Orange Chess Pie With Cranberry Gelée

Creating this layered dessert requires a little patience, but the combination of the tart gelée and the citrusy chess filling is worth the effort.

Orange chess pie with cranberry gelée on white plate

Antonis Achilleos; Food Stylist: Ruth Blackburn; Prop Stylist: Lydia Pursell

Active Time:
35 mins
Cool Time:
2 hrs
Chill Time:
3 hrs
Total Time:
7 hrs 5 mins

Traditionally made from a simple combination of eggs, butter, and sugar, classic chess pie is a Southern favorite. This extra-special holiday version jazzes things up a bit, spiking the custard with a little orange zest and juice and topping in all off with a tart and festive cranberry gelée. And since you’re probably wondering what the heck a “gelée” is, we got you: It’s basically a fancy form of Jell-O. The big difference is that instead of being made from a dusty powder filled with artificial ingredients, this ruby-hued topping is made using fresh cranberries, sugar, and citrus juice.

This pie is super easy to make, but it does require a little bit of planning, since the chess pie must be chilled completely before you can pour over the fancy gelée, then the whole thing must be chilled again so the topping will set. But since it’s a total make-ahead dessert, you can scratch it off your list and move on to other kitchen pursuits.

While this pie is completely delicious on its own, we do have two additional ways to take it to the next level: A creamy mascarpone whipped cream (you can use cream cheese in a pinch) and gorgeous sugared cranberries, which serve as a dramatic (and easy!) garnish. Garnished, topped, and sliced, this dessert is one of our finest holiday pies.


Chess Pie

  • 1 (14.1-oz.) pkg. refrigerated piecrusts (such as Pillsbury)

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

  • 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface

  • 1 Tbsp. plain yellow cornmeal

  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

  • 2 tsp. grated orange zest plus 1/3 cup fresh juice (from 1 large navel orange)

  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Cranberry Gelée

  • 1 (12-oz.) pkg. fresh cranberries

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)

  • 1/2 cup, plus 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar, divided

  • 2 1/2 tsp. unflavored gelatin (from 1 [1/4-oz.] envelope)

  • 2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice (from 1 orange)

Mascarpone Whipped Cream

  • 1 (8-oz.) container mascarpone cheese

  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Additional Ingredient


  1. Prepare Chess Pie: Preheat oven to 450°F. Unroll piecrusts; stack on a lightly floured surface. Roll stacked piecrusts into a 12-inch circle. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray, and fit piecrust into pie plate; fold edges under, and crimp. Prick bottom and sides of crust with a fork. Line with a piece of parchment, allowing ends to extend over edges of crust. Fill with pie weights. Bake 9 minutes; remove pie weights and parchment. Let cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

  2. Meanwhile, whisk together sugar, flour, cornmeal, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in melted butter, orange zest and juice, lemon juice, and eggs until thoroughly combined. Pour into prepared piecrust.

  3. Bake at 350°F until center is set, 40 to 45 minutes, shielding edges with foil after 30 minutes to prevent excessive browning, if necessary. Let cool on wire rack 2 hours. Cover and chill until cold, about 2 hours.

  4. Meanwhile, prepare the Cranberry Gelée: Combine fresh cranberries and 4 cups water in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until berries have popped, 15 to 20 minutes. Pour berry mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl, discarding berries. (Do not press on berries; you want liquid to remain as clear as possible.) Return strained cranberry juice to saucepan. Stir in lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar. Cook over medium-high, stirring constantly, until sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. (Cranberry juice mixture can be made up to 2 days ahead; cover and chill until ready to use.)

  5. Stir together 1 1/4 cups cranberry juice mixture and remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin over mixture, and let stand 5 minutes. Cook over medium, stirring occasionally, just until mixture is steaming and gelatin dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool 20 minutes. Stir in orange juice.

  6. Gently drizzle cranberry mixture evenly over top of chilled pie. Chill, covered, until gelée sets, about 1 hour.

  7. Prepare Mascarpone Whipped Cream: Whisk together mascarpone, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl just until blended. (Be careful not to overmix.) Beat heavy whipping cream with an electric mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form, about 1 1/2 minutes. Gently fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture. Dollop on top of pie, and garnish with Sugared Cranberries.

Related Articles