Classic Coconut Meringue Pie: A Love Letter to my Mammaw

The most apt description I can conjure up for Lola “Ruth” Martin, my Mammaw, is that of a swan. Although her feet are always working furiously, even frantically, beneath the water, above, she glides gracefully across the surface. All one can see is the serene, elegance of unsurpassed beauty. A true matriarch, a woman after God’s own heart and the love of my Pappaw’s life, this peerless woman has led all the women of my family by example.


It’s her penchant for a little something special that taught me just how much sweeter life could be with a beautifully set table to rest a home-cooked meal upon. Still en vogue in her mid-eighties, Mammaw always knows what is chic at the moment. Her meals never fail to offer a lovely, nuanced twist. Whenever I spend holidays away from home, I always call her while I cook. She’s a perpetual source of inspiration as a cook, a woman, a wife and a mother. And although I know she detests the name Lola, I still love it – we would have named our child Lola had she been a girl. It has just the kind of glamorous pazazz that this woman encapsulates.

I’m really missing my Mammaw at the moment. Her health is not good, which is all the more painful since I live in South Carolina. I’m going home to see her soon, but in the meantime, I made my favorite from her vast collection of desserts. The first bite was a sense memory so divine it was almost like being there. Her classic Coconut Meringue Pie always brings her home to me – even if my offering is never quite as pretty as hers. It’s from that familiar red-and-white-checked tome, “Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook,” but to me it will forever say, “Mammaw!” Enjoy!


Coconut Meringue Pie:

Preheat oven to 450 to bake the pie crust then lower to 350 to finish the filled pie. I recommend covering the edge of the crust with foil for the final round of baking. Separate egg yolks from egg whites and set aside. You will use both of them in the recipe.


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1/3 water

Combine flour and salt then add shortening. Beat on low with an electric mixer until the dough forms small pea-sized balls. Add water, a tablespoon at a time, and beat on low for 15-20 seconds. Roll out and place in a 9-inch glass bottom pie dish. Bake the pie crust at 450 for 10 minutes then cool on a wire rack.

Coconut Cream Filling:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup coconut flakes

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, flour and salt then gradually stir in the milk. Cook and stir constantly over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Reduce heat and stir for an additional two minutes. Remove from the heat. Gradually stir one cup of the hot mixture into the egg yolks then add the egg mixture to the saucepan. Stir in butter, vanilla and one cup of coconut flakes and pour into baked pie crust.

The Meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup coconut flakes

Beat the egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar for about one minute – or until soft peaks begin to form. Gradually add the sugar, about one tablespoon at a time. Beat at a high speed for roughly four minutes or until the mixture creates stiff, glossy peaks. Immediately spread over the coconut mixture and make sure to seal the meringue against the crust to prevent shrinkage. Sprinkle the coconut flakes over the top of the meringue and bake for 12 – 15 minutes (until golden) at 350. Cool at room temperature before serving.

The delightful table runner in this photo was actually a Christmas gift from Mammaw. So, a big thank you to her for always adding a little something special. See you soon, Mammaw. Y’all enjoy!