Skip to main content

Grammy's Christmas Pie

A recipe for a delicious holiday tradition

Grammy's Christmas Pie: A family tradition for three generations

Grammy's Christmas Pie: A family tradition for three generations

A Christmas Conspiracy

My mother tried unsuccessfully for years to get her mother-in-law to give up her prized Christmas pie recipe. It's not that Grammy ever outright refused Mom; she either pretended not to hear the request or would put it off for another time. "Oh, I'll get it for you later," Grammy would tell her, but later never came.

Finally, my mother had enough of Grammy's rebuffs. She enlisted my help.

"You're going to get that recipe from your grandmother before we go home," she told me matter-of-factly as the family headed out one year to celebrate Christmas at Grammy's. "She won't turn you down."

My mother's plan was solid. Not only did I have something she sorely lacked – a blood relationship to Grammy – the timing was perfect. I was a senior in high school and had taken the blue ribbon for my 4H baked goods entry, French cheese braid, at the Iowa State Fair over the summer. My award-winning showing certainly gave me credibility as a baker in my grandmother's eyes. Also, I'd be headed off to college in the fall and, from Grammy's perspective, what college co-ed didn't require a clutch of sure-fire recipes to help her attain her MRS degree?

I was happy to help, not because I necessarily cared if my mother got the recipe, but because I loved the idea of being a co-conspirator. Never known for my acting abilities – or my subtlety – I started in just as soon as we arrived at my grandmother's house.

"Grammy, did you make Christmas pie this year? You did? Oh, I'm soooo glad. It's my favorite pie in the whole world."

The drama built to a crescendo as dessert was served.

"Mmmm. I just love this pie. Mmmm. This is so good. Grammy, did I tell you this is my favorite pie in the whole world?"

As Grammy rose to clear the dessert plates, I uncharacteristically jumped up to help her. As I followed her into the kitchen, I lowered my voice to a whisper. "Grammy, do you think it be possible for me to get your recipe for Christmas pie? I'd really like to try to make it," I said, adding for good measure, "although I'm sure it won't be as good as yours."

Grammy hesitated for a moment. "Of course, dear," she finally replied. "I'll let you copy it down here in the kitchen."

She consulted a wooden recipe box on the counter and pulled out an index card written in her own neat cursive. At the top of the card she had noted the original source of the recipe, a 1950s-era women's magazine. ("All that secrecy for a recipe from a magazine?" my mother later would remark.) Grammy supplied me with a blank index card and a pen, and watched as I sat at the kitchen table and painstakingly copied the recipe word for word. Returning later to rejoin the others in the dining room, I shot my mother a triumphant look. Mission accomplished.

That was nearly 30 years ago. Grammy's been gone for 20 years, but Christmas pie remains a time-honored holiday tradition served at every family Christmas celebration. This is the recipe I copied down that Christmas day so long ago, with a few modifications by my mother to modernize it.

The author with Grammy

The author with Grammy

Christmas Pie: The Recipe


1 tablespoon gelatin

2 tablespoons cold water

2 cups half-and-half

Scroll to Continue

3 eggs, separated

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup sugar, divided use

1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds, plus a few additional for garnish

4 maraschino cherries, chopped, plus 4 additional cherries, quartered, for garnish

Baked pie crust shell


Combine gelatin and cold water. While gelatin softens in water, scald half-and-half in the top of a double boiler. Remove top of double boiler from heat.

Beat egg yolks. Add salt and 1/3 cup sugar and continue beating until lemon colored and foamy. Add small amount of half-and-half to egg mixture and blend.

Combine egg mixture with remaining half-and-half in top of double boiler and return to heat. Cook over hot water until mixture coats a spoon, stirring constantly, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Add gelatin, vanilla extract and almond extract to mixture and blend well. Chill until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally to speed the chilling process.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add remaining 1/3 cup sugar and blend well. Fold the egg whites into the chilled gelatin mixture. Add almonds and chopped cherries. Pour mixture into baked shell, garnish with remaining almonds and quartered cherries, and chill well.

My mother, slicing up the beloved Christmas pie

My mother, slicing up the beloved Christmas pie

Rated by Readers

Do your family have a holiday food tradition? If so, please share it in the comments section below.


Penny Lulich from Indiana on October 25, 2017:

Love the story about how you got the recipe for your grandmother's pie! It looks yummy!

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on May 31, 2014:

Thanks, Linda. I don't know about thrilled. She was pretty secretive about her recipes.

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on May 10, 2014:

Love your story! Your grammy must have been thrilled to give you the recipe! :)

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on December 23, 2013:

Hi Heidi. Are you an Iowan, too? What are your thoughts on turkey and dressing sandwiches? If they are another family tradition, then we are long lost relatives for sure!

Heidi Brown Ryan on December 23, 2013:

I am quite sure we must be related... Or share like-minded Grandmothers! This is our family Christmas tradition as well, complete with maraschino cherries on top. Lots of good food from Iowa!

CraftytotheCore on October 07, 2013:

This looks so beautiful, and I bet it tastes wonderful. Thank you for sharing the recipe!

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on February 21, 2013:

It is so light and fluffy that it would be great for Easter, too. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Michelle Liew from Singapore on February 20, 2013:

With Easter coming-delicious! Thanks for sharing!!

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on January 01, 2013:

Ellaamelia, thanks for the comment. I think I will do some more of Grammy's recipes. Thanks for the idea.

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on January 01, 2013:

Thanks, Victoria Lynn. Your comment made me smile.

Amelia Ella from LA, California on December 30, 2012:

its such a great recipe for me because On every Christmas my Mother make us delicious sweet dishes for whole family...I love your post and specially your recipe ... Kindly share this type of more recipe...

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on December 30, 2012:

What a beautiful pie! I love the personal touch with the story and photos. Your mother looks delighted, like she really pulled one over on somebody. heehee. Delightful hub!

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on December 29, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, Ask Te Te. Were you able to try the pie over the holiday? If so, I'd love to hear what you thought of it. Happy New Year!

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on December 29, 2012:

Thanks, ishwaryaa. I appreciate the comment, vote, and shares, Happy New Year to you!

Ask TeTe from Pennsylvania on December 18, 2012:

What a wonderful looking pie! Thank you so much for sharing part of your family history with all of us. I may give it a try to this year's Christma Dinner!

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani from Chennai, India on December 17, 2012:

An engaging hub packed with an interesting story, clear instructions and drool-worthy photos! Happy holidays! Well-done!

Thanks for SHARING. Useful, Awesome & Interesting. Voted up, pinned & shared on Facebook

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on December 17, 2012:

It must be time to make it yourself, then, Lady Fiddler. : )

Joanna Chandler from On Planet Earth on December 17, 2012:

every time i watch this cake i am drooling lol.

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on December 15, 2012:

Thank you all for the comments, Stephanie, Peggy, LadyFiddler, SpecialK, and Thelma. My family is celebrating Christmas early this year while my brother and his family are in town so we will be enjoying Grammy's Christmas pie tonight. Can't wait!

Thelma Alberts from Germany on December 14, 2012:

Yummy! I would like to try this recipe for Christmas. It´s a wonderful story how you asked your granny for this pie recipe. Thanks for sharing.

Karen Metz from Michigan on December 11, 2012:

I loved your story and look forward to trying this recipe. I love collecting older recipes and trying them. Thanks for sharing!

Joanna Chandler from On Planet Earth on December 11, 2012:

I want piece of that cake like RIGHT NOW!!! send me piece plzzzzzzzz i am hungry @ work and could do with this. Why are you showing this to me when am hungry? you bad girl!!! LOL

That cake looks delicious hmmm to bad none for me

Thanks for sharing i will love to try this

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 11, 2012:

What an eyecatching photo of your Christmas pie and what an interesting history it has in your family. It is nice that you finally got the recipe and can now pass it down to those in your family and your hub family as well. You used some good psychology on your grandma! Good photo of you and your grandma and also your mother. Up votes and will share.

Stephanie Henkel from USA on December 08, 2012:

This looks so delicious! It seems a little like the eggnog pie that my sister-in-law makes,but I think your addition of almonds and chopped cherries sounds would make it even better! Thanks for sharing your Grammy's recipe! I'm sure you think of her whenever you make it.

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on November 30, 2012:

Give it a try, idigwebsites. It's light and creamy and really delicious. Thanks for reading and commenting.

idigwebsites from United States on November 28, 2012:

Thanks for sharing your fond stories and your recipe. It looks good and attractive indeed. Might try this for the holidays. :)

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on September 01, 2012:

Thanks, vespawoolf. It's a great way to keep Grammy's memory alive, especially for the next generation who never knew her.

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on September 01, 2012:

Your mother's plan was solid! What a great story and you tell it so well. I'm glad you and your family have been able to enjoy Grammy's recipe all these years. Voted up and shared!

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on August 19, 2012:

I know, rcrumple, it's a horrible thing I did. And for my mother to have put me up to it! Thanks for reading and commenting.

Rich from Kentucky on August 18, 2012:

Deb -

You imp! lol How could you do that to your grandmother?

I loved it. There's a little bit of James Bond in everyone, you just found yours at an early age! Great Job!

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on March 16, 2012:

Thanks, alocsin; it's great!

Nancy, I'm sure you've had it.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on March 16, 2012:

Delicious, attractive and festive. What more can you ask from a Christmas dessert. Voting this Up and Useful.

Nancy Bryant on March 14, 2012:

Why do I not remember this pie???

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on March 10, 2012:

Thank you, Movie Master. I'm glad you enjoyed the story and photos. I hope you get a chance to try the pie someday. It is delicious!

Movie Master from United Kingdom on March 10, 2012:

Hi Deborah, I loved the story of your mother, grandmother and how you managed to eventually get the recipe, Grammy's Christmas pie looks and sounds delicious and thank you for including your lovely family photos.

Voting up

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on March 09, 2012:

Thanks, Rose! Appreciate the comment.

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 09, 2012:

It looks beautiful and tasty. I loved hearing the story to go with it, too.

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on March 09, 2012:

Thanks, Aya! I appreciate the comment and pin.

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on March 09, 2012:

Thanks, billybuc. Iowa grandmas rock!

Aya Katz from The Ozarks on March 09, 2012:

A recipe hub with a suspenseful storyline! I'm pinning this!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 09, 2012:

Great story and memory. My grandma was from Iowa and I can tell you that Iowans know how to make darn good pies.

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on March 09, 2012:

Hi, Dexter. Thanks for commenting. Yes, don't wait until Christmas. It's a nice light custard pie that would be good for spring, too.

Dexter Yarbrough from United States on March 08, 2012:

Hi Deborah! Grammy's Christmas pie looks so very delicious! Thank you so much for sharing the recipe! I don't think I will wait until next Christmas to make it! :-)

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on March 08, 2012:

Thank you for the wonderful comment, Susan.

susanm23b on March 08, 2012:

I really loved your charming story about your mother and grandmother :) What a great memory for you, and a great introduction to your article and recipe. The pie looks delicious and so pretty too. Voted up!

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on March 08, 2012:

Thanks, Dorsi. ; )

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on March 08, 2012:

I hope you do try it, Cloverleaf. I like other commenters' suggestion to make it for Easter. I'm trying to decide how to make the garnish look more spring-like. Thank you for commenting.

Dorsi Diaz from The San Francisco Bay Area on March 08, 2012:

OMG this sounds so good! Bookmarked as a favorite so I can try making this (although I'm sure this won't be as good as yours, wink wink)

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on March 08, 2012:

Hi, Arlene. Thanks so much for the great comment. This was one of those hubs that started out being just a run-of-the-mill recipe hub and turned out to be so much more. I love it when food tells stories.

Cloverleaf from Calgary, AB, Canada on March 08, 2012:

This looks so delicious! Your Grammy was a remarkable woman; the picture of you together is adorable. I will bookmark this and give it a try - can't wait! Voted up.

Arlene V. Poma on March 08, 2012:

Wonderful story, recipe and photographs, Deborah! I am waiting for a piece of pie to jump out of that photograph and onto my waiting plate. A BIG piece! Great design on that pie for a perfect presentation. Bookmarked, voted up and everything else.

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on March 08, 2012:

Thanks for reading and commenting, Kelley!

kelleyward on March 08, 2012:

Beautiful pictures. What a great memory. Food creates so many wonderful moments. Thanks for sharing. This pie looks great.

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on March 08, 2012:

Thank you, sgbrown! I had fun digging out my old pictures to look for that one. Glad you enjoyed it.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on March 08, 2012:

This sounds like a wonderful pie! The task of obtaining this recipe even makes it better! I will have to try this for Easter too. Love the picture of you and your Granny, very sweet! Voted up and yummy! I mean useful. LOL

Deborah Neyens (author) from Iowa on March 08, 2012:

It would be perfect for Easter, too, or any special family occasion. Thanks for reading and commenting, and for asking the question that prompted this hub. Writing it brought back great memories!

Eliminate Cancer from Massachusetts on March 08, 2012:

That looks so yummy!! I may need to try it as an Easter Pie this year!! Thanks for sharing!!

Related Articles