Thursday, May 23, 2013

My Culinary Masterpiece - the Strawbluple

Last winter, Facebook served as conduit to an amazing information exchange. My friend posted about a dessert called a "Cherpumple". Go ahead, check out that link. I'll wait. You want the summary? Three pies baked into three cakes to form one dessert. I was stunned by the notion. Even now, having made my own, I realize it is nothing but ridiculous. But celebrating 40 calls for ridiculous - so GAME ON!

An important note, with the exception of brownies, I don't tend to bake with boxed mixes or frozen goods, so rather than using frozen pies and boxed mixes like the dessert's originator, I'd be baking mine from scratch. Also, I don't like pumpkin pie, so that would need to be subbed out - and I had the ingredients for a strawberry pie and an apple pie already packed away from last season when I froze a few gallons of strawberries (finished just in time for fresh strawberries to appear at the market this season) and picked apples.

Knowing full well that my experiment could fail, and worse, I could be turning three incredible pies and three probably delicious cakes into one mess, I forged on.

Presenting, the making of my Strawblueple. A strawberry pie baked in a dark chocolate cake, a blueberry pie baked in a yellow cake, and an apple pie baked in a cinnamon cake.

Baking night 1 - the pies! I made an oat crust from The Earthbound Cook, and rolled it pretty thick, hoping that would make flipping the pie out of the pan easier. I also lined the bottom of the pie tin with parchment paper and par-cooked the bottom crust for 10 minutes before adding the filler and top crust.I could not risk having a soggy crust that would stick to the pan when I went to flip the pie.

I don't own three appropriately sized cake pans, so the cake baking took place over a few days.

Baking night 2, I made the chocolate cake from a cookbook a friend gifted me at my 30th birthday party. Usually when I bake I have at least one assistant, and often I have two. I had almost forgotten how quickly and how little mess could be made sans assistants. It was a good reminder of why I love baking, which I realize I don't do as much of now as I used to, in part because of the ensuing mess.

Step 1. Mix the cake.

Step 2. The flip worked! There is actually cake batter beneath the pie, but it's hard to see.

Step 3. Bake the cake. Mmmm...

Step 4. Flip out the cake - with the pie baked inside!

And, because I couldn't fathom moving that cake again, it was deemed the bottom layer.

Baking night 3: Repeat the above steps for a yellow cake with the blueberry pie inside. I flipped it out onto one of FOUR identical cookie sheets. That fact is important.

On Friday, baking night 4, I had plans to meet friends for dinner, so after putting the final pie-cake in the oven, I told Ed "I have no idea when it will be done - but the cakes seem to be taking a long time. Please flip the pie-cake out of the pan when it's done", which he agreed to do.

One very important instruction is missing from that list. "Move the blueberry-yellow pie-cake." That, as it turns out, was not a mistake on my part.

For whatever reason, when Ed went to flip the final pie-cake, he decided he had to move the blueberry-yellow pie-cake, and use the pan it was sitting on (rather than one of THREE identical sheet pans we own!). This required Ed to flip the blueberry-yellow pie-cake off it's current baking sheet onto another pan. And that's when structural problems ensued. The blueberry-yellow pie-cake died. When I got home with one of my friends who was spending a couple of nights with me, Ed looked at me soberly and said "I hurt the cake". And there it sat, all gooey and broken. There were questions on my part. There was disappointment. I did not, however, totally lose my cool.

Instead, I shoved the clearly underbaked mess back in the oven and crossed my fingers. Also - I made note of the structural issues and determined that this would be the TOP layer of the Strawbluple.

This is what the blueberry yellow pie-cake looked like BEFORE Ed touched it.

I don't have a photo after it, because I was so stunned. The mess that it had become is NOT something that needs to be documented on film - or digitally, as the case may be. I will say that the kids witnessed the disaster, and both of them noted very early in the morning "Dad did it". Well played children, well played.

However, one cannot let a little collapse get in the way of projects like this. So the next day, I stacked the apple-cinnamon pie-cake on top of the strawberry-chocolate pie-cake, and then piled the rebaked blueberry-yellow pie-cake on top.

Viola! It's taller than Helen's head - which is a pretty tall cake.

The Strawblueple served many people - and was definitely the dessert that just kept on giving. I have to admit that my creation might have gone down a little better with a side insulin. Wow. I was a little jittery after my slice.

Several people asked if I will ever bake this again.

No, I will not. Like many projects, the temptation to do it over is high - given that now I sort of know what I'm doing. However, it truly is a ridiculous dessert, and I can't imagine an occasion that would call for one (except maybe a 50th birthday?). A parent at Helen's school did suggest I could auction this off at the school's annual auction, but that would be way too much pressure. No rebaked, crumbled, blueberry-yellow pie-cakes would be appropriate if someone had actually paid for the dessert.

However, I would make a single layer again. I like the taste of pie and cake together. And I had forgotten how simple it is to bake a pie, so having an excuse to make another seems like a good thing.

If you should try this at home, I have two pieces of advice. First, do not let Ed touch it. Ever. Second, acquire a giant spatula like the one seen in the above photo to serve it. There's no way I could've transferred slides of the Strawbluple to a plate without that monster spatula.