Broadway’s TyNia René Brandon Shares Their All-Season Sweet Potato Pie Recipe
“My partner and I love, love, love sweet potato pie,” says TyNia René Brandon, who uses she/they pronouns. Although the soul food classic is closely associated with holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, for Brandon, who plays Dolores and is a member of the ensemble in Broadway’s Some Like It Hot, it’s timeless. “It can definitely be a year-round type of light, happy dessert,” they say. “I will admit that oftentimes we have it for breakfast.” Although Brandon and their partner, Leo, have developed their sweet potato pie recipe together over the years, its roots lie with Brandon’s aunt. “I’ve always felt like she has the best sweet potato pie in the world,” says Brandon. “But we added our own flair. We threw in our little generational twist.”
Being on a Broadway schedule—before Some Like It Hot, they were in The Lion King and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical—Brandon has learned to be flexible when it comes to cooking. “My approach is always what is convenient and quick but also fresh and flavorful,” they say. But on their day off, Brandon prioritizes making more complex meals together with Leo. “Before I was partnered, I absolutely hated cooking,” they say. “It’s become so much more enjoyable for me because now it’s a communal experience, and that’s how it was growing up.”
Brandon and their partner love to host dinner parties, giving their friends jobs to involve them in the cooking process. And no party is complete without music. “We really love listening to Samara Joy, a jazz artist,” says Brandon. “And she actually just came to see our show!”
Makes 2 pies
- 2 frozen pie crusts (Brandon likes Pillsbury, but any brand will do.)
- optional: 1 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
- 4 whole sweet potatoes
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup milk (Brandon prefers oat milk, though notes that 2% milk will also work.)
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 4 tbsps (half a stick) melted butter
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsps cinnamon
- 2 tsps nutmeg
- 2 capfuls vanilla extract (“ ‘Capfuls’ is something I learned from my family growing up,” says Brandon, who roughly equates the measurement with one teaspoon. “In Black culture there’s not a lot of measuring. We have a saying that we pour until our ancestors tell us to stop.”)
- 2 capfuls almond extract
- whipped cream for topping (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375°F and remove pie crusts from the freezer to begin thawing. Optional: Rub oil onto the edges of the crust to keep cracks from forming and to achieve a shinier crust once baked.
- Rinse the sweet potatoes, and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the whole sweet potatoes, and boil roughly 30–35 minutes, until they’re soft and can easily be pierced with a knife.
- Remove the potatoes from the pot and submerge them in a large bowl of ice water. Once they’re cool enough to touch, peel off the skin with your hands.
- In another large bowl, mash the sweet potatoes with a fork or a potato masher until smooth.
- Add the remainder of the ingredients (eggs, milk, sugars, juice, butter, zest, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, extracts) to the sweet potato mash and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. (“I don’t like a lumpy sweet potato pie,” says Brandon.)
- Pour mixture into thawed pie crusts, dividing equally. Bake for 30 minutes or until pie filling is solid and a toothpick comes out clean. You can also shake the pie to test for doneness. If it’s still jiggling in the center, it’s not done.
- Let set and cool for up to an hour, then enjoy. Add a dollop of whipped cream for an extra treat.