Before Pumpkin Pie, There was Pie in a Pumpkin

30 Sep

This impressive and easy dessert is wonderful for the fall and winter holiday season.

The pumpkin used to get more respect. That’s because the pumpkin and its squash cousins were crucial to the survival of Native Americans and early colonists in the Americas as an important food source during long winter months. Native Americans, in fact, ate all parts of the pumpkin: leaves, flowers, seeds, and flesh. Nothing is wasted when your survival depends upon it.

The first known recipe for pumpkin pie as we know it today dates back to 1651 in a French cookbook, published in English as “The French Cook” in 1653. But the art of taking a whole pumpkin, filling it with a custard and baking it whole in hot ashes dates back to the early 1600s; early American colonists didn’t have ovens in which to bake pie and made due with what they had.

Baking a pie pumpkin whole is a lot easier than making a pumpkin pie, and it can be a great addition to a fall meal. I will say that anyone who is really looking forward to the traditional pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner will probably have a fit if served a whole pumpkin, but that has more to do with respecting tradition than taste. But in the fall I’ve served this dessert to guests and it’s a tasty hit! And it’s easy.

The filling for this is sort of a cross between a custard and a souffle. It will rise a ton in the oven, but will fall as it is cooled, so serving it fresh is more impressive to guests. But even if it’s cooled it still looks and tastes great. I like to serve it hot with butter pecan ice cream. YUMS!


A custard and a pat of butter are all that’s needed; the pumpkin does the rest.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 medium pie or sugar pumpkin (no, you can’t use a carving pumpkin…you need to find one of these small pie pumpkins)
  • 4 eggs (I used 6 small eggs from my hens, but if you’re using larger store-bought eggs, use 4)
  • 1 cup cream or raw, whole milk
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbls butter


Heat your oven to 350F (375F if you’re at high altitude)

Cut the lid off your pumpkin and scrape the inside clean (don’t forget to save the seeds to roast)! Place it in a baking dish.

Combine all of your ingredients except the butter in a bowl, and mix with an electric mixer until well combined. Pour into your pumpkin and float the butter on top.

Bake for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the custard is set (slide a knife into it to see if it’s set all the way through).

Remove from the oven and serve! To serve, use a large spoon to scoop out both the custard and the baked pumpkin flesh, making sure each person has plenty of pumpkin flesh. You can serve with whipped cream, but I find that butter pecan or butter brickle ice cream are wonderful accompaniments.

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Posted by on September 30, 2012 in Holidays, Recipes


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6 responses to “Before Pumpkin Pie, There was Pie in a Pumpkin

  1. Heidi @ lightlycrunchy

    September 30, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Great idea – I’ve never been good at pie crust.

  2. lindasgarden

    September 30, 2012 at 9:40 am

    brill post

  3. Lynna

    October 1, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Awesome! Several years ago I randomly found a “recipe” for making pumpkin custard in the ashes of your fire but have never been able to find it again. I like this though and will try it!

  4. Maureen Simmen

    October 2, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    This was wonderful! We made it for the first time tonight and it was really delicious, as well as a pretty impressive presentation. The kids used whipped cream on theirs, but the adults just poured a bit of heavy cream over theirs, and it was very rich, and complimented the sweetness perfectly.

  5. Brandie

    October 3, 2012 at 9:12 am

    I made this yesterday, only mine didn’t rise at all. It was still good.

  6. Gillian Ladley (@gladleynet)

    November 19, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks for this recipe, it was really fun to try out, although I think I got it a bit wrong as it didn’t rise.


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