These Soft-Serve Pies Are So Perfect It Pains Us
The pies at L.A.’s Magpies Softserve offer layers of flavor, texture, and euphoria. The fried pie, for example, is a profoundly delicious combination of corn almond soft-serve, graham cracker crust, vegan fudge, honeycomb, non-dairy whipped cream, and fried candied corn flakes. It’s creamy, fruity, sweet, savory, and crunchy in the best ways. And it happens to be completely vegan.
Magpies also has non-vegan pies with flavors like mocha toffee, chocolate overload, and banana split. There are often seasonal and special-occasion pies, including a vegan apple pie that Magpies offered for the Fourth of July.
Rose Schwartz, the pastry chef who co-founded Magpies with her husband Warren, started making soft-serve pies because she wanted to create something customers could take to-go. Some people suggested that she do ice cream cakes.
“But I’m just not a cake lover, and I love pie,” she says. Plus, she did some R&D with ice cream cakes, and they didn’t look right to her. “It looked like a Baskin-Robbins cake. I wanted something a little more rustic-looking.”
Schwartz, who we believe is correct in saying that pie is better than cake, also recognized that putting soft-serve into a pie made a lot of sense.
“Soft-serve is the perfect consistency, and we can layer it with the toppings I make,” she says. “You have different textures with every bite.”
There are crunchy delights like frozen toffee “that almost crumbles in your mouth, and you have the shock of the cold.” Plus, the soft-serve pies are frozen, but they become airy after you let them sit at room temperature for ten minutes.
“So it never coats your mouth like a custard ice cream,” says Schwartz, who has a chemistry degree and whose dessert background includes chocolate and candy-making, “It’s very light in the mouth.”
Schwartz deftly merges sweet and savory notes in pies like the banana split one, which features sweet-cream soft-serve and Magpies’ own strawberry jam along with bananas, fudge, salted caramel sauce, and roasted peanuts. She likes to put salt in her housemade toppings to balance the sweetness of her made-from-scratch soft-serve.
Soft-serve pies, like the blueberry one Schwartz made for Father’s Day (because her husband loves blueberries and the fruit is at its peak), are the perfect summer desserts. But there are compelling reasons to enjoy the pies at Magpies year-round. Schwartz has done well with pecan-pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving and peppermint-fudge pies for Christmas.
If you don't live in the L.A. area, you should know that Magpies, which opened in Silver Lake in 2016 and added a Tarzana location in 2017, is working on nationwide delivery for her pies.
“That’s our next project,” she says. “If I can get this to New York and Florida, I think that’s going to be a game-changer.”
For now, she’s proud that her pies, which must be ordered 24 orders in advance, travel well around L.A. Food blogger Mike Metz of unemployedeater.com recently transported a Magpies fried pie from Silver Lake to his house in West Adams.
“It was my wife’s birthday, and I wanted to get her favorite dessert,” he says. “It was 85 degrees out and 45 minutes each way. I traveled with an insulated grocery bag and every ice pack we had in our freezer. I think I must have had five to six ice packs. The whole journey was actually rather thrilling, almost like a 24 episode, and a good amount of people followed along on Twitter and Instagram stories, which added to the intensity. I was definitely driving faster than normal. Running yellow lights I’d usually be more cautious at.”
The fried pie, by the way, is Magpies’ bestselling pie. Schwartz, whose sister can’t eat dairy, created vegan corn almond soft-serve when she opened Magpies, and it became an instant sensation. Metz, who says he really likes Magpies but stresses that his wife is an even bigger fan, thinks the corn almond flavor is a revelation.
“We are not vegan,” he says. “We eat a lot of dessert, though. So few vegan desserts taste as good as, or better than, their non-vegan counterparts.”
The fried pie is also the result of Schwartz, who’s Korean-American, being inspired by fried Mexican ice cream with corn flakes. Plus, Schwartz loves eating fried ice cream at Japanese restaurants. All of this led her to create is a dessert that’s totally calibrated for L.A.
“It’s all vegan,” Metz says. “Doesn’t taste vegan at all. So… pretty rad.”
But there was a sad ending to Metz’s recent pie journey.
“A few days later with still half a pie left, someone left our freezer slightly ajar for a few hours and it all melted,” he says.
Metz says he’s still upset about that, but adds that this just means he should probably visit Magpies again soon for another pie.