Transparent pie – like chess pie, but not.

Allow me, if you will, to share a little of home with you. Home to me is Paris, Kentucky. It is horse country (Florida be damned, no offense to anyone), specifically racehorses. The area I grew up in is practically nothing but racing farms, including Claiborne Farm, where Secretariat (and Buckpasser) retired to and is buried; Stone Farm; Xalapa; and Stonerside, among other breeding facilities. A goodly number of Henry Clay’s descendants call our little town home. Garrett Morgan, who invented the tricolor traffic light and the gas mask, and George Snyder, who made the first USA fishing reel, were Paris natives. We’ve got the tallest three-story building (the Shinner Building on Main) in the world, and we lay claim to the largest one-room log cabin in the country, the Cane Ridge Meeting House, where the Great Revival of 1801 took place (even though it’s technically in North Middletown, not Paris). Our motto is “Horses, History and Hospitality.” Horses, we’ve got; history, we’ve got; and hospitality, we’ve definitely got. Despite the fact that we are growing, and Lexington is trying it’s best to assimilate us into big-city living, we’re still basically a small town in Kentucky.

I didn’t realize until I moved around as a kid that food was actually regional. I thought everyone ate your average Sunday dinner after church (never mind that my family never went to church, just that Sunday dinner was ‘after church’), that it was generally chicken and mashed potatoes and green beans with bacon and cabbage and yeast rolls. I didn’t know that burgoo, Ale-8, hot browns, beer cheese, corn pudding, jam pies and bourbon balls simply didn’t exist as cuisine per norm anywhere but home. I was devastated to learn all this, most notably with respect to beer cheese, Ale-8 and corn pudding. My uncle always sends me back to school with a batch of beer cheese, and I usually return to Georgia loaded with at least 3-4 cases of Ale-8.

In the case of desserts, especially, is where one might see the differences shining through, thanks to jam pies, hand pies, bourbon balls, Derby Pie, Throughbred pie and transparent pie. Where the general population of the South has chess pie, Kentucky has transparent pie. And oh, how I love transparent pie. It was a given for someone to bring one to any gathering – or two or three, depending on the gathering. My grandmother made them frequently, often for Sunday dinner dessert; sometimes, she topped hers with criss-crossing drizzles of chocolate and caramel, as if the pie needed more sugar!

The biggest difference between a classic chess pie and a transparent pie is the addition of cream to the latter. Chess pie will also sometimes have vinegar added, to cut the sweetness, but I don’t think it makes a difference (except to add a little extra wang). Chess pie is basically cheesecake pie, sans the cream cheese. I’ve seen chess pie with meringue, too, which should not (imo) go on transparent pie. I don’t think it should go on chess pie, either, but I’m not a big fan of meringue anyway. (Friendly note: my father adores meringue, especially on lemon pie. ‘Calf slobbers,’ he calls it.)

Be warned, of course, that this dessert is rich like you won’t believe. Well, after you read the ingredients list, you may believe. Eat it anyway. It’s also a blessedly simple recipe that you can make as a quick pie, as tarts, whatever. I highly suggest you serve it warm, although cold leftovers with a cold glass of milk are just as, if not more, delicious than the first go-round. Coffee is the usual drink of choice to go with transparent pie, as with chess pie, but do as you wish.

Transparent Pie


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
2 cups sugar
1 cup cream
4 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 unbaked (9-inch) pie shell


Beat butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add cream, and mix well. Beat in eggs. Stir in flour and vanilla. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown.

Top it if you wish, with whipped cream, or chocolate and caramel as my grandmother did, or both. Nuts are acceptable, but you run the risk of traipsing into Derby Pie territory if you add nuts (pecans are a preferred favorite, by the way).

I baked my pie with a bought crust, drinking a tasty Ale-8 and feeling mildly homesick after talking to a friend of mine still there. My filling made a little more than what filled up the pie crust – in fact, almost a whole half cup more. Surprise! After I put the pie in the oven, and cleaned up the mess I’d made on the floor getting the pie to the oven rack, I spent the next twenty minutes eating creamed sugar, butter and cream off a spatula and attempting to convince myself that I should stop for fear of raw egg disease. (It didn’t work.)

Though the raw pie filling was tasty, the cooked pie was a lot tastier. Creamy, almost unbearably sweet, it was perfect with a glass of cold milk. Maybe it’s not the healthiest choice for breakfast, but it sure did get me going.

34 thoughts on “Transparent pie – like chess pie, but not.

  1. I just found this on Pinterest and am so happy that you posted this. I have family throughout Ky, and from time to time have them send me transparent pie, derby pie, and real country ham :) I’ve been lucky enough to have some of the bakeries in Maysville overnight me goodies when the cravings hit. After reading this, I may just have to whip up a pie this afternoon :)

  2. LOVE Magee’s transparent pies almost as much as I loved my Mamaw’s. What I wouldn’t give for one of hers now. Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. This is a great pie. The original came from a bakery in Maysville where Rosemary Clooney came from and her nephew, George likes it so much that he has the bakery send him some pies when he is on location. There is a distinct difference between this and chess pie. Like them both but this is my family’s favorite.

    • i just called magees bakery in lexinton. think i will try to make this. i had one recipe that called for apple jelly

  4. Thanks so much. I have been looking for this recipes for along time. People thought that I was joking. I definitely wasn’t
    My family came out of Kentucky so I think this is the right one. All my recipes were lost and I am trying to get back my favorite ones. I have looked for this for 20 years /Kat

  5. I’m 78 years old from Fort Worth, Texas and my Daddy and family members always referred to meringue as “calf slobbers.” Never stopped me from eating it – loved those sweet Hereford calves.

  6. My Dad was born in Pebble KY and brought this recipe into the family when my Mother and he married over 70 years ago. We do use evaporated milk in ours and another thing we do is separate the egg/whites and beat the whites and fold them in. We love this pie.

    • Dana,

      My apologies – I see where I put a place for it in the recipe but forgot to actually type it! Bake the pie for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown, depending on your oven. Thanks for bringing that to my attention!


  7. Pingback: PieQuest: Vinegar pie vs. Transparent pie | Latter Day Woman Magazine

  8. Hi there,
    I have lived in KY my entire life and had never heard of Transparent Pie until a couple of months ago. My daughter-in-law is from Maysville. She kept talking about this pie. The recipe she had is just like yours. I will let you know how it turns out. I am excited!!
    I do have a question. When you say cream, do you mean heavy whipping cream?

    • Lynn,

      Sorry for the delayed reply! Yes, heavy cream is what I use, though I see no reason you couldn’t use whipping cream. After all, if you plan on using whipped cream as a garnish, that might save on ingredient costs! :) I’m going to try it one of these days with evaporated milk, also; I’ll let you know how that turns out.

      Thanks for visiting!

  9. I’ve got a transparent pie in the oven right now. When I got married to a guy from Carlisle, KY the first thing his grandmother taught me to make was transparent pie. MMMmmmm. Wish I had a great corn pudding recipe. Never been able to make it like they do in Nicholas County… :) And here in Georgia, they think I’m nuts when I ask if anyone can make it.

    • Nicki, I’ll see if I can address that soon. I hadn’t thought of corn pudding, but I know the feeling – my husband’s family had never heard of corn pudding until I asked about it at one family gathering. I got the same look I’m sure you do. :) Thanks for coming by!


    • Corn Pudding

      4 cans of niblet corn drained (reg. size cans)
      3/4 cup sugar
      4 tlbs. flour
      2 cups milk
      1/2 stick melted butter
      2 tsp. salt
      4 beaten eggs

      Mix all ingredients, add butter and milk last. Bake 1 hour at 350, stir once at the half way mark. Bake uncovered.

      I am a Maysville resident, enjoy!

  10. I have had transparent pie while passing through Maysville to Lexington to visit my daughter. I, my friend, and my son-in-law have made the pie. Each of us has had a problem in that it comes out runny. What have we done wrong. The recipe is the same. Thanks.

    • Betty, the two things I could think of as to a runny pie are these:
      1) Add more binder – an extra teaspoon of flour, perhaps, or a pinch of cornstarch. Let it rest 15-20 minutes before filling your crust, preferably in the fridge.
      2) Oven differences can cause a lot of problems in baking. My oven runs hot; yours may run ‘cold.’ I’d recommend extra baking time (with a crust cover or tinfoil to prevent burning).

      Let me know if these things make a difference – if not, I’ll see what else I can come up with!

  11. Wow! This is what I’ve been looking for. I make a pretty good chess pie, but I’ve always wanted a pie that tastes like chess, but is more creamy and smooth. I think the difference is the flour as opposed to corn meal in chess pies. Plus I always use evaporated milk in my chess pies, but the cream in this one adds to the smooth texture and the rich taste. Since I’m from southern Indiana, I’ve experienced both chess and transparent pies, but we call them all chess here. I always wondered why some chess pies were more smooth and custardy. Now I know…. I was actually eating transparent pies… not chess. Both are delicious, but I prefer the texture of the transparent over the chess.

    • Chess pie always felt a little grainy to me, and now I know why – the cornmeal vs. flour. Transparent will always be my preference to chess. Evaporated milk will be something I’m going to try in the future, just for experiment’s sake. Thanks for mentioning it!

  12. Andrea Transparent Pie is somewhat like pecan pie but not quite. It has more of custard filling… I say skip the vinegar. I do have to disagree that McGee’s make the best Transparent Puddings, there are so many others who do it better!

    • Joe – Sorry it took so long to form a reply! You take it and make it as Texan as you want, as long as we get to keep the royalties. ;) By all means.

      Andrea – Try it out and see. You could always try making pecan pie sans pecans and see what it turns out; I’d love to know.

      Carla – Well said. I think the nuts in pecan pie thicken and solidify it quite a bit.

  13. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a transparent pudding, so I can’t remember…. Would you say it’s like a pecan pie without the pecans?? My husband doesn’t eat pecans, but likes the filling of the pie. Was thinking of making one of these.

  14. Being a Texan, I had never heard of this. I came across the name, mentioned in passing, in an article about regional foods. I googled the name, found your recipie, and made one tonight.

    If you don’t mind, we’re going to adopt this dessert as a new Texas tradition. Wow. I promise to give Kentucky full credit every time we impress the neighbors with one of these.

  15. Hiddi, am from Paris as well. Went to Bourbon County High and grew up workin’ on horse farms. My mother was the secretary for Bourbon County Middle School for years. I grew up on transparent pie. Had it every Christmas. Ever since my grandmother passed away I have been trying my best to bake the same pie. She never wrote it down on paper. Havent tried cream yet and just might do that!

    As far as the ‘ calf slobbers ‘ sounds like somthin’ my family would say! Great memories. We make this dirt pie in our family that my dad swears it looks like cow poop! Try eating it after that! I always did…. haha.

    Thanks for the story and the recipe!

  16. I am from Mt. Olivet, KY–25 miles from Maysville and Magee’s Bakery, the greatest transparent pie makers in the South. Transparent pie is my favorite. I’m learning to make it the way I like it–some recipes don’t have cream and do have vinegar and I’ll try that next.

  17. Anna,

    Glad you enjoyed it (the post AND the pie)! As for calf slobbers… well, it’s definitely unique to Dad, that’s for sure. And if you’re like me, then you will never look at meringue without thinking ‘ooh, calf slobbers!’ Then promptly giggle at yourself.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    • I grew up in Lexington but my Grandpa in Ballard Co. (far, far west KY) has been using the term “calf slobbers” for as long as my Mom can remember. As for lemon pie with meringue, I grew up eating “Lemon Meringue Pie”. That’s just what it was called, the meringue was a given.

      BTW, my Dad has the best Beer Cheese recipe in the world.

      • I’ll believe it. Meringue always makes me think of the Fleming County stockyard – we went to eat lunch there once when we were working cattle one day, and every pie they had was a meringue pie – lemon, chocolate, coconut, you name it. And meringue wasn’t anywhere in the names, it just was there! I suppose that’s why I didn’t eat pie growing up, since everywhere I went, pie came with automatic calf slobbers! No thank you.

        And my uncle’s original recipe beer cheese, I’ll have to argue, is the world’s best. We can trade recipes and compare. :) Are you still in Kentucky? Ever try Bruce’s Beer Cheese? If you have, let me know what you think (just as a curiosity – my uncle’s isn’t on the market :) ).

        Thanks for stopping by – hope you’ll make it a habit!

  18. Hi, an old Yankee here. I’ve never had this, but my cousin sent me the recipe for
    Derby pie once. It was great!

    Loved your post, and your history and list of Paris points of interest. But calf slobbers? I’ll never think of meringue quite the same way again. That’s too funny, and I love lemon meringue pie.

    Enjpoyed your post thoroughly.

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