Forgotten Pleasures — Nesselrode Pie

Nesselrode Pie 3

I don’t know if I have an old fashioned palate, or if it’s my inner historian, or if I’m just plain curious, but whenever I hear about a recipe or a dish that is extinct my mouth starts watering. I love poring through old cookbooks and finding recipes for foods that you just don’t see today — prune whip, creamed chipped beef, blancmange, Welsh rabbit. But this particular forgotten dish — Nesselrode Pie — piqued my interest like no other.

Nesselrode Pie 1

If you’ve been reading this blog over the past few weeks, you may have noticed that I am drawn to holiday recipes that feature booze or candied fruit peel or chocolate, so when I heard about Nesselrode Pie — a cream pie flavored with rum and candied peel and garnished with chocolate — I pretty much thought that I may have found the ultimate holiday dessert. Traditionally, Nesselrode (named after Count Karl Nesselrode, a 19th century Russian diplomat) featured candied chestnuts or chestnut puree (also traditional to the holidays) but for whatever reason (probably largely related to the shocking labor and therefore expense associated with candying chestnuts), Nesselrode Pie, which was popular in New York in the 1940’s and 1950’s, became associated with candied fruits (no chestnuts) and rum.

Nesselrode Pie 2

Most of the recipes I could find featured a product called “Nesselro”, which contained candied fruits (including cauliflower, which supposedly mimicked the texture of chestnuts) in a rum flavored syrup, which I though I had tracked down a few years ago at the Vermont Country Store but which sadly seems to be unobtainable. Instead, I scoured the internet for recipes and combined them into one I thought would be a decadent holiday pie and an excellent alternative to the pumpkin and pecan you see this time of year.

Nesselrode Pie 4

I can’t promise that it’s authentic — I’ve never tasted another Nesselrode Pie. But I can say that when my mom tasted it she said “This tastes like my childhood.” And I can promise that if rum and fruit and chocolate float your boat, this will be the holiday pie for you.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Nesselrode Pie
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
For crumb crust:
  • 1½ c. chocolate cookie crumbs (I used Trader Joe's chocolate cat cookies)
  • 2 T sugar
  • ½ c. butter
For the filling:
  • ½ cup finely diced candied fruit (I used red and green pineapple for color and texture and candied orange peel)
  • ⅓ cup rum
  • 1½ c. heavy cream, divided into ¾ c. and ¾ c.
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 tablespoon gelatin
  • ⅓ cup cold water
  • ½ c. sweetened chestnut puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 egg whites, beaten until stiff
For crumb crust:
  1. Process sugar and crumbs in food processor.
  2. Melt butter, combine with sugar and crumbs.
  3. Press into a 9 inch pie plate until firm (I use the bottom of a glass to press it in.
  4. Bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes, let cool.
For the filling:
  1. Pour rum over the fruits, let macerate for at least one hour.
  2. Bring ¾ c. cream to a simmer. Beat egg yolks with sugar until pale yellow. Whisk in part of the hot cream, then return the eggs to the remainder of the cream and whisk over low heat until the mixture is thickened. Fold in chestnut puree.
  3. Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a small bowl. When the gelatin has absorbed the water and the custard is thickened, whisk the gelatin into the cream and eggs mixture. Refrigerate until firm.
  4. Break up the firmed custard with some vigorous stirring. Beat the egg whites until stiff and whip the remaining cream. Fold the macerated fruits (with the rum), the whipped cream and the beaten egg whites into the chestnut custard mixture. Pour into the prepared pie shell.
  5. Chill until firm, and garnish with curls of chocolate.


35 comments to Forgotten Pleasures — Nesselrode Pie

  • I’ve honestly never heard of this pie. Looks good!

  • What a lovely little pie! I’ve never heard of Nesselrode before =D.

  • Katie B


    Boom. Apparently in stock.

    I’m torn about this pie. I don’t really like eggy, custardy desserts (e.g. flan, anything featuring meringue, those Dutch baby-style sweet breakfast omelets), but the forgotten favorite holds a powerful appeal for me. Would I be able to deal w/ the eggs, do you think? (I can and do eat creme brulee and tiramisu…)

  • Kate @ The Domestic Front

    Katie —

    You are a true web sleuth. However, even though I am quite fond of Nesselrode Pie, I’m not sure I’m 12 jars of Nesselro fond.

    Because of the whipped cream, this is definitely more on the creamy side than the eggy side, plus the rum and chestnuts cover up that egg flavor. But it is a cream pie, which means it is custard based.

  • I once referenced Nesselrode Pie in a fiction piece! I loved the old-fashioned ring to it. It’s great to really learn its history. Thanks for tracking down its origins and ingredients.

  • chris

    Welsh rarebit – not rabbit! There’s no rabbit involved!

  • Kate

    Ha Chris — I know there’s no rabbit involved. It’s actually a big debate which one is correct — the story I’ve heard (and which sounds entirely plausible to me) is that Welsh Rabbit is a pejorative term for the dish invented by the English that’s intended to comment on the poverty of the Welsh. I’ve heard yeas and nays on both sides, but that’s the story I’m sticking to so I call it rabbit!

  • How funny you would post this – your timing is perfect for me! I recently saw an episode of Andy Griffith and they were talking about this pie, I heard it was in the Mayberry cookbook so I sought it out (lots of great recipes in that book BTW). I just bought the ingredients to make it – it is very similar to your only the crust is a traditional crust not a chocolate crumb crust. I also am interested in long forgotten recipes. Apparently this was quite a popular pie for a while and then it just kind of disappeared.

  • This sounds fascinating . . . . now I want to make it! I love old recipes myself. In fact, I grew up with quite a few, including the Welsh Rarebit/Rabbit, which my mother used to make us for lunch. Since I’m half Welsh, I always thought it rather appropriate. :D

  • Michael Pheneger

    This is so great! Driving home this evening I remarked to my wife “what is nesselroad pie?”. For some reason I thought about that pie from my childhood. I googled this and was directed here. I looked at the recipe and sure enough those memories started comeing back. As a practicing chef, I eal with food daily in a large hotel. I could almost taste the flavors of this recipe and can hardly wait to make it on my upcoming vacation the week after Easter. Happy cooking everyone.

  • Karl

    There was a bakery called Sttuers French Pastries in Brooklyn, Greenwich Village and somewhere in Queens which produced an absolutely perfect Nesselrode pie. It’s neither flan-like or eggy and for years I’ve been looking for a bakery which would attempt to replicate my memories. Unfortunately, Sutters has been out of business for years and the last place I had a slice was Sweets, a fish restaurant down by the South Street Seaport. At one time this pie was so ubiquitous in NYC that you could get it at any Horn & Hardardt automat.

    If anyone locates a source for the finished pie, please post it.

  • Karl

    Sorry, it’s Sutters, not stutters.

  • Mrs.57

    With all respect, this recipe is outta whack. Arthur Schwartz aka The Food Maven has been into food for half a century and has the most authentic recipe online, cut &paste
    Chestnut puree makes the mushy outcome pictured. You can substitute candied fruits, even just candied orange peel. I usually soak the fruits in rum for a couple of days, a third cup of raw rum is too overpowering in what should be a custard and cream filling. The crust should be a plain fluted and flaky butter crust, pre baked.

  • Karl

    Actually, a graham cracker crust is perfect for this dessert.

  • Mrs.57

    I sent Kate a lazy version of Nesselrode pie…it may lack culinary standards but in this age of non-existent rum soaked chestnuts, it serves us well. Karl consider an Oreo chocolate cookie crust.

  • Karl

    Oreo cookies? Sacre Bleu! The Count must be turning over in his grave.

  • Mrs.57

    Mon Dieu! not w/the oreo cream, the cookie crust comes prepackaged, like the graham cracker one. I’ve embarrassed sweet Kate enuf, so let me wish you all a wonderful Nesselrode-less happy Thanksgiving, I caved…doing a homemade ‘pumpkin pie & baked apples.

  • martyg

    just scanning the net and found the nesselrode comments and it brought back memories. i’ve eaten it many times. hortense spier made it and sold it to many places including peter lugers in brooklyn. she made wonderful desserts and for me it was a tough decision between the nesselrode and the blueberry crumb. this bit of nostalgia has disappeared, unfortunately. there was a bakery in brooklyn, on morgan avenue, that continued to make them for quite a while. the name escapes me. i guess it’s hostess twinkies now.

  • D Brophy

    My mother used to make my favorite pie of all time….the nesselrode. This was through the 50’s and 60’s and I believe she used 2 layers of bavarian cream (rum flavored)covered with unsweetened chocolate shavings. She always said that it was not a true nesselrode pie but it was delicious. The added benefit may be that you don’t have to find the Nesselro.

  • LadyChef

    Great to see this old recipe revived! Madeleine Kamman mentions Nesselrode in her books (and she did fold chestnut puree into the bavaroise), but most of the boomer generation rejected anything that resembled fruitcake (shudder).

    Browsing through my professional library; in his 1960 edition of The Baker’s Manual for Quantity Baking, Joseph Amendola gives this version of Nesselrode to use in his pie: “Soak together: 2 ounces each of cherries, pineapple and raisins; 3 ounces of chestnuts and 1 ounce of rum.” The mixture is folded into the filling at the end. No chocolate. He puts his filling in a regular pre-baked pie shell.

  • My new Pie Country bakery has received a number of special requests for Nesselrode Pie, so with a little research, we have been making a delicious Nesselrode Pie for special orders. Not a fan of candied citron, we use marons glacee chopped up along with just enough chestnut puree to give it good flavor without making it too heavy. And we nestle it all in our classic butter crust, top it with fresh whipped cream and lots of bittersweet chocolate shavings.

  • Karl

    Where are your locations?

  • We are based in the Bronx, though do not currently have a store-front. We do wholesale baking and a small online retail for special local delivery.

  • JimBoerger

    A couple ran the cafeteria where I worked years ago. He was the manager and she was the cook and made the best pies ever. One was the Neselrode. Ihave made it many times and is much simpler than described here. Mine is: ican evaporated milk. one cup of milk, 3 egg yolks, i/4 cup corn starch and 1 cup sugar. Beat thoroughly and cook over medium heat, stiring constantly till mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir i 3tbs butter and 1 tsp. vanilla Then stir in 1/2 cup chopped dates ans 1/2 cup candied cherrries quartered and 14 cup sliverered almons. Pour into a baked pie shell. I either top it with merangue or shaved chocoolate. Either is to die for.

  • Marleen

    I remember Nesselrode Pie very well and with affection. Gage and Tollner in downtown Brooklyn, N.Y. in the 1950’s and 60’s served it. It was certainly beautiful, however it was a “heart attack” on a plate. It probably was wiped-out with the search for good for you foods, a real loss.

  • Ann

    I have a friend who makes nesselrode sauce for ice cream, pound cake and whatever else. She loves it. Do you have any history or information about a nesselrode sauce?

  • DougInCal

    A cable station called ME TV is running That Girl, Marlo Thomas’s sitcom from the 60’s. This week she played a waitress in a private club for gangsters, and for their banquet’s dessert she served “the boys” individual Nesselrode Pies. You could see whip cream and chocolate bits on their tops. This was circa 1965.

  • Rita

    I remember nesselrode pie very well from the 50’s and 60’s. We enjoyed it many times at Ratner’s
    Dairy Restaurant on Delancey Street in the lower east side of manhattan. Delicious!

  • Inez Edmundson

    I saw an episode of the Andy Griffith Show and Aunt Bee made this pie

  • Noel

    Found this pie in Betty Crocker’s Cookbook. No copyright still inside, but I would guess mid 70’s. I am 42 and don’t remember my Mom’s kitchen without it.

  • Sue

    My Mom made Nesselrode Pie every year at Christmas time. She used the same candied fruit she used in her fruit cakes, and made the crust of ground Brazil nuts, butter and sugar. She said it became popular after the end of rationing after WWII, because it perfectly expressed the decadent treats that had been denied during the war. Thanks for bringing it back!

  • Bobbi

    I was actually looking for a Nesslerode Pie recipe when I found this one. I made one once when I was a young married woman in the late 60’s. Found my reicipe in a womans magazine at the time and can’t remember which one. What I do remember is that the recipe was very labor intensive, but turned out sooo delicious. I remember shaving the chocolate curls for the top, but not sure about the crust, though pretty sure it was chocolate. It was amazing but I never made it again. Just had a longing to find it and try it again and I appreciate all your research,effort, and enthusiasm. It looks wonderful and I hope to make on these next holidays.

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Rate this recipe: