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Grandma’s Pumpkin Custard Pie with Incredible Layers

Preview: This Layered Pumpkin Custard Pie is a delicate pumpkin pie recipe that bakes into distinct layers like magic. Requires only 3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree.

If you can’t convince yourself to like pumpkin pie, you must try my Grandma’s Magic Pumpkin Pie. Three layers of goodness, four if your count the crust, will keep you coming back for more.

Layers starting from the top down:

  1. A soft and airy golden brown layer on top protects the layers underneath and keeps them a secret until the pie is opened.
  2. The second and usually largest layer is a delicate and mildly flavored custard-like affair. I love to use my fork to play with this layer.
  3. The third layer is thin. Only a couple of tablespoons of canned pumpkin gives this pie the pumpkin flavor (or use butternut squash for a milder taste).
  4. The fourth layer is the crust–an important component of any pie in my book. My favorite recipe is this flaky pie-crust recipe made with yogurt.

Grandma made this pie every year. We call it “Grandpa’s Favorite Pumpkin Pie.” Eating this pie is one of my most-anticipated holiday traditions.

Grandma's Magical Layered Custard Pumpkin Pie Slice taken from whole pie.

Not sure why, but…

At Thanksgiving, we always have two kinds of pumpkin pie.

RELATED POST: Pumpkin Pie Mini-Tarts

One is the traditional recipe on the back of Libby’s can of pumpkin and the other is my grandma’s magical Layered Custard Pumpkin Pie. Only a couple of spoonfuls of pumpkin are required.

Magic Pumpkin Pie with Incredible Layers--layers labeled

FAQ about this layered Pumpkin Pie recipe:

Is this recipe a sponge pie?

It is. Technically, a sponge pie is a common name for a custard pie that separates into clearly defined layers.

Lemon sponge pies seem to be the most commonly known variety. We prefer this recipe made with pumpkin puree or butternut squash puree.

What can I substitute for the pumpkin?

This pie is known as “squash pie” in our family because of my tendency to substitute mashed butternut squash for the pumpkin. (It’s a little milder.) Although guests are sometimes put off by the name, it is full of memories and good flavors in our family, so we would rather not share anyway.

What can I do with leftover pumpkin puree?

Only 2-3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree are required. If you just made pumpkin muffins or cake and don’t know what to do with the leftover pumpkin, this is it.

On the other hand, if you just opened a can of pumpkin and now have lots of pumpkin puree leftover, check out this post about Three Things To Do with Less than 1/4 cup of Pumpkin.

Can I use any kind of milk in this pie?

Yes. I used to always make it with skim milk. BUT. To no one’s surprise, it’s much better when made with 2% or whole milk.

Do I have to pre-bake the crust?

My grandma never pre-baked the crust. However, most custard pies are better (crispier and flakier) when the crust has been partially baked beforehand. This recipe for A Flaky Pie Crust Made with Greek Yogurt is my favorite.

How to make a “Layered Pumpkin Custard Pie:”

egg whites in mixing bowl
Place egg whites in a small mixing bowl.
whipped egg whites
Whip egg whites until they hold a soft peak.
egg yolks, pumpkin, and dry ingredients
Combine the remainder of the ingredients except for the milk.
mixing pumpkin mixture
Mix together. (I use the same beaters as I used for egg whites.)
adding milk to pumpkin mixture
Add milk. (1 cup for 8-inch pie and 1-1/2 cup for a 9-inch pie)
mixed up pumpkin mixture
Again, mix well.
adding whipped egg whites to pumpkin mixture to make layers
ÇCAdd whipped egg whites to a larger bowl containing pumpkin, etc.
pie filling ready to pour into shell
Turn mixer on LOW and gently mix egg whites into the mixture just until there are no more “marshmallow” lumps.
pie ready to put in the oven
Pour filling into crust. Bake.
Slices of layered pumpkin custard pie
Chill at least 3 hours before serving.

More recipes for holiday pies:

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Hope to see you again soon!

p.s. Questions or suggestions? Please email me: Paula at

Yield: 8 servings

Grandma's Layered Custard Pumpkin Pie

Grandma's Layered Custard Pumpkin Pie

A non-traditional pumpkin pie flavored with only 2-3 tablespoons pumpkin pureé. As the pie bakes, it will magically turn into 3 distinct custard-like layers.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes


  • 2 egg whites
  • 2-3 tablespoons pumpkin pureé (or baby food butternut squash)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • dash of salt
  • 1/8 t. cinnamon
  • generous pinch of nutmeg
  • generous pinch of allspice
  • 1-1/2 c. milk (only use 1 cup for 8-inch crust)
  • 9-inch partially-baked pie crust


  1. Whip egg whites until stiff and set aside.
  2. Combine pumpkin, flour, egg yolks, sugar, salt and spices. Blend milk into this mixture adjusting amount according to the size of pie pan you are using. 1 c. is plenty for an 8-inch pie but you may need more for a 9-inch pie plate.
  3. Mix in egg whites carefully. Mixture should be completely blended but no more. (I use a hand mixer.)
  4. Pour into partially-baked pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes. Pie should be set with the slightest jiggle when done. The top should be a deep golden brown. If cooked too long, the filling will pull away from the crust as it cools.
  5. Allow to cool and refrigerate before serving. If the layers are distinct when you slice it, you did it right!


Regarding the crust:

Use a store-bought crust or your favorite recipe for the pie shell. Bake it lightly before adding the pie crust. By that I mean, the crust should be baked but not browned. To be honest, Grandma did not bake hers before adding the filling. I've tried it both ways and prefer a pre-baked crust.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 217Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 50mgSodium: 145mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 1gSugar: 18gProtein: 4g

Did you make this recipe?

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Updated April 2020.


Thursday 6th of August 2009

I make this pie - it's my favorite! The recipe my mom gave me is pretty similar. I usually use acorn or butternut squash.


Thursday 6th of August 2009

Hey Gina, Good to hear from you. Didn't know you also made this pie. Can't wait to see you next week.

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