This custard apple pie is as easy as it gets and it only takes 15 minutes to prep! Made on a biscuit base and loaded with cinnamon apples and vanilla custard, this pie is irresistibly delicious. Topped with pillowy soft meringue and baked to perfection, this light and airy dessert is perfect for summer.
Without any exaggeration, I can safely say this custard apple pie is hands down my favourite dessert EVER. There's nothing better than baked apples with a hint of cinnamon, coupled with a smooth vanilla cream and silky meringue. The combination is a match made in Heaven and it is as simple as it is delicious. This recipe calls for the most simple ingredients that can be found in most pantries. It is a quick and inexpensive dessert that's guaranteed to make everyone ask for a second serving.
Why make this custard apple pie
- Super quick to make - only 15 minutes prep and 30 minutes to bake
- Very easy to make and only needs one tray for baking
- Simple ingredients that can be found in most pantries
- Has 4 delicious layers that work really well together
- Not overly sweet and relies on the sweetness of the apples
- Ideal for summer as it's very light and refreshing
What's in this apple pie?
There are four layers in this apple pie, all working together to make a perfectly balanced dessert. Although this apple pie is baked in one single tray, all the layers are very distinct.
Biscuit base - instead of a pie crust, this recipe uses biscuits for the base. This way not only is it much quicker to make, but also more delicious. The biscuits become slightly softened by soaking up the juice from the apple layer that sits on top.
Cinnamon apples - loaded with cinnamon, the apple layer is very rich and fragrant. The grated apples become very soft and sweet once baked, requiring no extra sugar. Less calories and an amazing dessert? I call that a WIN!
Vanilla cream - a simple pastry cream added over the cinnamon apples. This cream is silky smooth and works perfectly with the spiced apples. Think of it as pouring custard over traditional apple pie - only in this recipe it's integrated in the pie itself. Follow my recipe for making perfect Vanilla Pastry Cream for best results.
Meringue - billowing clouds of meringue sitting on top of the vanilla cream. The meringue adds sweetness to the apple pie, whilst making it even lighter in texture. Once baked, the top layer of the meringue becomes slightly crunchy, whilst still soft and airy.
We are using a French meringue, as the apple meringue cake will be baked. Baking the eggs is essential as this will make them safe for consumption. However, baking the meringue will also make it less creamy, more like a mousse texture. If you would rather have a softer meringue, use either a Swiss or Italian meringue.
Apples - the most important ingredient in this recipe. Use naturally sweet apples to avoid having to add extra sugar. The apples do not need to be cooked beforehand, as we will be cooking them with the rest of the pie.
Cinnamon - ground or powder cinnamon to flavour the apples.
Eggs - use the egg yolks for the vanilla cream and egg whites for the meringue. Use large eggs.
Sugar - regular caster sugar. Used in the vanilla cream and meringue to sweeten them.
Vanilla bean paste - used to flavour the vanilla cream. This can be replaced with either pure vanilla bean or vanilla extract. Make sure you used good quality vanilla for maximum flavour.
The best apples for pie baking
- Gala – one of the sweetest apples, perfect for this recipe. They are also very crisp, so they don’t go too mushy when baked.
- Pink Lady - naturally very sweet and crunchy, perfect for baking.
- Fuji – super sweet, and crunchy. I love snacking on these apples, but they’re also great when baked.
- Envy – crisp and sweet, with a little tangy. Not only are these apples amazing for snacking (as they don’t brown as much as other varieties), but they are ideal for use in cakes.
How to make custard apple pie from scratch
Before you start making each individual element of the recipe, start by prepping your ingredients. Have all your ingredients at room temperature, especially the eggs. Eggs are much easier to whip at room temperature and makes for a fluffier meringue.
Wash and peel the apples, then grate them using a box grater or food processor. Grating the apples is a better alternative to chopping, as it gives a uniform texture. Also, there's no risk of having larger chunks of apples that are uncooked.
Add the apples to a mixing bowl, then mix with cinnamon and a little lemon juice or lemon zest. Remove any extra apple juice - don't throw it away, it's delicious as a drink. Feel free to add any extra spices you may like - such as nutmeg, ginger or cloves.
Crush the biscuits by placing them in a ziplock bag, then breaking them with a rolling pin. We want to have medium chunks of biscuits, not too fine. That is why I don't recommend using a food processor.
Finally, grease the baking tray with plenty of butter - don't be stingy! This will make the biscuit base even more buttery and delicious, as well as ensure nothing sticks to the tray.
Once all the ingredients are prepped, we can begin:
- Biscuit base - Place the crushed biscuits into the baking tray, levelling them to create a uniform layer.
- Cinnamon apples - Add the grated apples on top of the biscuits. Bake for 15-20 minutes to soften and cook the apples.
- Vanilla cream - Prepare it whilst the apples are baking. For in depth method, look at my Vanilla Pastry Cream recipe. Pour the hot vanilla cream over the baked apple layer.
- Meringue topping - Beat the egg whites until frothy, then add the sugar in one teaspoon at a time. Once the meringue has reached medium-stiff peaks, pour it over the vanilla cream. Level with a spoon or spatula, then bake for 10 minutes. Baking the pie again makes the meringue safe to eat (no raw eggs), and makes a very thin, crunchy crust on top.
How to serve this apple pie
I know by this point the smell will become so unbearable that you will want to dig in. However, trust me, young cricket, patience is a virtue! The apple meringue cake needs to cool down, then chill in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours before serving. This will make the vanilla custard firm up and the flavour of the apples becomes more intense.
If the meringue forms some amber-coloured droplets on the surface, don't worry. This is perfectly normal and it won't change your apple meringue cake at all.
Enjoy cold, straight from the fridge for a refreshing summer dessert!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
In more traditional apple pies you can leave the apples with the peel. However, for this recipe the apples need to be peeled before grating. This way the apples will meld together when baked and become extra soft.
There's no need to cook the apples beforehand. This recipe calls for raw apples that will be baked once in the tray.
This happens when the pie hasn't been baked for long enough or the apple chunks are too large. This is why for this recipe the apples need to be grated instead of chopped.
No, this meringue pie cannot be left at room temperature and needs to be stored in the fridge.
This meringue pie needs to be stored in the fridge. Cover the tray with plastic wrap or aluminium foil, then store in the fridge for 3-4 days.
This custard apple pie is not suitable for freezing, as it contains pastry cream. Once thawed, the texture of the pastry cream will not be the same.
Yes, you can reheat this pie by placing it in a hot oven at 170C (340F) for 10 minutes. However, please note this can make the meringue topping harder.
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Custard Apple Pie
- 35 x 25cm (14 x 10 inches) rectangular baking tray
- 24 butter biscuits (or graham crackers)*
- 10 medium sweet red apples, grated (approx 1.5 kgs or 52 oz.)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Vanilla Pastry Cream
- 1 L milk (4 cups)
- 6 egg yolks, large
- 120 g sugar (⅔ cup)
- 60 g corn starch* (½ cup)
- 4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste*
- 100 g unsalted butter (½ cup)
- 6 egg whites
- 200 g sugar (1 cup)
- Pre-heat your oven to 170°C with fan (340°F). Prepare a baking tray by greasing it with room temperature butter. Be generous with it.
- Place the biscuits in a ziplock bag and crush them using a rolling pin. Place them at the bottom of the greased tray, levelling them with your hand. Set tray aside.
- Grate the apples using a large box grater. Place them in a bowl and mix with the cinnamon (add as much or little as you like). Put the apples over the crushed biscuits, levelling them with a spatula. Bake the apple base for 15-20 minutes to soften the apples.
- Prepare the vanilla layer by following the instructions in my post for Vanilla Pastry Cream. The cream should be thick, not too runny like custard.
- Prepare the meringue by whipping up the egg whites until frothy with a hand (or stand) mixer. Once foamy, add the sugar in 3 parts, mixing the meringue until you get medium-hard peaks.
- Once the apple base has finished baking, pour the hot vanilla cream over it, levelling to make it flat. Pour the meringue over the vanilla cream and smooth out the top with a clean spatula. Bake for 10 minutes or until the meringue starts to look golden in colour.
- Let cake cool for 30 minutes and preferably chill in the fridge for a few hours before serving.
- I recommend using a kitchen scale in grams for more accuracy. The cups used for the conversion are standard US customary cups (1 cup flour = 136g). There are many different types of cups across the globe, which is why I strongly recommend using grams instead.
- For butter biscuits I recommend the brands: LU, Leibniz or Petit Beurre. You can replace them with plain tea biscuits or graham crackers.
- Corn starch can be replaced with flour, just double the quantity (25g corn starch = 50g flour).
- Vanilla bean paste can be replaced with vanilla extract. It needs to be added at the end with the butter. Adding it before the cooking process will make the flavour less intense.