Around here, we look for any reason to celebrate. Whether it’s Christmas Day, the neighbor’s cat’s birthday, or 5 days since someone in our home wet the bed, we hunt out reasons to throw a party like our lives (and sanity) depend on it. There’s something 100% fabulous about celebrating for little reason at all, and I love to find new treats to serve at these any-occasion gatherings. So unless you’ve been living under a giant rock or still haven’t mastered Instagram (shoutout to my husband!), you’ve probably seen the cute little layered cream tarts in the shape of numbers and letters all over the internet. They’re adorable, and I loved the idea so much that I hopped on that bandwagon to bring you a tutorial to make your very own alphabet cream pie.
Let me give you the quick scoop on these. I have no idea where they originated from, but I will tell you that they have taken over the internet. These desserts typically start with two sets of baked tart shells cut into the shape of numbers or letters. A cream filling is piped on each set of tarts that are then layered together and decorated with a million different treats: fresh fruit, macaroons, mini marshmallows, cookies, flowers, sprinkles, and the rest of the kitchen sink. Over time, the pastry cream barely softens the tarts so that you have a creamy layered dessert that is as beautiful as it is delicious.
I decided I didn’t want to fuss with tart shells and pastry cream. I wanted something I was more familiar with, something that would taste better, something way easier. So I introduce to you the alphabet cream pie: a few layers of buttery pie crust, filled with a simple lemon and vanilla bean whipped cream cheese, and topped with all of my favorite fresh fruit. Although this alphabet cream pie takes a step or two to make, it is the simplest version of this fancy pants treat that you will find and is incredibly fun to make. Let’s get started!
What You’ll Need:
Paper or stencil to trace letters/numbers
Paring knife or X-acto knife to trim out letters/numbers
Parchment paper for lining baking sheets
Piping bag fitted with a large round tip (I use Wilton 1A ) or a large plastic bag
1 Recipe for pie dough (see below)
1 Recipe for cream filling (see below)
Items to decorate the pie
You’ll need a stencil to trace out the numbers or letters for the alphabet cream pie. I printed out block letters on sheets of computer paper, cut them out, and used those to trace my letters onto the dough. You could also sketch it out on a piece of parchment paper. Using a stencil is vital so that your stacked letters match up. You’ll have enough dough to cover approximately two half sheet pans, so be sure that you letters aren’t any larger than what would fit on the pan- otherwise you’ll require more dough!
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and roll the dough out on a floured surface to ¼” thick. If the dough is too hard, allow it to rest at room temp about 5-10 minutes. Use a paring knife or a clean X-acto knife to cut out the letters. You’ll need two of each letter or number as they will stack one on top of the other. (Sidetone: I opted to do “HBD,” which is millennial shorthand for “Happy Birthday,” but you could just as easily do a number 16, 21, or 50 for a special birthday, or even just one single giant letter to celebrate someone awesome!) Place the letters on a parchment-lined baking sheet at least an inch apart. If the dough got soft and the letters smooshed a bit, just use the stencil to reorient the letter how it was meant to be shaped. Place the prepared pan in the fridge or freezer to firm up (5 minutes for freezer, 10 minutes for fridge) and then bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the letters are barely puffed and golden. You can bake multiple pans in the oven, just be sure to quickly rotate the top and bottom pans about halfway through. Allow the letters to cool thoroughly on a cooling rack prior to use.
When the letters have cooled, prepare the serving platter or workspace you’re going to assemble the pie on. Place about half of the cream filling in a large piping bag fitted with a large round tip. If you don’t have this, feel free to fill a gallon or quart sized plastic bag with some cream and snip the tip off of the corner of the bag. Your round dollops won’t be as perfect, but no one will care. Pipe a dot or two of cream under each letter (once it has chilled, this will adhere it gently to your serving platter), and then begin piping ½ tablespoon-sized dollops all over the letters. I prefer to use rows and columns, but you can do it however you please. Once you’ve covered the first layer of letters, place the second layer of letters gently on top and then repeat this process. Cover the letters entirely with dollops of cream, refilling your piping bag as needed.
When you’ve completed the process, you’re ready to decorate! I use fresh fruit, like strawberries and blueberries, or even little candies. You are free to decorate with little cookies or edible flowers as well. If you use non-edible flowers, just wrap the stem or base of the flower touching the pie in a tiny piece of aluminum foil to keep them food safe. You can also color any remaining cream filling and use a star tip or another decorative piping tip to pipe on little colorful dollops of cream. The pie itself will keep in the fridge for a few days, but the items on top of the pie may begin to weep and bleed. As a result, I recommend eating this treat the day it is made.
This alphabet cream pie is totally festive and the perfect treat to celebrate the birthdays, anniversaries, and everyday happenings in your life. Make it for someone awesome and top it with all of their favorite things. It will be the celebration pie to beat!
If you like this alphabet cream pie tutorial, check out:
Alphabet Cream Pie
This alphabet cream pie is a take on those popular letter/number tarts that are taking over the internet! This is two layers of shaped baked pie dough filled with a lemon vanilla bean cream cheese whipped filling and topped with fresh berries.
- Prep Time: 45
- Cook Time: 30
- Total Time: 120
For the pie crust:
- 3 ½ cups (420 gm) all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons (12 gm) sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon (4 gm) salt
- 2/3 cup (135 gm) chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
- 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks, 170 gm) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 10 tablespoons (approximately) ice water
For the cream filling:
- 8 ounces (225 gm) regular cream cheese, at room temperature
- ¾ cup (150 gm) sugar
- 3 cups (680 gm) heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
- 1-1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
To prepare the pie dough:
- Give the dry ingredients a whiz in the food processor to combine.
- Pulse in the shortening and butter, just until barely evenly dispersed and pea-sized clump exist throughout.
- Begin adding ice water 2 tablespoons at a time until moist clumps begin to form. I typically use about 6 tablespoons of water.
- Remove dough from food processor and separate in two round disks. Wrap in Saran wrap and chill for at least one to two hours prior to use.
To prepare the cream filling:
- In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and lemon zest together until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add a few tablespoons of the cream and beat to incorporate. Add a bit more cream and beat to incorporate. Once the cream cheese mixture is thick and liquidy, add the remaining cream and the vanilla, beating until thickened and stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use, but best used immediately.