Pie Hard - Apple and Cinnamon Stencil Test

Posted on July 01 2016

Pie Hard 

Yippie-pie-aye mother******! ;p

"Pie Hard" had been suggested by a number of different friends over the past few months, and when I had an idea for a new technique (new to me anyway - I'm sure someone has tried this already!) for doing "likenesses", I knew its time had come. 

This pie is a wee bit advanced - you'll need some basic knowledge of Photoshop or a similar image editing program, and a steady hand with an exacto knife. But if you can handle that, the rest is a breeze!

As with all my pies, feel free to use the dough and filling of your choice. I used Pillsbury roll out crusts and apples for my filling as I knew the design part would be a bit more time consuming and I didn't want to spend a lot of time on the pie bottom/filling too. 

Let's do dis!

Time to create:

  • 1 hour to create the stencil digital file, trace on parchment, and cut out shapes
  • 0.5 hours to create the pie top design
  • 0.5 hours to make the pie bottom


  • Pillsbury roll out pie crust (or make your own!)
  • Apple filling prepared however you like
  • Cinnamon 
  • Egg whites


  • 8" pie pan
  • Image editing software such as Photoshop
  • Parchment paper
  • Dull pencil
  • Mat/Exacto Knife
  • Sharp scissors
  • Cutting mat
  • Pastry brush


Step 1 - Select an image and create the digital stencil file

Create the digital stencil

To make your life easier, start with a source file that already has a respectable amount of contrast to it. How can you tell if it has enough? Squint at it. If you can still make out what it is an image of when squinting, you're probably good to go.

Open the file in Photoshop. Don't worry about resizing it to fit your pie, you'll be tracing off your screen, not printing this one.

Go to Image -> Adjustment -> Threshold. Diddle with the slider until you are relatively happy with the black and white image. After that, go to Filter -> Filter Gallery (or "Artistic" in older versions) -> Cut Out. Diddle with these sliders to smooth out the areas of your stencil-to-be.

Finally, using the paintbrush tool, clean up any "islands" (areas of white fully enclosed by black) by either painting them out completely with a black paintbrush, or creating a little "peninsula" of white to connect them to the rest of the stencil.


Step 2 - Trace stencils onto parchment paper

Trace the stencil on parchment

Before lifting to your screen, trace your pie plate on a piece of parchment paper so that you have an 8" circle (or whatever the diameter of yours is.)

Hold the parchment with the circle up to your screen. Zoom in or out until the figure is situated at the size you like within the circle. If you are working on a laptop like me, you may need to do this in two halves - scrolling part way through.

Using a *dull* pencil (don't damage your computer screen!) trace the outline of the figure's head only within the circle area. Now put that sheet aside.

Without zooming in our out, take your second sheet of parchment and trace the contours of all of the black areas very precisely. 

Step 3 - Set up your cutting station

Stencils ready for cutting

Get your cutting board, exacto knife and sharp scissors ready.

Step 4 - Cut out the details

Cut out small areas with mat knife

Go slowly! Every little contour matters when trying to recreate a likeness. If you mess up, trace it again on a new sheet and start over.

Step 5 - Stencils ready

Stencils ready for use

You should now have two sheets - one that is the shape of the head, and one that has all of the facial details cut out.

Step 6 - Cut the head shape out of your dough

Cut out shape of head

This part's easy. Trace around the first stencil with a sharp knife, then peel off of your dough. 

Step 7 - Paint the second stencil down with egg white

Paint egg white through top stencil

Precisely place your second stencils on top of the cut out head shape. Using a pastry brush and egg whites, paint down the stencil until every inch is saturated. Dab! Don't be a brute or you'll dislodge or destroy your little details. 

Step 8 - Tap in the cinnamon

Tap in spice

Shake cinnamon over the still wet egg wash and tap in with your finger to ensure perfect adhesion, especially around tiny detail areas.

Step 9 - Brush off the excess cinnamon

Brush off excess powder

This step is critical if you want to avoid stray powder destroying your image when you peel off the stencil. If you don't care about your floors, you could blow the powder off, but if that's not an option, use a brush to *carefully* remove all excess.

I felt like a big shot archeologist doing this. Perhaps you will too.

Step 10 - Peel off stencil carefully

Peel off stencil carefully

Carefully peel off the stencil, taking care not to let any powder fall onto the rest of the pie. Make some extra heart decorations because Bruce Willis is dreamy. 

Step 11 - Prepare the filling and pie bottom

Prep pie filling

Prep the bottom of the pie and filling however floats your boat!

Step 12 - Transfer the top design over

Transfer top design

Transfer the pieces over to your pie and oven up that sucka for 45 min at 400 degrees (or whatever your recipe calls for.) The cinnamon will darken naturally, so gauge doneness by the non-coloured pie bits.


 Done! Nom with impunity

Yippie-pie-aye indeed! I was really pleased with how this technique turned out and will definitely be employing it in the future. Got some ideas up my sleeves already...


If you liked this recipe/tutorial, please tweet, pin, instagram, etc. with the buttons below, and leave me a comment. As always I love to hear your feedback, ideas for future pies, and if you take a stab at making this design or something else with this technique, lemme know and I may feature you on the Ins-pie-ration page! 

Thanks for reading, and see you next Wednesday :) 

π > ∞

Jessica (aka @ThePieous)


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