Mary Randolph’s Sweet Potato Pie

Mary Randolfs Sweet Potato Pie

Hundreds of years ago colonists had already created and perfected an iconic Southern American dessert: The Sweet Potato Pie. They have transformed the humble sweet potato into a dessert that is absolutely sensational! I will never look at a sweet potato the same again. No longer will it be relegated to a Thanksgiving side-dish.

Mary Randolfs Sweet Potato Pie

This is no ordinary sweet potato pie either. This is Mary Randolph’s Sweet Potato Pie and it is extraordinary. She masterfully combines brandy, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla extract and sweet potatoes into a pie that is positively bursting with flavor.

 Mary Randolfs Sweet Potato Pie

The zing of the lemon counterbalances the sweetness from the sweet potatoes, and the brandy adds additional depth of flavor. This pie would show up even the best pumpkin pies.

And I LOVE pumpkin pie.

Mary Randolfs Sweet Potato Pie

Mary Randolph first published her influential cookbook The Virginia Housewife in 1824, which is generally considered to be the first Southern cookbook. This recipe is nestled in there as Sweet Potato Pudding. Mary Randolph was still in the habit of calling all desserts, pie or otherwise, puddings in the British sense of the word.

Call it what you will, the flavors blew me away.

Mary Randolfs Sweet Potato Pie

I actually found this recipe in The Southern Heritage Pies and Pastry Cookbook (1984 Edition), which is my current obsession. You’ll be seeing a lot more from this cookbook because it’s ridiculous. Ridiculously Amazing.

Want. To. Make. Pie. Every. Night. Must. Resist.

Mary Randolfs Sweet Potato Pie

I baked this pie in a cream cheese crust that will bowl you over. The crust was a botched first attempt at the pastry for Apricot Kolaches. It turns out that if you don’t follow the instructions exactly, you end up with a mess (and possibly tears).

 Never one to waste, I pulled together the dough with some ice water, wrapped it in plastic wrap and threw it in the freezer to deal with later. Well thank heavens I sometimes forget to follow instructions! It’s now one of my favorite piecrusts and it’s super easy because you don’t have to cut the butter into the flour. Nope you get to use a hand mixer! Heck yes!

Mary Randolfs Sweet Potato Pie

Instead of using the cream cheese crust as given below, you can also use my other favorite piecrust recipe, which would be equally amazing!

Paired with Lemon Whipped Cream this pie will be a hit in the Summer, Winter or a welcome addition to any Thanksgiving table.

P.S. – The secret to the bright orange color in this (and any) sweet potato pie is boiling the sweet potatoes instead of baking them.

Mary Randolph’s Sweet Potato Pie

Yield: One 9 inch, deep dish Pie

Serving Size: 6-8

Mary Randolph’s Sweet Potato Pie

This recipe masterfully combines brandy, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla extract and sweet potatoes into a pie that is positively bursting with flavor! It will change the way you look at sweet potatoes forever!

Ingredients

    For the Cream Cheese Crust:
  • 1 cup +2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ice water as needed
  • For the Sweet Potato Filling:
  • ¼ cup butter, unsalted, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • ¼ cup brandy [I use E&J XO Extra Smooth Brandy]
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (be careful not to get the bitter, white pith!)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 unbaked (9-inch) pastry shell

Instructions

    To Prepare the Cream Cheese Pastry:
  1. Sift flour and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Beat the cream cheese and butter together with a stand mixer or a hand mixer until completely incorporated and creamy (3-5 minutes).
  3. Reduce the speed of the mixer and add in the flour. Mix until the dough comes together. If the dough is not cohesive and will not stay in a ball, sprinkle ice water a teaspoon at a time over the dough and mix with a fork until it comes together in a ball.
  4. Flatten into a circle, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until hard, at least 4 hours. Overnight refrigeration is recommended.
  5. Roll out your pastry to 1/8th inch thick and line a pie dish, trim the edges, roll them under and crimp decoratively. Cover loosely and place in the refrigerator until ready to fill.
  6. To Prepare the Filling:
  7. Preheat oven to 400°
  8. Place brandy in a small pan and heat until warm. Do not boil. Keep warm.
  9. Cream butter in a mixing bowl with a hand mixer: gradually add sugar, beating well after each addition. Add potatoes; beat on medium speed until well blended.
  10. Add eggs, one at a time; beating after each addition.
  11. Add the brandy, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla and nutmeg to the sweet potato mixture; stir until well blended.
  12. Pour mixture into pastry shell.
  13. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350° and continue baking until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 more minutes.

Notes:

For the photos, I halved the filling recipe to make two mini pies, so that is always an option!

Cooking and Mashing Sweet Potatoes: Peel the sweet potatoes (you will need 2-3 for this recipe). Cut them into golf ball sized chunks and place in a medium saucepan. Pour in cold water just to cover then bring to a boil over medium high heat. Boil until a fork can be inserted easily into the center of the largest chunk. Drain. You have several options at this point: you can use a ricer, which is what I did; you can throw them in a food processor, which is probably what I should have done; or you can mash them by hand, which is so not recommended! Let them cool to room temperature prior to preparing the filling.

A note on Brandy - I use E&J XO Extra Smooth Brandy; a more expensive, barrel aged brandy with almost floral notes. If you use a different brandy or one with a higher alcohol content (greater than 80 proof), you might want to reduce the brandy by half and taste as you go. You want to have a subtle brandy flavor but it shouldn't overwhelm the dish.

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More Tempting Holiday Dessert Recipes:

Traditional Pumpkin Roll

Pumpkin Roll

Easy, Foolproof Pumpkin Pie

Easy Foolproof Pumpkin Pie

Salted Caramel Butter Bars

Salted Caramel Butter Bars

Maple Caramel Pecan Bars {These are soooooooo gooood!}

Maple Pecan Caramel Brown Butter Blondies

Classic Pecan Pie

Classic Pecan Pie

Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie

Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie

Healthier Pumpkin Banana Bread with Maple Caramel Frosting

Healthier Pumpkin Banana Bread with Maple Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

Brown Butter Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Brown Butter Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Comments

  1. says

    I love sweet potato pie! I used to make this seasonally at my other job. But I often tend to OD with baking spices in dishes like this just because I prefer it like that. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever boiled sweet potatoes before. I’ve only used the dry cooking methods with them. I just realized that after reading your recipe.

    I’ve never tried cream cheese crust before. That sounds really interesting. Yay for your screw ups lol. The best discoveries are always accidents. Is it still flakey with the addition of the cream cheese? Or it is a completely different type of crust? I have had my share of piecrust mishaps too. The worst one was when I accidently used the wrong flour and it came out all glutteny with rice cake consistency. If you were in that situation, I can imagine you saving it and creating something else edible with it. But me, I just tossed it lol.
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    • AmericanCooking22 says

      I’d ever had it before but I love it now! I also love to heavily spice my pies but this one was truly lovely the way it is written. The cream cheese crust is still flakey. It is very similar to the one from my great-grandmother’s pecan tassies but even more flakey. But it is much richer than even a butter crust so I wouldn’t want to pair it with a rich or super sweet filling. It would be too much. Pie crusts are definitely an art but I don’t know if I could have saved a rice cake type crust!

  2. Virginia says

    I was so excited to try this recipe; I’ve been looking for a sweet potato pie recipe for a long time the crust turned out great, but from reading the recipe I didn’t realize how many crusts one recipe would make. My husband pointed out that I’ve made pies before and I should have been able to tell, but I think I was just too focused on the filling. For future reference, I think one recipe will make 4 single crust pies.
    Also, I followed the recipe exactly and realized almost immediately that there was too much brandy. I hoped that a lot of it would cook off, but to my disappointment that was not the case. So unfortunately the brandy flavour (for me and my family at least) completely overpowered the whole thing. Any suggestions for what to do now that they are baked, to reduce this flavour somewhat?

    • AmericanCooking22 says

      Hi Virginia. I’m so sorry that you were disappointed. The crust recipe as written is enough for 1 double crust deep-dish pie or two single crust deep dish pies. I will adjust the instructions because you are absolutely right – that is waaay too much crust for this recipe! Since this pie crust recipe was an accident, I had previously divided the crust into two and froze the dough and didn’t think twice about it months later when I pulled out one for this recipe. Thank you!!

      As for the brandy – I’m so sorry it was too much for your taste. I definitely didn’t find the brandy flavor to be overpowering. In addition to the difference in everyone’s tastes I can think of several things: your brandy was stronger than mine (I used one that was 80 proof) and I cook with a more expensive brandy. I use E&J XO Extra Smooth Brandy which has an almost floral note and is definitely less intense than some others I have tried. The only way I can think to fix it is to eat it with ice cream or more lemon whipped cream – unfortunately once it’s baked in the pie, there isn’t much you can do. The lemon flavor in the whipped cream will definitely help cut the brandy but it isn’t going to completely fix it.

      Thank you so much for your feedback, Virginia. I’m going to adjust the recipe now. I am so unhappy that you didn’t enjoy it because this pie blew me away and I wish it had done for you too!

    • AmericanCooking22 says

      Oh I thought of one more thing! Did you heat your brandy? Because that definitely takes some of the edge off.

      • Virginia says

        I really wanted to love it. I did heat the brandy. I’m not a brandy drinker but it did look to be a fairly good one – but I wouldn’t really know. It said 40% alcohol – I don’t know if that’s what you mean by 80-proof (probably a difference between U.S. / Canadian terminology). I guessed that the lemon whipped cream would help but since there are many in my extended family not so fond of lemon I used regular; maybe now that it’s just my immediate family I’ll “whip up” some lemon flavoured. I will definitely try again with much less brandy (maybe even without), but then I’m guessing I’ll need something else to add some depth to the flavour. Thanks for your reply.

        • AmericanCooking22 says

          You are welcome! 80 proof is 40% alcohol by volume, so that wasn’t the difference. I don’t drink brandy either! But when I open the bottle to sniff it it smells nice unlike some hard liquors that smell more pungent. Did you cut the amount of lemon juice in the filling too by any chance?

          If you do try it again maybe you could try bringing the brandy to a boil to cook off some more of the alcoholic flavor and then adding it to the filling 1 tablespoon at a time until you get just a nice subtle flavor that doesn’t taste like “brandy”. If you worry about the eggs, you could try swapping steps 9 & 10, but I don’t know how that will change the final texture of the pie.

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