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Buko Cherry Crumble Pie

Slice of buko cherry crumble pie  on a plate.
Photo by Linda Xiao

In the 1960s, a young woman named Soledad Pahud left the US and returned to her hometown, Laguna, with the goal of opening a bakeshop. She attempted to re-create the American apple pie, which she learned to make during her time abroad, but to no avail. Apples, not native to the Philippines, were hard to come by. Pahud, with the help of her sisters, turned to buko, young coconut, which flourishes across the islands. Destined to become a household name, buko pie was born.

Young coconuts aren’t fully ripened and eventually mature into the brown hairy ones. Their skin is smooth and green and their meat is juicy, soft, and supple, even gelatinous at times. Tucked between two layers of buttery pie crust, buko creates a sumptuous and refreshing dessert very different from American coconut pies, which rely on dried coconut shreds or flakes.

Parts of Pahud’s story may come down to local lore, but no one would contest that Laguna is home to the best buko pies in the land. What began as a family project turned into a family business and Pahud’s bakery, The Orient, continues to draw hundreds of customers daily who hope to get their hands on “the original buko pie.” The province is now home to many shops and hawkers dishing out the creamy pastry. There is no shortage of variety when it comes to buko pie, which has been remixed with the addition of lychee, pineapple, durian, and more.

My version paints the flaky bottom crust with a coat of cherry jam, giving each bite a snap of fruity tartness, while a crunchy cinnamon-kissed crumble sits on top like a bronze crown. This is very delicious.

This recipe was excerpted from ‘Sugarcane’ by Arlyn Osborne. Buy the full book on Amazon.

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What you’ll need

Recipe information

  • Yield

    Makes one 9-inch pie


For the filling

¾ cup (180 g) coconut water
¼ cup (33 g) cornstarch
¾ cup (180 g) canned unsweetened coconut milk
½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. (7 g) malted milk powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. (14 g) unsalted butter
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or extract
13 oz. (375 g) coarsely chopped young coconut meat (about 2½ cups; see Note)
½ cup (156 g) cherry preserves, for assembly

For the crumble topping

1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (50 g) dark brown sugar
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp. kosher salt
1 stick (113 g) cold unsalted butter, cubed

For the crust

1⅓ cups plus 1 Tbsp. (174 g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
6 Tbsp. (85 g) cold unsalted butter, cubed
4 Tbsp. (60 g) ice water


  1. Make the filling

    Step 1

    In a small saucepan, whisk together the coconut water and cornstarch. Whisk in the coconut milk, granulated sugar, malted milk powder, and salt. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until bubbles are bursting on the surface and the mixture is thick like pudding, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla.

    Step 2

    Scrape the pudding into a large bowl and stir in the coconut meat with a dinner fork. Cover with plastic wrap so it touches the surface of the filling directly (this will prevent a skin from forming). Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

  2. Make the crumble topping

    Step 3

    In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add the butter and toss to coat. Using your hands, rub the butter into the flour mixture until combined and doughy crumbles form. Set aside in the freezer.

  3. Make the crust

    Step 4

    In a food processor, add the flour, salt, and butter and pulse until the butter is broken up into small bits. Add the water and pulse until the mixture looks like crumbled dough.

    Step 5

    Transfer to an unfloured work surface. Gather and shape into a flat disc. Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the dough into a 12-inch round.

    Step 6

    Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. There should be some overhanging dough. Tuck this excess under itself, all the way around, and pinch and shape into an evenly raised border, using the flat lip of the pie plate as a base. Flute or crimp the crust. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. 

    Step 7

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Set the pie plate on a sheet pan and line the pastry with foil so it covers the dough entirely. Fill with dried beans or pie weights.

    Step 8

    Bake until the dough starts to look dry with a matte finish around the inside perimeter, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and continue to bake (still on the sheet pan) until the perimeter is light golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

    Step 9

    After you remove the foil and beans and return the pastry to the oven, it should not balloon in the center. If it does, put the foil and beans back and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes before continuing.

    Step 10

    Transfer the pie plate to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Leave the oven on.

  4. To assemble

    Step 11

    Return the pie plate to the sheet pan and spread the cherry preserves over the bottom of the cooled pastry. Spoon dollops of the chilled buko filling over the jam (this makes it easier to spread while keeping the jam in place). Spread into an even layer and sprinkle with the frozen crumble topping.

    Step 12

    Return to the oven and bake until the crust perimeter and parts of the crumb topping are golden brown, about 1 hour.

    Step 13

    Transfer the pie plate to a wire rack and let cool for at least 1 hour. Enjoy slightly warm, at room temperature, or chilled.


You’ll need 4 young coconuts (I prefer the ivory ones with the pointed tops that have already been shaved), about 2 lbs (910 g) each. You can also use frozen young coconut meat, sold in Asian supermarkets, but I really do think fresh is a million times better.

Image may contain: Bread, Bun, and Food
Excerpted with permission from Sugarcane by Arlyn Osborne, published by ‎Hardie Grant Publishing, March 2024. Buy the full book from Amazon or Hardie Grant.
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