A simple, yet unforgettable twist on a Southern classic. This brown sugar chess pie is a favorite seasonal pie everyone loves. This post is a sponsored collaboration with my friends at Domino® Sugar, thank you for supporting my site and the brands I love!
Why it Works
This old-fashioned brown sugar chess pie is easy to make and has great flavor thanks to the molasses in the brown sugar, a hint of vanilla, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
It is incredibly easy to make. The pie crust is an all-butter, super flaky pie crust that comes together in moments. The filling is a handful of pantry staples whisked together into a quick custard and poured into the parkbaked crust.
Since it is so simple, it is great for anyone new to baking pies and want something that is sure to please a crowd.
We only need a few pantry staple ingredients to make this brown sugar chess pie. With a simple pie like this, it is important to use quality ingredients as they can make all the difference between a good pie and an incredible pie. This is why I recommend using Domino® Sugar in this recipe. Chances are, you already have all or most of the ingredients in your kitchen right now.
- Flour - The flour adds texture and structure. I recommend using all-purpose flour, but you can use white whole wheat flour. I do not recommend pastry flour which will make the crust too delicate, or bread flour which would make the crust too tough.
- Sugar - The crust uses just a touch of sugar to enhance the flavor and add a subtle sweetness. I like using Domino® Golden Sugar because it is less processed and has a great taste.
- Salt - We use salt in the crust to bring out the flavors and enhance them. I prefer to use fine sea salt which isn’t too salty and blends well into the pastry.
- Butter - Unsalted butter adds flakiness and flavor to the crust. I recommend using frozen butter for the best results. I usually store my butter in the freezer at all times in case I want to make pie crust! Do not use salted butter which can potentially add too much salt and make your crust salty.
- Water - Water helps to bind the crust together and adds to the flakiness when it evaporates along with the liquid in the butter. You should use ice water. I will keep an ice cube or two in cold water and measure out what I need as I make the crust.
- Sugar - The main star of the pie is brown sugar. I typically use light brown sugar, but you can also use dark brown sugar - it depends on how much of a deep molasses flavor you like. For the best quality, I highly recommend Domino® Light Brown Sugar. It has just the right amount of molasses flavor and a great texture that mixes perfectly in the pie.
- Cornmeal - Most classic chess pies add a bit of cornmeal for texture, and this recipe is no exception. Use fine cornmeal. You can substitute with fine ground almond meal, or omit it entirely, if needed.
- Cinnamon - Not typical of most brown sugar chess pies, but it is a personal favorite addition, especially during the holidays. It adds a nice warmth and pairs beautifully with the brown sugar. You can omit it if you’d like, or experiment with adding other spices alongside the cinnamon.
- Salt - Much like the crust, salt is used in the filling to enhance the flavors. It is especially important to help balance the flavors of the brown sugar and cinnamon as well as enhance the richness of the heavy cream.
- Eggs - This pie is a custard base, which means it gets most of its volume and structure from eggs. Use large eggs, and beat them before adding to the mixture to help reduce the amount of whisking you need to do which can create a lot of air bubbles in the filling which is undesirable. Save the excess egg whites to make another recipe. You can also freeze the egg whites, if necessary
- Butter - The butter adds a little more richness. If you want to add more depth of flavor to the pie, you can add a few more tablespoons of butter and brown it until it smells nutty.
- Vanilla - To add more dimension to the pie, we add vanilla. To amplify the flavor, I will sometimes add in fresh vanilla bean, but it is not necessary.
- Cream - We use cream in the pie to add richness and develop the flavors of the ingredients we add to the pie. You can substitute the heavy cream with whole milk or buttermilk if you want to add a touch of tanginess.
- Whipped cream - In my opinion, it is necessary for the pie. I only very lightly sweeten my whipped cream with Domino powdered sugar. The combination of whipped cream and sweet pie creates a welcome and moreish contrast.
Making a brown sugar chess pie is very simple and still introduces you to techniques that may be new to you - it is one recipe I recommend any newer bakers to try out, if they’re nervous about pie making.
- Mix together your dry ingredients for the pie crust.
- Cut in the butter until it resembles large crumbs.
- Add in the water, just until the mixture sticks together.
- Shape the pie into a disc and chill.
- Roll out the dough and chill
- Parbake the crust.
- Mix the filling.
- Pour the filling into the crust and bake.
- Serve with whipped cream.
Probably the only tricky thing about baking a chess pie like this is parbaking. Parbaking is when you partially bake the crust. It is especially important when the filling doesn’t need as much time to bake as the crust does.
What makes parbaking tricky is the risk of your pie crust shrinking or collapsing around the sides. It is something that even seasoned bakers can experience if they are not careful!
The trick to successful parbaking is to: make sure the crust is completely cold, preferably frozen, the oven is preheated, and the crust is weighed down fully.
My favorite method for weighing down the crust is to cover it with aluminum foil, then filling the foil with pie weights, dried beans, uncooked rice, or uncooked oats.
If you want extra insurance, make sure the bottom as well as the sides have weight around it to help keep the crust in place. I will completely fill the aluminum foil with what I am using to weigh down the crust.
Bake the crust with the weights, then remove the weights and foil so the bottom of the crust can get a chance to bake up for a few minutes.
Brown sugar chess pie stores well. It can keep at room temperature for 3 - 4 days. You can also store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 8 - 10 days. The pie also freezes very well. Wrap well, then store in an airtight container for up to a month. Allow it to thaw completely before serving.
Yes, you can! It will no longer be a brown sugar chess pie, but it will still be a nice chess pie. You can up the ground cinnamon and vanilla for added flavor. I recommend Domino® Golden Sugar. It still has a light molasses flavor, but isn’t as concentrated as brown sugar.
Absolutely! If you plan on giving a pie to a neighbor or loved one, you can easily double or triple the recipe and make several pies at once.
When baking, your pie should be set (it doesn’t move at all) around the edges. The center should jiggle a little, but not a lot as though it is still liquid. If your pie is still runny when you take it out, you can put it back in the oven and bake longer. If the crust is starting to darken a lot, cover it with aluminum foil, and check the pie every five minutes. If, for some reason, the pie does not set, you can use the filling to swirl into ice cream, make chess pie milkshakes, or turn the pie into a parfait.
Brown Sugar Chess Pie
- 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon Domino® Golden Sugar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter cubed and frozen
- 2 - 3 tablespoons ice-cold water
- 1 ⅓ cup Domino® Light Brown Sugar
- 3 tablespoons fine cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 4 large egg yolks room temperature
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy cream room temperature
- 1 cup whipped cream
- Start making the pie crust. Add the flour, Domino® Golden Sugar,
and salt to a food processor and pulse once or twice to combine.
- Add the frozen, cubed butter to the food processor and pulse until
it resembles large crumbs.
- Add two tablespoons of ice-cold water and pulse 3 - 4 times. Check
the mixture. It should stick together when pressed. If it does not, or
feels very dry, add another tablespoon of water and pulse another 2
- 3 times. Check the mixture again, if you are in a very dry
environment, you may need an additional ½ tablespoon.
- Spread a sheet of plastic wrap on a flat surface and turn the pie
crust mixture on it. Use the plastic wrap to gently press the mixture
together and shape into a disc. Wrap tight and chill for 30 minutes.
- Flour a flat surface lightly, then unwrap the pie disc before lightly
dusting the top with flour.
- Roll the disc into a large round that is about ¼-inch thick.
- Transfer the crust to your pie pan. Fold any excess dough into the
back of the crust. Crimp the crust, if desired.
8. Freeze the pie pan for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425℉
while the pie crust chills.
- Make the filling while the crust is in the freezer.
- Whisk together the Domino® Brown Sugar, cornmeal,
cinnamon and salt together. Add in the beaten eggs, melted butter,
vanilla extract, and heavy cream. Whisk well and set aside.
- Remove the pie crust from the freezer and top with aluminum
foil and pie weights. Parbake for 20 minutes.
- Remove the crust from the oven and remove the aluminum
foil with the weights. Pour in the filling and bake for 30 - 40
minutes, or until the edges are set and the center is only slightly
- Allow to cool completely before topping with whipped cream.
- For added depth of flavor, add 2 more tablespoons of butter and
brown until it smells nutty before adding it to the filling.
- You can substitute the Domino® Light Brown Sugar with Domino®
Dark Brown Sugar for added flavor.
- Top the finished pie with flaky sea salt for a salty-sweet finish.