For over a decade, the Crack Pie from pastry chef Christina Tosi’s famed New York-based bakery Milk Bar has been one of the city’s most beloved desserts. But its name has garnered some backlash because of its percieved insensitivity, and earlier this week Tosi posted a letter on the bakery’s website announcing a name change: It will now be called Milk Bar Pie, though it will be made with the same classic recipe.
Milk Bar, which was founded by James Beard Award-winning Tosi in 2008 (and since expanded to 15 locations in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Boston and Toronto), is known for its many dessert innovations, including its cereal milk-flavored ice cream.
Crack Pie was one of the eatery’s first famous desserts, a buttery pie with an oat-based crust. When the treat was created as part of the opening menu, Tosi and company probably didn’t consider that jokingly comparing an “addictive” food to crack cocaine might be considered insensitive. But recently Milk Bar has been criticized for being blithe in equating a sugary sweet with a deadly drug.
On March 19, for instance, The Boston Globe published a thorough criticism of the pie’s name. In it, staff writer Devra First called to mind the tragic epidemic of crack cocaine in the 1980s, which mostly affected poor, African American communities — “not the people who were heading to the East Village to spend $5 on a slice of pie,” she wrote.
The drug epidemic of the present is opioids. First wrote, “A bakery would never try to market something called Fentanyl Cake, and the name Crack Pie feels offensively off-key.”
Other publications have issued criticisms as well, including Slate, Vice’s Munchies and New York-based Grub Street. And though this isn’t the first time a chain has ruffled feathers with the naming of a popular product — and other restaurants have certainly used drug-based metaphors on menus — Tosi says it’s important to put company values over monikers.
“While change is never easy, we feel this is the right decision,” Tosi wrote. “Our mission, after all, is to spread joy and inspire celebration. The name Crack Pie falls short of this mission.”
The name change is going into effect immediately and will be reflected both in stores and online. If you search Google for “Crack Pie,” the Milk Bar website still shows up; but when you click the link, the title of the page is “Milk Bar Pie.”
“If you’d like to talk to me directly about the change, don’t hesitate to reach out. I am here for you,” Tosi assures in her note. Never fear. Despite the name change, the taste and reputation of Milk Bar Pie is expected to stay the same. It will likely remain one of the most iconic regional desserts in America.