There’s more than one way to make a chocolate pie, and our chocolate cream pie showcases all the classic elements: flaky crust, rich chocolate filling and optional whipped topping.
We cook this chocolate cream pie in two stages. First, we bake the crust in the oven on its own. Then we cook the filling separately on the stovetop. We fill the pie, then chill it until the filling sets. Easy as pie.
Ingredients for Chocolate Cream Pie
- Baking cocoa: Cocoa powder has a concentrated chocolate flavor, and it helps absorb liquids. It’s sometimes labeled unsweetened cocoa powder. Make sure you don’t use hot cocoa mix or sweetened cocoa.
- Evaporated milk: This canned, shelf-stable cow’s milk has been cooked to reduce its moisture, a process that leaves it thick, creamy and rich. Don’t grab a can of condensed milk by mistake—its added sugars will alter the pie’s flavor and texture.
- Egg yolks: Cooked egg yolks thicken and set this pie filling. Too much heat too quickly can curdle the eggs, so make sure you follow the directions for tempering the eggs.
Step 1: Prepare the dough
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 1/8-inch-thick circle. Transfer it to a 9-inch pie plate. Trim the dough to 1/2 inch beyond the plate’s rim and flute the edge. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Step 2: Bake the crust
Line the crust with a double layer of aluminum foil. Fill with pie weights, dried beans or uncooked rice. Bake the crust on a lower oven rack for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edge is golden brown. Remove the foil and weights. Continue baking for three to six minutes, until the crust bottom is golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Step 3: Cook the filling
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking cocoa, salt, water and evaporated milk. Cook, stirring, over medium-high heat for about two minutes, until thickened and bubbly. Reduce the heat to a simmer; cook and stir two minutes longer. Remove from heat.
Step 4: Temper the eggs
Gradually whisk 1 cup of the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks. Return the egg yolk mixture to the pan, gently whisking as you pour it in. Bring it just to a gentle boil, stirring constantly. Immediately remove the mixture from heat.
Step 5: Fill the pie
Stir the butter and vanilla into the hot mixture. Let it cool slightly. Pour the warm filling into the crust. Let cool for one hour.
Step 6: Chill the pie
Chill the pie until set. Serve pie chilled, topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with additional cocoa if desired.
Chocolate Cream Pie Variations
- Go for a chocolate crust: Replace the pastry crust with one made from crushed chocolate wafer cookies. For a 9-inch pie, combine 1-1/2 cups crumbs with 1/3 cup melted butter. Press it into the pie plate’s bottom and up the sides, and bake.
- Make a meringue topping: Replace the whipped cream with soft meringue. After pouring the filling into the crust, make the meringue right away. Spread it to cover the hot filling, and bake at 350° for 12 to 16 minutes, until golden.
- Add chocolate—and brandy!: Reduce the water by 3 tablespoons in the initial filling, then add 3 tablespoons brandy to the butter and vanilla. For an extra shot, add 2 tablespoons brandy as you whip the cream for the pie topping.
How to Store Chocolate Cream Pie
Cover the pie, or pack it in a pie keeper, and store it in the refrigerator. It’s best eaten within one day.
It can also be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days without any topping. Cover the pie with plastic wrap, pressed gently against the filling’s surface to keep it from drying out, or pack it in a pie keeper before placing it in the refrigerator.
Avoid storing this pie in the freezer. The crust can become soggy, and the filling can turn grainy when thawed. Like all cream pies, avoid leaving it at room temperature for more than two hours.
Chocolate Cream Pie Tips
Should you use homemade or store-bought dough for chocolate cream pie?
You can roll out store-bought pie dough for this pie, but making pie crust is straightforward and delicious. You just need a single crust, and you can make it up to three days in advance if you like (just place it in a resealable plastic bag before placing it in the refrigerator). Homemade pie crust can also be frozen for several weeks. Wrap it tightly in waxed paper, then place it in an airtight container, and freeze. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before you roll it out.
How do you get chocolate cream pie to set?
The ingredients in this recipe are balanced to ensure the chocolate cream filling sets. The cooking process should be slow and steady, with regular stirring over medium-high or lower heat. Tempering the eggs keeps them from scrambling. Once the filling starts to bubble again, remove it from heat to avoid overcooking.
How long does chocolate cream pie last?
If you don’t gobble it up right away, chocolate cream pie will keep for up to four days in the refrigerator without its whipped topping. If you already added whipped cream to the entire pie, serve it within four hours so that the topping doesn’t lose its loft.
Even without the topping and protected by a cover, a cream pie will eventually start to weep and the crust will soften. So it’s best to bake and enjoy this pie within 24 hours.