Chocolate Cream Pie
Chocolate cream pie, also known as pudding pie, is one of my favorite treats from childhood! It consists of simple components: flaky pie crust, rich chocolate custard, and whipped cream! Follow this tutorial and learn how to put it all together.
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Techniques Used: Tempering Eggs, Cutting Fat into Flour, Blind Baking a Pie Crust
- Components Used: Pastry Cream, All-Purpose Pie Crust, Basic Whipped Cream
Something about a cream pie feels so nostalgic. The components are simple (pie crust, pastry cream, and whipped cream) but put altogether and it’s truly special and comforting.
Near my hometown in Kansas there are a couple of restaurants, one Amish and the other Mennonite owned, that make the best pies. They make all kinds of fruit pies but our favorites were always the cream pies. Peanut butter cream pie, coconut cream pie, banana cream pie, sour cream raisin pie, and my favorite- chocolate cream pie!
Why we love this recipe
- The beauty of this dessert is that each component flavor can easily be customized.
- 2 out of the 3 components can be made a few days in advance making this recipe quick and easy when you’re ready to serve.
- A cream pie is very nostalgic and comforting. It’s perfect for a special holiday or a quiet weekend at home.
Chocolate Oreo Cream Pie: Make the chocolate pastry cream and whipped cream as is but instead of a traditional pie crust, make a chocolate oreo crust. The crust can be baked or unbaked. Top with crushed oreo cookies.
Banana Cream Pie: Make the pie crust and whipped cream as is. Make the pastry cream but leave out the cocoa powder and chopped chocolate leaving you with a vanilla pastry cream. When assembling the pie, add banana slices on top of the cooked pie crust and top with the vanilla pastry cream and whipped cream.
How to make Chocolate Cream Pie
This recipe consists of 3 components: pastry cream, pie crust, and whipped cream. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Make the Pastry Cream
In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar, cornstarch, and salt until the mixture is foamy and about double in volume. This works best with an electric mixer but can also be achieved with a whisk.
This process is called blanching the egg yolks and helps ensures lumps do not form with the pastry cream. The sugar essentially protects the egg proteins from coagulating too quickly when they cook. The cornstarch will help thicken and stabilize the custard once it is cooked.
Next, heat up the milk and cocoa powder in a saucepan on the stovetop. Keep heating until it starts to boil. Slowly pour about half of the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking. It can help to nestle your bowl in a wet tea towel to stabilize the bowl so that you can whisk with one hand. This will temper the egg yolks and prevent them from becoming scrambled eggs.
Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the pot with the remaining milk and heat over medium/low heat while whisking continuously. The mixture will reach a boil and thicken. Make sure it gets to a rolling boil and not just a simmer.
Pour the chocolate mixture through a fine mesh sieve while it is still hot. This will catch any lumps that may have formed. At this point it will be a grey, brown color but don’t worry it’ll get better! After straining, add the chopped chocolate, vanilla, and butter and whisk in until fully melted and silky.
Now lay a piece of plastic wrap right on top of the pudding and let it cool in the refrigerator while you make the crust.
Step 2: Make the pie crust
Whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Then add the very cold diced butter and shortening. Using a pastry cutter, or a fork, cut the pieces of fat into the flour until the consistency of coarse meal.
Gently stir in very cold water, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. If the dough feels really soft and has gotten warm from sitting out, put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to solidify the fat before rolling it out.
Being very gentle, roll the crust out on a lightly floured work surface. Work as gently as possible. You want the crust to be a few inches wider in diameter than your pie plate. Always start with your rolling pin in the center of the dough moving out to an edge. Never rolling back and forth from one edge to the other.
Carefully transfer the crust into the pie plate. Pull up on the edges to let it settle down into the plate. Trim the edges, leaving excess crust on the sides. You can crimp the edges however you want. For this pie, I tucked the excess crust under to form a lip.
I then pinched the crust with my thumb and pointer finger and did this all the way around. Take a fork and pierce the crust all over the bottom and on the sides. This is called “docking.” The crust is then fully baked and cooled.
Step 3: Assemble the Pastry Cream and Pie Crust
Pour all of the chocolate pastry cream into the cooled pie crust. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the filling touching the surface and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. This will help setup the custard so that is stays firm when slicing.
Step 4: Make the Whipped Cream
Pour the very cold heavy whipping cream into a mixing bowl and mix on medium speed using a whisk attachment. Whisk until you have soft peaks. Soft peaks will barely hold their shape and flop over when the beater is lifted. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and keep whisking until you see medium peaks.
Medium peaks hold their shape pretty well and only the tip will flop over when the beater is lifted. Don’t go too far and make stiff peaks. Medium peaks are perfect for topping a pie.
Step 5: Top the Pie and Serve
Top the whipped cream over the pastry cream and smooth out using the back of a spoon or offset spatula. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips or chocolate shavings on top. And serve! I suggest waiting to top the pie with whipped cream until you are ready to serve.
Why is my chocolate cream pie runny?
If your filling is runny, then the custard probably didn’t have enough time to coagulate when cooking. While cooking on the stovetop, make sure that the mixture thickens and boils. It should be a full rolling boil and not just a simmer.
Also make sure that the cream pie chills in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. It needs this amount of time to fully chill and setup so that it will be firm when slicing.
How long can a cream pie sit out?
Cream pies taste best when served cold. Try not to let them sit out at room temperature for very long. After sitting out for 2 hours or more, they should be discarded.
Prep & Storage
How to plan ahead: This cream pie recipe can be prepped and kept in the refrigerator up to 4 days in advance. Make the chocolate pastry cream and pie crust as instructed. Pour the cream into the baked pie shell and place a piece of plastic wrap on top. Make sure the plastic wrap is touching the cream and is not exposed to air.
Wait to make the whipped cream until you are ready to serve.
How to store in the refrigerator: Chocolate Cream Pie should be stored covered in the refrigerator and will keep for up to 4 days.
MORE RECIPES FROM BAKER BETTIE!
If you loved this recipe, you might like to try these other cream pie recipes!
For the Chocolate Pastry Cream
- 100 grams (½ cup) granulated sugar
- 110 grams (6 large) egg yolks
- 30 grams (¼ cup) cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 568 grams (2 ½ cups, 600 milliliters) whole milk
- 10 grams (2 tablespoons) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 168 grams (6 ounces) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla paste
- 28 grams (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
For the pie crust
- 180 grams (1 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 13 grams (1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
- 85 grams (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold
- 30 grams (2 ½ tablespoons) shortening
- 57-85 grams (4-6 tablespoons, 60-90 milliliters) ice water
For the whipped cream topping
- 235 grams (1 cup, 240 milliliters) heavy cream or whipping cream, cold
- 40 grams (⅓ cup) powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
To Make the Pastry Cream:
- Measure out all of the ingredients. Cut the butter (28 grams, 2 tablespoons) into small pieces.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks (110 grams, 6 large) with the sugar (100 grams, ½ cup), cornstarch (30 grams, ¼ cup), and salt (¼ teaspoon) with a whisk until foamy and about double in size. This will ensure a smooth pastry cream.
- In a saucepan, heat the milk (568 grams, 2 ½ cups) and cocoa powder (10 grams, 2 tablespoons) until it starts to boil.
- Temper the egg yolks by slowly pouring about half of the milk into the egg/cornstarch mixture while whisking continuously. It can be helpful to nestle the mixing bowl in a damp kitchen towel to stabilize the bowl while you whisk and pour.
- Pour the milk/egg mixture back into the pot with the remainder of the milk and cook over low heat, whisking continuously, until the mixture thickens and starts rapidly bubbling. Do not rush this process.
- Pour the hot pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve.
- Add the chopped chocolate (168 grams, 6 ounces), vanilla (1 ½ teaspoons), and butter and whisk in.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap right on top of the pastry cream and refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the pie crust
- Preheat the oven to 400°F/205°C. Set a rack in the bottom position.
- Measure out all of the ingredients. Cut the butter (85 grams, 6 tablespoons) into small pieces, about ½-inch (1 cm) size. Make sure it is very cold. If it has started to warm up, you can place it in the freezer for a few minutes before starting.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour (180 grams, 1 ½ cups), salt (½ teaspoon), and sugar (13 grams, 1 tablespoon).
- Add the shortening (30 grams, 2 ½ tablespoons) and cold butter to the bowl and toss with your hands so all of the fat is coated with flour. Use the tips of your fingers and thumbs to press down on all of the pieces of fat, creating little sheets of fat throughout your mixture. If it feels like the fat is starting to melt, pop the bowl in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes before continuing. Continue working the fat through the flour until all of the fat has been worked through and ranges in size from peas to walnuts throughout.
- Add the ice water little by little into the mixture. Fold the mixture gently with a silicone spatula to incorporate. Use a light hand to slowly hydrate the flour as you add more water. You may not need all of the water. Once large clumps of dough start forming, gather the dough up and press it together. If it crumbles then you need to add a little more water. If it holds together then you are ready to chill the dough.
- Bring the dough together on your counter and press into one mass and knead very gently for one or two turns to bring it into a cohesive dough. If you made a double batch of dough, divide it in half.
- Press flat into a round disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes, but preferably an hour, to allow the gluten to relax and the flour to fully hydrate.
- Lightly flour a clean work surface and place your chilled dough on top. Lightly flour the top of the dough and your rolling pin. As you roll the dough, lift it up, turn it, and redistribute flour underneath it every few rolls to prevent sticking. Roll the dough out to about 1 ½ - 2-inches (4 -5 cm) wider than your pie dish all the way around. This is important so that your dough doesn’t need to stretch to fit down into the plate, which can cause it to shrink.
- Set the rolling pin in the middle and fold the dough in half over the rolling pin. Gently transfer it into the pie plate, unrolling it off the rolling pin.
- Lift up on the sides of the crust to allow it to fall naturally into the pie plate without having to stretch it. If there are places that don’t have quite enough dough to hang over the edge, you can patch it with pieces from the other side.
- Trim the excess dough leaving about ½-inch overhang all the way around the pie plate. Fold the extra dough under, creating a lip all the way around.
- Dock the crust a few times on the bottom and up the sides.
- Place a piece of parchment paper over top of the pie crust and fill it with dry beans, rice, or pie weights; they should fill the pan all the way to the top. This will help the crust hold its shape and not shrink while baking. I typically use dried beans for this and save them to reuse.
- I suggest placing your crust in the freezer for at least 10 minutes or in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to firm up before baking to prevent shrinkage.
- Bake in the bottom third of the oven for 20 minutes.
- Remove the parchment paper and pie weights from the crust. Bake for another 12-15 minutes, until the bottom is golden brown and fully set.
- Let crust cool completely before adding the filling.
- Pour the pastry cream into your prepared crust. The pastry cream does not need to be completely cool, but do not add it when it is extremely hot.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the filling and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Right before serving, top with whipped cream.
To make the whipped cream topping:
- Place the cold cream (235 grams, 1 cup) in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer.
- Begin whipping on medium speed until soft peaks begin to form.
- With the mixer still running, slowly add the powdered sugar (40 grams, ⅓ cup) and vanilla (1 teaspoon) and mix until medium peaks form. Be careful not to over whip the cream. It will start looking curdled if you go too far, as it begins turning into butter.
- Right before serving, top the whipped cream over the chocolate pastry cream. Garnish with mini chocolate chips or chocolate shavings.
*This recipe uses a traditional pie pastry crust. As an alternative, use a baked or unbaked chocolate oreo cookie crust.