My wife Molly’s great-grandmother Mae is 98 years old. She’s one of the kindest women I’ve ever met, and I’ll never forget her sweet laugh and smile. It’s likely Mae is also one of the smallest and toughest women I’ve ever met. Well into her 90s, she mowed her own grass around her home and drove a golf cart through the woods to her church in the mountains of east-central Alabama!
It’s well known in the family that Mae has long championed eating what her body tells her it needs and wants. That mentality tells me her approach to food is deeply spiritual, which fits with the great faith by which she lives her life.
Aunt Mae (left) traveled to North Carolina in January 2015, at the age of 95, to attend our wedding. (Photo by Ben Earp Photography)
We find great joy in being family with Aunt Mae, as we call her, and we take great pride in sharing this recipe for her Coconut Pie. Molly’s mother recently shared the recipe with us after a visit to see Mae in Alabama, and we tried the pie soon afterward. With each step, and then with each bite, I thought about how much of a blessing Mae’s 98 years have been for all who have known her. She continues to bless us with her example of faith and with her food, including this Coconut Pie. It’s light and sweet inside, with a strong exterior around the edges, just like Aunt Mae.
We know God made a special woman in Mae. Here’s how you can make her pie.
What You Need:
¼ cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup milk
¼ cup self-rising flour
1 can (3.5 ounces) coconut (About ½ cup)
What You Do:
1. Cream together the butter and sugar in an electric mixer.
2. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after both.
3. Add the milk, flour and coconut, and mix well.
4. Pour into a lightly greased pie pan.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until set. In our oven, we needed only 40 minutes.
Google the words “choco-flan” and you will instantly find a dozen recipes for the famous Mexican dessert. Composed of two layers, one chocolate cake, one flan, the dessert is creamy, moist and absolutely perfect when it comes out of the oven. What you won’t find however is this story and this recipe.
One of my former students and I (I’m a high school English teacher) were talking about recipes one day and she was sharing some of her favorite Mexican desserts. Lus (her name means “light”) was born in America to parents originally from Mexico. She has learned to be an amazing cook from her family, as well as from Youtube videos. Now, let me backtrack a little. Last semester, Lus brought me a piece of choco-flan to try. The slice was the stuff of dreams – I had never tasted anything like it. I’m a flan and custard lover anyway, but the moist chocolate cake on the bottom and a little chocolate drizzle on top took the flan to the next level. I praised it so much that a few months later, she offered to share her personal recipe. So we sat down together at school one day (she was multitasking with some vocabulary homework) and watched a Youtube video for choco-flan. Lus translated (the video was in Spanish) and told me every step she does differently, so that I could write down her secret recipe.
No matter how many choco-flan recipes I’ve seen online, nobody’s is exactly like Lus’s. Even my first try wasn’t quite as delicious as hers, but it sure did come close. Here follows the choco-flan recipe of your dreams, as created by Lus, and written down by me. Enjoy!
Pans and extras
Bundt cake pan
13×9 glass pan
Nonstick cooking spray
1 ½ tablespoons of sugar
1 box of devil’s food or fudge cake mix
½ cup oil
1 can evaporated milk (14 oz.)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 package cream cheese
1 pinch coffee
Prep the Pan
Take a Bundt cake pan and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Melt 1 ½ tablespoons of sugar in a saucepan on low/medium heat. Then pour into the Bundt pan and coat all sides of the pan with the sugar mixture.
Make the Cake
Mix in a large bowl: the cake mix, eggs, oil and evaporated milk. (The evaporated milk is used in place of water.)
Pour into the Bundt pan.
Make the Flan/Custard
Use a stand mixer, hand mixer or blender to blend the custard ingredients. It may be helpful to soften the cream cheese at room temperature (or in a microwave for a few seconds). I started with the cream cheese and milks, then added the eggs, vanilla and coffee at the end.
Pour the flan mixture on top of the cake mix carefully. Do not be alarmed if the cake mix rises up a bit – everything will even out when baking.
Preheat the oven to 350 and place the Bundt pan in a 13×9 pan.
Pour 1 inch or so of boiling water into the 13×9 pan around the Bundt pan. You may cover the Bundt pan with a little tin foil, but be sure to spray it with cooking spray and tent it so it doesn’t stick to the cake mix as it cooks.
Bake for 50 minutes, then check every 10 minutes until cake is fully cooked and a toothpick comes out clean. This may take up to 1 ½ hours, depending on your oven. The cake part will be on the top.
When the cake is done, let it sit on the counter until cool. Then, refrigerate for a few hours.
Finally, it is time to invert the choco-flan. Use a butter knife to go between the outer edge of the cake and the pan to loosen it a little. Put a plate on top of the Bundt pan and while holding them together, flip the pan. Jiggle it until the cake has come out of the Bundt pan and is on the plate. Slice and eat plain, or drizzle with caramel sauce or chocolate syrup. Enjoy!
If you search for an egg custard pie recipe on Pinterest, you’ll have a hard time finding a good, old-fashioned recipe that includes a crust. When I first searched for a recipe, years before Pinterest was a thing, online recipes were mostly just egg custards. There was no pie shell – you know, the part that makes it a pie. I had a hard time, but I finally found this recipe.
It’s one I’ve stuck with for years, because it turns out delicious every time. It won’t be cakey and it won’t look bubbly on top; it’ll be a smooth, creamy custard inside a perfectly baked pie shell. And! I’ll also share a few tricks to fix two problems that I’ve ran into with custard pies before. Those are: burnt pie crust on the top, and pie crust getting soggy on the bottom/not staying on the bottom where it should be. (I’ve had an egg custard once where the pie crust melded with the pie, floating up during baking. You don’t want that.) Here we go!
1 deep dish pie crust
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 egg white (for brushing the crust)
Preheat oven to 400.
Beat the eggs in a small container, then mix eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla well. Slowly blend in milk. If it looks a little frothy, like in the photo below, that’s okay!
Brush the inside of the pie shell with one egg white – this prevents the pie filling and the shell from melding together and either getting a) soggy or b) mixed together like a messy cobbler.
Pour into the pie shell. You will definitely want a deep dish shell, because this old-timey recipe makes a lot of pie filling! And those “regular” pie shells have certainly gotten smaller over the years. Sprinkle the top with a little nutmeg.
Bake for at least 45 minutes, then cover it with a sheet of tin foil. Then, continue to check the pie at intervals of 15 minutes. The tin foil is the trick to keep the top crust from burning. (As you can see in the photo below, I didn’t do this early enough, but it did stop the crust from getting any darker.)
So when is the pie done? It’s tough to tell with an egg custard. Most people tell you to shake it, but an egg custard will always will be wiggly. Here’s my method: with a towel or oven mitt, pick up the pie on the right side and tilt it slightly to the left. If the entire middle of the pie moves to the edge and looks like it’s going to pour right out of the pie – it’s not done. But – if the middle is holding together and the pie has been cooking for more than an hour, it’s done. Here’s what it should look like. 🙂
Molly’s take: I hadn’t made an egg custard in a while, so I was nervous about making it as part of an anniversary gift for my husband’s parents. When it came out of the oven (finally!) and we tried a small slice to make sure it tasted right, it was absolutely delightful. My only regret is not making two so we could have eaten the other one! Is this pie easy? Sure, it’s easy to mix up the ingredients and put it in the oven. But it takes a while to make a good egg custard pie. Remember, you’re cooking a lot of eggs and milk into something relatively solid. And you have to put tin foil on the pie to keep it from burning. And you have to check it often. But the end result is absolutely worth it. Now it’s time for me to go make another one…
Matthew’s take: The egg custard is a pie I’ve rarely seen among others at church and other social gatherings over the years. But the egg custard pie is a long-standing tradition in the Tessnear family. It goes back at least as far as my dad’s grandmother on his mother’s side. I grew up eating my mother’s egg custard pies, and this edition was as creamy and tasty as any egg custard pie I’ve ever eaten. Don’t expect to fill up your stomach with an egg custard pie slice. Egg custard is not about quantity. It’s about consistency and taste. The lightness of it makes it a great dessert option following a heavy and filling meal. I give the egg custard pie an A+ for taste, but I would warn you that it’s not the easiest pie to make if you’re not patient, and it will never be the prettiest pie you’ve ever seen from a bright colors standpoint. But you’ll love this pie if you enjoy light desserts and trying a recipe you rarely find on the table.