Posted by: Erica Retrochef | December 13, 2011

Coconut Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

We like to make pumpkin puree from scratch — cut up and bake a pumpkin, puree the flesh, and freeze it for year-round use. It doesn’t necessarily have the convenience of dumping out a can of puree, but it does mean you can have “fresh” pumpkin on hand in March when it’s less easy to find cans of pumpkin in the store.

On the other hand, it means we have a lot of pumpkin hanging out in our freezer sometimes. In an attempt to use up the last of the 2010 batch, we are still making pumpkin-based food although Thanksgiving is well past. (Frankly, the South Carolina climate is so bizarre to my northern sensibilities that it still seems like early fall to me, despite December holidays rapidly approaching. It was 60°F here today and it’s going to be warmer the rest of the week. I just don’t understand this.)

So we’re retr-attempting a pumpkin chiffon pie — I mean, coconut pumpkin chiffon pie, since it’s from an advertisement for Baker’s Coconut. It seems like a bit of a stretch to put coconut in a pumpkin pie… however, I like coconut well enough, and I’ve never made a chiffon pie before, so I’m up for it.


1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1-1/4 cups mashed cooked pumpkin
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup water
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 egg whites
1 cup Baker’s Shredded Coconut, toasted *
1 baked 9-inch pie shell
1/3 cup cream, whipped and sweetened

Soften gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water. Combine pumpkin, milk, 1/2 cup water, egg yolks, 1/2 cup of the sugar, salt, and spices in top of double boiler. Cook over boiling water 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Remove from boiling water. Chill until slightly thickened.

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add remaining sugar gradually and continue beating until stiff. Fold in pumpkin mixture, vanilla, and 3/4 of the toasted coconut. Turn into cold pie shell. Chill until firm. Before serving, top with whipped cream and remaining toasted coconut.

* To toast coconut, spread thinly in shallow pan. Place in moderate oven (350°F) and toast about 10 minutes, or until delicately browned. Stir occasionally to toast evenly.

FYI: This recipe does not cook the egg whites. If you are concerned about the safety of raw eggs, use pasteurized eggs or do not make this pie.

This is a lot of ingredients, and a lot of steps for a pumpkin pie.

Softening gelatin is easy, just drop it in water and wander away for a while.

My fun trick for how to cook things in a double boiler, despite having never owned a double boiler: stick a bowl on top of a pot with water in it! (Just make sure it’s heat-safe — Pyrex works beautifully, metal would probably also be ok. Plastic would be a bad idea.)

And ten minutes of stirring, uuuugh. (My arm, my arm!)

Meanwhile, the gelatin had absorbed almost all the water and was squishily firmed up. (Side note — in my freshman solid state chemistry class, Prof. Sadoway showed us superabsorbent polymer gels one day, which were still pretty unusual and interesting in 1996. They are the stuff that allows super-thin diapers to absorb gallons of fluid. This gelatin looks exactly the same, even though it’s [a] edible and [b] not nearly as absorbent. And now I’ll stop talking about nerdy chemistry and get back to the cooking.)

The pumpkin mix had thickened a bit after ten minutes, so time to drop in the gelatin…

Which caused it the gelatin to almost immediately liquify, and the entire mixture became very loose. Oh well, it’s supposed to thicken after it cools.

Incidentally, coconut smells amazing while it toasts.

While the pumpkin cools, we whipped the egg whites. I usually use white sugar, not brown, in egg whites, but it makes it a nice tan color and gives it a somewhat richer taste. (Something to remember to try in meringue some time!)

One thing I couldn’t really understand is why the vanilla isn’t added until this step — why not put it in the pumpkin-gelatin mix?

Whatever, everything is folded together, poured into pie crust, and chilled.

The 1/3 cup of cream is absolutely not enough; it couldn’t make a full ring around the pie, and certainly not the heaping fluffy circle in the advertisement.

So whip up 2/3 cup of cream, and you’ll be able to adequately cover the whole pie. Then, sprinkle with coconut!

This pie is GOOOOOOOOOOD. I don’t think the coconut is really necessary — it adds a bit of texture and a nice toasted flavor, but anyone with coconut allergies could easily leave it out. It’s somewhat on the sweet side. And it’s also a lot less orange than the original advertisement — browny-orange isn’t a bad color for pumpkin pie by any means, just don’t expect an orange-orange pie!

I think I’ve got a new favorite pie to take to Thanksgiving next year!

Recipe comes from the Gallery of Graphic Design from TJS Labs.


  1. (Sixty degrees!? You lucky ducks. After having, in the past week, torrential rain that led to flooding, Category 5 winds, and an unexpected dump of snow, I think I’d take an afternoon in the sixties and exhale a sigh of relief. But, this is Scotland… sixty is for the summertime!)

    The only chiffon pie I’ve ever made is chocolate, so this sounds intriguing, and I’m amused that the whole recipe is written up to just add the coconut – I thought it would at least be in the filling or something! It does indeed sound tasty. I tend to be a pumpkin pie purist, but just might have to try it.

  2. I feel you–it’s just too damn warm for December here in Baltimore. It finally got cold enough to wear a proper jacket this week. I hope that it’s actually winter when I go home for Xmas.

    Also, this looks like a damn fine pie. Nice job on recreating the photo.

  3. I don’t eat pumpkin ANYTHING, so…yuck on the pie.

    But I can commiserate on the weather issue. I grew up in Louisville, KY. Not exactly ‘up north’ technically, but much further north than Raleigh, NC! I’ve been here 44 years, with a few breaks away when I was in the Navy.

    I have come to the conclusion that human beings require FOUR seasons.

    Or at least some of us do anyway. The flip side of that was SoCal weather. It was like spring ALL year long in San Diego. Weather ranged from early cool, wet spring, to late sunny, sometimes hot spring. But unfortunately SD is in California and their politics and economy are not my cup of tea.

  4. I just love your site! The pie sounds very good with or without coconut.

    I too have cooked and frozen fresh pumpkin, but found it very watery and in need of draining first. I would lightly mash the soft pumpkin and put it in a fine strainer and let it drain for quite a while – or if pureed, line the strainer with a coffee filter first.

    Oh, and 40’s to 50’s here in Upstate NY. Last year at this time we had 4 feet of snow. Merry Christmas!

  5. I finally found it !!! My grandmother was a primo pie maker and this was my favorite. We never found her recipe. This has to be it because it has the toasted coconut. It is definitely worth all of the steps. What fun to go through all the vintage ads and recipes..Thanks

    • How cool! I’m happy we could help with your small family mystery, and hope it tastes just as good as you remember 🙂

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