Photo of Crack Pie slice by Laura Hayes
Photo of Crack Pie slice by Laura Hayes

Milk Bar in CityCenterDC sells a glorified chess pie for $46. It’s buttery, creamy, and sweet enough to be a test for whether it’s time to schedule an appointment with the dentist. You can feel a subtle twinge in every tooth threatening to have a cavity. It’s indulgent, delicious even, but is it crazy expensive to produce?

Bon Appétit published the recipe for “Crack Pie” in Sept. 2010, confirming that the filling confined by a oat cookie crust is little more than sugar, cream, and eggs. This left City Paper curious: Should this confection really cost you nearly $50 or is Milk Bar’s star pastry chef Christina Tosi just cashing in on her fame? The two-time James Beard Award winner is also a judge on Fox’s amateur cooking shows MasterChef and MasterChef Junior

To find out the true cost, we asked two prominent D.C. pastry chefs to use the recipe and price out how much it costs to make a Crack Pie, with labor and packaging included. They jumped at the task, on the condition of anonymity. 

One uses an app called Fillet for Chefs, the other uses an Excel spreadsheet for ingredient calculations. 

Here are their findings based on current prices for ingredients they receive from their purveyors. 

Chef One: $6.61 to make one Crack Pie

Chef One calculated that it costs $5.43 to make two pies, since most bakers bake in bulk. They estimate that about 18 minutes of work goes into making two pies, and at $15 per hour that puts the cost of labor at $4.50. Chef One also adds $1.65 for packaging. The total cost of making two pies is $13.23, or $6.61 for one pie. Milk Bar’s Crack Pie costs about seven times more. 

Chef Two: $11.02 to make one Crack Pie

Chef Two also calculated how much it costs to make two pies, then divided the total number in half to estimate the cost of one pie. “I included one hour of man power in this too,” Chef Two says.  “I also included pricing for the pie tins, and other packaging such as pie boxes, stickers etc.” Milk Bar’s Crack Pie costs about four times more.