksgiving dessert traditionBased on other reviews, I made the following modifications and the pie turned out perfectly. 3 tablespoon of cornstarch made a creamy filling. I cooked on medium low heat for 12 minutes while constantly stirring. It slowly bubbled if I stopped stirring to give you an idea of heat needed to activate the cornstarch. I also doubled the pumpkin the pumpkin pie spice to kick up the flavor. Thanks for such a great recipe!
Maria E. November 26, 2020
Sounded sooo good...but was so disappointed 😞...made exactly as directed yet found the custard never set up even after a full 24 hours chilling and was messy as well as not pumpkiny at all! The only thing tasty about this recipe was the crust
Lisa P. November 15, 2020
Question: typically, a pastry cream calls fir the custard to boil or simmer. This does not. Do we want it to reach simmer stage?
Emma L. November 16, 2020
Hey Lisa P! I've found that when and how much a pastry cream bubbles fluctuates a lot, so I rely more on the mixture visually thickening, but simmering can be another good indicator that the cornstarch is activating.
Lisa P. November 21, 2020
Thank you!
Beasti November 25, 2021
From Martha Stewart:
Gradually whisk in remaining milk mixture. Return entire mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until bubbling in center, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Immediately whisk in pumpkin. Whisk in butter.

From now on I only go to Martha for recipes.