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Coconut Dream: A Love Affair with Tom Douglas' Legendary Coconut Cream Pie

Le Famous Coconut Cream Pie

* Not a coconut fan? There's another tip at the bottom!

Upon moving to Seattle, we were surprised to hear that one of the city's famous desserts was the Triple Coconut Cream Pie from restaurateur Tom Douglas' Dahlia Lounge (you may recognize the restaurant from the timeless classic Sleepless in Seattle). Our wariness was twofold: first off, while a good dessert, coconut cream pie has never been a major player in our dessert vernacular, more often something that we'll eat because it's there, a second or third choice at best. And second, did we really trust a restaurateur who had a neon sign in his own image boldly hung outside of the restaurant? Was it a gesture of self-deprecating tongue in cheek humor, or just plain ego? And so, two years of residence passed before we even tried this pie, which has been their bestselling dessert for over twelve years.


But oh, to think back to the day we finally did try the famous pie. As will happen from time to time, a baked good is so well-made that even if it's outside of your general taste preferences, it will make you a believer. The taste of fresh whipped cream, laced with vanilla and coconut, is the first taste that hits you: rich, creamy and decadent. At an indeterminate point, the whipped cream ends and the pie filling begins, filling the mouth with a custardy, indulgent cocunutty taste; that gives way to a light, flaky pastry crust, also infused with coconut--all summing up to make you think that maybe, just maybe, becoming morbidly obese on this stuff wouldn't be so bad at all. Their restaurant portion will satisfy Herculean appetites; servings for all appetites can be found next door at the Dahlia bakery: from mini individual "bites" to larger sizes depending on how big a crowd you're feeding (or, you know, how hungry you are).

Dahlia is OpenCloseup on mini pie from Dahlia Bakery

If you're coming to Seattle, we deem it worth seeking out; if you're not in the Seattle area, then don't despair, here's the recipe (which can also be found in the worth-buying book Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen, available here)
December 2, 2007 (2)

Triple Coconut Cream Pie
(Makes one 9-inch pie)


For The Coconut Pastry Cream

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
For The Pie
  • One 9-inch Pie shell (go ahead, put coconut in the shell too!)
  • prebaked and cooled
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For Garnish
  • 2 ounces unsweetened "chip" or large-shred coconut (about 11/2 cups) or sweetened shredded coconut
  • Chunks of white chocolate (4 to 6 ounces, to make 2 ounces of curls)


1. To make the pastry cream, combine the milk and coconut in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add both the seeds and pod to the milk mixture. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and stir occasionally until the mixture almost comes to a boil.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and flour until well combined. Temper the eggs (to keep them from scrambling) by pouring a small amount (about 1/3 Cup) of the scalded milk into the egg mixture while whisking. Then add the warmed egg mixture to the saucepan of milk and coconut. Whisk over medium-high heat until the pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until the mixture is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes more. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the butter and whisk until it melts. Remove and discard the vanilla pod. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and place it over a bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until it is cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a crust from forming and refrigerate until completely cold. The pastry cream will thicken as it cools.

3. When the pastry cream is cold, fill the prebaked pie shell with it, smoothing the surface. In an electric mixer with the whisk, whip the heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla on medium speed. Gradually increase the speed to high and whip to peaks that are firm enough to hold their shape. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the whipped cream and pipe it all over the surface of the pie, or spoon it over.

4. For the garnish, preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the coconut chips on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, watching carefully and stirring once or twice, since coconut burns easily, until lightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Use a vegetable peeler to scrape about 2 ounces of the white chocolate into curls.

On The Plate
Cut the pie into 6 to 8 wedges and place on dessert plates. Decorate each wedge of pie with white chocolate curls and the toasted coconut.

Cuppie Sees the Sunrise in Seattle
A Step Ahead

If not serving immediately, keep the pie refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap. The finished pie should be consumed within a day. Prepare the garnishes just before serving. The coconut pastry cream can be made a day ahead and stored chilled in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap as described above. Fill the pie shell and top it with whipped cream and garnishes when you are ready to serve the pie.
Recipe borrowed from Books-for-Cooks.com, Copyright © 2002.

Cupcakes at the Dahlia Bakery, Seattle

Of course, if you're not a coconut fan, we are also huge fans of the cupcakes at Dahlia Bakery. True Story: one time while walking up to the door, we walked into a girl and guy coming out. Says girl to guy in a vaguely sensual voice and through a chocolate-flecked mouth: "Oh my god this is the best cupcake I've ever tasted" -- and then her eyes kind of rolled back in pleasure. We'll have what she's having, please.



Dahlia Lounge and Dahlia Bakery are located side by side at 2001 4th Ave., Seattle; check them (and Tom Douglas' other restaurants) out at tomdouglas.com.

Dahlia Bakery on Urbanspoon


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Reader Comments (48)

Do we know if downtown Bellevue's Sea Star serves these pies? They have a "2 person" (read as 4 person) coconut pie on their dessert menu that is amazing- about 8 inches high, and seems very similar to your description of the pies at the Dahlia Lounge. If this recipe is anything like that pie, you've made this pregnant woman very happy (and her doctor...not so much :o)


April 16 | Unregistered Commentermyrnie_twin

I'm not a bog fan of coconut, but I loved the Bakery stories. Seems like some good cupccakes! Haha. Thanks for sharing

April 16 | Unregistered CommenterIsa

Well, you've definitely made a believer out of me (though it didn't take much prodding, to be honest!). My honey's FAVORITE dessert is coconut cream pie, so I'll keep this for when I'm feeling generous ;).

Oh, and re: your comment on the previous post: nope, don't taste it at all (well, at least I don't!).

April 16 | Unregistered CommenterRicki

I'm always grateful for a new coconut cream pie recipe. It's one of my favorites. This looks and sounds amazing!

Coconut cream pie happens to be one of my favorites. I've been dying to try Dahlia's concoction since I first heard about it a few months ago. You've officially made it my number one priority this week!

Looooove coconut pie, this looks so good I think that this cook might bake and make a crust! and I don't DO crusts.

April 16 | Unregistered CommenterKrysta

wow, i really want a slice! your cupcakes look divine too!

April 16 | Unregistered CommenterLina


Goodness me - I've never heard of coconut cream pie but it seems to feature my two fave flavours i.e. coconut and vanilla.
Print, print, print!!!!

why did you have to go and describe the experience of eating this sensational creation so well? i certainly can't plan a trip to seattle just for piece (or three) of coconut cream pie. or can i?

but wait! you've posted the recipe. bless you, and here's hoping i don't eat the whole thing in one sitting. :)

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

I can never say this pie is my favorite or I don't like that flavor of pie. It all depends on whether the pie is GOOD or not. So coconut pie? Give me pie and I'm sure I will like it! It looks good.... so rustic!

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterAran

I've only recently started liking coconut (which occurred after I decided to make a coconut cake with coconut frosting, for my family). That pie looks lovely!

HAHA!! I like the "re-enactment" of that 'When Harry Met Sally' movie scene, with that girl and guy at the Dahlia Bakery ;0)

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterVeggieGirl

Coconut pastry cream?? Those three words have sold me, forget the gorgeous photo of the mountain of caloriffic joy!

I have never made a pie, always think it is too difficult to make tgem.

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterHappy cook

Oh my oh my. You are so very awesome for posting this recipe for us!! As I was reading I was thinking oh I really want to try that but I don't know when I'll get to go - and now I can have it all the time! Which is probably dangerous haha. I'll have to check out Dahlia Bakery next time I'm wandering around Seattle.

Oh, thank you for sharing! Just one more dessert I must try before I "really" start my diet... elastic waist bands & sweat pants are calling my name.

xoxox Amy

April 17 | Unregistered Commenterfamiliabencomo

I work about a block from all of the Tom Douglas restaurants. Do you think this pie qualifies as lunch? If so, I think I know what I'll get next time I don't pack a lunch. :)

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

I'm a coconut fan, and a coconut cream pie fan. This one does sound great!

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

Myrnie: It is possible! I do believe I have seen Dahlia baked goods at other places, so that means they probably do wholesale. You might just have had a slice of this pie!! And hey, you're eating for two--the baby has to get a sophisticated palate somehow, start 'em out early!

Isa: Yes, the cupcakes are great. And isn't the story half of the appeal? :-)

Ricki: Sounds like your honey deserves some of this pie!! It's an absolute delight, so if already a coconut fan, this one will be a treasure!

Stickygooey: This one is for the ages. It's great if you like coconut!

Southern Hostess: Damn, you have to try it this week!! It's officially #1 on your to-do list!

Krysta: Although I'm not a disbeliever in storebought pie crusts, in this case I think the coconut crust is vital! :-)

Lina: They are divine cupcakes. I wish I could say I'd made them, but I'd be lying! :-)

Obsessive Foodie: You said it, dudette!

Caked Crusader: Oh yes--this is the type of import you should feel happy to bring over to the UK. :-)

Grace: Do not make this pie if you're alone, unless you are indeed prepared to eat the whole thing. because basically, you will. ;-)

Aran: I'm with you, and this one is one of the GOOD ones. I'll bet you could even make it better!!

Veggiegirl: You know, I'll bet that this wouldn't be too hard to veganize either--the creaminess of soy-dairy substitutes would probably work beautifully with the coconut.

Ellie: Yup, it's a dream--a mountain of caloriffic joy indeed!

Happy Cook: oh, but the benefit of all that labor is that then you get to EAT it!

Eat Me Delicious: Dahlia is wonderful. I am not lying here, sometimes I just poke my head in to sniff the air. Is that creepy?

Amy: No diets! Your homework for even saying the word is making two of these pies. :-)

Dawn: I thought I remembered you mentioning that (you like Serious Pie too, right?). Um, as for whether or not this qualifies as lunch--do you even need to ask?

Deborah: It will be perfect for you then--it's perfectly creamy and coconut-y!

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

the dahlia lounge opened a bakery? oh, you're killing me....

and i LOVE coconut.

April 17 | Unregistered Commenterkate

hey lady, how are you? hope fine!
reading your posts makes me always go in a very good mood, and hungry :o)

a big hug!

I love your description.. that itself leaves me drooling...Very nice pie..love the flavour of coconut!!

you have to try the coconut cloud pie at bubby's pie shop (bubbys.com). magical.

April 17 | Unregistered Commentermoonrat

Dang! That is one poofy pie crust. How I'd love to bite a piece off right now. (Please forgive my stomach rumbles.)

Had I not seen the pie I would probably have thought the sign was over the top and passed it by - but you've made a convert out of me. Why does Seattle have to be so darned far away?

April 17 | Unregistered Commentergiz
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