Mennonite Community Cookbook’s Vanilla Pie (Better than Shoo Fly?)


Is it shoo fly pie or is it vanilla pie? You decide.

That shoo fly pie is associated with Mennonites, Amish, and in general plain people, is undeniable. What’s not so clear is how widespread is the love? (No pun intended.)

Pennsylvanians from Mennonite, Amish and other backgrounds from Anabaptist-related groups are frequent fans. But growing up in Indiana in a Mennonite home and church, I never tasted shoo fly pie until I went into Mennonite Voluntary Service with three Pennsylvanians in my unit/housing. Then I became a fan of the milder versions of shoo fly pie.

As I looked for a recipe I might like, someone mentioned Mennonite Community Cookbook’s recipe for vanilla pie. Vanilla pie? I had heard of wet bottomed shoo fly and dry bottomed shoo fly, but vanilla pie? What was that?

Eureka. There on page 382 of most editions is a recipe for this pie (and you’re getting the recipe here free, below). I’ll also include my tweaks and additional directions in italics, because these older cookbooks–even as good as Mennonite Community Cookbook is, are kind of lacking in the “extra” comments and directions that some of us love and need.


I think the only reason this is called Vanilla Pie and not Shoo Fly is because this uses vanilla! Otherwise, they are very similar.* There is also flour, egg, and brown sugar in the gooey part for this recipe, which softens the strong taste of the pure molasses, sorghum, or dark Karo or (or whatever you use). Someone also suggested King Syrup is less bold and more agreeable for newbies. (I also suggest reading the whole recipe plus directions before beginning.)


Bottom part:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses (I used 1/4 cup molasses and 1/4 cup light corn syrup)
1 tablespoon flour
1 egg
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Top part:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup shortening (butter)
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Pastry for 1 (9 inch) crust

Thickening the gooey part.

Combine ingredients for bottom part and cook until thickened. [The thickening took awhile! Stir almost constantly. Also, a blog post at Our Heritage of Health recommends making your crumbs first–see directions below–so that the molasses part doesn’t lose frothiness while you mess with the crumbs.)

Pour into unbaked pie shell.

Pastry cutter to make crumb topping.

Top with crumbs made by combining sugar, flour, soda, baking powder, and melted shortening. (I did not melt the shortening. That didn’t sound right. I cut it in with a pastry cutter–or use two knives–to make a traditional crumb type topping.)

Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes.  (I wish I had taken mine out at no more than 40 minutes, it looked a little brown, but it depends on your oven.)


Makes 1 (9 inch) pie.

From: Mrs. Amos Leis, Wellesley, Ontario, Mrs. Noah Hunsberger, St Jacobs, Ontario, Mrs. M. C. Showalter, Broadway, Va. [no doubt a relative of Mary Emma’s. Can anyone confirm?]

I shared with our office staff who seemed to enjoy it–especially those who were accustomed to the strong taste of molasses. One said, “I don’t usually like shoo fly pie, but this is good.”


That’s good enough for me. I did not have one crumb to take home. One grateful service-minded co-worker even came back to wash the pie plate for me. Now that’s appreciation.


What is your favorite recipe for Shoo Fly Pie? Have you tried the Vanilla Pie? Any additional suggestions or tweaks? We welcome any and all feedback, photos of your attempts, someone eating a pie??


*If you have an older version of Mennonite Community Cookbook, I noticed the ingredient list for Shoo Fly Pie changed fairly significantly somewhere between 1950 (my copy) and 2015, the current edition. Does anyone know when??

mennonite community cookbook

To buy a copy of Mennonite Community Cookbook 65th Anniversary Edition, check here. It includes a fascinating 12-page historical section.



MelodieDavisBlogPhotoMelodie Davis, Managing Editor at Herald Press and sometimes food blogger at 

5 thoughts on “Mennonite Community Cookbook’s Vanilla Pie (Better than Shoo Fly?)”

  1. Can you tell me the dates of printings where there were changes to the book? My copy, from the 1960’s, lists previous printings, but I was not sure which ones contained actual changes, vs. a reprint of the last change. I wanted to collect the ones with changes. I couldn’t find an e-mail or other point of contact on this website.

    1. I will have to research that in our files; I’m not sure off hand. That’s a marvelous idea to collect the ones with changes. I know there were several with actual changes but most of the reprint dates were without changes. Look for a new blog post here and notification by our Mennonite Community Cookbook facebook page. It might be a week or two (or after Christmas) until we can complete this research. (Unless you were hoping to ask for the “ones with changes” for Christmas. Let me know on that. Thanks for the question!

      1. There is no rush. After reading the comment about Shoo Fly pie, I wondered about the changes. Actually, I wondered what the changes were. If I can separate the reprints from the new editions, or updates, I can collect the ones with changes, and see what changes were made.


        1. The changes to the Shoo Fly recipe are this:

          Shoo Fly 1950
          Bottom part
          3/4 c. dark molasses (sorghum or dark Karo)
          3/4 cup boiling water
          1/2 tea. soda
          Top Part:
          1 1/2 cups flour
          1/4 cup shortening
          1/2 cup brown sugar
          Pastry for 1 pie

          Shoo Fly 2015
          Bottom Part:
          1 cup dark mild molasses
          1 egg beaten
          3/4 cup boiling water
          1/2 tea. soda
          Top Part:
          1 1/4 cup flour
          2 tablespoons shortening
          1/2 cup brown sugar
          Pastry for 1 pie

          That’s quite a few changes, eh?

  2. Thanks, Melodie, but it wasn’t the shoo fly pie, specifically in which I was interested. I wanted to know which editions were really new editions, with changes, vs. a reprint. I assume if this recipe was changed, others were changed, added, or omitted.


    Gayle Ann

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