On the Road to Kern’s Kitchen in Louisville, Kentucky – Home of the Derby Pie ®

Happy Saturday to you!  The weekend is here and I hope you have some fun things lined up for your enjoyment.  We have been traveling all week again, so I missed writing a Casual Friday post.  We will get home later today after another week filled with lots of interviews, food and booze.  It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. 😉

I thought we would head back to Louisville, Kentucky today and share with you another one of our stops while in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  How about some Derby Pie since it is almost time for the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby?  The only place you can get the one and only original Derby Pie® is from Kern’s Kitchen right outside of Louisville.  Derby Pie® is the official pie served at Churchill Downs on Derby Day.

We met with Jon Rupp, Sales Manager for Kern’s Kitchen, and the 4th generation of family baking the famous Derby Pie® along with his father Alan Rupp, who is President of Kern’s Kitchen.  It was Jon’s great grandparents that invented this famous pie in 1954.

Me with Jon Rupp at Kern’s Kitchen

The first Derby Pie® was created by Walter and Leaudra Kern at The Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky.  Jon told us that his great grandparents were looking for a signature dessert for their inn.  After creating and testing many recipes, the Kerns decided on this pie.  They had family members put their favorite names for the pie in a hat and they literally drew the name Derby Pie® from that group of names one evening.

They hand cut the pie crust dough before it goes into the machine.

This recipe is so famous and so secret that the family went to the U.S. patent office in Washington to register their pie in 1968.  Since that time, there have been several arguments over the right to the name Derby Pie®, however, the Kern family has been able to keep and protect their rights to their trademarked product over the years.

That’s a whole lotta dough! Me with Alan Rupp.

Jon said that originally the pies were baked at home, four at a time and were cooled by sitting on the back porch.  Today, at their facility outside of Louisville, they are still essentially made by hand, but the pies are now baked eighty at a time in two industrial ovens.

Here is one of the ovens they bake the pies in.

This time of year is certainly their busiest and they are currently making about 6,000 pies a week.  They will bake between 120,000 – 130,000 pies every year.  Churchill Downs alone purchases about 2,000 sheet pies and will serve 25,000 slices of Derby Pie® on Derby Day.  That’s a lot of pie!

Each piece of pie crust is cut before placing in the pans to be pressed.

Jon told us that there have only been two people outside the Kern Family to know the secret recipe.  In fact, the pie baker is the only one allowed in the room when the pies are being filled and baked.  This is a double secret mission to bake these pies. 😉


There are stacks of pie crusts waiting to be filled.

To keep the Derby Pie® as close to homemade as possible, the pies are still made with a family recipe for the crust that is trimmed by hand once it has been pressed into the baking pans.  The walnuts are hand sorted to avoid any unwanted pieces in the pie. Although they have modernized production over the years from baking pies in their kitchen and cooling them on the back porch, the process remains incredibly labor intensive.

They hand sort all the walnuts, although they have already been laser sorted.

This is what I call serious quality control!

Last year the Kern family created a Golden Pecan Pie, which was the first addition in over 50 years of pie baking.

Baked pies are packaged in boxes to be shipped out to customers.

I have baked versions of this pie many times over the years.  Most recipes you will find are called a Chocolate Nut Pie.  I have never come across a recipe that comes close to the taste of the Kern’s Derby Pie®.  After returning from Louisville, I did see some recipes that might have been closer to what I now know as the original Derby Pie®, but did not bake them since the Bunkycooks don’t need any more pies. 😉

There are lots and lots of pies shipped this time of year!

Jon did share a recipe with me for their Bourbon Whipped Cream which we had on top of our Derby Pie® at their office.  It had a wonderful bourbon flavor that complemented the pie so well.  I am sharing it with you today.  Obviously, I do not have a recipe to share for the family’s Derby Pie®.

We sampled the pie while at Kern’s Kitchen.

Many have tried to imitate the pie and call it Derby Pie®.  The Kern family has aggressively protected their rights to the name Derby Pie®, which I personally understand.  If you do not say something to someone that has taken your property (name, photos, articles, etc.), legally you give up your rights of ownership.  The Kern family is just protecting something that they created and own.

Everything is better with Bourbon Whipped Cream!

So, if you are thinking of making a Derby Pie® for the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby, Fogettaboutit.  There is only one place to get Derby Pie® and you can order a Derby Pie® for your Derby Day festivities from the Kern family who would be happy to ship a pie or two to your home!  Then you can top it with this Bourbon Whipped Cream and you will be all set for dessert.  Don’t forget those Hot Browns and Mint Juleps, too!  Derby Day isn’t complete without those.

Photo courtesy of Kern’s Kitchen

Enjoy your weekend!

Bourbon Whipped Cream


1 Pint of Heavy Whipping cream
4 to 6 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 to 2 shots of bourbon. (it has to be good Kentucky bourbon)


Whip cream until it begins to thicken in a chilled bowl.
Add sugar gradually and continue to whip.
Add bourbon and continue to whip until cream holds peaks.
Keep refrigerated or on ice.

Kern’s Kitchen
Louisville, Kentucky