Shoofly Pie

I've made better looking versions - honest

You’ve probably heard of it, and if you’ve ever visited Amish country in Pennsylvania, you no doubt have tasted it. And like a lot of people you might think that the Pennsylvania Dutch brought this recipe with them when they came to America in the 18th century.

It’s hard to know. The origin of the pie may come from treacle (the British word for molasses) tarts which were popular in England.  But the Pennsylvania Dutch were not from England. I’ve looked on-line and could find no similar recipe in the traditional homelands of the Pennsylvania Dutch including Central Europe, Alsace in France, the Pfalz area of Germany and Switzerland.

So how did this pie become so entwined with Pennsylvania Dutch tradition? And when did the recipe first begin to appear in written cookbooks? The pie recipes all contain one key ingredient that give a hint to their origin date – baking soda. Baking soda as we know it was invented in 1846. Prior to that, bakers made do with potash, a kind of salt made from refined wood ash.

In fact, Shoofly Pie was introduced in the 1876 Centennial in Philadelphia as Centennial Cake. It later became known in Pennsylvania as Granger Pie and Shoofly Pie. And the Amish took the recipe and made it unique to them. In fact, my first taste of Shoofly Pie, which is almost more a cake, was on a trip to Amish country. I’ve been making it every since.

The recipe I like to use is from Pennsylvania Dutch Country Cooking by William Woys Weaver, 1993. This is a gorgeous cookbook filled with interesting recipes, beautiful photography, and in-depth history of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. His pie recipe came from his grandmother. She collected it in the 1930s from a woman who had preserved the original recipe from the Centennial.

  • Pie crust (make from scratch or store bought)
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 c. warm water
  • 3/4 c. unsulfured molasses

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Line a 9 inch pie dish with the pastry crust and set aside

Using a pastry cutter or food processor, work the flour, sugar and butter to a loose crumb  

Then add cinnamon, nutmeg and salt

In a separate bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the warm water and then combine with the molasses

Pour the liquid into the unbaked pie shell

Top the liquid with the crumb mixture being sure to spread the crumbs evenly across the whole pie. This keeps the molasses from bubbling over

Bake pie in middle of oven for 15 minutes

Then reduce temperature to 350 and bake for 35-40 minutes or until center of pie is firm and cake-like

Serve hot from oven or cool on a rack and serve at room temperature

The pie is excellent both as a dinner dessert or for breakfast with coffee! Enjoy.

One Response to “Shoofly Pie”

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  1. […]  I’m not sure we’ll ever know how the pie began or where it got its peculiar name.  Aunt Lil’s Kitchen gamely tries to take on the topic and shares a great recipe here.  googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1447492656780-2'); […]

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