When I think of Pennsylvania Dutch cookbooks, author Betty Groff jumps to mind. I knew she’d share a shoofly pie recipe, and I knew it would be amazing. Betty didn’t disappoint.
Pennsylvanians sure do love shoofly pie. It appears on more menus than you’d believe (especially if you live in an area with Pennsylvania Dutch or Amish folks).
Use the table of contents below to jump to the shoofly pie recipe or stick around a moment for a little pie-baking jibber jabber.
What Is Shoofly Pie?
My family and I made the trip to Amish Acres in Nappanee, Indiana twice when I was young. Amish Acres was a former Amish farm turned tourist attraction.
The last visit I made as a kid, during my middle school years, I accidentally left behind the jacket I received from a summer bowling league. Yes, I have always been this cool.
But other than waving at Amish in buggies through our car’s tinted windows, and coveting all the rocks and minerals in the tourist trap of a gift shop (I left with peacock ore), I only briefly pondered shoofly pie. No, I didn’t order it.
As an adult, I revisited Amish Acres a couple of times while traveling around the state for Little Indiana. I still didn’t get Amish shoofly pie. I know, I know. But there were so many safe choices. I had no idea what shoofly pie would taste like.
Although it would be years before I was confronted with the rather homely shoofly pie again, my move to Pennsylvania in 2020 guaranteed an almost constant reminder. It was time to make my own.
So, what is shoofly pie?
Whether you write it shoofly pie, shoo-fly pie, or shoo fly pie, it all means the same thing: a molasses-based pie baked in a single-layer pie crust. You may associate molasses with gingerbread, but this type of pie doesn’t include ginger.
It tastes super sweet with a unique texture from coarse crumbs. The coarse crumb mixture sits on top, and like a crumb-topped fruit pie, it’s an excellent foil to the sweet, dense molasses mixture below.
What Are Shoo Fly Pie Ingredients?
Shoofly pie tastes sweet — and no wonder. There aren’t many ingredients in a shoo fly pie.
Amish shoofly pie main ingredients include the following:
- Water (usually Boiling Water or Hot Water)
- Baking Soda
Some recipes include an egg and a little salt. You might see other ingredients in shoofly pie, such as vanilla extract, cinnamon, and ginger. Some bakers call for King Syrup, a specific brand of maple syrup or dark molasses, such as Golden Barrel Blackstrap Molasses.
But as with any recipe, people sometimes add their own spin and run with it. How? There is even a chocolate shoofly pie recipe or two out there.
The crumb topping ingredients for a shoofly pie include:
- Brown Sugar (some recipes use Granulated Sugar)
- Butter, Lard, or Shortening
I imagine the ingredients slightly differ depending on the type of shoofly pie you make. Oh, yes. There are two types of shoofly pie: wet bottom shoofly pie and dry bottom shoofly pie.
“Using flaky or mealy crust for the pie dough determines whether the bottom of the pie is thick or barely there. . . . The dry bottom version resembles a soft gingerbread or dry cake-like consistency. The dry bottom is guessed to be the original version, producing a pie meant for dipping in coffee,” according to Bird-in-Hand.
Wet bottom shoofly pie or dry bottom shoofly pie, all shoo fly pie recipes require a pie shell. I choose to use a homemade pie crust in the form of a fantastic shortcut pie pastry (you’ll be supremely happy with the end result if you follow suit).
You won’t need a food processor, pie weights, or pastry cutter for it, either.
How Do You Serve Shoofly Pie?
Although I consider any pie a breakfast pie (apple pie is breakfast perfection), a shoofly pie is often eaten by Pennsylvania Dutch or Amish people for breakfast. Yes, they even dip it into their coffee. While I admit to cringing a little at that one, a cup of good coffee is a nice pairing.
Some recipes instruct serving shoo fly pie cold. Not this recipe. Serve shoofly pie warm. I don’t have a microwave, so I heated slices in the oven at a low 200* temperature for 10 minutes or so.
Kick it up a notch. I made whipped cream (beat a cup of heavy cream with an electric mixer until fluffy and then add a Tablespoon of sugar) to top my slice. This pie would be equally impressive with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
I imagine the ingredients slightly differ depending on the type of shoofly pie you make. Oh, yes. There are two types of shoofly pie: wet bottom shoofly pie and dry bottom shoofly pie. Both kinds of shoofly pie can be served the same way.
There are different types of molasses. Unsulfured or sulfured, robust, dark or blackstrap, or regular (or original). You’ll use regular or original molasses in your traditional Amish pie recipe. I use the one with the yellow label (you know the kind).
“Sticking with the tame stuff will give you just enough caramel-y, smoky, funky, sweet flavor to use in both sweet and savory dishes,” according to Bon Appetit.
Note that blackstrap molasses is both darker and somewhat more tart-bitter than unsulfured molasses,” shared Ken Haedrich in Pie (2004), page 375.
Who Invented Shoofly Pie?
Do you remember when I covered the history of brownies? Unlike brownies, the shoofly pie origin story isn’t quite so clear-cut.
Traditional Amish shoofly pie recipes don’t include eggs because chickens don’t typically lay eggs in the winter (at least not without human intervention to include light and heat). Shoofly pie would help conserve limited resources such as fruit.
Now, how about that name? Where did shoofly pie get its name?
You’ll see it written as “Molasses Pie” in many an older cookbook. I think it’s possible the term “molasses pie” was used to differentiate that specific kind of pie. I wonder if both terms have been used over the same period of time but are shared one way or another depending on the audience.
No one knows for sure. It’s uncertain how shoofly pie received its name.
The most common belief, at least the idea that’s peddled in tourist traps and in various online sources, is that this pie was so sweet that it attracted flies. People yelled, “Shoo, fly!” and the name stuck.
I imagine, as with most things, that it is a combination of factors.
Every online source I visited made it sound as though shoofly pie is a regional Pennsylvania pie. That isn’t entirely true, as this Hoosier knows for a fact you can get such an animal, erm, dessert, back in Indiana.
Yes, Pennsylvania has the largest population of Amish, but Indiana is third in the United States in terms of Amish population — and the numbers severely drop off from there.
Remember, the Amish and off-shoots of the Amish aren’t the only people who embraced shoofly pie. They are, however, the people that seem to favor it.
Have you ever heard Italian Americans speak Italian? It’s not quite the same as Italian, Italians. Italian-Americans often drop the last vowel. Even their English can sneak in “da” for “the.”
Just get an Italian-American going about something they feel strongly and it’s even easier to hear — go chat with my dad if you haven’t heard it before.
Baking This Authentic Pennsylvania Dutch Recipe for Shoofly Pie
I know you have your favorite pie crust recipe. The one everyone raves over, and you’ve either spent years perfecting it (and could make it in your sleep) or one you found on a website or in a newspaper article or while browsing through your cookbook collection and can’t imagine using anything else when you make pie.
It’s your go-to. I get it. Believe me, I understand.
But today. Today — for this recipe — you’ve gotta set that pie recipe to the side.
For the best shoofly pie you have ever tried in your life, you need this combination of shoofly pie innards and pastry. Trust me on this. Please?
Unlike your typical pie pastry dough, this one has a salty flavor. It’s a fantastic foil to the super sweet shoofly pie interior. I would say it’s even necessary.
Look, I love sweet everything. I eat cookies and cake and pie for breakfast when it sounds good — and when the kids aren’t looking. But shoo fly pie is a whole different level of sweetness. That’s where this pie crust recipe comes in.
Fortunately, it is also the absolute easiest pie crust you will ever make. Considered a shortcut pie pastry, this recipe for pie pastry doesn’t require a food processor, pastry cutter, or rolling pin. You don’t have to roll it out.
You press the butter and flour mixture into the pie plate with your fingers, crimp the edges with a fork, if you so desire (I typically don’t desire, like the bad food writer I am), cover the pie dish with plastic wrap if you want, and pop it into the freezer for 15 minutes to set before filling and baking.
The most fussy thing about this pie crust recipe is the 15-minute freezer time. That’s it. See? Easy.
Don’t do what I did. Sprinkle the crumb topping all the way to the edge of the pie. I haphazardly threw it on there. While it normally doesn’t matter except in terms of aesthetics, in this case, that crumb topping can keep the shoofly pie interior from boiling over the edge of your crust.
It’s okay, though. It only added to the boiled over mess from my whole roasted turkey the week before. Yes, my dollhouse oven needs a good cleaning.
Some sources believe shoofly pie began as a Centennial Cake to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence (in 1876). Some recipes for Centennial Cake include a second molasses layer, but even then, it seems a stretch. I mean, this is cake. Not pie.
Others believe this pie is a play on the U.K.’s treacle tart (Harry Potter’s favorite dessert, if you recall). I’m unsure. More than a few ingredients are different.
Golden syrup, sometimes called light treacle, goldy, or goldie, is made from sugar cane juice and is sometimes used in place of honey — though it is considered more mild. There is no real substitute for golden syrup although corn syrup is often used as a substitution for folks here in the U.S. (the flavor will change, however).
That doesn’t sound like Amish shoofly pie at all. That’s where black treacle comes in.
But then again, when you browse for a treacle tart, they are made with light treacle. Or are they? I found a Food Network U.K. recipe that did include black treacle (but it also contained many more ingredients than a shoofly pie).
Did colonial Americans substitute molasses for light treacle? What about the heavy cream found in treacle tart recipes that didn’t make their way into the Amish recipe?
It’s hard to say. However it got here, this is an easy shoofly pie recipe.
Betty Groff’s Pennsylvania Dutch Shoofly Pie Recipe
Betty’s family didn’t care for Amish shoofly pie. But her restaurant was opening in three weeks. She knew guests would expect to see this local specialty on the menu.
There are plenty of recipes for shoofly pie. But this one is not only amazing, it has to be the best shoofly pie recipe. I mean, it’s quick to make, requires no complicated ingredients, and no specialty baking items. What’s not to love?
While you can refrigerate your shoofly pie, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Betty says you can freeze this pie, reheat it slightly, and bring it back to warm.
Betty Groff’s Shoofly Pie Recipe with Shortcut Pie Pastry Recipe
- 1 Pie Plate
For the Pie Pastry
- 1 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar Packed
- 1/2 teaspoon Fine Sea Salt
- 11 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter Melted (I used Salted Butter, as usual, since that's what I keep on-hand)
For the Shoofly Pie Crumb Topping
- 1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
- 1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar Packed
- 1/4 Cup Vegetable Shortening I use Crisco sticks for easy, mess-free measuring
For the Shoofly Pie Filling
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 Cup Boiling Water
- 1 Cup Golden Table Molasses I used the yellow label "original" molasses
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
For the Homemade Pie Dough
- In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, light brown sugar, and salt. Whisk to break up any clumps.
- Slowly pour in the melted butter and stir with a fork until no flour streaks remain.
- Press the soft mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9" pie plate with your fingers.
- Use a fork to crimp the edges, if desired, or leave "as is." I typically don't bother with the fork.
- Set the whole pie in your freezer for 15 minutes so it sets.
For the Shoofly Pie Crumble Topping
- Use a pastry blender (which is fast) or your fingers and combine the ingredients together until they resemble fine crumbs. Set aside.
For the Shoofly Pie Filling
- Add the baking soda to the boiling hot water in a medium bowl and stir so the baking soda dissolves.
- Then, add the molasses and salt to the boiling water and stir.
- Pour the molasses mixture into the unbaked pie shell.
- Sprinkle the top of the shoofly pie with the crumb topping (get the topping all the way to the edges of the pie to help prevent boil-over).
- Bake 375* for 10 minutes. Then, without opening the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 350* and bake for 30 minutes more or until the pie is set. Note: gently jiggle the pie. The top will remain firm.
- Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.