National Pie Day – The History of Hoosier Pie
Celebrate National Pie Day on January 23rd by making your own Indiana namesake pie. The first National Pie Day was observed in 1975, designated as such by Charlie Papazian of Boulder, Colorado, to celebrate his own birthday with his favorite dessert. In 1986, the American Pie Council began sponsoring the event, as a way to commemorate Crisco™’s 75th anniversary. National Pie Day is also observed on December 1st, although the origin of the secondary observation date is unknown. Some even observe Pi Day (3/14) as another day to celebrate this beloved dessert.
The first pies appeared as early as 9500 B.C. Pies can be either savory or sweet. Many associate pie as the sweet variety, of which there are numerous different kinds, such as fruit, custard, or tarts. Indiana has an official state pie, designated as such in 2009, known as Hoosier Pie or Sugar Cream Pie. After the 2009 designation, Duane Wickersham said the following to The Indianapolis Star “It’s a great honor. The sugar cream pie is a great pie, and it’s a Hoosier pie. Every state needs a state pie.”
The sugar cream pie tradition pre-dates Indiana statehood, beginning with the migration to eastern Indiana by the Shake community. Some say the Amish brought it with them as they migrated to northeast Indiana in the 1830s. Either way, sugar cream pie falls under the category of “desperation pie.” A desperation pie varies regionally and seasonally (i.e. availability of ingredients, like fruit), but it means it contains simple ingredients that one would always have on hand at the farm or home. Most sugar cream pie recipes comprise of sugar, whipping cream or milk, flour, and butter into a pie crust. There are variations that include nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon. Some include egg, but that is a highly controversial addition as most would say a true sugar cream pie has no egg. Hoosier Pie is also known as a “finger pie” since you’re supposed to mix the ingredients with your fingers to prevent air in the cream.
The earliest known recipe of sugar cream pie is from the 1976 publication The Hoosier Cookbook edited by Elaine Lumbra. It includes a recipe submitted by Mrs. Kenneth D. Hahn of Miami County. She states it is a 160 year old recipe (so approximately c. 1815-1816). The most famous purveyor of Hoosier Pie is Mrs. Wick’s Pies and Restaurant in Winchester, which is also the Sugar Cream Pie Capital of the world. In 1944, Duane “Wick” Wickersham created his version of sugar cream pie. He patented the recipe in July 1962. Today over 10,000 pies every day are made by Wick’s Pies.
People can travel Indiana in search of their favorite Hoosier Pie. The Indiana Foodways Alliance created several food tours around the state, including the Hoosier Pie Trail. There are 21 restaurants on the tour, the closest ones to The Region are in Peru, Middlebury, and Shipshewana. More celebrated pies can be found at Nick’s Kitchen in Huntington, Storie’s Restaurant in Greensburg, and of course, the aforementioned Mrs. Wick’s Pies and Restaurant in Winchester.
This January 23rd enjoy your favorite pie or even try something new. Make sugar cream pie with one of the recipes on display, or if your family has a recipe, use that. Celebrate #NationalPieDay the Indiana way with Hoosier Pie!
Hoosier Pie: A traditional Hoosier Pie is a sugar cream pie. There are several recipe versions that exist.