Recipes: A ‘No-Bake’ Chocolate Dessert for Your Holiday Table
Whether you know it as chocolate silk pie or French silk pie, one thing is certain: This cocoa-spiked, velvety-textured dessert is an American classic.
Yes, American—despite the inclusion of “French” in some aliases. Here’s the rough backstory: In 1951, a Maryland-based contestant by the name of Betty Cooper took home the “Best in Class” honor at Pillsbury’s third annual bake-off competition. Her contribution was something called French silk pie, and while “French” may have been a stylistic choice rather than a nod to any firm French roots, the “silk” part of the name is spot on. It spawned countless copycats and variations.
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Like the classic version, this rendition’s no-bake filling is a rich mixture of melted chocolate, butter, sugar and eggs. Whipped cream or beaten egg whites are incorporated to create the dish’s characteristic silkiness and light, mousse-like texture. This filling is poured into a crust that has been pre-baked and cooled, making this a great dessert to prepare in advance. (We used a store-bought chocolate cookie crust—there’s no shame in a shortcut!—but feel free to bake your own traditional pie crust or any other crust you please.) As if that wasn’t enough, it’s topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream.
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This pie also features an unexpected addition: espresso powder. Sometimes known as instant espresso, it’s a concentrated, finely ground product made from dark roasted coffee beans. When tucked into baked goods, the effect is subtle—but you’d certainly miss it if it wasn’t there. Espresso powder can function almost like salt, intensifying and elevating chocolate flavors. It also lends a note of bitterness that prevents the pie from tilting overly sweet and contributes a heady, espresso-tinged aroma. What’s not to like?
How to Make Chocolate Silk Pie
By Dana Beninati
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 4-ounce bittersweet chocolate bars, finely chopped
- 4 large eggs
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ¼ teaspoon instant espresso powder
- Kosher salt
- 1 store-bought chocolate cookie crust
Start by making the whipped cream, which will be used in the filling and on top of the pie. In a large bowl combine the cream, sour cream, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt. Use an electric mixer to whip the mixture on medium high speed until stiff peaks form, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Divide the cream in half and set aside in the refrigerator.
Next, prepare the chocolate filling. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until smooth. Set aside to cool.
Set up a double boiler by placing a heat-proof bowl on top of a small pot, filled with 1-inch of water. Be sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl, especially once boiling. Add the eggs, remaining sugar and a pinch of salt into the heat-proof bowl and whisk to combine. Place the bowl on top of the pot and cook over medium heat until the water in the pot simmers. As the water simmers, steam will gently cook the eggs. Cook, while continuously whisking, until the egg mixture becomes pale and fluffy, about 10 minutes. It should reach 160 degrees on a thermometer. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining vanilla extract and espresso powder. Set aside to cool.
Place the butter in a large bowl and beat with the electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in the cooled egg mixture and melted chocolate. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes more until combined. Gently fold in half of the whipped cream.
Scrape the filling into the pie crust and spread into an even layer. Cover the pie lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours. This pie can be assembled 1 to 2 days in advance. When ready to serve, top with the remaining whipped cream.
Published: November 17, 2023