Pieathalon 2 – (George Burns and Gracie Allen’s) Magic Cream Pie

Until I received my Pieathalon challenge, I’d never seen a Burns and Allen Show.  I totally understand now though, why it’s an institution, for those who are into their retro classics.

burns and allen 1

I made my acquaintance with George and Gracie last weekend because of this:


a page, not strictly speaking related to the recipe, but full of PROMISE for an archivist type like me.  Thank goodness Bitter Sweet Susie thought to include this with the cover of the cookbook and the recipe.  I’m guessing it was the back page of the book…

perfect piesPlease note carnations in the corner…

Here’s the recipe…

Pie 1

Yinzerella over at Dinner Is Served 1972 organised a Piefest- the 2nd Annual Pieathalon.


whereby a bunch of food bloggers sent her their favourite vintage pie recipes, she shuffled them up and distributed them at random. Luckily for me, I got one with a silver screen significance.

The Perfect Pies cookbook was produced by Carnation Milk in 1954.  The Burns and Allen show had been on radio since the early 1930s and on TV since 1950.  The real life husband and wife team also appeared in some feature films of the 1930s.  They were a very talented duo.  As I’d never seen a Burns and Allen show I scanned the many episodes on YouTube for a food related one to watch.  I came up with this one…

which turned out to be a doozy.  Gracie and her neighbour decide to go vegetarian, and their husbands are not amused.  The show is full of jokes about health food, steaks and diets, and as I made my Magic Cream Pie I had it on in the background.  I laughed out loud loads of times.

The show was sponsored by Carnation and I counted at least THIRTEEN mentions of the brand name in a 30 minute show.  We Brits never had this kind of intense sponsorship frenzy on TV, so it always seems amazing to us that the advertising is so obvious.  The promotion of this Carnation cookbook throughout the show:


Please note carnations in the middle…

is pretty relentless with Gracie and her friend Blanche drooling over the book saying, “oh Bill, it’s beautiful!” and Bill tells George, “Carnation makes your food taste better… Carnation has more uses than any other form of milk”  The cookbook itself has a fair amount of screentime.

 “I want one of these, how does a person get one?” asks Blanche  The answer is to send your name and address and 35 cents to Gracie Allen, CBS, Hollywood.  Gracie sits and autographs copies of the book during the show.  35 cents would be about £5 in today’s money.  There is currently a copy of the book signed by Gracie on abebooks.com going for about £40.

Mary Blake is mentioned in the show and called the “Carnation Home Economist” and lots of promotional cookbooks were published under her name.  As some historians have pointed out though, food companies often “invented” a persona for their cookbook creators, Betty Crocker being the most famous.  As Laura Shapiro puts it, “Magazine readers may or may not have been aware that Mary Blake, per se,  didn’t exist: Carnation economists wrote her copy, signed her mail and made her speeches.”

On a little trawl around ebay I found the cover of this cookbook which I have in my collection:

mary blake

Please note carnations in the corner…

That thing on the cover is something I am DYING to make…  I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for a “cook the weirdest retro recipe you can find” cookalong so I can make it…

So anyhow, enough banging on about Mary Blake, George and Gracie and Carnation Milk (“from contented cows”).  I made my first ever Magic Cream Pie and here’s a photo:

Note carnations in the corner...

Please note carnations in the corner…

I was VERY impressed with myself!  I made pastry to Mary and Vincent’s recipe in the Treasury (I’m going to post this recipe up soon so will link back when I do).  Then I made the custard and added some coconut (I LOVE coconut so decided to do this variation) and also sprinkled some coconut on top of the meringue (although not as much as “Mary” suggested).

I have never, ever had any success with getting custard type pies to set.  This one was no different.  Here’s what happened when I cut into it…


Runny custard!  Still, it was delicious.  There is no doubt about that.  And as I had more coconutty-custardy mixture than I could fit in the pie, I popped some in a ramekin and stuck it in the freezer for a little treat another time.


GOOD PIE – even if I had to eat most of the filling off the plate with a teaspoon.


Bitter Sweet Susie who selected this recipe is an amazing photographer and I’ve been drooling over her photographs of beautiful vintage folks and their outfits  on her blog.  Susie, I beg you to come over to London and take some pix of me and my Shellac Sisters !


I will make you a Magic Cream Pie Susie, that’s a promise!

Here are links to all the wonderful food bloggers who participated in the second annual Pieathalon.  Get yourself a piece of pie and go on a blog tour – ENJOY!

Our hostess with the mostest Yinerella made the Melton Mowbray Pie from Mary and Vincent Price’s Treasury of Great recipes and did an AMAZING job.

22 Responses to Pieathalon 2 – (George Burns and Gracie Allen’s) Magic Cream Pie

  1. Moya 25 May, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    That pie looks amazing (and I’m not talking about the one with the peas in the middle of the pastry), as do you in that lovely photo. If only my blood sugar hadn’t crapped out on me and I could eat pies with abandon.

    • Jenny 26 May, 2015 at 8:46 am #

      I’m not sure that I can eat pies with abandon either! But I did enjoy the one piece of this that I had…

  2. S. S. 8 Jun, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    We have a saying for pies like that: “If anyone complains, they didn’t want any!”

    • Jenny 9 Jun, 2015 at 11:15 am #

      LOVE that saying S.S. and I will use it soon!

  3. Lauren Hairston 8 Jun, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

    I have that cookbook! Somewhere… Carnation put out a bajillion (technical term) cookbooks in the 40s and 50s and they’re always showing up at the antique malls here in Wichita. It probably won’t be signed by Gracie (alas!), but I’ll keep an eye out for one for you.

    • Jenny 9 Jun, 2015 at 11:14 am #

      Ooh, thanks Lauren, I’d love to have one, signed by Gracie or otherwise.. Hope all is well with you and your darling doggie x

  4. Kelli Davidson 8 Jun, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

    Sometimes, “delicious” is the best thing I can hope for in a recipe and yours looks delicious!

    • Jenny 9 Jun, 2015 at 11:13 am #

      Thanks Kelli, it really was yummy…

  5. Heathe 8 Jun, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

    After all the effort Carnation went to: Did you use Carnation brand evaporated milk? 🙂

    • Jenny 9 Jun, 2015 at 11:12 am #

      Ha ha! I did indeed use Carnation!

  6. Kelly 8 Jun, 2015 at 10:45 pm #

    Looks delicious! Love Burns & Allen!

    • Jenny 9 Jun, 2015 at 11:12 am #

      Thanks Kelly, Burns & Allen were a revelation!

  7. Poppy Crocker 9 Jun, 2015 at 12:11 am #

    I hope you have better luck with custard some day! At least it tasted good.

    • Jenny 9 Jun, 2015 at 11:12 am #

      I will try, try, try until I get some custard to set!

  8. SUSIE 9 Jun, 2015 at 5:06 am #

    I AM SO HAPPY YOU GOT THIS RECIPE! I was hoping you would! Yes that was the back page of the booklet and the whole reason I choose it. What an incredible post. I am completely geeking out on this. Happiest I have been in weeks. I would love to photo adventure with you next time I am in London. In the meantime – we can totally be friends, right????

    • Jenny 9 Jun, 2015 at 11:11 am #

      Ha ha! Thanks for submitting this one Susie, I was thrilled to get it so that my geeky research head could get all around the Burns and Allen phenomenon. YES to a photo adventure next time you are in London, that would be just FABULOUS. And we ARE friends, we have bonded over pie!

  9. Yinzerella 9 Jun, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

    I’d totally eat this.
    Thanks for the pork pie recipe–it was a beast, but it was fun!
    Looking forward to the VP party!

    • Jenny 11 Jun, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

      You were totally AMAZEBALLS with the Mary and Vincent Price pork pie recipe. Loved your blog post. Brilliant! The VP party will be great, must start thinking about how to co-ordinate it soon…

  10. Kittentoes 10 Jun, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    What is the thing on the cover? It looks remarkably like a cake corralling peas.

    • Jenny 11 Jun, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

      Ha ha – I love the idea of a cake corralling peas! From memory I THINK it is mashed potato – possibly with some minced meat underneath it at the bottom. I’m going to seek out that recipe book and make it!

  11. Jeanine 13 Jun, 2015 at 4:29 am #

    Hi – came here from Mid-Century Menu, and enjoyed your post. I have a very tattered “Fun to Cook Book” which is narrated by “Margie Blake” who talks about how her mother, Mary, has written many cookbooks (“Your mother might have some of them”) and wrote this one just for Margie. It also has many, many, Carnation references throughout, and of course it’s in every recipes. The cartoon-style drawings are a hoot. I hope you come across it sometime!

    • Jenny 16 Jun, 2015 at 6:57 am #

      Oooh, that sounds fabulous. Making up a daughter for a made up woman – weird! I might see if I can find the “Fun to Cook Book” on eBay. I overstocked on Carnation so will need to use it up somehow… Thanks for dropping by x

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