Custard pies and cream pies are two pies that are similar enough that they are often confused. The differences between cream pies and custard pies are all in how they are prepared. Custard pies have a filling that is a mixture of eggs, sugar and other ingredients – milk, pumpkin puree, chocolate, etc – that is whisked together and poured in a pie shell to bake. The filling is baked after it is poured into the pie crust. Most cream pies also have fillings that contain eggs, sugar and other ingredients that are also found in custard pies, but the fillings are prepared on the stovetop and poured into an already baked crust. The result is a filling that is softer and a little bit more pudding-like than that of a custard pie, which tends to be a bit eggier and have a firmer set.
Cream pies are usually faster to prepare than custard pies, since cooking the filling on the stovetop takes less time than baking an egg-based filling and waiting for it to set. Custard pies are a little more hands-off during the prep, however, since you just mix up your filling and pour it right into the shell. Both types of pies will have to chill before they can be served, and both types can be topped with meringue or whipped cream, in addition to being served as-is. And, of course, both are delicious.
There are also times when you’ll see some exceptions to these rules, such as Key Lime Pies, which are cream pies that are thickened with eggs and can be made without cooking at all, but are usually baked for a short period of time. There are also cream pies that simply use cream in the filling, or as a major flavoring component, and may have cream in the name for that reason.
Need a little pie inspiration? Try these recipes to get started: