Robbie Preston’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

Robbie Preston is remembered by many around Fenelon Falls as a man who volunteered for local causes. He lived an exciting and adventurous life and was a man of many talents. As a young man in his twenties, he worked in a shipyard, and used his earnings to follow the NASCAR and Indy 500 racing circuits, where he worked in the pit crews and as a marshal. He enjoyed meeting the famous drivers of the 1960s, and helping to find ways to make the cars go faster. Robbie always was very innovative.

He settled into a career operating a marina at Little Current on Manitoulin Island, but was unable to carry on in the face of the interest rate hikes of the 1970s. He moved to Kingston where he operated a home renovation business, and met Bob Clark, who was interested in creating a St. Lawrence River cruise ship. Robbie’s experience working in a shipyard, and in making scale models, allowed him to create a replica, that was ultimately used to produce Canadian Empress. Robbie helped in the shipyard as it was being built. He served as first mate, helped maintain it in the off season, and would write its history. Robbie was also a small craft pilot. He flew private charters and occasionally delivered documents from the military academy to Ottawa. He loved to travel, visiting Australia and every American state except Hawaii.

After retiring, Robbie moved to Cameron, with his partner Judy Kennedy. He volunteered for many organizations, including Maryboro Lodge Museum, the Kawartha Field Naturalists and the Fenelon Falls Horticultural Society. For several years, he managed the trails at the Altberg Nature Reserve—building bridges and making sure the tracks were in the best location for the local environment. He did much of the work to make Fenelon Falls’ Victory Garden. In his spare time, he turned wooden whig stands to give to cancer patients.

Robbie’s favourite dessert was pumpkin chiffon pie. It made a wonderful treat any time that he could persuade someone to bake it for him.


  • 1 1/2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs, finely ground
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 (15-ounce) can solid-packed pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup milk (can substitute rum or brandy for part if desired)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup sugar


  • To make crust:
  • In a food processor, grind gingersnap cookies and sugar until fine, but still crumbly; add butter, blending until combined well.
  • Press gingersnap mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch glass pie plate.
  • Bake crust for approximately 15 minutes or until crisp and golden around the edges.
  • Remove from oven and let cool on a wire cooling rack before filling.
  • To make filling:
  • In the top of a double boiler, combine egg yolks, brown sugar, pumpkin, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and whisk until it is thoroughly blended.
  • Place the upper pan over boiling water (its bottom should not touch the water below).
  • Cook for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until it is thick, like a pudding.
  • In a bowl combine gelatin and cold water, stirring until gelatin is completely dissolved.
  • Add gelatin to pumpkin mixture, stirring to combine.
  • Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then place in refrigerator to allow it to partially set, approximately 1 to 1.5 hours.
  • In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the granulated sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
  • Using a spatula, gently fold the beaten egg whites into the partially set pumpkin mixture. Do not over mix, to retain streaks in the filling.
  • Pour the pumpkin filling into the crust.
  • Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or until filling is set.
  • This pie may be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  • Serve with sweetened whipped cream (optional).

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