Chocolate cream pie recipe with a homemade buttery crust, luscious cocoa custard, topped with generous amounts of whipped cream. It stores well, so you can make this dessert ahead of time and serve it the next day.
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Calling all chocolate lovers, this pie is for you! Each slice of this decadent dessert delivers creamy chocolate filling in a flaky crust. It’s straightforward to make from scratch when you break the process down into components; buttery shell, custard center, whipped topping.
I’ll show you steps for properly blind-baking the crust to ensure the shell holds its shape. And instead of using bland, boxed chocolate pudding, I’ll teach you how to make the most luscious custard that’s bursting with intense cocoa flavor. This sweet treat is always high on the request list, especially for special occasions like Thanksgiving.
Making the pie crust
The crust recipe is a simple combination of flour, butter, salt, and water, known as Pâte Brisée pie dough. I use it for many of my fully baked crusts like banana cream pie. I use my stand mixer to blend the butter into the flour and create pea-sized pieces of fat. This process gives a sturdy crust to support the heavy custard.
I recommend making the pie dough the day before your ready to bake. The extra hours give the gluten plenty of time to rest, so it’s not tough when baked. Plus, it makes prep a lot easier. Roll it out, then make a fluted design on the edges.
Thoroughly bake the pie crust
The crust first par-bakes with pie weights called blind-baking. This technique helps the dough set without too much shrinking and prevents the bottom from puffing up. You eventually remove the weights, and the pie crust continues to bake until flaky, golden brown, and no longer raw. Allow the crust time to cool completely, so it doesn’t get soggy when you add the wet filling.
I use two types of chocolate products for the filling; semi-sweet chocolate bars and cocoa powder. The bars add an intense chocolate liquor flavor with about 35% cacao, richness, and has a sweet taste. The powder adds concentrated chocolate flavor and more solids to thicken the filling.
If you like dark chocolate with more of a bitter taste, use 60% cacao. Alternatively, you can use chocolate chips, but they contain emulsifiers and stabilizers to help keep their shape, so they may make the filling texture slightly thicker.
Tempering the custard
The filing consists of pastry cream, a type of cooked custard. The important thing when working with egg-based fillings is tempering them properly into the hot milk. The key is to gradually add some of the liquid into the egg, cornstarch, and sugar mixture. That way, when it’s eventually incorporated with the rest of the milk, it won’t curdle.
Eggs curdle at 144ºF (62.2ºC). Therefore, when mixing with hot milk at 185ºF (88ºC), gradually combine the milk in multiple additions, continuously whisking until the cornstarch thickens. This process only takes a few minutes and allows the eggs to gently rise in temperature without shocking the eggs’ albumin proteins.
Adding in the chocolate
After the custard finishes cooking, stir in the cocoa powder, chocolate, and vanilla. These are aromatic and delicate ingredients, so to preserve their flavors, I don’t heat them directly on the stovetop. Just stir them in until melted and combined. Make sure to strain the custard to remove any lumps, creating a super smooth consistency.
Fill and chill the pie
The filling will cool down slightly after straining, but it should be spread into the shell when still warm. The starches in the cornstarch are still pliable. However, once cooled to about room temperature, they align together and become rigid. This allows them to become beautiful sliceable pieces.
Refrigerate for about 3 hours before adding the whipped cream topping. You can also speed up the process by placing it in the freezer, but don’t leave it longer than 2 hours. If the filling freezes, any ice formed will melt and cause the filling to release the liquid.
Making the whipped cream topping
Everyone loves a big dollop of whipped cream on the pie. The lightly sweetened dairy gives a delicate balance to the rich custard and crisp crust. I use a stand mixer to make it quick, but I have other whipping techniques you can use based on your equipment.
I add the cream into a piping bag fitted with a large round tip and make cloud shapes. Feel free to experiment with different designs. I also recommend shaving dark chocolate onto the cream for garnish; it adds the perfect finishing touch!
What to serve this with
The difference between pudding and custard
A chocolate cream pie consists of either store-bought instant pudding or homemade custard. Instant pudding uses modified cornstarch and phosphates for thickening in cold temperatures, so no need for heating. A stovetop custard (or pastry cream) requires cooking to thicken the cornstarch and eggs to just over 170-degrees. This process is especially important to ensure that the eggs are no longer raw. Custard takes more time since it requires tempering, but I find it creates a better tasting filling.
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Chocolate Cream Pie
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes, chilled
- ½ ice-cold water, chilled
- ½ cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
- 5 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 cups whole milk
- 6 ½ ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped, plus more for garnish
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Keep the diced butter and ice water in the refrigerator until ready to use. Using a stand mixer bowl, weigh out the flour and add the salt. Mix using the paddle attachment on the lowest speed (stir) for about 10-seconds.
- Add chilled diced butter to the bowl. On the lowest speed, turn the mixer on and off quickly for a few seconds to coat the butter with the flour. This helps to prevent the flour from spilling over. Continue to mix on low speed until the flour and butter have a mealy texture like wet sand and pea-sized pieces evenly throughout, about 60 to 70-seconds. Do not overmix. The dough should not bind together before the water is added. Alternatively, use a dough/pastry blender or your fingers to break the butter into the dough.
- Gradually add 1 tablespoon of ice-cold water to the bowl. After each addition, turn the mixer on for 2 to 3-seconds. Only add enough water until the dough looks lumpy and hydrated, but not wet or sticky. It should begin to clump together with small crumbles on the bottom of the bowl. All of the water may not be needed, about 5 to 7 tablespoons is typical. When the dough is pinched together, it should compress and hold, not be dry or crumbly. Do not over mix. The dough will be pressed together before resting.
- Press the dough into a 1” thick round disc and wrap it in plastic wrap and place inside a resealable bag. Store in the refrigerator to rest for at least 4-hours, overnight, or up to 2 days.
- Once removed from the refrigerator, allow the crust to sit at room temperature for about 5 to 10-minutes. This will make it easier to roll. If it’s still too hard, let it sit at room temperature until more pliable.
- Dust the counter and top of the dough with flour. When rolling out, make sure to rotate and dust with flour underneath and on top. This will prevent the dough from sticking and make it easier to transfer to the pie dish. Roll the dough into a 14-inch circle, slightly less than ¼-inch thick.
- Place the dough into a 9-inch pie dish and gently press against the sides and bottom. With a paring knife, trim the excess dough with a ½-inch overhang. Tuck the excess underneath the bottom crust edges. Crimp by pinching the dough using the pointer and thumb fingers. Place the crust in the freezer for 20 minutes.
- Place the oven rack in the center position. Preheat to 375°F (190°C). Place the pie crust on a sheet pan. Place a piece of parchment paper in the pie dish and add the pie weights to cover just the bottom and sides of the crust, do not overfill.
- Bake the crust for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and allow the weight to sit in the crust for a few minutes to press down any puffed up crust. Carefully lift the parchment paper filled with weights out of the pie dish and set aside, it will not be used again.
- Bake the crust for 15 minutes. Check to see if the bottom and sides have shrunk slightly. Use a spoon to gently press the bottom and sides, don’t force it too much.
- Bake the crust until golden brown and dry, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and until completely cooled, 30 to 40 minutes.
- In a small bowl whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt, set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together the whole eggs and egg yolk. Add the cornstarch mixture to the eggs, whisk until combined.
- In a medium pot add the milk. Heat over medium-low heat until it reaches 180 to 185ºF (82 to 88ºC), it should not be bubbling, about 7 to 8 minutes. Do not boil the milk, or it will curdle or scorch. Turn off the heat. Take the pot off the heat and place it on a towel beside the bowl with the egg mixture.
- Slowly whisk in ¾ cups of the hot milk into the egg mixture. Whisk vigorously after each addition. This process tempers the eggs, bringing two different temperatures together without curdling. Start whisking the pot of milk and slowly pour the bowl of the tempered eggs into the pot. Heat over medium heat, whisk constantly and vigorously until the custard thickens, about 2 to 3 minutes. There may be some small lumps in the custard. Turn off the heat and whisk in the chopped chocolate, softened butter, and vanilla extract.
- Strain the chocolate custard through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, use a spatula to press through. This will remove any lumps. There should be about 3 ¼ cups of custard.
- Carefully pour the custard into the prepared pie shell. Use a spatula to smooth out the surface. Immediately put a piece of plastic wrap directly on top to prevent any film from forming. Place the pie in the refrigerator and let chill for at least 3 hours or overnight, this firms up the filling, making it easier to slice. It can also be chilled in the freezer for 1 ½ to 2 hours before adding the whipped cream.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla to the bowl. Alternatively, if using a hand mixer use the whisk or beaters attachment and a large bowl, or whip by hand, whipping times may vary.
- Whip the mixture on medium-low speed (setting 4) until the cream is frothy with bubbles on the surface, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high (setting 8), and whip until a fluffy and smooth consistency is reached, about 1 minute 15 seconds for soft peaks. Continue to whip in 5-second intervals until stiff peaks form. Be careful, the consistency will change quickly.
- Use a spatula to spread the whipped cream over the entire pie for a rustic appearance. Be careful not to overspread the cream as more agitation can cause a texture change. Alternatively, transfer whipped cream to a piping bag fitted with the desired tip to make a design. Garnish with chocolate shavings if desired. Refrigerate the pie until ready to serve.
- Chocolate Garnish: Use a peeler to create chocolate shavings with a chocolate bar. I like to use semi-sweet or 60% dark chocolate.
- Storing: Loosely cover the pie with foil or transfer leftover slices to an airtight container for up to 3 days.
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