Best Sugar Cream Pie

November  2, 2022
0 Ratings
Photo by MJ Kroeger
  • Prep time 6 hours 20 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 8-10
Author Notes

Unless you’re from the Midwest, you may not have heard of sugar cream pie. Also known as Hoosier or desperation pie, this sweet treat holds the unofficial title of Indiana’s state pie. It’s said that the shaker communities developed this recipe in the early 1800s when they didn’t have fresh fruit but had plenty of dairy to use up.

Like many recipes that have been passed down through generations, there are a few different methods to make sugar cream pie, but the common thread is that eggs are omitted from the recipe. The first and easiest (trust me, I tested this pie a whopping twelve times!) involves cornstarch. The other is to start with a roux, which instinctually I prefer, but it’s incredibly hard to get the pie to set. While this pie is on the sweet side—the name is sugar cream pie, after all—I’ve cut down the sugar to make it a bit more balanced. A whole vanilla bean adds a wonderful, perfumed essence to the pie, but if you don’t have one swap in one teaspoon of extract.
Alexis deBoschnek

What You'll Need
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust, rolled out into a pie tin and chilled in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean pod, split, seeds scraped
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  1. Heat the oven to 375˚F and position a rack in the center. Prick the bottom and sides of the pie dough with a fork. Place a piece of parchment paper over the crust and fill all the way to the top with pie weights, dried beans, or rice. Bake the pie crust until it is pale golden around the edges, about 20 minutes.
  2. Remove the pie crust from the oven and carefully remove the parchment paper, transferring the pie weights to a heatproof bowl. Whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon of water to a small bowl. Brush the crust all over with the egg wash (you will not use it all). Return the crust to the oven and continue baking until lightly golden and dry to the touch, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 325˚F.
  4. Place the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium pot and whisk to combine. Add the heavy cream and scraped vanilla bean pod and its seeds to the pot and place over medium-high heat. Whisk to combine until the sugar dissolves, bringing the mixture to a boil. Once the mixture begins to boil, continue whisking until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  5. Add the butter and cinnamon to the filling and whisk until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.
  6. Carefully pour the filling through a fine mesh sieve into the cooled pie crust and return to the oven. Bake until the filling is just beginning to set but still jiggles and the crust is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. This will still be quite loose and jiggly but will set as it cools.
  7. Let the pie cool to room temperature. Sprinkle the ground nutmeg over the top of the pie. Transfer the pie to the refrigerator and chill until fully set, at least 4 hours and up to overnight, before serving.

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Alexis deBoschnek is a freelance recipe developer, cook, and video host based in the Catskills.

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