Classic Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie

Close-up of a plated slice of hoosier sugar cream pie showing the topping.
Recipe At-A-Glance
...
Holiday Recipe
Sugar Cream Pie is a simple custard pie that is commonly served at family gatherings in Indiana, but it is delicious enough to be a success anywhere!

Share this post:

For some reason, it’s rare to find a Sugar Cream Pie served outside of my home state of Indiana. I’m not sure exactly why this delicious, creamy pie hasn’t broken out of the Hoosier state, but we’re going to change that ASAP! Because everyone needs to make this pie.

Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie is incredibly simple to make. It uses ingredients that are easy to come by, and the flavor–oh the flavor! It tastes like buttery vanilla ice cream scented with cinnamon and nutmeg in a luscious, silky filling.

For us Hoosiers, this pie tastes like delicious nostalgia, and for you non-Hoosiers, everyone at your holiday gatherings will be begging for this recipe because it’s such a unique addition to the holiday dessert table. Let me show you how to make this splendid pie!

Close-up of a slice of pie with a bite taken out of it.

Okay, so what exactly is a sugar cream pie?

Spoiler alert: a sugar cream pie gives away all of its secrets right there in the title! The base ingredients for the filling are literally just sugar and cream.

But if you think that sounds too simple, don’t you dare underestimate this classic pie! It’s a sweet, creamy, custard pie that is lightly flavored with vanilla and spices (in this case we’re using nutmeg and cinnamon, but traditionally nutmeg alone or nothing at all is common).

Where does sugar cream pie originate from?

Sugar Cream Pie is an old-fashioned traditional pie here in Indiana, and it originated in the Indiana Amish communities in the mid-1800s as a way to get a dessert on the table when fruit wasn’t in season and the apple bins were empty. It grew in popularity throughout the state—especially where there is a heavy Amish population—and it’s still incredibly popular here today!

Overhead of whole, finished sugar cream pie.

What’s in the pie filling?

Sugar cream pie filling is kind of like a thick pudding. You’ll need:

  • Granulated sugar
  • Cornstarch
  • Salt
  • Half and half
  • Unsalted butter
  • Vanilla extract

The whole thing is topped with melted butter and sprinkled with additional sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg to make a slightly crispy crust on top (think: cinnamon toast).

While I would normally advise you to use whatever half and half and butter you have, I really encourage you to search out the best cream and butter you can find. They are the stars of the filling show in this pie, so it makes a big difference to the final flavor!

Close-up of pouring sugar pie filling into crust.

And here’s a secret that could get me banned from Indiana: sometimes, I like to add a little maple syrup and bourbon to the filling for even more flavor. It adds a great complexity to sugar cream pie, even if it is total blasphemy.

Although I do tend to keep it “plain” more often than not for tradition’s sake—it’s so delicious either way, and we’ve included the sneaky mix-in option in the recipe below!

Close-up of a bite of sugar cream pie on a fork.

What’s the difference between sugar cream pie and custard pie?

A typical custard pie uses eggs to thicken the filling, whereas a sugar cream pie is generally egg-free. Recipes vary all across the state of Indiana, though—my dad thinks my great-grandmother used eggs in her sugar cream pie—but most frequently you’ll find that Sugar Cream Pies are thickened with cornstarch instead of eggs.

So, wait, there aren’t any eggs in this custard pie?

Nope, it’s pie magic, isn’t it? Unlike pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie, the custard of this pie is thickened with cornstarch instead of eggs, which makes it an incredibly simple pie to make. Plus it’s a big win in our house, since my husband is allergic to eggs.

Overhead of a plated slice of pie with a fork.

What goes on top of Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie?

In many Hoosier kitchens, you’ll find Sugar Cream Pies totally naked without anything on top. Probably the most traditional way to serve it is with a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg. Here, we upped the flavor profile a touch by pouring on melted butter and topping the pie with a sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg mixture that gives a wonderful boost of spice flavor.

If you want to make your pie naked, it’ll still be delicious, just leave off the butter and cinnamon-nutmeg-sugar topping.

Close-up of hand sprinkling topping on hoosier pie.

Can I make sugar pie ahead of time?

You sure can! In fact, we recommend making it at least a day in advance to give the pie plenty of time to set up.

Can I leave it out overnight?

Apologies if your fridge is already crowded, but sugar cream pie absolutely has to be refrigerated. The pie holds its shape thanks to chilling, so you’ll need to make some room in the fridge.

A single slice of old fashioned sugar cream pie sits on a plate.

How long does sugar cream pie last in the fridge?

The high sugar content of the filling works as a preservative, which means sugar cream pie lasts longer than a fruit pie. It will be fine in the fridge for about 7-10 days.

 
Close-up of a plated slice of hoosier sugar cream pie showing the topping.

Classic Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie Recipe

Yield: 1 pie (8 servings)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Additional Time: 5 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 55 minutes

Sugar Cream Pie is a simple custard pie that is commonly served at family gatherings in Indiana, but it is delicious enough to be a success anywhere!

Ingredients

For the Pie

For the Topping

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. If using your own pie crust, place your pie crust on top of a 9” ungreased deep dish pie plate. Gently push it into the plate to contour along the sides. Leaving about 1/2″ all the way around, trim the extra crust, roll the 1/2″ under, and then flute or decorate the edge however you prefer. 
  2. For either homemade or store-bought crust: line the unbaked crust with parchment paper, fill the crust with pie weights (dried beans work, too). Then bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. 
  3. Remove the pie crust from the oven. Using the parchment paper, lift out the weights and set aside.
  4. While the crust bakes, prepare the filling by whisking together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the half and half.  Place the saucepan over medium high heat, and cook, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until the mixture is thick and bubbly—about 10 minutes. You’re looking for the texture of a thick pudding.
  5. Remove the filling from heat, and add in the butter cubes and vanilla extract. Stir until the butter has melted. Pour the filling into the pie crust. Smooth out with a spatula.
  6. For the topping: in a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cinnamon (if using, traditional Sugar Cream Pie usually has just nutmeg or even nothing on top), and nutmeg. Set aside.
  7. Pour the melted butter onto the top of the pie. Sprinkle on the sugar mixture. 
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. The filling will not be completely set, but it will have thickened. Turn the broiler on, and broil for 4-5 minutes, or until the cinnamon mixture is browned and bubbly.
  9. Remove from the oven, and let cool for an hour at room temperature on a cooling rack. Cover the pie and transfer it to the fridge to cool completely and set—preferably overnight, but at least four hours.

Notes

  • To get the really thick-looking slices like in these photos, a deep dish pie crust and deep dish pie pan is what you’re looking for. A regular pie crust in a regular pie pan works, too, you will just probably have some leftover filling. No worries, chill the filling and it’s a delicious pudding or panna cotta substitute!
  • Use the very best cream and butter you can get your hands on! It really does make a difference in both the flavor and the appearance of the pie.
  • Bourbon and maple syrup add an interesting layer of flavor that can help elevate this very simple pie. If you would like to try it, add 2 tablespoons maple syrup and 1 tablespoon bourbon to the filling while cooking. Just don’t tell the rest of Indiana I told you to do this, or I might get my driver’s license revoked!
  • Every single Hoosier you meet will have their own personal version of this pie! The most traditional version has either just nutmeg as a topping or no topping at all. The addition of cinnamon is delicious, though!

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 647Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 19gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 68mgSodium: 363mgCarbohydrates: 76gFiber: 1gSugar: 46gProtein: 6g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.
Starter Guide

The free Living Wholefully Starter Guide is packed full of tips, tricks, recipes, and a 14-day meal plan to get you started on the road to vibrant health.

Meet Cassie
Meet Your Host

Hello. My name is Cassie, and I’m a healthy home cooking expert.

I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I've been developing healthy recipes professionally for over 15 years. Food is my love language, and my kitchen tips and nourishing recipes are my love letter to you!

Learn More About Me →