I can still remember my first encounter, as a 6-year-old, with a gooey, molasses-heavy slice of shoofly pie. It made a mess of my shirt and immediately became one of my favorite things to eat.
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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.
What Is Shoofly Pie?
According to William Woys Weaver, a Pennsylvania Dutch culinary historian, shoofly pie evolved in the 1880s from the 1876 centennial cake created in Philadelphia to commemorate 100 years of American independence.
Shoofly pie has a pastry crust and a bittersweet, custardy filling made from flour, brown sugar, butter, lots of molasses, and egg, all accented with warm spices. There are two distinct styles eaten in Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
MolassesTerms like "mild," "full," and "robust" are meaningless when it comes to molasses. The only surefire way to know what we were getting was to taste them.
The dry-bottom style has a moist cake-like texture throughout. The wet-bottom style has a spectrum of textures beginning with its gooey namesake “wet bottom” above the crust, a cakey layer in the middle, and a crown of buttery crumbs.
While both versions are unequivocally delicious, the wet-bottom style is the one that is more popular today and is rooted in my memory and thus guided my recipe development.
Shoofly PieWe baked 50 pies to get this Pennsylvania Dutch classic just right.
How to Make Shoofly Pie
I started my version with the foundation, the crust. With such a moist, heavy filling, it’s important that the crust be crisp and sturdy. Also important is a dough that is easy to work with and doesn’t tear easily—no rips or patches.
We love the flavor of pie crust made with butter; for increased malleability and ease of rolling, I replaced just 2 tablespoons of the butter with sour cream, which makes for a sturdier, less fragile dough that bakes into a buttery-tasting crust. Doughs for shoofly pie are often lightly sweetened; after testing various amounts of granulated sugar, I landed on 1½ teaspoons for just a hint of sweetness (and enhanced browning).
The simple filling gets most of its flavor from molasses, which is thinned with boiling water (and augmented with a beaten egg for structure). A bit of baking soda mixed into the water lightens the texture of the heavy filling (the soda is activated by the acidic molasses), and some of the crumb-topping mixture (flour, sugar, butter, and spices) gets whisked in to give the filling enough body to set up its delicious layers as it bakes.
The Perfect PieBake beautiful, foolproof versions of the corner bakery classics and French patisserie favorites—plus a host of whimsical, modern pies and tarts of all kinds with sky-high meringue pies, uniquely flavored fruit pies with intricate lattice-woven tops, and lush elegant tarts.
When to Eat Shoofly Pie
Shoofly pie is enjoyed in homes, truck stops, and diners all across Dutch Country as a dessert but more commonly for breakfast, best served warm with a steaming cup of strong coffee. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to this classic pie—morning, noon, or night.
A Pie with Punch
According to Weaver, shoofly pie is named after the famous boxing mule, Shoofly, who toured Dutch Country as a traveling circus act in the late 19th century. The mule (named after a popular Civil War–era song, “Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me”) was so celebrated in the region that a popular brand of molasses in Philadelphia renamed itself after the punchy animal. Since molasses is the primary flavor ingredient in the pie, it follows that the pie was named “shoofly.”