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Grandma’s Pumpkin Custard Pie with Magical Layers

Preview: This Layered Pumpkin Custard Pie recipe makes a delicate pumpkin pie that bakes into a magical pie with distinct layers. The recipe only requires three tablespoons of pumpkin puree.

If you can’t convince yourself to like a traditional pumpkin pie, you must try my Grandma’s Magical Pumpkin Pie. Three layers of goodness, four if you 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 you slice into the pie.
  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.

Grandma made this pie every year. We call it “Grandpa’s Favorite Pumpkin Pie.” Eating this magical 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.

One is the traditional recipe on the back of Libby’s can of pumpkin, and the other is my grandma’s magical Pumpkin Custard Pie. If you are more of a traditional pumpkin pie lover, check out these pumpkin pie mini-tarts.

Magic Pumpkin Pie with Incredible Layers--layers labeled

Ingredients and Substitutions:

  • EGGS: I use large eggs in all of my recipes. I think you could use medium or extra-large eggs instead if that’s what you have.
  • PUMPKIN PUREE: By pumpkin puree, I mean the pumpkin most sold under the Libby’s brand in the states, or a similar store brand. Don’t pick up the pumpkin pie filling, which contains lots of ingredients found in a traditional pumpkin pie. The pumpkin should 100% pumpkin.

    If you prefer a milder flavor as my father did, try pureed butternut squash. You can cook and puree a fresh squash or do what I do and use baby food squash. It works perfectly.
  • FLOUR: Use all-purpose flour—bleached or unbleached.
  • SUGAR: I use granulated sugar because it dissolves easily and produces the smoothest texture in the finished custard pie.
  • SPICES: Apologies in advance for the tiny measurements involved with these spices. It is the best I could do after watching Grandma make this pie decades ago. Custard pies are delicate in texture AND flavor. Mild spices carry out the theme.
  • MILK: Any dairy milk will work. I’ve tried whole milk (fabulous flavor), 2% (still wonderful) and skim milk (not as flavorful, but also not as rich). I have not tried using any non-dairy milk but think they would probably work.
  • PIE CRUST: A store-bought crust is good enough. Even though Grandma didn’t blind-bake her pie crust, I think it’s better when you do. If you need a good crust, try this traditional pie crust (with shortening) or my favorite, Yogurt Pie Crust. I’m a sucker for flaky crust—this one is a winner!

How to make a “Layered Pumpkin Custard Pie” recipe:

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 in a large bowl.
mixing pumpkin mixture
Mix. (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
Add the whipped egg whites to the large 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 three hours before serving.

FAQ for Pumpkin Custard Pie:

Is this recipe a sponge pie?

Yes, 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. However, we prefer this recipe made with pumpkin puree or butternut squash puree.

What can I substitute for the pumpkin?

Our family knows this pie as squash pie because I often substitute mashed butternut squash for the pumpkin. (It’s a little milder.) Although the name sometimes puts off guests, this pie 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?

This pie only needs 2-3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree. So if you like to make pumpkin cookies or cake and don’t know what to do with the leftover pumpkin, this is it.

If you just opened a can of pumpkin and now have leftover pumpkin puree, 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 make it with skim milk. However, this custard pie is much better made with 2% or whole milk, to no one’s surprise.

I haven’t tried it with almond or cashew milk or other non-dairy milk. Let me know how it turns out if you do.

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 is par-baked beforehand. This recipe for A Flaky Pie Crust Made with Greek Yogurt is my favorite.

Can I bake this pie ahead of time?

The pie should chill for at least three hours before serving. When cooking for a big holiday meal, I usually make it the day before.

My sister recently pointed out to me that this pie might not be what somebody would expect if they didn’t grow up with it. True, it’s just a layered custard pie with the mildest pumpkin flavor you can imagine. I hope you like it as much as we do. If you like a stronger pumpkin flavor, be sure to check out my pumpkin tarts with a more traditional pumpkin filling.

More recipes for holiday pies:

Did you enjoy this recipe? If so, you can help others and me by leaving a 5-star 🤩 rating in the comment section below. No comment is required.

p.s. If you have any questions or suggestions, you can email me privately: Paula at

Hope to see you again soon!

Grandma’s Layered Custard Pumpkin Pie Recipe

This non-traditional pumpkin pie is flavored with only 2-3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree. As the pie bakes, it magically turns into three distinct custard-like layers.
Paula Rhodes
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Pies
Servings 8 servings


  • 2 egg whites - from large eggs
  • 2-3 tablespoons pumpkin puree - or baby food butternut squash
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour - 23 gr
  • 2 egg yolks - from large eggs
  • cup granulated sugar - 130 gr
  • dash of salt
  • teaspoon cinnamon
  • a generous pinch of nutmeg
  • a generous pinch of allspice
  • 1-1/2 cup milk - only use 1 cup for 8-inch crust (370 gr)
  • 8 or 9 inch par-baked pie crust


  • Whip the egg whites until stiff and set aside.
  • Combine pumpkin, flour, egg yolks, sugar, salt, and spices. Blend milk into this mixture adjusting the amount according to the size of the 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.
  • Mix in egg whites carefully. The mixture should be completely blended but no more. (I use a hand mixer.)
  • Pour into a partially baked pie shell. Bake at 350˚F for 40-50 minutes. The 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.
  • 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. Grandma did not bake hers before adding the filling. I’ve tried it both ways and prefer a pre-baked crust.


Serving: 1gCalories: 135kcalCarbohydrates: 23gProtein: 3gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 53mgSodium: 46mgPotassium: 91mgFiber: 1gSugar: 19gVitamin A: 723IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 60mgIron: 1mg
Keyword butternut squash pie, layered pumpkin pie recipe, Pennsylvania Dutch sponge pie, pumpkin custard pie, pumpkin sponge pie, squash custard pie, Thanksgiving pie
Cuisine American
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Recipe Rating


Tuesday 8th of December 2020

This pie is wonderful- smooth, rich custard with a mild pumpkin flavor. I have made it several times and everyone loves it. I do pre-bake the crust, and add a little extra pie spice to the filling- but these are just personal preferences. The recipe is perfect!


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.