Monday, July 19, 2010

Tropical Fruit Pie Mastered!

Made by the Publix Bakery...

and then...

Made by Rachel with lots of Love!

Mmm Mmm Mmm… Does this pie look delicious or what? It was hard work but it was all worth it! It definitely paid off in the end :) I was inspired to make this pie after David’s mom came over to our home with a fabulous dessert a couple of weeks ago. It was a Bavarian cream pie made from the Publix bakery, called “Tropical Fruit Pie” and oh boy was it tasty! So here we are trying to figure out what exactly is in the pie… the filling was light and creamy with a perfect flavor, the pie crust tasted like a cookie, the fruit was so fresh, and there was this thin layer of some kind of moist cake between the filling and fruit! I searched online looking for some hope of finding this recipe, but no such luck unfortunately.

The next time David and I went grocery shopping I decided to stop at the bakery. The first baker I came across was a bit standoffish though – I asked her about the pie and first, she made it clear that I would not find out the recipe and second, she wasn’t 100% sure of the pie I was referring to. Another baker overheard us talking and said “Oh, I can make that…” So I told her I was just asking about it to see if I could find out the recipe. Without a lot of detail she said the filling was half custard and half whipped topping. She even said that Publix makes their own whipped topping and they can actually sell it to me. But I knew if I was going to make it, then I’d be making everything from scratch. I then asked her what the thin layer between the fruit and the filling was… aha! Yellow cake! I thanked the lady and went on my way, happy to get some insight about this fabulous pie.

This past Sunday we planned for a cookout and I was going to try to make this pie for dessert. So Saturday night I decided to do a lot of prepping so that I could easily put the cake together Sunday morning.

The first thing on my list was to bake a cake so that I could slice a thin layer from the top to put onto my pie. Rather than yellow cake I decided to make an angel food cake. Thank goodness for my KitchenAid mixer – those egg whites are fighters! If you know anything about making angel food cake, you will know it take a LONG time for the egg whites to stiffen – what a pain! Once the cake was cooled, I sliced a couple of thin layers off the top of the cake to save for my pie, and put the rest of the cake in the freezer for another time (maybe down the road I’ll make some kind of angel food cake trifle or something).

Now it was time to prepare the graham cracker crust, which I had assumed Publix had used for their pie. I forgot to ask when I was talking to the baker. I cheated and used graham cracker crumbs – it was the easiest part of this pie. Unfortunately I screwed up somewhere along the way. Maybe I didn’t bake my pie crust long enough but it came out more crumbly and had trouble staying together – but it still tasted good! If I’d screw up on anything, it would be the easiest part. Go me!

My next recipe on the list was to make the custard! Almost like a vanilla pudding. To tell you the truth I have no clue what the difference is – maybe custard is a bit thicker? So here I am making this custard in a small pot on the stove, making sure I read the directions very carefully. The last thing you want to do is add the eggs at the wrong time and end up cooking them. Phew! Success… my custard looked great. I shoved it in the fridge to work with it in the morning.

And then it was time for the whipped cream! This recipe I used called for gelatin though. Quite a few people said they had never heard of gelatin in a whipped cream recipe but I decided to try it regardless. Well, with my KitchenAid mixer it was nice and easy watching the heavy cream become thicker and thicker. My ONLY complaint about my whipped cream though would be the gelatin! That evil gelatin! The directions said to dissolve the gelatin in a liquid, allow it to cool slightly (it would still be a liquid at this point) and then slowly add it into the heavy cream while it’s mixing. Well the gelatin began to gel a little before I added it to the cream. At this point, I didn’t realize anything was wrong. I made the whipped cream, it looked great, so I stuck it in the fridge since I wouldn’t have to deal with it until the next day. So Sunday morning when I’m taking out the whipped cream to start working with it, I realize there is a problem. All I see are hardened-gel-like chunks of something in the whipped cream. What the hell is that? After some thinking, I realized that only some of the gelatin had been incorporated into the cream when I was making it the night before. Oops. So I stood there picking out as many chunks as I could find before putting the pie all together. The last thing I wanted was someone to have a piece of pie and get a little surprise! I will tell you this though, the whipped cream still tasted great though! Next time I will use a recipe without the gelatin though!

The pie came together beautifully. I got a little crazy decorating with the whipped cream though. Before there was whipped cream in the center of the pie, I had layed out halved red grapes with a big raspberry in the middle. It looked so simple and delicate, but I felt it needed more at that moment. So I decided to try to decorate around all the grapes until I realize it looked terrible. So I covered the whole middle with whipped cream to hide my horrible attempt at decorating! Luckily, David came to my rescue and gave me a great idea to cover up my mess – spreading out the whipped cream and placing something right in the middle. We fixed it! Yay!

The pie ended up tasting great! I’m so glad we could share it with friends and family. I apologize again for the gelatin boogers!! At least I know for next time now. And hey, no one’s perfect :) LOL. Oh! For the love of food!


  1. The pie you made looks sooooo much prettier than the store bought one! I bet it tasted better, too ;) You need to be closer to me so that I can enjoy this bounty of yours and we can have dinner parties! Move back to Cali!!!!

  2. Oh how I wish so much that we could do dinner parties! I remember always coming to your place in Wilmington - you always cooked the best food! Such fun times - good food, a great friend, and a place to talk about anything! Miss you so much!

  3. My mom brought one of these for a desert one day and I loved it. None of the publix stores in my area have even heard of it. Would love if you could email me the recipe