The Sweet Way Shoofly Pie (Likely) Got Its Name

Anyone who's traveled to Pennsylvania's Amish country has likely come across an unusual baked good with an even more unusual name — shoofly pie. While many are familiar with or may have even tried it, few take the time to figure out why it bears such a potentially unappetizing moniker.

Of course, there's the most obvious potential origin for the name: Flies were attracted to the extra-sugary pie, made up of molasses and brown sugar crumb filling nestled in a pie crust. This would force bakers and diners to literally "shoo" them away.

While this may be true in a literal sense, it may not be the real reason. Historians have pointed out that Shoofly was also the name of a brand of molasses popular when the recipe was invented in the late 19th century. Using Shoofly brand molasses was so common for the recipe that the name stuck long after the company disappeared. It's since become a descriptor of its own, much like graham crackers (or, more accurately, Graham crackers.)

A regional delicacy with a long history

However, history-loving foodies should know that's not the end of the story, either. Shoofly Molasses was supposedly named for Shoofly the Boxing Mule, a well-known 1800s circus animal. The "shoofly" chain ends one step further back with the popular folk song "Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me," which, according to legend, was the inspiration for the mule's name.

As for the recipe itself, it likely has its origins in a dish invented in 1876, known as centennial cake, which was basically a crustless version of shoofly pie. Amish bakers placed the molasses and crumb filling in a pie crust, which made it possible to eat it by hand. While it might seem dessert-worthy, shoofly pie was traditionally a breakfast item, providing a sweet burst of energy to start the day. 

Regardless of how shoofly pie acquired its unusual name, there's no denying its unique taste and texture. Enjoy it at home without the extra work of making your own pie crust using this shortcut shoofly pie recipe.