When Christina Tosi’s nationwide sweets shop, Milk Bar, opened in Harvard Square in February, all of the usual suspects were there: the Compost Cookies, the Cereal Milk soft serve, the MilkQuakes, and the Crack Pie, a dessert whose name has caught heat and made headlines for its casual allusion to the very real issue of crack cocaine addiction.
On Monday, Tosi published an open letter on Milk Bar’s website stating that the butter-drenched pie now has a new, straightforward moniker: Milk Bar Pie.
Tosi created the treat while she was the pastry chef at Wiley Dufresne’s now-closed WD-50 in New York City. In a 2018 episode of the Netflix series “Chef’s Table: Pastry,” the chef recounts how, one Sunday, she began pulling leftover ingredients from the fridge to create a dessert for family meal, a meal shared by restaurant staff before the evening’s shift begins.
“I baked the pie and the filling never quite set, but it smelled really good,” she shared in the documentary, before going on to recall how the kitchen staff fell in love with the dessert. “And this Australian cook was like, I don’t know what you just did, but this pie is like crack. It’s crack pie.”
Soon after, it became a dish that Tosi regularly put together for family meal on Sundays, and it made the opening menu when she launched Milk Bar in 2008.
But the politically charged label has also been on the receiving end of plenty of controversy. Associating decadent food with crack — a practice not exclusive to Milk Bar — has been called classist, distasteful, and, most recently from Devra First at The Boston Globe, “not cute.” Critics of Milk Bar have honed in on the offensive ways that the name of the pie ($6 for a slice, $44 for a whole pie) playfully references the addictive qualities of crack without recognizing the rampant destruction that communities and families — particularly African American ones — faced at the expense of the drug.
Tosi’s letter on Monday began with a note to the Milk Bar community, sharing the pie’s name change.
“We’ve made the decision to stop using the name Crack Pie. Starting today, it will be known as Milk Bar Pie. Below, I’m sharing the note I sent to the Milk Bar team. The fact of the matter is, anyone who visits this website or our stores or our social media is our family too, and we listen to what you have to say.
While change is never easy, we feel this is the right decision. Not everything will happen at once – the next few weeks and months will be a transition period. Your support means everything to us and if you have feelings or questions about it, we’re always here. Come by for a slice of pie, a corn cookie or just a friendly face – as it’s been since day one, our only mission is to inspire a little moment of joy in your day.”
Tosi then shared a note sent to the employees of Milk Bar, which stated that the company is always evolving, that it is united in the theme of spreading joy, and that “the old name was getting in the way of letting the gooey, buttery slice bring happiness — my only goal in creating the thing in the first place.”
Milk Bar also posted news about the name change on its Instagram account.
Tosi did not grant a request for an interview at the time of publication, and it is unclear if there is one particular catalyst, after years of pointed critique, that prompted the name change.