Chocolate Midnight Pie: it’s what’s beneath the crust that counts.

Do you find this photo offensive?

No, not THAT kind of offensive.

But, picturing as it does a pie with a cracked top, do you feel, well… disappointed that it’s not perfect?

I don’t.

And I’ll tell you why. I’m fed up to here with “perfect” food.

Food that’s been groomed, propped, then Photoshopped until you have something that’s about as close to reality as the celebs you see on the cover of the National Enquirer.

In other words – as the Car Talk guys would say, B-O-G-U-S.

Not every loaf of bread rises to a golden dome. Not every muffin looks like the front of the Duncan Hines box. Not every pancake is a flawless 4″ circle.

And not every pie is perfect.

In fact, I’d venture to say that most of what we create, as non-professional home bakers, is pretty average in the looks department.

Sure, there are those of you with the Martha Stewart gene – you know who you are – who can create outrageously gorgeous wedding cakes, decorated cookies, and picture-perfect pastries.

But for many of us (including me), the struggle and high chance of “failure” in the quest for beauty just isn’t worth the effort.

Don’t get me wrong; when my delicious, tender cake is also worthy of a Saveur magazine photo shoot, I’ve hit the jackpot.

But when it doesn’t happen (read: 99.9% of the time), I’m not bummed.

Beauty is only skin crust deep.

And your first bite of this Chocolate Midnight Pie – with its espresso-scented, buttery bottom crust; intense chocolate filling, and shatteringly crackly top crust – is surely just as satisfying as a pretty picture.

Want to make a pie that’s guaranteed to be picture-imperfect? I’ll show you how; I’m an expert at imperfection!

Let’s start with the crust.

Whisk together the following:

1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt

Add 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pats; work it into the dry ingredients until the mixture is unevenly crumbly.

Dissolve 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder in 1 tablespoon of milk. Sprinkle over the dry ingredients. Add up to 5 tablespoons milk (or more, if necessary) to the dough, continuing to mix until everything is cohesive. Grab a handful; if it holds together willingly, and doesn’t seem at all dry or crumbly, you’ve added enough liquid.

Shape the dough into a disk. Roll its edges along a floured work surface (as though the disk were a wheel), in order to smooth them out. Pat the disk until it’s about 1″ thick, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Allow it to warm a bit and become flexible, 15 to 30 minutes.

Flour your work surface, and roll the dough into a 12″ circle.

Transfer the dough to a regular (not deep-dish) 9″ pie pan that’s at least 1 ¼” deep. Trim and crimp the edges. Place the crust in the refrigerator to chill, while you’re preparing the filling.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Beat together 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth.

Add 4 large eggs one at a time, beating slowly but thoroughly after each addition; you want to combine them with the butter and sugar, but not beat in a lot of air.

Mix 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur (e.g., Kahlua; or substitute strong brewed coffee) with 1 tablespoon cold milk or cream (half and half, light, heavy, or whipping) and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add to the batter.

Note: Frangelico (hazelnut), Amaretto (almond), Grand Marnier (orange), or Framboise (raspberry) are all wonderful, in place of the Kahlua.

Use a food processor (mini, if you have one) to grind together 1 teaspoon espresso powder, 2 tablespoons cornmeal, and 2/3 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips.

Add to the batter.

For over-the-top chocolate flavor, stir in 1/4 cup cocoa, Dutch-process or natural.

Pour the batter into the crust.

Bake the pie for 45 minutes, adding a crust shield after 20 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool.

Warning: this pie is disturbingly liquid when you pull it out of the oven. But don’t panic; an overnight rest in the refrigerator solidifies it and gives all the flavors a chance to mellow.

So long as the temperature has reached at least 165°F right in the center, the pie is done.

Once the pie has cooled to room temperature, cover it and refrigerate overnight before serving. Keep any leftovers refrigerated.

The pie, after having been chilled overnight, will be soft in the center; it’ll gently ooze when cut.

And yes, the top crust will be cracked; think the crackly top of a pan of brownies.

Serve the pie with ice cream or whipped cream.

Or not. It’s perfectly fine as is.

Both in taste, and appearance.

Bake, rate, and review our recipe for Chocolate Midnight Pie.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. garnet

    Thanks PJ for another great lesson wrapped in a recipe!
    I made peace a long time ago with the fact that my baked goods, not unlike my hair, don’t usually come out picture perfect. My first goal is that they are baked properly and taste great. Cracks, bumps, etc, are just part of real life. I love to bake pies and one time was bringing one over to a family party. The crust was well baked but had a considerable crack. I was a little embarrassed to bring it and put it out next to all the perfect bakery pies and cakes. My niece and nephew came up to the dessert table, surveyed all the offerings, and asked for my pie. One of my SIL asked why they picked it out of all the desserts. My nephew said-it’s not perfect so we know it’s homemade and going to taste the best! Out of the mouths of babes! That’s when I started to relax about such things.
    This pie recipe looks like a must bake to me and I know I have a bottle of Grand Marnier that’s been looking for a reason to come out and play!

    I’m with you, Garnet – more power to those who love the way things look and work hard at it, but it’s fine to simply enjoy the process, and sharing the end product with friends and family, without worrying about perfection. I think that Grand Marnier has found an excellent place to play 🙂 PJH

  2. gaitedgirl

    Here we go again, being on the same brain wavelength, PJ. I just made a similar pie yesterday for my husband! Mine doesn’t have all the ingredients yours did – just unsweetened chocolate, vanilla, sugar, eggs, and butter. Oh and the crust too (gotta have that!). But the texture looks almost identical to mine! My husband calls mine “brownie pie” but I still just call it chocolate pie. Mine doesn’t really ooze after baking but it certainly is gooey!

    And thanks for the kind words about not all of our baking escapades coming out picture perfect. We can’t all be decorating gurus like MaryJane and her amazingly awesome snowflake cake from back in December 😉 My best friend and I have a saying for when we’re in the kitchen, “The messier and uglier it is, the better it tastes!”

    I can control the “ooze factor” on this one by just tweaking the baking time a bit, but most people seem to like that soft texture. And I like the name Brownie Pie – it sounds like the confluence of two of my favorite desserts. More power to us bakers of “messy, ugly” products, right? Thanks for your support here! PJH

  3. rocky-cat

    I’m with garnet. I’ve always said that my cakes look like someone sat on them but they WILL taste delicious. Borne out yesterday when I was disappointed that my daughter’s birthday cake did not come out perfectly flawless. Still, all her friends looked at the cake and asked, “Your mother actually made that?” And, yes, it did taste awesome, if I must say so myself. And didn’t look half as bad as my hypercritical self thought.
    This Southern girl thinks that this pie goes on the must-make list. It looks great to me. Just call it something like “Crackle Top Pie” and start a trend.

    Managing expectations, that’s what it’s all about, right? Change the name to match the result! 🙂 PJH

  4. scottjl

    thanks for the write-up, might have to make this soon. and couldn’t agree more about non-“perfect” looking food. i want my food to taste good and don’t care if it won’t make a centerfold pin-up. i joke with my friends that my breads may be bumpy at times or my cookies not a perfect circle, but they taste damn good!

    You betcha, Scott – Here’s to lumps and bumps and total yumminess! PJH

  5. kstegman

    I’m with Garnet’s niece and nephew – if it looks “perfect” it usually never tastes as good as it looks. The flawed natural beauty of homemade – you can taste the love that’s put in it. And really – I think it looks beautifully tantalizing.
    I will have to try this one – my family has a recipe handed down for a chocolate pie that rivals the family recipe for layered chocolate cake – and that’s a tough competition. But who doesn’t love another chocolate or pie or chocolate pie recipe? Thanks!

    I’m with you – I have a VERY hard time resisting trying any new chocolate recipe that comes along. Just in case. (Just in case it’s the best chocolate recipe ever, because you never know till you try it, right?) 🙂 PJH

  6. susanmca

    Does this have a coffee flavor? Or is it just deep chocolate? It sounds really good to me if it’s just chocolate, but I have to say I am not much of a coffee fan. If it’s chocolate, I will try it soon!

    Susan, it does taste like coffee due to the espresso powder and Kahlua. If you like, leave out the espresso, and swap out the Kahlua for one of the other suggestions (Framboise, Grand Marnier, etc.); that would make a nice chocolate (not mocha) pie. PJH

  7. fran16250

    This looks sooo gooood! The crackly top reminds me of chocolate crackle cookies. I have two questions for you:
    1: I love to use the espresso powder in anything chocolate, but my family does not love mocha flavor. Does the espresso powder just amplify the chocolate flavor in this recipe or does it have a real mocha flavor?
    2: Is this similar to chocolate pecan pie? (minus the nuts) I’ve long wanted to try to make a chocolate pecan pie but am too much of a purest to mess with a good thing, not to mention the cost of those nuts is nuts lately.
    I think I will give this a try once we’ve finished up all the St Patty’s day baked goods.
    Thanks for another great recipe.

    Hi Fran:
    1) In the crust, it tastes like coffee, so leave it out. In the filling, it amplifies the chocolate – so I’d suggest adding it, but changing the Kahlua to a different flavor liqueur (or just leaving it out, though alcohol does enhance the pie’s flavor).
    2) Not sure what the consistency of a chocolate pecan pie would be, in your experience; the chocolate-pecan pie I make is stiffer than this one (not as oozy). You might want to try our Chocolate Chunk Pecan Pie sometime – pretty yummy!
    Hope you try one or the other of these – they really cure your chocolate cravings! PJH

  8. dgrehn

    “Crackle Top Pie” . . . I like that! I’m Southern, too, like rocky-cat, and that name sounds like a recipe that’s been handed down from generations on a worn-out scap of faded paper.
    I was just searching for something to bring to a dinner party this weekend, and this showed up in my email box. Is that serendipity?!?
    As for “ugly” baked goods, as someone once sang: “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife. So from my personal point of view, get an ugly girl to marry you.” Ugly wins every time!

  9. argentyne


    I was all excited for a chocolate pie! I have a recipe for chocolate pie that I make often, but I am always on the lookout for a new one to try…

    And then you added espresso to the crust… Okay, I could substitute ginger or cocoa or even one of my regular pie crusts… no problem…

    and then you had to add coffee and kahlua and more coffee.

    So now I’m off to sulk and plan to make MY chocolate pie this week to console myself.

    I detest coffee. I detest the smell, and the flavor of burnt that always accompanies it in any amount. It’s my taste buds, I’ve had things where no one else could taste the coffee, but I could. And I can’t take it. If I want to taste a horrible burnt taste, I’ll go lick the fireplace grate. Heck, that would taste better to me.

    But I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the next chocolate recipe. 😀

    Heck, why not just make this one, leaving the espresso out of the crust and filling, and subbing another liqueur for the Kahlua? Bob’s your uncle – non-coffee chocolate pie. Try it, you’ll like it! 🙂 PJH

  10. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez - Petrópolis, RJ, BRAZIL- SENAC RJ

    I love pastry a lot, many lovely recipes. But PJ, im Baker expertise and i really think the bread/pastry recipes are under bad equilibrium.
    Where are the BREAD recipes?????
    Post after post, only pastry, pastry, pastry!!!!
    Excuse me my inconvenience but i really apreciate BREADS!!!
    You know!
    I´ll follow waiting for new breads from you!!

    Ricardo, acalme-se! Paciência … By the end of the month I’ll post three Easter breads. In April, sourdough; MJ has a breakfast pizza; and I’m doing calzones. I LOVE yeast things – they’re my favorite. But we have to spread our offerings among ALL the things people love to bake… Thanks for hanging in there with us! PJH

  11. PBfromMN

    This pie looks luscious. I will be trying it soon.

    Some things are supposed to crack when you cut into them and this pie is one of those things. This is where garnishing can come into play too, if someone had to cover up the cracks of the pie, with whipped cream (how decacent that would be).

    I also know that many times the thought of something not being perfect, keeps us from trying anything. Which is a shame because that is how we can learn. I judge 4-H and I often find that a 4-her can many times learn more when mistakes are made than when something is perfect.

    Besides life is to short to fret over some things.

    PBfromMN (where it is unbelievably warm for March-it is wonderful)

    Thanks for connecting here, PB – and for helping those 4H-ers. It’s in the mid-70s here, too – SOOOOO strange, when we’re usually having blizzards this time of year… PJH

  12. anna mid-maine

    What can I sub for the alcohol? Not coffee, never could stand the stuff. I would add the 1/4 cup cocoa. Thank you.

    Just leave it out, Anna – no need to sub anything. Enjoy – PJH

  13. Action_Kate

    Argentyne: try this chocolate pie. No coffee, just brain-blinding chocolate:

    PJ: you, sir, are pure evil for sharing this recipe, and I thank you for it. My question is, I don’t use “espresso powder” — I make actual espresso. How would I substitute that for the powder in the recipe?

    Hmmm. I’d guess maybe 1 tablespoon brewed espresso = 1/2 teaspoon powder? Give it a try and see if you like the flavor. For the crust, drizzle in cold brewed espresso – again, I think 1 tablespoon subbed for 1 tablespoon of the water would be good. PJH

  14. Laura Monteros

    Some pies are supposed to have a cracked top. Both Shoofly Pie and Vanilla Pie–though made in two layers, not one–have cracked tops. Some of the bottom filling oozes out over the topping and creates cracks.

    Wow, I’ve never had Vanilla Pie – sounds fabulous. Do you have a recipe, Laura? PJH

  15. waikikirie

    Oh Boy PJ….After the last 2 posts of MaryJane’s and now this one, I’m dying…..teehee….Can’t wait to try this one (and the other 2). I was thinking of some sort of chocolate pie and then this one pops up. You ‘guys’ at King Arthur always ROCK…..xoxoxox

    Great minds think alike, eh? We’ve all got chocolate on the mind! Whichever of these recipes you pick (why not all three?), you’re bound to be pleased. Enjoy – PJH

  16. xbaber

    What do you suggest for those of us who don’t own a food processor? That’s one appliance that just isn’t on my must-buy list because I don’t have the storage space for all the other gadgets in my kitchen let alone a big one.

    Crush the chocolate by putting it in a heavy plastic bag and whacking it with a rolling pin – that should work just fine. PJH

  17. sallybr

    Honestly, I think the cracked surface gives it a lot of character and is much more appealing than what could be considered “picture perfect”

    I would love a piece right now, even though I rarely eat desserts

    this one made me salivate… literally! 😉

  18. LeeB

    this pie looks “splurge worthy” and thanks for all the non-coffee suggestions. We are tea drinkers here! btw – my neighbor is the art director at Saveur, I will have to tell him to give this recipe a try 😉

    Lee, the granddaughter of one of my dear friends just started working at Saveur – funny how many connections we all have, isn’t it? Tell your neighbor I’m sure he can make even this “cracked” pie look gorgeous! 🙂 PJH

  19. mgreens

    I think your pie sounds and looks delicious. When I first saw the picture it didn’t even enter my mind that there were cracks in it. My first thought was “wow, that looks really good”. I think the cracks simply add to the good homemadeness of it all. 🙂

    I’m with you… yours in humble homemadeness, PJH

  20. melisaflower

    This looks amazing and am about to make. Just wondering how does this pie differ from the popular southern Chocolate Chess Pie? It has the same crackly top, which I love, and looks similar on the inside. I guess we will see!

    Shouldn’t differ much – I based the recipe on a classic chess pie formula, then fiddled with the crust, and different types of chocolate in the filling, and added espresso powder… I’ve never had “real” chocolate chess pie, so let us know what you think, OK? PJH

  21. melisaflower

    PJ- I made the pie and it was great. The texture wasn’t as custardy as the chess pies I have made so it was different enough that it can’t be called a chess pie. We all LOVED it.

    Well, lucky I didn’t call it a chess pie, then! Thanks for the feedback – glad to hear it was a hit… PJH

  22. MGW960W

    PJ, please never apologize for your “imperfect” attitude. It was reading your blog posts with this attitude that gave me the courage to start baking when I retired. I’m just intimidated by the perfection I see in some pictures of baked goods. In fact, I’m looking forward to the yearly April 1 blog post on the spectacular failures in the KAF kitchen. They make my own failures look good! Many, many thanks.

  23. MiniMe

    Can this recipe be made using mini 4 inch tart/quiche pans? Or is the shallow depth won’t give me the nice runny chocolate?
    I think you will need a thicker pan for it to work. I’ve used deeper mini tart pans in the past. Here is a link to the pans.
    Thanks for the blog.

  24. "Shirley from MA"

    I’ve got to be the dissenter here. First, I think your cracked pie looks beautiful and the underlayer wonderfully gooey, and I’d attack it with a fork. But, nothing wrong with wanting your baked goods to look as beautiful as possible! King Arthur’s catalog has many perfect-looking pictures, no?
    I beam if my breads or pie lattices come out beautiful. I’ve also enjoyed learning how to use my dslr camera and Photoshop — blogging with them has been a fun way to learn new skills. All of that is secondary to the taste, of course, and a beautiful product is just the cherry on top.

  25. Esther

    Hi, i was wondering, do you use instant espresso powder or is it okay to use like a filter type thing of espresso powder?

    Esther: our espresso powder is not quite as strong as store-bought instant espresso powder. You would want to use instant coffee granules to get that coffee flavor. I don’t recommend using coffee or espresso grounds! Be sure to get instant, dissolvable coffee. Kim@KAF


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