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Brown Sugar Pie

I sort of have this thing when it comes to old recipes.  I own several antique cookbooks, which include a first edition Fanny Farmer, which I love to thumb through just to see how and what people were cooking 100 years ago.  So, of course, I was pretty interested when I came across this recipe for Brown Sugar Pie recently, which is an old (not sure how old) Canadian recipe (tarte au sucre brun) that eventually migrated to the Northeast. 

As is typical of many old-time recipes, this one is simple and pretty easy to put together with items that you’re sure to have on hand.  And, like many old-time recipes it’s also extremely delicious. 

How to describe the flavor… something like a pecan pie without the pecans, but not quite as rich, with a lighter texture, yet a definite caramel thing going on.  I served it with some homemade vanilla frozen yogurt, but vanilla ice cream or whipped cream would be equally perfect.  Oh, and it definitely needs to be served warm.

I can’t say enough about how good this pie is.  It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a homey, comforting pie your grandmother would have made, to the delight of everyone around the table.  I almost feel sad that I did not discover it sooner, because it’s one that I think deserves to be served alongside our other favorite holiday pies.  We’ll be taking care of that real soon.


Brown Sugar Pie

Printable Recipe

Recipe adapted from The Washingtonian

Makes one 9-inch pie.
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 heaping tablespoons flour
6 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 disk pie dough (homemade or store-bought, here's my recipe)
Heavy cream or vanilla ice cream (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine all the ingredients (except the pie dough and ice cream or heavy cream) in a bowl and mix on medium speed for two minutes. Roll out the pie dough, press it into a 9-inch pie plate, and trim off any excess dough around the edges. Pour the brown sugar mixture into the pie shell and bake for 35 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned and the filling has set. (It took mine longer than the 35 minutes...more like 45 or 50).  Remove from the oven and let cool. Slice and serve with heavy cream or ice cream. 

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Reader Comments (67)

This looks like a fabulous fall pie!! I'll definitely be making this soon. Thanks!

September 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMandy

Wow this looks delicious! Does it taste similar to a giant butter tart??

September 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLouisa

Well, never having tasted a giant butter tart, I would have to say I'm not sure. But the brown sugar makes a sort of caramelized flavor that is just wonderful. It's really not as rich as it might seem. Quite lovely, actually.

September 29, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Brown sugar pie, just the name makes you feel all warm and cozy!

October 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermarie

Maybe that's what drew me to this pie in the first place, Marie. It really does have that warm and cozy feel when you eat it too. :)

October 3, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

I've been looking for a good tarte au sucre recipe for quite some time. I don't go to Quebec very often but last time I did, I brought a pie home on the plane. I will give this recipe a try.

October 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteph in Canada

Oh, you really must make this Steph. It's quickly becoming one of our very favorite pies. Thanks for stopping in!

October 22, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

My Mom made butter tarts when I was a little girl. Like everyone in her generation, she baked a lot of things with no recipe. She would make these tarts when she had left over pie dough. I've always wondered how to make them and this recipe looks pretty close to what I remember. Note: she also would add walnuts.

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDorothy S

My mom used to make a wonderful brown sugar pie when I was a child. I asked her several years ago for the recipe, but it was one that she knew by heart but never wrote it down, and now at an advanced age, does not remember anymore. I hope that this one is similar if not the same.

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie Baker

One question, is the flour in this recipe all-purpose or self-rising?

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarol Harrell

Carol, this is made with all-purpose flour.

November 17, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Looks like a pecan pie, without the nuts... decadant!

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCathy

You know, Cathy, it's not quite as dense and rich as a pecan pie, but it is similar in a way. Hard to describe, but mighty tasty.

November 17, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Although this pie took twice as long to bake, it is so delicious and lush! My 4 year old, fussy, granddaughter says it is the "best pie ever". That says it all!! Sure to be a family favorite!

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNonnie of 7

Thanks, Nonnie! Granddaughters know best! Interesting that it took so long to bake, though. Mine took a little longer, too, but I wasn't sure if it was my oven, so that's good information. I'll note it on the recipe.

November 17, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Thanks for the recipe! I grew up eating Brown Sugar Pie that my mom would add a ring of sugared nuts around the crust on top of the filling. I look forward to making this over the weekend!


November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeg Bressette

i was looking for something to surprise my mom this year its the first year for me to be hosting thanksgiving in my family and this sure looks like a good way to start off a new family tradition

November 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermarissa

Saw this recipe and had to make it that night...my husband swooned..what a delish pie!!

November 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

So glad you made this, Nicole. Isn't it good?! Thanks for letting us know!

November 20, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

When I was a little girl, my mother (from Selby, Ont.) used to make butter tarts. I never got her recipe and any that I've looked for always called for Karo Syrup, which she didn't use. I think this must be what she was making. I always described them as like pecan pie without the nuts, but they were a little "milder" and looser, not so dense. I can't wait to try this recipe to see if I can finally have my mother's wonderful butter tarts!

November 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSherry Bowman

Sure sounds like it must be it, Sherry. I'd love to hear what you think.

November 20, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

This pie looks fantastic! Definitely a new idea for the Thanksgiving dessert table!

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy

My grandmother who is from Canada, New Brunswick, makes a very similar pie where the main ingrediant is brown sugar. She has passed this down to the rest of the family. Our version is what we call butterscotch pie. Hers uses only the egg yokes, you retain the whites and make a beautiful mirange on the top after the pie is baked. Needless to say the holiday season is not complete without a slice, My mom usually has to make two for just 5 people. LOL....

November 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer T

I have a question do you have to use a stand mixer? I just have a hand mixer.

November 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

I have both, Shannon, but a hand mixer works just fine here. I'll note that on the recipe. Thanks!

November 25, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Obviously it's too late to make this for Thanksgiving but I think you're right - it deserves a place around the holiday table. Christmas it shall be!

November 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

I just took this pie out of the oven! It looks wonderful. I took a tiny pinch off of the top it tastes great!

July 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

When I was little and my Grandmother (from Ottawa,Canada,who lived with us) made pies, she would take the "scrap" dough and roll it out and put it in miniature pie pans. She would then make brown sugar pies for us to eat. We LOVED them, but have no recipe for it. Thanks for sharing.

August 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLynne

i just made this pie on our first rainy, fall day. it turned out rustic and sweet and crackly on top. lovely and simple! thank you...

October 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commentershen

One of the best sugar pie I have had,, easiest one that I have ever made.

October 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermaggie

How do U soften hard Brown sugar

November 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjan

There are a couple ways to soften hardened brown sugar. The way I do it is to place it in a bowl in the microwave along with another small bowl of water. Microwave for 30 second increments until it's soft. If it takes more than a minute, the brown sugar might get a little hot, but it will be soft.

November 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

I keep my brown sugar soft by leaving the heel slice of a loaf of bread in the container. The slice of bread will dry out but the sugar stays soft.

December 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenternatasha

Thanks for that, Natasha! I've heard of that before, but it's good to know it actually works!

December 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

This sounds delish!! Do you use dark or light brown sugar - by the color in your picture, I am guessing dark brown. Just wondering if it matters.

January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary

I prefer dark brown sugar for this, Mary, but I doubt if it matters too much. The dark brown sugar just has a little more depth of flavor.

January 23, 2012 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

How exciting. I like the gooey stuff in a pecan pie, but I don't like the pecans, so this sounds great!

There is a pie called Transparent Pie that is made in the Maysville, KY area. It is my favorite pie and my mother and I have tried so many times to duplicate the recipe with no success. I am anxious to try your recipe for Brown Sugar pie to see if it comes close. It has also been described as a Pecan Pie without the pecans.

February 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterConnie

I'm anxious to hear if this is the pie you remember. It does seem to have gone by different names through the years, but people never forget that flavor. Not quite as rich as pecan pie filling, but similar flavors.

February 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

The brown sugar pie was not the transparent pie recipe. It is a pie that I will have no difficulty in consuming though. So thank you for that. I did make the pie crust using your recipe and am a great fan! I will definitely use that again. I have not had very good luck in the past with pie crust recipes using butter (great taste, but tough). Your recipe was great. Looking forward to future recipes.

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterConnie

So glad you liked it, Connie, and the pie crust too. So easy, flaky and tender. We have my husband's Grandmother and her mother before her to thank. That one's been around a long time.

February 13, 2012 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

I love recipes like this one. Pies like vinegar pie and this one are fascinating because of the era they came from, when times were hard and folks often didn't have a variety of ingredients in the pantry to cook with. So they used what they had and found ways to make it taste good. My guess is this recipe was born from those roots.

March 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I think you're right, David. Very simple ingredients... a humble, yet very delicious outcome.

March 3, 2012 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

My Grandma Benjamin used to make a "Butterscotch Pie" for grandpa once a week. I will always think of my Grandpa B whenever I bake her molasses cookies or her pie. His grandparents were from Canada so I'm hoping this is her pie. As a teenager I remember her showing me how to make it, as Jennifer T said in a previous post, my grandmas version also had a perfect meringue topping.
last summer I found a recipe in my stash that I labeled as "Grandmas Butterscotch Pie" and was thrilled to try it again after 30 yrs.........
Well, something went horribly wrong and it was thick soup in a crust. Never firmed up and Grandma and I both had a good laugh. Grandma will be 90 in July and as a surprise I am going to try to perfect her pie ! If I cant figure it out between my chicken scratches and my sweet Grandmas memory I am hoping YOUR recipe is close enough to remind granny of the good ole days when she cheerfully cooked and baked for Grandpa.
I am thrilled to have found your site, it's going to be a rainy day today and I have a feeling I will be here all morning !

P.S. My daughter is staying with me this weekend, recovering from the flu, Since she is finally eating again I will be making her your Mini Maple Glazed Doughnut Hole Muffins to comfort her . Thanks for sharing your goodness with us!

April 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeth R

I do hope this pie brings back all those memories for you both. Even if it's not THE pie your Grandma used to make, I think you'll enjoy it. It's awfully good. Let us know what you think. Oh, and enjoy those little donut hole muffins... hope your daughter feels better.

April 14, 2012 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

I found this recipe today and was able to make it for my family tonight since I had all the ingredients on hand. We ate it after we watched The Walking Dead. Well the description of how it would taste was completely accurate. Pecan pie without the pecans and not too rich. And it was DELICIOUS. I love pecan pie but honestly I wish it didn't have pecans. Now I have brown sugar pie instead.I am very excited to now have this new, super easy, practically foolproof recipe. THANKS :)

March 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTheresa.B

You're so welcome, Theresa! I'm really glad you liked it. We love it too! My Dad can't eat nuts, so this is perfect - he still gets his "pecan pie"!

March 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Just thought I'd let you know I saw this pie and your blog referenced in the food section of the Huntsville, AL Times :) The writer used your recipe as a starting point for her own variation.

April 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGinny

Thanks so much for letting me know, Ginny.

April 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Check out this really old version of Sugar Pie with only sugar, flour & cream dumped in and stirred with your finger !!! in the unbaked pie shell: http://www.instructables.com/id/Original-old-time-Quebec-sugar-pie/?ALLSTEPS That one seems it would actually be like a soft caramel in a shell. But the recipe with the eggs would make it more gelatinous like a pecan pie filling. Either yummy but yet different in texture.

Trivia: I was looking for more info on this pie recipe and read that it originated in France & Belgium, then to French Canada where they used grated maple sugar (before it got too pricey) and eventually down into the states, NE & Midwest. Fascinating how these recipes move and evolve over generations, following immigration patterns.

I haven't made a sugar pie yet but I imagine it's something like a Chess Pie (or Buttermilk Pie). Can't wait to try it out.

Lovely blog, you have lots of interesting recipes I'll be checking out.

April 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKat

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