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What country is Shoofly Pie from?

Shoofly pie is a molasses crumb cake that originated in the Pennsylvania Dutch region of the United States. It is a specialty dessert that has strong ties to Amish and Mennonite cultures. The exact origins of shoofly pie are unknown, but food historians believe it likely originated with German settlers in Pennsylvania in the 18th or 19th centuries.

Origins of Shoofly Pie

The earliest known published shoofly pie recipe appeared in 1854 in a local publication from Berks County, Pennsylvania. However, oral traditions connect the pie to even earlier Amish and Mennonite settlements in Lancaster, York, and Lebanon counties in Pennsylvania. These counties all had large populations of German immigrants, many of whom were Amish and Mennonite religious sects fleeing persecution in Europe.

The Pennsylvania Dutch region developed its own unique food culture from a blending of Germanic traditions and local American ingredients. Molasses and pie crust were readily available even to poor farming families, making shoofly pie an affordable and simple dessert. Traditional shoofly pie recipes call for ingredients like flour, brown sugar, shortening or butter, eggs, molasses, water, spices like cinnamon and ginger, and a crumbly topping mixture.

Possible Origins of the Name

There are several theories about the interesting name of “shoofly pie.” Here are some of the proposed origins:

  • The molasses used in the pie was considered an excellent attractant for flies and other insects. It was jokingly said that with shoofly pie you could “shoo fly” away pests.
  • “Shoofly” was a Pennsylvania Dutch word for molasses.
  • The crumbly texture of the pie resembles the dry, coarse material used to make shoes for horses (“shoo-fly” horses).
  • The pie was considered so sweet and sticky that anyone eating it would have to “shoo fly” away the bugs attracted to the person.

Whatever the true origins of the name, shoofly pie was well-established in the Pennsylvania Dutch region by the late 19th century as a local favorite dessert recipe.

Pennsylvania Dutch Cuisine

Shoofly pie emerged from the unique food culture known as Pennsylvania Dutch. Here are some key facts about Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine:

  • The name “Pennsylvania Dutch” is misleading – it refers to immigrant families from Germany, not the Netherlands. In American English of the time, all Germanic peoples were often called “Dutch.”
  • Key immigrant groups included Amish, Mennonite, German Baptist Brethren, and German Reformed Protestants. They began arriving in America in the late 1600s.
  • Cuisine was influenced by Germany but adapted to local American ingredients. It is simple, hearty cooking relying on foods like pork, potatoes, chicken, noodles, breads, apples, and dried beans.
  • Dessert pies and cakes are a signature of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. Besides shoofly pie, popular examples are apple dumplings, funnel cakes, schnitz pie (dried apples), and whoopie pies.
  • Family-style meals and communal dining are important cultural traditions.
  • Traditional Pennsylvania Dutch foods are still widely enjoyed today in communities, church gatherings, and regional restaurants.

Shoofly pie became popular because it was inexpensive, simple to make from pantry ingredients, and had a sweet, nostalgic taste. The strong local heritage of shoofly pie makes it an iconic symbol of Pennsylvania Dutch identity and history.

Modern Shoofly Pie Recipes

While traditional shoofly pie is associated with the Amish and Mennonites, over time it became a regional favorite throughout the Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Today it is served in many restaurants and baked by many home cooks, not only those from Amish or Mennonite backgrounds. The essence of shoofly pie remains unchanged – a molasses crumb cake in a pie crust – but recipes can vary in ingredients and proportions. Here are some modern twists on shoofly pie:

  • Using dark corn syrup instead of molasses
  • Adding brewed coffee or espresso to enhance the molasses flavor
  • Using brown sugar instead of white granulated sugar
  • Substituting vegetable oil or butter for shortening in the crust
  • Adding nuts like pecans or walnuts to the crumb topping
  • Spices beyond cinnamon, including ginger, clove, nutmeg, or allspice
  • Orange or lemon zest in the filling or crust
  • Using whole wheat or graham cracker crusts

Despite new interpretations, traditional shoofly pie remains the definitive version. The authentic experience uses lard crust, dark molasses, and a crispy crumb topping made from flour, brown sugar, butter, and spices.

Cultural Significance of Shoofly Pie

Beyond just a delicious dessert, shoofly pie holds importance as a cultural symbol of Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch identity. Here are some of the cultural associations related to shoofly pie:

  • Community – Pie is often baked for large gatherings, cementing social bonds.
  • Traditions – Recipes passed down across generations connect to heritage.
  • History – The pie represents the experiences of pioneers who settled the region.
  • Values – Simple, inexpensive ingredients reflect frugality and humility.
  • Religion – Desserts like shoofly pie are served after communal Amish meals.
  • Nostalgia – The pie evokes sentiments of home, childhood, and family.
  • Pride – Shoofly pie is a signature Amish Country food that is recognized nationwide.

For these reasons, shoofly pie remains a beloved staple of cultural festivals, church functions, family reunions, and other special events in Pennsylvania Dutch communities.

Popularity of Shoofly Pie

While shoofly pie originated in a small geographic area, today it is known and enjoyed far beyond Pennsylvania Dutch Country thanks to its unique, molasses-flavored taste. Some signs of the pie’s widespread popularity include:

  • Recipes appearing in national cooking magazines and books
  • Inclusion in classic American cookbooks and references like Joy of Cooking
  • Offered on menus at diners, cafes, and restaurants across the U.S.
  • Sold by nationwide bakery chains like Shady Maple Farms
  • Discussion online by food bloggers, recipe sites, and culinary experts
  • Home bakers across the country trying their hand at shoofly pie
  • Tourists visiting Lancaster, Pennsylvania specifically to taste authentic shoofly pie

The pie has become so beloved that shoofly pie festivals take place annually in towns like Philipsburg and Loysville, Pennsylvania. While locals remain some of its biggest fans, shoofly has clearly captivated the interest of people far and wide.

Where to Find Authentic Shoofly Pie

To taste genuine, old-fashioned shoofly pie, one must visit Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Here are some recommended places to find the best versions:

  • Amish farm stands, markets, and bakeries in Lancaster County
  • From Mennonite and Amish vendors at farmers markets in Harrisburg, Reading, York
  • Long-running local restaurants like Bird-in-Hand Restaurant and Family Style Diner
  • At annual Pennsylvania Dutch community festivals
  • Church fundraisers in rural Amish and Mennonite communities
  • Shady Maple Farm Country Store in East Earl Township

Outside of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, try shoofly pie at restaurants that feature authentic Amish recipes, or bake it yourself using time-honored traditional ingredients and methods.

How to Make Shoofly Pie

Here is an original shoofly pie recipe from the Amish and Mennonite communities of Lancaster, Pennsylvania:


For the crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup lard (or vegetable shortening)
  • 5-8 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:

  • 1 1/4 cups dark molasses
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

For the crumb topping:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger


  1. Make pie crust: Mix flour and salt. Cut in lard until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in just enough cold water to form a dough. Roll out on floured surface and fit into a 9-inch pie pan. Flute edges decoratively. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Make filling: Combine molasses and boiling water and stir in baking soda. Add beaten egg. Mix in sugar, flour, cinnamon, and ginger.
  3. Make crumb topping: Mix together topping ingredients with fork until crumbly.
  4. Pour filling mixture into unbaked pie crust. Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over top.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 40 to 50 minutes until top is browned and filling is set.
  6. Cool on a wire rack before slicing to serve. Top with whipped cream if desired.

Enjoy this Pennsylvania Dutch specialty!


Shoofly pie is a beloved traditional dessert that originated with the Pennsylvania Dutch, especially Amish and Mennonite communities. The molasses-rich pie has a distinctive sweet flavor and crumbly texture topped with a crunchy flour and brown sugar streusel. While the exact origins of the name and recipe are unknown, shoofly pie has become an enduring symbol of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Today shoofly pie lovers can still find authentic versions baked locally in Pennsylvania, or try their hand at making it with traditional Amish recipes passed down through generations.