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Mock Apple Pie

Updated on October 27, 2008

As American as....

Wait. You want me to make an apple pie with no apples in it? Mock apple pie has a rich history from the settlers heading west across a young United States to the 20th-century suburban housewife. Read on to learn all about this culinary oddity.

History of Mock Apple Pie

Mock apple pie makes its first appearance around the middle of the 19th century. As they journeyed west, North American settlers yearned for the taste that reminded them of home: apple pie. Apples were hard to come by out in the wilderness, so those amazing pioneer women came up with a dessert that is surprisingly apple-y, considering that it contains neither apples nor apple juice. The recipe first appeared in Mrs. B. C. Whiting's book How We Cook In Los Angeles (1894) as "California Pioneer Apple Pie, 1852."

While the original recipe used soda crackers, Ritz saw a fabulous marketing opportunity during the Great Depression in the early 1930's. Apples were prohibitively expensive at that time, so Ritz adapted the recipe to use its own brand of butter cracker and put the recipe on the back of the cracker box. Mock apple pie became a favorite throughout the 30's and 40's.

The Recipe for Mock Apple Pie

Pastry for 2-crust pie

36 round butter or soda crackers, broken in large pieces (about 1-3/4 cups crumbs)

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

2 cups water

2 tablesspoons lemon juice

zest of one lemon

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line glass pie plate with 1/2 of pastry. Place crumbled crackers in pie plate on top of crust. Mix sugar and cream of tartar in saucepan. Gradually stir in water until completely combined. Bring to boil. Reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes, without stirring. Add lemon juice and zest. Allow mixture to cool. Pour syrup over crackers. Dot with butter. Sprinkle with spices. Put top crust on, and seal edges. Cut vents into top crust. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

The Secret Ingredient

What gives this pie its apple taste? I think it is the tartness of the cream of tartar. I tasted the syrup made of water, sugar and cream of tartar. It contained a definite apple taste.

Turns out that apples do indeed contain tartaric acid (incredibly closely related) and malic acid, both of which give apples their distinctive fresh, slightly tart taste.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

What Can You Tell Me About Cream of Tartar?

I'm glad you asked. Cream of tartar is a by-product of the wine-making industry. Also known as potassium hydrogen tartrate, it is made when tartaric acid is half neutralized with potassium hydroxide, transforming it into a salt.

Grapes are the only major source of tartaric acid. It forms as a sediment and as crystals inside wine barrels as the wine is aged.

Cream of tartar has always been a mystery ingredient in my kitchen. I've never known exactly what it does, until now. Here's a list:

1. I've heard that it can stand in for baking powder, so I guessed it was a leavening agent. It is often mixed with baking soda to make a substitute for baking powder.

2. You can also add it to egg whites to make them whip up fluffier and stay that way longer.

3. You can sprinkle cream of tartar on vegetables to keep them from discoloring.

4. Cream of tartar is often added to desserts and candies to prevent crystallization of sugar, producing a creamier texture.

5. It is widely used in soft drinks, bakery products and gelatins.

6. Cream of tartar is a common ingredient in sodium-free salt substitutes.

Bonus: You can use cream of tartar to clean brass and copper.

UPDATE: Squidoo shepherd adez7 tells me of another use: "If you're coming down with something like the flu or some temp illness, a tsp of COT in a 4 oz glass of water will turn your system alkaline in a short time and many times will put that thing on the run in a hurry."

Making the Perfect Pie Crust - Here are two different ways to make a perfect, flaky pie crust.

One the old-fashioned way, the other with a food processor. Slightly different recipes too. I'd like to compare the two crusts.

Let's Make Mock Apple Pie

I admit I'm not a pie baker. I do cookies and cakes, not pies. I'm telling you up front that I feel no guilt about using one of those refrigerated-premade-roll-it-out-into-your-pie-plate crusts made by a pudgy biscuit guy (click here to make him dance) who shall remain nameless. But I did enjoy making those little flute things around the edges.

Pie crust: in its natural habitat and after I artfully crimped the edges

Pie crust: in its natural habitat and after I artfully crimped the edges
Pie crust: in its natural habitat and after I artfully crimped the edges

Here's the secret to the whole process. You would swear that this sugar syrup has apple juice in it. I'm thinking that you could probably pour this syrup on pretty much anything and it would taste like apples. I tasted the dry cream of tartar powder. Pretty darned puckery and tart.

Ingredients for the Magic Syrup that will transform crackers into apples

Ingredients for the Magic Syrup that will transform crackers into apples
Ingredients for the Magic Syrup that will transform crackers into apples

Oh boy! I can see little bubbles in the sugar syrup

Oh boy!  I can see little bubbles in the sugar syrup
Oh boy! I can see little bubbles in the sugar syrup

Now it's really boiling!

Now it's really boiling!
Now it's really boiling!

I just can't follow directions. I decided the cinnamon should be added to the syrup instead of sprinkled on top.

In go the lemon juice and cinnamon

In go the lemon juice and cinnamon
In go the lemon juice and cinnamon

Of course the Ritz box tells you to use Ritz crackers. I didn't have Ritz crackers, but I did have some saltines. That's what the original recipe used anyway.

A whole sleeve of crackers lightly crushed

A whole sleeve of crackers lightly crushed
A whole sleeve of crackers lightly crushed

Adding the Magic Syrup to the crackers

Adding the Magic Syrup to the crackers
Adding the Magic Syrup to the crackers

When I poured the syrup into the pie plate, the crackers started floating around. I thought that might be a bad sign, but I forged ahead.

It looks like cracker soup now

It looks like cracker soup now
It looks like cracker soup now

After I put the top crust on, I realized that I had forgotten to put the butter on top of the crackers. Oops. Decided that it would be fine without the butter.

My sad attempt at art - looks like Binky Barnes on "Arthur"

My sad attempt at art - looks like Binky Barnes on "Arthur"
My sad attempt at art - looks like Binky Barnes on "Arthur"



Where's the ice cream?

Where's the ice cream?
Where's the ice cream?

How Does it Taste?

Surprisingly good. My expert panel of taste-testers (husband and two kids) thought it was apple pie until I let them in on the secret. Here are some testimonials:

"Really brings out the flavor in these cheetos!"


Several friends asked, why not just use apples? I probably will from now on. You have to remember this was a substitute when apples weren't available. As such, it's pretty tasty. The color is spot on. The texture is the downfall. It's a bit too mushy. What did you expect from wet crackers?

How about an Apple Pie Recipe that uses real Apples?

All-American Apple Pie from with that wonderful crumb topping

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons cold milk

1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar

1 teaspoon salt

6 Fuji apples, cored and sliced

3/4 cup white sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

To Make Crust: In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, oil, milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar and salt until evenly blended. Pat mixture into a 9 inch pie pan, spreading the dough evenly over the bottom and up sides. Crimp edges of the dough around the perimeter.

To Make Filling: Mix together 3/4 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Sprinkle over apples and toss to coat. Spread evenly in unbaked pie shell.

To Make Topping: Using a pastry cutter, mix together 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar and butter until evenly distributed and crumbly in texture. Sprinkle over apples.

Put pie in the oven on a cookie sheet to catch the juices that may spill over. Bake 45 minutes.

Have you ever tried this or another unusual recipe?

Leave me a note. I love messages!

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      can sum1 tell me as to why the aroma of this pie is similar to a real apple pie

    • caketech profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for this lens. I learned something new!

    • firstcookbooklady profile image

      Char Milbrett 

      8 years ago from Minnesota


    • Johanna Eisler profile image

      Johanna Eisler 

      8 years ago

      My mom used to make this for us when we were kids in the '60s. We were amazed!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      look real good Great lens..Stop by and Visit some of my top lens

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      10 years ago from Canada

      Looks good! Do come by and see the new and revamped Culinary Favorites from A to Z group! Your page is still being featured under a is for apples.

    • CoolFoto profile image


      11 years ago

      I found you at Anything Food Headquarters group ( my spaghetti lens is a member, too). Your lens is awesome! 5* and lensroll to my Delicious Desserts lens. :)

    • StevenCousley profile image

      Steven Cousley 

      11 years ago from Young, NSW, Australia

      Now I know what a mock apple pie is!. Thank you for the great info and lens

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I'm off to the kitchen to crush me some crackers! Now if we could only make it with ZUCCHINI! lol

    • eccles1 profile image


      11 years ago

      it looks too good to be healthy!thank goodness for apples! back then they had to be in season or no apple pie! Thank you

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      You make that look so easy. Thanks for joining G Rated Lense Factory!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Thank you so much for featuring my Tender, Flaky, Whole Wheat Pie Crust in the module above. It's 3:00 AM and I stopped into Squidoo for five minutes and got totally hooked reading your mock apple pie story. Thanks for a good read.

    • Angelina Gherna profile image


      11 years ago from California

      really fun lens...great job

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Hi, you have great and very informative lens. 5 stars of course.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      My Mom made this for us as we were all still at home. We thought we had eaten apple pie until she told us there wasn't an apple in it....she had made it from Ritz crackers!

    • raswook profile image

      Jeff Wendland 

      11 years ago from Kalamazoo, MI

      How bizarre, I think I might prefer apple pie but when there are no apples around you gotta do what you gotta do. Blessings

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      thanks for the recipe! Looks very easy and delicious.

    • MerryChicky profile image


      11 years ago

      I had never heard of mock apple pie before. nifty!

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image


      11 years ago

      Great lens. Its fun to explore the things our ancestors did to get by.

      5 stars


    • RuthCoffee profile image

      Ruth Coffee 

      11 years ago from Zionsville, Indiana

      I've heard of this before but never had excuses now, I'll have to give it a "whirl". Nice lens.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      11 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Very cool recipe and a lovely lens

    • grassosalvato86 profile image


      11 years ago

      This apple pie lens leaves me without words!! I would eat some of this gorgeous pie! 5 stars. Dugg it!!

      I must to say that all your lenses are very good!!

    • alienflower profile image


      11 years ago

      Fake apples, real apples, it doesn't matter. Your lens made me hungry :)

      And it was both informative and entertaining. 5*

    • Beaddoodler profile image

      Jennie Hennesay 

      11 years ago from Lubbock TX

      Great lens. In spite of being the apple pie queen of my family (mock or real) I did not know what cream of tarter was made of. Thank you for that wonderful info. Tiny little secret. . .add just a smidge of ginger to your apple pie spices. Really makes the taste pop!

    • Clairwil LM profile image

      Clairwil LM 

      11 years ago

      You've been nominated for Lens of the Week!

      Well Done! *****

    • EpicFarms profile image


      11 years ago

      What a cool recipe! I just love your easy to follow instructions, too (my favorite kind :o) Thanks!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      11 years ago

      I used to make this, but lost my recipe. I'm so glad to have a new one. It truly does taste like real apple pie. Blessed by a Squid Angel (and check out my Squid Angel Diary this week!)

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Now the pictures of that pie made me hungry,

      then you put the face on it, that was fun.

      The picture of the finished pie looks like

      apples. Is this mind control, thank you for

      a great lens, very well done.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 

      11 years ago from USA

      This great lens is now being featured at Cabaret Squidoo!

    • Showpup LM profile image

      Showpup LM 

      11 years ago

      Thanks for this lens. I had lost the recipe for this long ago and it's so darn easy when you don't have much to cook with. 5 stars.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Awesome Lens! I lensrolled you to my Apples, Apples, Apples and gave you a Squid Angel Blessing!

    • chefkeem profile image

      Achim Thiemermann 

      11 years ago from Austin, Texas

      You are so clever, bee! This lens really made me smile. It seems to be such a weird idea, at first, but I think I'll try it. I'm always open to something completely "out of the box". 5*s

      Thanks for featuring my "Lavender" lens on your fantastic "Incredible Recipes" lens.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 

      11 years ago from USA

      I've always wanted try this! Thanks!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      hey thanks for sharing yum recipe.. nice lens.. 5 stars

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Hmmm, I might have to try this and see if it will fool my husband. :)

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I learned of this recipe at our last school science fair and found it very interesting. Great lens and I love your pictures! 5 Stars. (oh, and you might want to add science fair project to your tags, lol.)

    • gurneywagon profile image


      11 years ago

      I love it! You've done a great job & I, too, give you 5*. I also lensrolled you.

    • triathlontraini1 profile image


      11 years ago

      Great job on this Lens! I learned a lot, which I always appreciate. 5*!!!


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