When I was but a wee child, every year my Dad and I could be found sitting close to the television, cheering manically on the first Saturday in May: Kentucky Derby Day, the first race in the elusive Triple Crown.

It should come as no surprise that I love a festive occasion and to me, there is nothing more festive then The Running of the Roses. Big Hats, fancy ponies, and BOURBON. How could that be bad? I’m especially drawn to The Derby because I happen to love ponies. They have a special place in my heart and so does The Derby; it was something special that Daddy and I did and something that we still look forward to today, even if we don’t get to watch it together. So for me, this pie is a bit sentimental. I’m a sentimental fool.

What makes the Kentucky Derby Pie unique is the fact that it contains bourbon. Bourbon, one of the key ingredients in a mint julep, the official drink of The Derby, is something that I’ve never used in baking before but I will certainly be using again. I was worried that the bourbon might overwhelm the taste of the pie because just in opening the bottle, I was blown away from the strength of the liquer. However, despite my worry, the bourbon actually adds a nice depth of flavor to the pie that’s not at all overpowering.

Here’s a little hot tip for y’all…when using corn syrup, try spraying the measuring device with a nonstick spray. Corn syrup is sticky icky and can be a real devious ingredient to coax out of the cup but with the spray, the syrup slips out a great deal easier then without.

The fun thing about this pie is the transformation it makes during baking. When you slip the pie in the oven, it is nice and creamy and just everso speckled with chocolate chips and walnuts. When it comes out of the oven, the pie has a lovely chocolate-colored crust. So don’t fret when you check your pie and find it’s changed its color, it’s all good my friends.

This is the first official pie recipe for Baking Vintage and I have to admit a little something to y’all — I didn’t make the crust. I have been searching through my retro library for a good crust recipe and I just haven’t found one yet. I want to stay away from shortening and yet that’s all I see. I need to do some testing. Collin Murray needs to eat some pie. And then, then I will post a perfect pie crust. Until then, use your favorite crust or stroll down the frozen baked good section at your supermarket and don’t feel guilty.

Though this pie is a departure for me baking wise, I like to think of it like a pecan pie with a touch of Churchill Downs and I promise you will not be disappointed by the pie’s result — as for tomorrow’s race, I’m not placing any bets…

Kentucky Derby Pie (adapted hardly at all from the Sherman Service League Celebrates)

Makes one 9-inch pie

¼ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

3 eggs

¾ cup light corn syrup

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup milk chocolate chips

½ cup walnuts, chopped

2 tablespoons Kentucky bourbon

9-inch unbaked frozen pie shell

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Thaw pie shell according to the boxed directions, remembering not to feel guilt in using a pre-made pie crust.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add the corn syrup, vanilla and salt and mix well. Using a spatula, stir in chocolate chips, nuts and bourbon.

Pour mixture into thawed pie crust and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The centre of the pie will still seem slightly loose but as it cools completely, it will firm up. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or without. Enjoy.

An excess of eggs in my fridge and a desire to make a vaguely festive sweet treat led me to making meringues. Flourless and perfect for Passover or Easter, these little cookies are very easy to make.

Since I had so (so) many eggs, I decided to make two batches of meringues: vanilla and rose water. I happen to really enjoy rose water but if you aren’t a fan, you could easily substitute orange blossom water or a small amount of really any extract that tickles your fancy.

It is essential when making meringues to include a little bit of cream of tartar. Cream of tartar, in case you’re interested, helps not only to stabilize beaten egg whites but also to increase their volume — you could see how that might be helpful with meringues, no?

When making meringues, it is rather important to beat your egg whites till they are very stiff and glossy. If you are using a stand mixer, this should take less than five minutes; if using a hand mixer, it might take a wee bit longer; and if beating the meringue by hand, settle in for the long haul and try to save up for a stand mixer because you are going to be mighty, mighty tired, mighty, mighty quick.

Here’s a hot tip! Before you pipe your meringues onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, I’ve found that it’s quite helpful to put a dab of meringue on the corners of parchment paper so that the paper sticks to the sheet and doesn’t move around as you pipe.

And speaking of piping, feel free to pipe your meringues in whatever manner makes you happy. I like the star shape but that’s just me.

Anyway you slice it, meringues are pretty delicious, fat-free, and fabulously festive.

Meringue Cookies (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook)

Makes dozens of meringues, depending on the size

3 egg whites

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

½ to 1 teaspoon flavouring (vanilla, rose water, orange blossom water)

1 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 275˚F.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, combine egg whites, cream of tartar and flavouring. Beat till the whites are extremely frothy and then, with the mixer still running, gradually add the granulated sugar. Continue beating till the egg whites are very stiff and glossy.

Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with the tip of your choice and pipe your meringue shapes onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Depending on the size, bake for at least ½ hour. Once the cookies are crisp and are not longer moist inside, turn off the oven and allow the cookies to dry out for an additional hour.

Eat alone or sandwich the cookies together with a ganache frosting, buttercream or lemon curd and enjoy!

So I have to admit that colored coconut is one of those vintage baking tricks that I’ve been longing for the occasion to make. I was honestly so excited that Collin Murray thought I was totally nuts. But that’s just because he didn’t understand that colored coconut is what retro cake decoration is all about. In almost all of my vintage cookbooks, especially from the 1950′s and 1960′s, colored coconut adorns cakes of all occasions — birthdays to baby showers, Hawaiian luaus (not joking, our Grandmothers knew how to throw a theme party) to homecomings — it’s all about the coconut.

Here’s a hot little tip when making colored coconut, it’s easiest way to control the hue by using gel food coloring. The grocery store variety is a little watered down so you have to use more; gel food coloring is concentrated so you need to use less…makes sense, right?

This is especially true when you are making colored coconut, because the key to success is getting the color just right. Depending on how deep you want the color to be, that dictates how much food coloring to add and also how much water.

Though I’m saving up my dried coconut to decorate some spectacular Easter-themed cupcakes, feel free to use it whenever a little festive decoration is needed to spice things up.

Colored Coconut (Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Cookbook)

Makes 1 cup colored coconut

1 cup shredded coconut

Gel food coloring

Water to adjust color

*There are real proportions in this recipe. Really, if you want to make one cup, follow my suggestions, if you want to make more, it’s all relative to how much you want to make and how deep you want the color — experiment with the proportions and you will soon find the color that delights you most for your coconut.

In a glass bowl, add a teeny, tiny drop (really, just a speck) of food coloring. Add water to the food coloring a teaspoon at a time until you have achieved the your desired color. Add the coconut and toss to combine.

Dry the coconut overnight in a single layer on papertowel. Store in a covered container in the freezer until ready to use.