Chewy Chess Tart

Several weeks ago, I went to my very first pop-up shop since moving to New York. Martha Stewart opened up a weekend pie and tart shop to celebrate the release of her new cookbook, Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts.

Sadly, there was a one-pie-per-person limit. There was a lot of pressure in making just the right choice. After no small amount of deliberation, I chose this Chewy Chess Tart.

Chewy Chess Tart is a simple, delicious pie that is always a crowd pleaser. Love that vanilla wafer crust!

Chess pie was my favorite pie for most of my childhood. I never had any idea what went into one. I just knew I liked it. Now that I consider myself somewhat of a baker, I am fascinated by this pie and its simplicity. How is it possible that sugar, butter, and eggs can evolve into something so amazingly good?

Chewy Chess Tart | Bake or Break

This pie tastes far more complex than its list of ingredients might lead you to believe. The baking of a custard-like pie, however, can be a bit tricky. While I tend to like underbaking by a smidge, that is not the way to go with this one. If it’s not baked long enough, you’ll end up with a gooey mess.

I am a big fan of this nontraditional (to me, at least) vanilla cookie crust. Honestly, if the pie doesn’t turn out just right, you could be content just eating that crust.

Chewy Chess Tart

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 52 minutes

Yield: 8-10 servings

Chewy Chess Tart


    For the crust:
  • 1 & 1/4 cups finely ground vanilla wafer cookies (about 45 cookies)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • For the filling:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fine cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly


To make the crust:

Mix vanilla wafer crumbs, butter, sugar, and salt until combined. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Refrigerate about 15 minutes, or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350°. Place tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 12 minutes, or until crust is golden. Let cool slightly.

To make the filling:

Reduce oven temperature to 325°.

Mix both sugars, cornmeal, and salt. Break apart any clumps. Whisk in eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla. Whisk in butter until smooth. Pour filling into tart shell.

Bake 35-40 minutes, or until top is dark golden brown and the edge is set but the center is still just a bit wobbly.

Cool on wire rack 15 minutes. Refrigerate until completely cooled, 2 hours up to 1 day. Unmold and serve.


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  1. Neil May May 30, 2011 Reply

    This looks incredible! Steph just purchased the book a couple of weeks ago…Cant wait to try more of Martha’s delicious recipes! BTW Yummy has had quite a renovation…you must come see soon 😉

  2. Sarah May 30, 2011 Reply

    Ok, silly question here, but would Nilla Wafers work for the crust?

  3. Three-Cookies May 31, 2011 Reply

    Sounds interesting. Initially I thought there was a type – cheese instead of chess! The tart has few basic ingredients – sounds ingredible

  4. jennifer May 31, 2011 Reply

    @Neil May, I will definitely stop in to check it out the next time I’m down that way!

    @Sarah, I did use Nilla Wafers mixed with some butter and sugar. Yum!

  5. Jess Wakasugi May 31, 2011 Reply

    Never heard of or had a Chess Tart but it sounds interesting! Is the middle kind of like the consistency of a Pecan Pie?

    • jennifer May 31, 2011 Reply

      @Jess It is somewhat similar. This particular recipe doesn’t use corn syrup like a pecan pie recipe normally does, but my mother’s recipe did.

  6. Jannett May 31, 2011 Reply

    love the look of this pie….I have this has many pies in it… ;o)

  7. lissy June 1, 2011 Reply

    this pie looks amazing – never had a chess pie. Can’t wait to try it soon. thanks!

  8. This pie is so beautiful and pristine looking! It looks like you made an excellent choice!

  9. Kelly Hartman June 4, 2011 Reply

    Oh my. This looks wonderful.
    Have you ever made Crack Pie? This reminds me of that recipe. Amazing…

  10. Rachell June 4, 2011 Reply

    My favorite pie has always been berry, but I think I really need to try this one!

  11. Ideal Chef June 5, 2011 Reply

    yes Rachell , I will definitely try this one.

  12. Mandy June 6, 2011 Reply

    My aunt has made this at Christmas for as long as I can remember… a few to eat that day and then each family gets to take one home. However, we call it Transparent Pie. A southern thing maybe? By any name, it’s so good. After storing it in the fridge, I always heat it up in the microwave for a few seconds before I eat it. Mmm. So good.

  13. Robert June 6, 2011 Reply

    yeahh. its look mouth watering ..i will definitely try this one..

  14. So Very Domestic June 7, 2011 Reply

    Wow. That looks so good. Most of my fave desserts are the simple ones. I want to try to bake one now!

  15. Jennifer J-W June 8, 2011 Reply

    I made this last week and it was very popular. Shockingly, even my son who usually only likes chocolate-y desserts liked it. It was also easy to make and used ingredients I usually have on hand, other than the nilla wafers. I might try and make the crust with graham crackers, as I commonly have them in my pantry. I really think you could use any crunchy non-chocolate cookie for the crust… (an almondy cookie with a tiny bit of almond extract in the filling would likely be really good.)

  16. Katherine June 10, 2011 Reply

    I just happened across your blog – LOVE the recipes and the photography!

  17. Jennifer J-W June 10, 2011 Reply

    One more thing, I actually ordered this cookbook, based on the blog post, my enjoyment of the tart and the good reviews it has on Amazon. My one and only Martha Stewart cookbook.

  18. This pie would be fit for a king!

  19. Wow that looks amazing. Can’t wait to try it!! Bookmarked :)

  20. Liz June 14, 2011 Reply

    this looks beautiful and very delicious! thanks for sharing. what kind of pie pan do you use? some seem to work significantly better then others, so just wondering which are best..


  21. Candy June 16, 2011 Reply

    I love chess pie! It’s getting more and more difficult to find it, even here in the South so I’ll have to give this one a try!

  22. Jaclyn June 20, 2011 Reply

    This looks so good. I’ve heard of a chess pie before, but I never really knew what it was. Pretty sure the gooey center is enough to make me finally try one!

  23. Oksanna June 21, 2011 Reply

    In Canada, we call these butter tarts…mmmmm. They are also made with sugar, butter and eggs. Sometimes we add raisins or pecans.

  24. myfudo July 9, 2011 Reply

    Your chess pie looks wonderful! I find most of MS’s recipes to be very reliable.

  25. The Honey Nut July 12, 2011 Reply

    ohh that filling looks HEAVENLY

  26. Jen @ keepitsimplefoods August 17, 2011 Reply

    I love a good chess pie but, for some reason, I never think to make it. This looks divine and has inspired me to make my own! Thanks!

  27. Cathy August 23, 2011 Reply

    The pictures show a top crust but the recipe does not call for one. Is this the right picture that goes with this particular recipe?

  28. Cathy August 24, 2011 Reply

    Never mind – it’s the sugar that’s carmelized on top. Looks and sounds very yummy and I can’t wait to make it this weekend.

  29. Smartypanties September 25, 2011 Reply

    That looks so amaazing! Can’t wait to try!

  30. jay dog January 10, 2015 Reply

    I rather eat a chess piece then this tart don’t bother making this cake

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