It comes as no surprise why Betty Crocker’s chocolate cream pie was so famous back in the 50s. The recipe was almost frugal, in the sense that all the ingredients could be found in the store cupboard at a moment’s notice. With sugar, salt and milk you were already more than halfway to making a vanilla cream pie, the filling for which would be custard that would firm up as it sat in the refrigerator. The recipes for Betty’s cream pies were also endlessly adaptable and you could find variations both with cornflour and with egg yolks to thicken the filling and add richness. The cream pie to-date remains a vintage favourite for many who want to channel Betty without owning an oven. A cream pie doesn’t require one. It’s super speedy to make and I’ve made it even easier by swapping out the pie crust for a biscuit one. The salted caramel topping just adds another strikingly smooth and delicious element to this pie. Great as a dessert for kid’s parties, and any leftovers can be salvaged by the fridge light.
My recipe is an eggless one because I want each and every one of you to make it, but if you do prefer a version with eggs, swap the cornflour for 3 slightly beaten egg yolks. Temper the yolks with hot milk, whisking away as you do, then incorporate it with the rest of the milk and the ingredients. Again, whisk till smooth. Fancy up your pie by serving it with a dollop of fresh cream on the side of each slice.
Another fabulous substitute to this filling would be Nigella’s instant chocolate mousse made with marshmallows. I would advise against using the caramel in that case. It needs nothing more.
Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cream Pie With Salted Caramel Sauce
Yield makes 2 not-too-deep 23 cm pies
The instant classic cream pie gets a whole new layer of salted caramel sauce. Serve this with a dollop of whipped cream on the side.
The Biscuit Crust
Digestive biscuits 200g
Unsalted Butter 100g
Honey 1 tbsp
The Cream Pie Filling
Sugar 2/3 cup
Cocoa powder 1/4 cup (I used Jindal’s Cocoa powder)
Coffee powder 1 tsp
Cornflour 3 tbsp
Salt 1/4 tsp
Milk 2 1/4 cup
Vanilla extract 1 1/2 tsp
Salted Caramel Sauce
Sugar 1 cup
Lime a few drops of juice
Water 3 tbsp
Butter 4 tbsp
Cream 1/2 cup
Whipped cream to serve
Begin by pulsing the digestive biscuits, butter and honey in a food processor till the mixture is sandy, clumping together and can no longer be worked by the processor.
Take the mixture out and divide it between two 21cm pie plates, using your fingers to first press against the sides to form a crust then proceeding to fill the centre. Press to compact the crumb by using the base of a steel bowl or a glass. Refrigerate the crust still you get on with the filling.
To make the filling, in a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, cocoa powder, coffee powder, cornstarch and salt. Whisk gently to combine and place over a medium high heat. While stirring add in the milk slowly. This is done to avoid any lumps, stirring all the time. Bring this mixture up to a slow boil until it thickens. Once it thickens, take it off the heat and add the vanilla. Let the mixture cool for a bit before pouring it into the chilled crust and transferring to the refrigerator again for it to firm up. Let the mixture firm up overnight for best results.
The next day while the pies are still refrigerating, start on the caramel sauce. In a heavy saucepan, combine together the sugar, few drops of lime juice and three tablespoons of water. Stir this over medium high heat to help the sugar dissolve evenly. The reason we add the acid in is to not let the sugar crystallise. Once the sugar has come up to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and let it bubble. Swirl the pan every now and then. Once the sugar starts to turn golden around the edges, swirl again to evenly distribute the colour and continue cooking till the caramel is a dark golden or dark amber. Once it reaches that colour, quickly take it off the heat and add the butter piece by piece and stir using your spatula and watch the mixture sputter. Continuing to stir, add in the cream to the pan as well and keep stirring till the caramel is smooth. Let the caramel cool for a bit and thicken slightly but still be of a pouring consistency before you pour it over the pies evenly and give it a final hour of chilling in the fridge before serving.
Serve slices of this pie with whipped cream on the side.