Chocolate Chess Pie

On Saturday, September 14, 1822, twenty-eight subscribers raised $234 “for the support of an Episcopal Minister” in Lynchburg, Virginia, which led to the foundation of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. It was not the first church in the town of Lynchburg. That honor goes to the Methodist Church, inspired by the preaching of Bishop Francis Asbury in 1804 and erected in 1805, the same year that Virginia’s General Assembly incorporated Lynchburg as a town.

Both the town and church grew and prospered. By 1840, more than six thousand people lived in Lynchburg and in the 1850’s Lynchburg was one of the richest towns per capita in the United States. The congregation of St. Paul’s moved into a new larger church on Easter Sunday in 1851 and in 1895 into the large Romanesque building that, with modern additions, still houses the congregation.

Since the church was founded, the women of St. Paul’s have been actively involved in Lynchburg, organizing the first public school classes for needy children in 1856 and creating the Episcopal Cot Society to help provide medical care at the local hospital. They are also cooks. In 1995 to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of their current church building, they published a cookbook, One Hundred Years of Heavenly Cooking, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 1895-1995.

This recipe for Chocolate Chess Pie from that cookbook is a genuine southern delicacy that is easy to make and eat. If you like moist brownies, hot fudge sundaes and soft chocolate fudge, I can guarantee that you will love this pie.


1 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 stick margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup sugar
2 T flour
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 T milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (8 inch) unbaked pie crust


Preheat the oven to 425º and put the eggs in a small bowl of warm water.

Melt the chocolate and margarine together in a saucepan over low heat. Mix the sugars and flour together. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture and stir well.

Beat the eggs lightly so the yolks and whites are mixed but not a lemon yellow. Stir the milk and vanilla into the eggs and stir these liquid ingredients into the chocolate mixture. Stir for two or three minutes until all the ingredients are thoroughly blended together.

Pour the filling into the crust. Bake the pie on a center shelf for twenty-two to twenty-six minutes until the crust that forms on the top of the filling begins to crack. Ovens vary so watch the crust.

Serve with milk, tea or coffee.

NOTES: People sometimes ask how a chess pie differs from a custard pie. As you can tell from my recipe for custard pie, eggs are mixed into milk, sugar and flavorings and are baked to create a delicate smooth custard. A chess pie always includes some flour or cornmeal besides the eggs to help set the custard. In most cases, chess pies also have more sugar in them than do custard pies. Both are delicious.

Though the original recipe calls for an eight inch pie plate, I used a nine inch, and the pie turned out just fine, if a little thinner.

Marlene’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Like many great recipes, this one has a history. To learn who Marlene was and how Denise got the recipe, just skip to the NOTES. If you also want to learn how to make a delicious chocolate cake, just keep reading.

It all started a few weeks ago when I refused to buy a large zucchini at the Farmers Market in New Richmond.  Denise, the daughter of some friends who sell regularly at the market Saturday mornings, was filling in for her father who was recovering from surgery. She tried to talk me into buying one of the large green squashes displayed on the table.

“Our son and daughter-in-law gave us a couple of nice small zucchini from their CSA box,” I explained.

“But this is a nice big one picked this morning,” she replied.

“What would I do with it?” I asked.

“Make zucchini cake,” she answered.

“No thanks,” I said, “I really don’t like vegetable cakes. Except carrot cake, of course,” I explained.

“You could make zucchini bread,” she offered hopefully.

“I’ve done that. Dale and Pegi gave me Grandma Emma’s Zucchini Bread recipe, and it’s good, but I made one this summer already. Thanks anyway,” I said as I tried to make room for other customers.

Denise was persistent. “Why don’t you like zucchini cake or bread?” she asked.

I was honest. “I really don’t appreciate those green bits in them.”

“Ah ha, my chocolate zucchini cake doesn’t have any green bits,” she crowed. “I’ll make you one to prove it. When I serve it, people are amazed that what makes it so moist and tender is zucchini.”

She was as good as her word. She gave me a cake. It was delicious, and I couldn’t find any green bits in it. You won’t either.


2 cups puréed zucchini
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour plus a little to flour the pan
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus a little to flour the pan
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips


Start by washing a large zucchini, removing the stem and flower ends and chopping it into a half-inch dice. Put the pieces into a food processor or blender and process until you have a smooth green purée, something that you could feed to a grandchild starting on solid foods. Put two generous cups of the purée into a large mixing bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350º. Grease and flour a nine by thirteen-inch pan with a teaspoon of flour blended with a quarter teaspoon of cocoa.

Add the butter, oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla to the purée and blend with an electric mixer.

Stir the dry ingredients together in a bowl or sifter and combine them with the liquids by thirds, beating well between additions. Continue beating with the mixer until you have a smooth batter. Fold in the chocolate chips and pour the batter into the baking pan.

Bake for forty-five minutes or a little longer. Test for doneness with a toothpick inserted near the center. If the toothpick has only melted chocolate on it, the cake is done. If it comes out with batter stuck to it, bake the cake for another two or three minutes.

Cool the cake completely and serve it plain or with a dollop of whipped cream.

NOTES: Here is what Denise says about this cake. 
“I like the recipe as it is really easy as you don’t have to worry about dry ingredients and then blending with the wet ingredients, etc.  I just put it all in a bowl and mix with a mixer and then add the choc chips.  I have tried many substitutions and they all have come out really well.  Many times I will substitute one of the cups of flour with whole wheat flour.  I also will substitute either the oil or butter with applesauce and it turns out great each time.
“I purée the zucchini and freeze it in two cup increments so that I can make the cake all throughout the year.  Great way to use up the zucchini when it is coming in so quick and it doesn’t go to waste.  I also don’t have to pay $6 for zucchini like I did once in the winter. 
“I got the recipe from my sister and she got it from Marlene Johnson, her mother-in-law from Amery.  Here is what Marlene said about it.
” ‘I got the recipe from one of my daycare people along with a few other zucchini recipes. I also have a copy from a newspaper.  I didn’t think I would like it with cinnamon but it makes it special–important ingredient.  I like having one of these cakes in my freezer ready for company. Right now I have two of them.’”