Fran’s Favorites: A fun 50s recipe‘Surprise Pie’ for Labor Day Weekend


Labor Day weekend is class reunion weekend around my hometown. I’ve been looking through some old pictures and keepsakes thinking about my classmates. I came across a little cookbook our third grade class made with our teacher, Mrs. Jones. Recipes were submitted by the students’ mothers. The pages were then mimeographed and cut out in heart shapes. We gave the cookbooks to our moms for Valentine’s Day.

It was fun to see all the “mid-century” recipes. There were lots of cakes, including one from my mother, who was a great cake maker. She made cakes for many people in our town. I remember the year she made lots of cakes to enter into the county fair. She won enough prize money to buy a new mixer! Mike’s mother had a recipe for “Our Favorite Bread,” which I know she made for years. Mrs. Frank, whose family was from Germany, shared her recipe for “Elieen — Lebkuchen.” Jimmy Peters’ mom put in her recipe for “Hot Milk Cake.” Sharon Cordells’ mom shared her recipe for “Plain Cake.” I liked Gary Arnett’s mom’s recipe for “Cheeseburger Loaf,” which layers ground beef and cheese and potatoes. But the one I decided to make to commemorate reunion weekend was “Surprise Pie” from our friend Joe McDaniel’s mother. I think Joe was the first person in our class to die after we graduated. He served in the military during Vietnam, and not long after he returned home, he was killed in a car accident. I’ve been thinking about Joe and all of our veterans this week, and all of the good people we lost on 9/11.

Surprise Custard Pie

The grated chocolate forms a surprise layer of chocolate sauce between custard and meringue. Not a trace of the grated chocolate remains in the custard; it all rises to form the sauce layer.

1- 9” unbaked pie crust

Pie filling

Blend in a mixing bowl with fork:

1 unbeaten egg

3 unbeaten egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Add gradually:

1 3/4 cup scalded milk, cooled

Mix well. Add and DO NOT STIR:

2 ounces grated semi-sweet chocolate. DO NOT STIR.

Carefully pour mixture into the unbaked pie shell. Bake in hot oven at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until slightly firm.

Remove from oven and top with meringue, sealing to edge of crust.


1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

5 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Mix cream of tartar and sugar together and set aside.

In a clean bowl, place the egg whites and vanilla and beat with electric mixer on low for 1 minute. Increase speed to medium and beat until you see soft peaks. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar mixture and continue to beat on medium. Turn mixer to high and add remainder of sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time until stiff peaks are formed. With flexible rubber spatula, lightly spoon meringue onto pie. Make sure it reaches to edge and there are no gaps. Make peaks and valleys.

Brown in 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool and serve.

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Fran DeWine

Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.

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