Ceramic Pie! Oh My!

A taste of my latest creative venture:I’m not a chef. I have no desire to be known as a excellent baker, cook or foodie. I don’t see the appeal of Food Network and the only show revolving around food I remotely follow is Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations on the Travel Channel, mostly for reasons excluding the cuisine!

That said, it cannot be denied that I have fallen in love with an unusual style of baking pies: inside a high-fire electric kiln!

That’s right, the Key Lime pie, pictured above, is a sensory deprived experience for anyone in my kitchen because this eye candy is just that –  despite the appearance that someone has indulged in a slice!

I doodled the idea one afternoon whilst decorating my new lemon and lime themed kitchen, left. I was looking for a centerpiece and not needing or desiring a fruit bowl, I thought to create a piece that would harken back to the days of June Cleaver’s pies cooling on a window sill under the noses of chatty neighbors. Well. June Cleaver never lived on the fourth floor of an apartment building, and so my dining table stands in for the precarious window sill stunt. (As an aside, the “vases” that appear to be balancing on the chair rail are removable, professional grade stickers! They are a must for any space you want to personalize by cannot permanently! Love!)

Here’s a quick run down of how to make this pie, or one similar (I just finished a peach cobbler using much the same technique!).

What you’ll need:

A kiln. This is essential. I found my kiln with a quick google search of ceramic cooperatives in the Cleveland area. Lucky me, Clayworks Cooperative happens to be five minutes from my abode, offers adult weeknight classes and is housed in the basement of my local library. Fate, right!?!

Clay! Your studio will supply this for you, most likely. I used a normal white clay. Nothing special about it, except that you’ll want a slab that is stiff so that it is easier to form and mould and make impressions in.

A fan. This will help stiffen up the clay and allow your piece to dry evenly.

Tools. The tools you choose can range from your hands to some smancy equipment I see on the shelves and don’t even know the names of yet! I used a slip comb for most of the patterns on the pie, especially the whipped cream dollops. I also used a roller with the criss-cross imprint for the crust. Other than that, my hands were the ultimate tool… other than my creative brain of course! 🙂

Pie Tin. I used a disposable pie tin; worked like a charm!

Glazes. I used a white, teddy bear brown and chartreuse underglaze and then dunked the whole piece in a clear high-fire glaze. I painted wax over the chartreuse so that the lime color appears matte while the rest appears glossy.


Invent an idea! I chose Key Lime  to match my kitchen decor; I also began to make this pie at the start of summer, so the concept made perfect sense! Although chocolate is my favorite to eat, I think bright colors work best in ceramics; but hey, not saying I won’t try a Black Forest layer cake sometime soon!

Roll the slab. Slice a chunk about 3-4 inches thick off the top of a block of clay and begin wedging. Don’t fold (air bubbles!) but knead until you’re ready to roll with a rolling pin, flipping over the slab every few passes. Roll to a thickness between 1/8″ and 1/4″.

Slice and Dice. Well, more slicing, less dicing. With a knife cut a square piece from your slab that is comfortably larger than the pie tin. This slab will become the crust of your pie. Press into the pie tin (if you’re using a plastic or tin pan, spray with cooking spray or lay newspaper or wax paper down before pressing in the clay). Trim the excess off with the knife. Make sure to leave ample crust so you can make scalloped edges and imprinted patterns.

Cut another piece from the slab. Make this one as circular as you can, and approximately two inches larger than the pie. It’s important that this slab be stiff, so stick it in front of the fan for a few minutes if needed. Fold up the circumference of the circle as if you’re creating a tray with walls. If you’d like to do the missing slice, slit the slab from the center of the circle to the perimeter and fold up these new lips to meet the rest of the folded up clay.

Score and Slip. Score the edges of the clay with the slip comb and use magic water (essentially water mixed with clay, 50% / 50%) to wet the edges to prepare for bonding. You can also do this to the surface where you will apply this piece, ie. the crust already in the pan, for extra bonding power. Flip the piece over and attache edges to the crust along the perimeter. Press lighting but firmly. You are creating a giant air pocket but as long as your slab isn’t too thin or wet, it will stand on it’s edges and dry this way.

This is far and away preferable to creating a solid block of clay, which will never dry evenly and risks an explosion in the kiln.

Decorate! This is where you pretend you’re on one of those cake decorating shows on TLC. You have the crust and the pie complete and now you need some frilly bits! I rolled the left over clay slab into tiny balls and then pinched each one so that it somewhat resembles a Hershey Kiss. Then I ran the slip comb over the pieces to create the texture. The larger whipped dollop in the center of the pie was moulded the same way. The lime slice is my favorite garnish!

Bisque Fire. Load it up in the kiln for the first round of baking.

Glaze. Like I described in the material list, this is largely up to you. Commercially available underglazes give you more control as you are literally painting on the color and the color that appears on the piece as you are painting is much closer in color to the resultant than the color that appears with the big ol’ buckets of glazes prepared by your co-op.

Glaze Fire. Last step. After this last trip to the kiln, your piece will be at its strongest and … drum roll… complete!

If you live on the first floor, go ahead, stick it in your window! You’ll be sure to have curious (and highly impressed!) neighbors over to your place in no time!

2 thoughts on “Ceramic Pie! Oh My!

  1. Pingback: Into the Woods! | ali.the.architect

  2. Pingback: and a happy new you | ali.the.architect

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