Mega-restaurateur Tom Douglas' Triple Coconut Cream Pie: a dessert so famous, President Obama asks for it by name, and seems to have it at every Seattle fundraiser he hosts. It's recently been featured as an ice cream flavor from Portland's cult-favorite Salt and Straw. It's basically a celebrity in its own right, says Shelley Lance, Douglas' cookbook co-author, who devised the original recipe for Douglas before he opened Dahlia Lounge. "When people ask us for something for a fundraiser for their charities, we often give them a coconut cream pie, and people bid gigantic amounts for it, hundreds of dollars. People will go crazy and bid big bucks for the 'Tom Douglas pie,'" she tells Eater.
People will go crazy and bid big bucks for the 'Tom Douglas pie.'"
All things considered, it's a relatively simple recipe, which Lance believes is part of its charm: "I think the reason people are so crazy about it is that those kind of old-fashioned pies you get at a diner, in modern times became not made with very nice ingredients, just held up with gelatin. We made everything with top quality ingredients." In short, a pie crust made with butter and shredded coconut is filled with a coconut pastry cream done in a custard style with eggs, then topped with whipped cream, white chocolate shavings, and toasted coconut flakes. Very little has changed over the decades; if anything, Lance says, the pie has become more coconutty, as some of the milk in the filling has been replaced by coconut milk. Stacy Fortner, Dahlia Bakery's pastry chef, says the bakery goes through about 600 pounds of coconut making nearly 1,000 pies per month.
If you're getting hungry admiring the production photos above, you can get various sizes of the pie at Dahlia Bakery, or, it turns out, you can order it at any Tom Douglas restaurant — even the eateries that don't list it on the menu. "If we opened an Italian place it wouldn't seem right" to have a Triple Coconut Cream Pie, Lance says, "but people always ask for it. It might not be on the menu but we'll have it in the kitchen for people who ask for it."