The magic of Rose McGee’s sweet potato comfort pie comes to a children’s book

A book cover
Can’t Nobody Make a Sweet Potato Pie Like Our Mama! was written by Rose McGee and illustrated by Christopheraaron Deanes.
Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society Press

Rose McGee has served up thousands of her sweet potato comfort pies.

Now, she’s bringing the magic of that recipe to a younger audience in the form of a new children’s book called “Can’t Nobody Make a Sweet Potato Pie Like Our Mama!” It tells the story of twins who try to figure out what it is that makes their grandma’s pie so good.

It’s the latest work from McGee whose mission is to bring people together through good food — specifically her famous pies — a journey that began decades ago when she began making her grandma’s recipe, one that she says may not have actually existed.

“I call my grandmother and asked her if she could give me the recipe. And she says, ‘Baby, I don’t have a recipe.’ I said, ‘well, where is it?’ She says, ‘In my head.’”

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

A Black woman holds a piece of pie
Rose McGee holding her sweet potato comfort pie. She says the recipe came from her grandmother.
Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

It took McGee some time to really get it down and she’s spent years improving it, taking cues from people she meets. She’s picked up tricks like using condensed milk instead of evaporated or adding dark sugar. In that way, McGee sees the recipe as “a universal recipe from the community.”

It’s that sense of community McGee wants to share through this book.

“I hope that generations will get together and read it together … because what it will do, I hope, is help people to be comfortable with speaking about stories about history. Things that these children may not know.”

McGee will be doing a reading of her new book 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 17, at the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery.

For more with Rose McGee, click play on the audio player above and check out her recipe below.

Rose McGee’s Sweet Potato Comfort Pie

Makes two 9” pies

4 medium size sweet potatoes, cooked

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 stick of butter, melted

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon ginger

1 tablespoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1 cup condensed milk

1 teaspoon lemon extract

2 unbaked pie shells


Use a hand mixer or KitchenAid™ type mixer

  1. Preheat oven at 400 degrees.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, mash the cooked sweet potatoes.

  3. Blend in sugar. Blend in eggs. Blend in melted butter.

  4. One at a time, add next 6 ingredients; mix well.

  5. Pour into pie shells.

  6. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 60- minutes.

  7. Remove from oven. Allow pies to set (firm) for at least 30 minutes.

  8. Eat warm or allow to cool longer before eating.

Note: Sweet potato pie can be left at room temperature for up to two days without refrigeration. Can be refrigerated up to one week and remain fresh. Can also be frozen.