Possums are known for fake-outs: They play dead when they’re not. But possum pie doesn’t include any kind of marsupial, dead or alive. Rather, this Arkansas specialty earned its nickname because it “plays possum,” meaning it also tries to fake out diners with a deceptive appearance. The standard explanation is that the pie’s thick top layer of whipped cream obscures secret layers of flavoring beneath it. (Yes, this is what most pie crusts or toppings do. Don’t think too hard about it.)
Those layers most often include chocolate custard along with cream cheese, sour cream, or vanilla pudding. Occasionally fruit is swapped in for chocolate, but that’s not as common. As standard protocol, establishments opt for a pecan sandy crust and finish off the pie with a sprinkle of pecans. Creative variation is left to the discretion of the pastry chef, many of whom are based in western and northern Arkansas. Though these regions boast the highest density of possum pie, locals want it to represent their whole state. Motions to officiate the pastry have been made, but so far, it’s proven to be a bit of a fake-out.