Food & Drink

We can’t tell you what to call this pie, but here’s how to make a version for your Derby party

This classic chocolate nut pie goes by a lot of names in Kentucky. And there are even more variations in the recipe.
This classic chocolate nut pie goes by a lot of names in Kentucky. And there are even more variations in the recipe. Staff file photo

It’s the pie that everybody talks about this time of year, the one that most people associate with Derby, an ultra sweet nut and chocolate pie.

If you’re from Kentucky, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s such a staple of Kentucky cuisine it is actually served deep-fried at the state fair.

The only version that can be called Derby Pie is the one from Kern’s Kitchen in Louisville. But this time of year you can find these goodies in Kroger all over the state too. Angela Baldridge

But the name “Derby Pie” is trademarked by Kern’s Kitchen, which makes and sells a version based on the original created in 1950 at the Melrose Inn in Prospect by Walter and Leaudra Kern. And they are protective of that secret recipe as well as the name and have sued newspapers and magazines that run recipes for “Derby Pie.”

So, just to be clear, this is not an article that is going to give you a recipe for Derby Pie. Because we can’t.

However, we can talk about similar pies, sometimes called Mayday pie for the Kentucky Derby, held on the first Saturday in May every year.

But the curious thing is there isn’t just one recipe. This pie is incredibly elastic.

Some versions call for light Karo corn syrup and pecans, others for dark corn syrup and walnuts. Some recipes are adamant that margarine must be used. Others are fine with butter. Some recipes use white sugar, others brown.

Lots of versions use bourbon, including Maker’s Mark Pie. But lots leave it out, too.

This pie pretty much has to have chocolate or it’s just not the same. But the kind you use can vary with your tastes. Prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate? That’s ok.

My personal preferences run to dark semi-sweet chocolate, dark corn syrup and brown sugar, with butter and pecans, heavy on the bourbon, and served warm.

Lexington cookbook author Barbara Harper Bach, who knows her way around award-winning pies, has a unique take: She calls hers Racetrack Pie and dresses it up with bourbon whipped cream when serving. She also likes to put horse-themed cutouts on top while the pie bakes to give it a festive look.

She will teach a class on how to make this pie, as well as fabulous meringue pies at Williams-Sonoma at The Summit on Fritz Farm on Sunday.

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Barbara Harper Bach’s Racetrack Pie is a variation on the classic Kentucky pie with bourbon, chocolate and nuts. She uses cutouts to give it a festive look, then dresses it with bourbon whipped cream for serving. Barbara Harper Bach

Racetrack Pie

Yields two pies

  • 1 cup of all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 4 tablespoons Maker’s Mark bourbon
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts
  • 21/2 cups dark chocolate morsels
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla

Mix flour and sugar, add eggs and butter and mix on low to combine. Add the bourbon, walnuts, chocolate morsels, vanilla and salt. Mix on medium. Tip into two 9-inch unbaked pie crusts and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Let cool then top with bourbon whipped cream.

To make the cream, use an electric mixer to beat in a cold bowl: 1 pint of whipping cream, 2 tablespoons of powdered confectioners sugar and 1 tablespoon of Maker’s Mark bourbon until still peaks form. Store in the refrigerator.

Barbara Harper Bach’s Bluegrass Cooking Clinic Pie Class

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

Where: Williams-Sonoma 151 Larue, Suite 130, at The Summit at Fritz Farm

Cost: $35

Call: (859) 245-5127