5 Layer Pistachio Chocolate Delight

When I was growing up in the Coal Region, the social center of many small towns was “the hosey”; translation – the local volunteer fire company.

Most small towns and some small cities had volunteer fire companies only, not full-time, paid firefighters like many larger municipalities. These small town fire companies were responsible for the entire upkeep of their buildings and equipment and few received any government aid or assistance with which to train or purchase new equipment or even maintain what they already had.

In order to raise funds and keep volunteers up to date on firefighting techniques, have (mostly) modernized equipment, and maintain a building in which to house said equipment, our coal region hoseys usually depended on fund-raising events and membership dues to the organization to pay the bills, a benefit of said membership being the ability to imbibe in alcohol when the bar at the hosey was open (usually Friday and Saturday nights). In addition to a bar, most hoseys had a “hall” attached which was used for social events, rented out for wedding receptions and funeral dinners, held weekly bingo games, and hosted dances with local bands.

The town folk, almost all of who were members of the fire company or ladies auxiliary, gathered at the hosey for holiday events and fund raising activities throughout the year, one of the more popular at our local hosey being an annual chicken barbecue where 5 bucks (at the time…) got you half a barbecued chicken, a baked potato, vegetable, cole slaw, roll and butter and dessert. The chicken was to die for and the fragrance of juicy chickens cooking over long, portable barbecue pits set up for the event brought even out-of-town folks to the dinner.

Long tables were set up in the fire house hall where most people chose to sit and eat their dinner making it a social event with friends and family while others stood in line for take-out platters, often stopping to chat with the people eating at the tables, insuring the take-out dinners were barely warm by the time they got them home. But it was always yummy anyway!

Members of the ladies auxiliary usually made and donated the pies, cakes, and candies that were the dessert portion of the meal and the luscious offerings were cut, plated on paper saucers, then wrapped for ease in handling, especially by those taking out dinners.

I never paid much attention to the desserts until one day, for a Mother’s Day dinner, I happened to be the one wrapping the plates of desserts. A friend of mine brought in a 13 x 9 pan, handed it to me, and informed me that her dessert was one that really would not lend itself to being plated and wrapped, so I put it aside with some others that would go to diners eating in the hall.

When it came time to plate those, I cut into this multi-layered fluffy dessert and the aroma of pistachio hit me. I was intrigued enough that I hid a piece of this for myself to enjoy with my dinner once the rush was over. Let me tell you, I do not remember many other details about that particular day, but I remember falling in love with this delightful dessert.

When I saw my friend, Ellen, again I begged her for the recipe which she promised she would give me. True to her word, the very next time we met, she handed me a paper with the written recipe. To this day, I have that wrinkled, spotted, nearly illegible piece of paper with the recipe in my friend’s handwriting. In my files, this has always been known as “Ellen’s Dessert”. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family and I do.

Lighten Up

There are some changes you can make to decrease the fat, calories, and carbs in this dessert while still keeping the flavor, if you so desire. It will not be “sugar free” but it will be lighter and still luscious..

  • Replace the frozen whipped topping with a “lite” or no fat version.
  • Use sugar free pudding mixes.
  • Use 2% milk rather than whole.
  • Use light cream cheese.

Size Matters

You can chop the pecans by hand, using a knife or, like I do with my favorite tool, the OXO Food Chopper. I prefer to keep the nuts somewhat coarse when chopping, my family likes the “crunch” of them in the crust and you really pick up on the roasted pecan flavor, but you can also use a food processor to get a finely chopped nut if you prefer. The choice is up to you.

I love this OXO chopper for chopping nuts – much easier on my arthritic hands than hand chopping.

5 Layer Pistachio Chocolate Delight

Recipe by A Coalcracker in the KitchenCourse: DessertCuisine: Retro Recipes, Coal RegionDifficulty: Easy



Budget friendly, easy to make, and popular with adults and kids, this 5 layer refrigerator dessert will have them asking for the recipe.


  • 1 stick salted butter

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped

  • 8 ounces regular cream cheese, softened

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar

  • 8 ounce tub frozen whipped topping, thawed

  • 3.9 ounce box instant chocolate pudding

  • 3.4 ounces instant pistachio pudding

  • 3 cups whole milk, divided

  • Optional
  • Chocolate sprinkles or finely chopped pecans for garnishing


  • Crust (1st Layer)
  • Combine butter, chopped pecans and flour until crumbly and press into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch un-greased pan. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely in the pan.
  • 2nd Layer
  • Beat softened cream cheese, powdered sugar until smooth, blend in 1 1/2 cups of the whipped topping and fold together until fully blended. Spread over crust in an even layer.
  • 3rd Layer
  • Combine instant chocolate pudding mix and 1 1/2 cups of milk and whisk together until it thickens, approximately 2 minutes. Pour over the cream cheese layer and spread to cover evenly.
  • 4th Layer
  • Combine instant pistachio pudding mix and 1 1/2 cups of milk and whisk together until it thickens, approximately 2 minutes. Pour over the chocolate pudding layer and spread to cover evenly..
  • 5th Layer
  • Gently spread remaining whipped topping over pistachio pudding layer to cover evenly. Garnish with sprinkles or chopped pecans, if desired.
  • Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours before cutting into squares and serving.