Friday, June 2, 2023

Wilmington pastry chef puts modern spin on pumpkin pie (Photos and Recipe)


WILMINGTON — Ten years ago, Amanda Corbett was taking classes at Cape Fear Community College, studying hotel and restaurant management and culinary arts. In her pastries and confections class she was assigned to create a wedding cake.

Corbett and her first wedding cake. (Photo courtesy Amanda Corbett)

“I really didn’t want to do it, ” Corbett said. “I’d never done one like that before.”

But Corbett succeeded and she has been developing her skills as a pastry chef ever since. Now she is the pastry chef for Wilmington’s Circa Restaurant Group. Her latest addition to the restaurant groups dessert menu is a Pumpkin Pot de crème, a dessert that gives diners the flavors of classic pumpkin pie in a new way.

The trick of pumpkin pie is nudging the savory squash into sweeter territory.

Pumpkin, like most squash, has an inherent sweetness that can be brought out in a number of ways: grilled squash will be become sweet, zucchini bread can sound odd, at first, until you taste it.

Pumpkin pie combines this natural sweetness with fall spices and – very often – the richness of whipped cream. Corbett’s innovation is to take these flavors, the sweet-savory blend of pumpkin and the luxuriousness of whipped cream, and present them in a way that is less heavy than traditional pie.

“It’s light and not too sweet,” Corbett said. “In the fall, our menu can get a little heavier, we’ll serve lamb shank and short ribs, so this is perfect.”

For our continuing Thanksgiving series, Corbett shared her recipe with Port City Daily, and walked us through the process.


Pumpkin Pie Pot de Crème

Prep time: approx 30 minutes

Bake time: 30 minutes

Total time: 4 hours (including refrigeration time and garnishing)



  • 2 cups – Whole Milk
  • 2 cups – Heavy Cream’
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin spice syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 12 egg yolks, blended
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  1. Toast the cinnamon stick and star anise in a heavy pan on low heat
  2. Simmer the milk and cream (190’F) with the toasted and ground spices and pumpkin spice syrup
  3. Remove spiced cream mixture from heat, dissolve sugar in it
  4. Allow milk and cream to cool slightly (120’F)
  5. Pour mixture through a strainer
  6. Temper the egg yolks into the cream mixture (This means adding a small amount of the egg yolks to the mixture to even out the temperatures. This prevents the eggs from scrambling)
  7. Stir in pumpkin, mix well
  8. Strain a second time
  9. Make a baine marie (hot water bath) with 4 oz shot glasses and casserole dish
  10. Fill shot glasses with pumpkin cream mixture
  11. Cover in foil, bake for 300′ F for 30 minutes in a convection oven (325′ F for 45 minutes in a traditional oven, checking after 30 minutes, “middle should not be jiggly,” says Corbett)
  12. Allow to sit uncovered for 30 minutes
  13. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours
  14. Garnish with whipped cream, mint, shaved white chocolate and caramel
Corbett in the Osteria Cicchetti pastry kitchen
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