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November 17, 2016

Time to share long-held secret of Senate Cream Pie

Photos/Ellen Fox Emerson
Its origin remains a mystery, but this recipe may have originated in the Senate Dining Room kitchen.
Fresh whipped cream tops the custard made with rum that fills the graham cracker crust
Click here for information about Ellen’s cookbook, “No Sacrifices — Entertaining Gluten-Free.”
Senate Cream Pie ranks among my all-time favorites. A friend in Chevy Chase, Edith Flynn gave my mother this recipe more than 55 years ago, with the caveat that she not share it. Back then, cooks carefully guarded their favorite recipes.

Of course, my mother shared it with me, and I too had to swear secrecy. I’m sure my mother thought sharing it with her daughters wouldn’t violate her promise to Mrs. Flynn. And, for all these years, I’ve kept the recipe to myself.

I’ve made the pie for others but remained mum on the ingredients and the process. I still have the original copy my mother wrote in pencil, but it’s very faint, tattered and dotted with grease spots.

I’ve googled this recipe to find out how it came by its name but haven’t found reference anywhere or even similar recipes. I can only assume the pie originated in the Senate Dining Room kitchen. (We lived in the Washington area at the time.)

Now that both ladies have passed away, I think it only right to publish the recipe. It would be a terrible shame for this rich dessert not to survive.

But, if you try it, note that the custard can be a little tricky. The secret is not to overcook it.

This remains a traditional dessert for our Thanksgiving, along with my mother’s pumpkin chiffon pie. I hope you’ll enjoy it.


Graham cracker crust

9-inch pie plate
8 ounces graham crackers, gluten-free*
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup of sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a food processor with a metal blade, crush the graham crackers. Add the sugar and blend; then add the butter. Once everything has blended, pour into a greased pie plate and gently — very gently — tap the crumbs into place. (If you press too hard, the shell will stick to the plate and make it almost impossible to serve.) Bake for 15 minutes.


Cream filling

2 cups milk
¾ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
5 egg yolks
4 tablespoons cornstarch
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons dark rum (Meyer’s)**

In a heavy medium saucepan, stir together 1½ cups of milk, the sugar and salt. Bring nearly to a boil and then turn off the heat.

In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks, ½ cup of milk and cornstarch until smooth.

Add the egg yolk mixture to the hot milk. Set the heat to medium and with either a whisk or an electric hand beater, beat until thick and smooth. It will start to thicken after two minutes and, at that point, watch very closely not to overcook. This might take up three minutes. Remove from heat.

Add the stick of butter and rum and continue to beat or whisk until all is blended.

Once the saucepan is cool enough to handle pour the custard into the graham cracker crust. Cover with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly, for 4 to six hours or overnight.

Just before serving top with whipped cream.

* Gluten-free graham crackers: I have a recipe for these in my cookbook No Sacrifices, Entertaining Gluten Free. Or use S’moreables, available in health food stores and many grocery stores.

** Meyer’s, Captain Morgan, Cruzan and Mount Gay Rums are all gluten-free.
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Debby Taylor · November 17, 2016 at 1:28 pm
Thank you so much for sharing. I am going to make it for Thanksgiving also. It sounds delicious!
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