What Is Sugar Pie?

Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins
Sugar pie filling traditionally includes brown sugar.
Sugar pie filling traditionally includes brown sugar.

Sugar pie is a common nickname for a loved one, but that may be due to the long-cultivated popularity of an actual pie from Western Europe that came to America by way of early Indiana settlers. Also known as sugar cream pie, it is not complicated as it uses standard pie crust and a filling of whipped cream, flour, brown sugar, butter and a little nutmeg or vanilla extract. The dessert has remained a favorite in Indiana, where it has been renamed Hoosier pie and was made the state pie in 2009.

Though many prefer pies with fruits and other ingredients, sugar pie appears to have originated out of necessity. Farm families invariably have the simple ingredients needed for this dessert, though apples and other fruits may not always be readily available. When early Amish and Shaker families settled in Indiana farming communities in the early 19th century, it appears they brought with them the recipe for this straightforward dessert. It is unclear for how long the European Dutch had already been this making egg-less dessert.

After the pie crust is laid in a pan, 1 tbsp (about 14 g) of flour and 1 cup (about 225 g) of brown sugar are mixed in an uncooked pie crust until blended. Then, thick cream and some vanilla extract is stirred into the sugar — often with a finger, so as not to disturb the pie crust. This apparently led to the dish gaining yet another name, finger pie.

Before baking, some cooks, like celebrity chef Paula Deen, drop bits of butter onto the top of the pie, then sprinkle it with nutmeg. It bakes at 350°F (177°C) for a half-hour or more. Sugar pie is served cold, giving it more of a chance to solidify in the crust. The top of the sugar pie should have a browned skin.

Variations of sugar pie exist, yet all keep the dish's simplicity intact. Some cooks add eggs to the filling to make it more gelatinous. To keep it really simple, some cooks do not even add the nutmeg or vanilla and merely use cream or a combination of milk and cream.

A few other traditional Dutch pies spread ingredients as far as possible. Vanilla pie also originated with the Amish and incorporates a more noticeable element of vanilla extract. Even vinegar pie persists in 2011, which is a similar version of sugar pie that incorporates cider vinegar and lemon.

Discussion Comments


I didn't realize this was an actual pie; I think I have had it but it was called syrup tart by my British aunt, and something else by my mom when she made it. It makes sense that it would have a lot of names, though, if it has been common in many different cultures.


Sugar pie reminds me of an English dessert called treacle tart. It's very similar in terms of ingredients and appearance, but treacle tart always has eggs in it unlike sugar pie. I can imagine that one could easily substitute one recipe with the other.

Sugar pie is definitely of Western Europe origin. It doesn't matter whether the French or the English brought it to America, American cuisine is also a melting-pot of different cultures like the people. American pies are already famous worldwide, and I think that sugar pie is a great addition.


I'm pretty sure that sugar pie was brought to the US by French settlers because this dessert also exists in French cuisine, with the exact name except in French: "tarte au sucre." As far as I know the recipe is the same as well.

I had tarte au sucre at a bakery when I was in Québec. It was actually lighter than I expected. From the name, I assumed that it was an overly sweet dessert. But the flour and cream really does tone it down and the sweetness is just perfect. It goes really well with a cup of freshly brewed coffee.


This is probably the easiest pie to make but it turns out so delicious! I learned this recipe from a friend around the holidays and made it for Christmas eve. It turned out amazing and it was loved by everyone.

In addition to brown sugar, I also added some maple syrup into the mix and that gave a new nice edge to the flavor I think.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Sugar pie filling traditionally includes brown sugar.
      By: tashka2000
      Sugar pie filling traditionally includes brown sugar.