Derby Pie, as it is known in Kentucky, is a 1950 creation of the Kern family of Melrose Inn of Prospect Kentucky. The inn needed a signature dish so the restaurant owners, Walter and Leaudra Kern with the help of their son George developed their walnut and chocolate tart baked in a pie pastry. The name was chosen by random chance. Each of the three creators had a preferred name for their new dessert. To resolve the naming difficulty each suggested name was put into a hat and the winning name was drawn. The rest, as they say, is history.
After the family left the Melrose Inn in 1960 they continued to take orders for their signature dish. In 1968 the Kern family trademarked the name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. They have since that time carefully guarded both the name and the recipe of this rich and delicious pie. When Alan Rupp, grandson of Walter and Leaudra Kern, took over the family business in 1973 he aggressively defended the trademark by taking cookbook writers and cooking magazines to court over the use of the name Derby Pie. In 1987 it appeared that Bon Appétit magazine might win their case in court based on the argument that Derby Pie is a generic name. They lost on appeal when the Sixth Circuit United States Court of Appeals overturned the decision saying they did not present adequate evidence to support their assertion. The Kern family has gone to court 25 times to defend their trademark name, earning Kern’s Kitchen induction into the “Takedown Hall of Shame” as the most litigious confection in America in 2013. My copycat recipe therefore is named Derbylicious Pie. It is not trademarked and does not claim to be an authentic replication of true Derby Pie. It is simply delicious and worthy of a place at your dessert table.
Some copycat recipes use pecans instead of the traditional walnuts. I have tried the pie both ways and think that both are delightful but prefer walnuts that are deeply toasted for both flavor and crunch. This is an extraordinarily rich pie making it a perfect choice for a special celebration or potluck. If you want the real thing then you will need to order it from Kern’s Kitchen. If you want a rich and simple home-baked pie then try this recipe.
1¼ cups walnuts, toasted
Pastry for 1 9 inch deep dish pie pan
½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup light corn syrup
½ cup butter, melted and cooled
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or 4½ ounces chopped semi-sweet chocolate
To toast walnuts preheat oven to 350°. Spread nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 5-10 minutes or until nuts appear a shade darker and smell toasty. Stir often to keep them from burning. Set aside to cool completely. Chop walnuts coarsely.
Roll out pastry and use to line a 9 inch pie pan. Set in the refrigerator to chill.
In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and salt. Add lightly beaten eggs, corn syrup, and melted butter. Whisk until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Add vanilla extract and whisk until smooth. Fold toasted and coarsely chopped walnuts and chocolate chips into the egg mixture until combined; pour into prepared pie crust.
Bake in preheated oven until pie is set, 50 to 60 minutes. The pie is done when the center of the pie has just the slightest wiggle when the pie pan is gently jiggled.
Set the pie on a wire rack and let cool completely before slicing. This is especially good when served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.