The Internet is a strange and wonderful thing and it seems to beget strange and wonderful things. One of the most strange of those things has got to be that Thanksgiving favorite, the turducken, or a chicken roasted inside of a duck inside of a turkey. At least it’s a Thanksgiving favorite online where photographs and stories abound but have you ever seen one in the wild, actually on a Thanksgiving table?
A few years ago somebody decided to apply this technique to dessert and invented the unfortunately named “pake” which is a pie baked inside a cake. It’s a clever trick but is it necessary? Is pie just not sweet enough that it needs to be engulfed in cake? Does cake not have a high enough fat content that it needs to encase a pie crust? Are Americans just gluttons? Could be any or all of those things but it could be as simple as Mallory’s thoughts on Everest; “Because it’s there.”
Besides, it’s a pretty cool parlor trick to slice into what appears to be a normal, everyday cake and find a pie hidden inside. The epitome of this gimmick is a three-layer concoction known as a cherpumple, (cherry, pumpkin, apple). A cherry pie is baked inside a white cake, a pumpkin pie inside a yellow cake and an apple pie inside a spice cake. Then they’re stacked and frosted. Not surprisingly, there are some stability issues but if a pake is a parlor trick, a cherpumple is a full blown Houdini illusion when all those pies escape their cake prison one after the other.
When one cake can contain as wide a variety of desserts as the average pot luck dessert table, the epitome of pie and cake merging has been reached. But there are easier ways. Following are recipes for a pecan cake filled with pecan pie filling and garnished with pie crust decorations and a pecan dessert that includes a box of cake mix for a result that is a nice blend of pie and cake.
The good news is that one never need choose between pie and cake again.
Black Forest pie cake
The quickest way to get a pie-cake (or pake) is to buy a pie and bake a cake mix around it. Black Forest cake’s classic chocolate and cherries flavor combo is achieved easily with a cherry pie and a box of chocolate cake mix.
1 purchased cherry pie
1 box of chocolate cake mix
eggs and oil as directed on the cake mix box
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
chocolate chips (garnish, if desired)
maraschino cherries (garnish, if desired)
The trickiest part is to get a pie small enough to fit inside your spring-form pan. The small pies sold in supermarket bakeries will fit in a medium pan. If your pie requires a 10 inch or larger spring-form pan, one box of cake mix won’t be enough. You’ll need to double up. Mix the cake as directed on the box. Grease and flour your spring-form pan. Pour enough batter in to make it about a half inch deep. Carefully take your pie out of its tin and place it on top of the batter in the cake pan. if you use a homemade pie, make sure it is completely cooled or it will fall apart when you take it out of the pan. Pour the rest of the batter over and around the pie. Bake in a preheated oven heated to the temperature directed on the cake mix box. Start checking for doneness at the time recommended for a Bundt cake. It won’t be ready but it should be close. It’s ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and release sides of pan. When completely cool, remove from pan base and place on serving plate. Whip cream until it softly peaks, then add sugar and vanilla and beat until stiff. But don’t go too far and make butter. Spread on the whipped cream and garnish with chocolate chips and/or cherries.
Roasted butternut squash pie-cake
This dessert has a crust that’s reminiscent of a sugar cookie and a decidedly cake-like filling made with butternut squash, which is kind of like a pumpkin pie but not.
For the pie-cake:
2 cups (9 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
For the roasted squash filling:
2 pounds peeled and cubed butternut squash (1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes)
2 tbsp. brown sugar, divided
Zest and juice of 1/2 orange
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. cardamom
1/3 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the 2 sticks butter and pulse until it forms pea-sized crumbs. Pour in the egg and pulse until the dough just comes together and forms large clumps. Put a large piece of plastic wrap on your work surface. Remove about 1/3 of the dough from the food processor, place it on the plastic wrap, and use the wrap to flatten it into a disk. Flatten the remaining dough into a disk on another piece of plastic wrap. Wrap each piece well and refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Now start on the squash. Preheat the oven to 425° F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the squash with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and all of the ingredients except the hazelnuts. Make sure it is well coated in the oil, spices, and sweeteners. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the squash is tender but not falling apart (it should be cooked to the point right before you’d want to eat it). Remove the squash from the oven and allow to cool. Turn the oven temperature down to 350° F. Grease a 9-inch pie dish (a slightly deeper dish than usual is better, and a glass pie dish allows you to monitor the browning). On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the larger disk until it’s 1/4- to 1/8-inch thick. Now is time to transfer it to the pie plate. You won’t be able to transfer the dough in one go (as it crumbles apart), so just remove thin pieces and press them into the pie plate until you’ve got the whole thing over. You’ll want to use the pads of your fingers to make sure the dough is uniformly thick around the bottom and edges of the pan. Reserve any scraps. Mix the hazelnuts into the cooled squash, then dump it into the prepared pie dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of brown sugar evenly over the squash. Roll out the other piece of dough (it can be slightly thicker than the first piece— about 1/2-inch thickness is good). Pinch off small pieces of this disk and scatter, along with the scraps from the bottom dough, all over the squash, creating shingle-like pieces. (You might have some extra dough, shape them into cookies and bake them for about 15 minutes). Bake the cake until golden brown and bubbling in the center, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool completely before serving.
Pecan Pie Cake (Version 1)
The addition of a box of cake mix to pecan pie filling makes a dessert that has all the benefits of pie and cake.
1 (18 1/4 ounce) yellow cake mix
8 tbsp. butter, melted
4 large eggs
1 1⁄2 cups light corn syrup
1⁄2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups chopped pecans
1⁄2 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325°F. Mix together cake mix, melted butter, and 1 egg. Blend for 1 to 2 minutes. The batter will be very thick – more like cookie dough. Reserve 2/3 cup of batter Pat remaining batter in bottom of 13×9 inch pan. Bake for about 15 minutes or until crust is light brown and puffs up. Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Leave the oven on. Mix together reserved batter, corn syrup, brown sugar, remaining 3 eggs, and vanilla. Blend on low for 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula. Mix at medium speed until well combined and blended. There will first be little chunks of the cake mix batter. Mix well until those chunks disappear. Fold in pecans and chocolate chips. Pour mixture on top of partially cooked batter and smooth it out with a spatula. Return pan to oven. Bake cake until edges are brown but center is still a bit soft – 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and cook on a rack for 30 minutes.
Pecan Pie Cake (Version 2)
A pecan cake generously filled with pecan pie filling and garnished with pie crust decorations is about as elegant as pie-cake gets.
3 cups finely chopped pecans, toasted and divided
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
1 recipe Pecan Pie Filling
1 recipe Pastry Garnish (optional)
Sprinkle 2 cups pecans evenly into 3 generously buttered 9-inch round cake pans; shake to coat bottoms and sides of pans. Beat 1/2 cup butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Add flour and baking soda to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in remaining 1 cup finely chopped pecans. Beat egg whites at medium speed until stiff peaks form; fold one-third of egg whites into batter. Fold in remaining egg whites. (Do not overmix.) Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until done. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Invert layers onto wax paper-lined wire racks. Brush tops and sides of layers with corn syrup, and cool completely. Spread half of Pecan Pie Filling on 1 layer, pecan side up. Place second layer, pecan side up, on filling; spread with remaining filling. Top with remaining layer, pecan side up. Arrange Pastry Garnish on and around cake, if desired.
Pecan Pie Filling
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup cornstarch
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Whisk together first 6 ingredients in a heavy 3-quart saucepan until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly; boil 1 minute or until thickened. Remove from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla extract. Place a sheet of wax paper directly on surface of mixture to prevent a film from forming, and chill 4 hours. To chill filling quickly, pour filling into a bowl. Place bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice. Whisk constantly until cool (about 15 minutes).
1 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts
1 large egg
1 tbsp. water
24 pecan halves
Unfold pie crusts, and press out fold lines. Cut 8 to 10 leaves from each pie crust with a 3-inch leaf-shaped cutter, and mark leaf veins using tip of a knife. Reserve pastry trimmings. Whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon water, and brush on pastry leaves. Crumple 10 to 12 small aluminum foil pieces into 1/2-inch balls. Coat with vegetable cooking spray, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Drape a pastry leaf over each ball; place remaining pastry leaves on baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 6 to 8 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Gently remove foil from leaves. Pinch 12 pea-size pieces from pastry trimmings. Place between pecan halves, forming sandwiches. Cut remaining pastry into 2-inch pieces; wrap around pecan sandwiches, leaving jagged edges to resemble half-shelled pecans. Brush with egg mixture. Place on baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire rack.
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Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard.