Executive Pastry Chef Zac Young of the David Burke Group now makes the PieCaken for Thanksgiving, the dessert version of turducken. The three-layer confection consists of layers of pecan pie, pumpkin pie and apple upside down cake, along with cinnamon buttercream.
It’s sold at The Burke Group’s New York City restaurant, Fabrick for $49—and following an appearance on “Live With Kelly And Michael,” it’s pretty much sold out.
You can try your hand at it with his recipe, below. But first…
Who invented PieCaken? According to an article on DailyDot.com, Charles Phoenix, whose Wikepedia bio calls “an author and chef whose work explores and celebrates 1950s and 1960s kitsch and Americana,” credits himself with creating the combo cake in 2007.
He called it the Cherpumple or “The Monster” Pie-Cake: a three-layer cake stuffed with cherry, apple and pumpkin pies. The apple pie is baked inside a layer of spice cake, the pumpkin inside yellow cake, and the cherry pie inside a chocolate layer. Here’s a photo and the recipe.
His inspiration was the number of dessert plates used for Thanksgiving dinner, to accommodate his family’s traditional four desserts: three pies—cherry, pumpkin and apple—and a spice cake. Everyone had a slice of everything.
Better Homes & Gardens published the recipe in 2019.
Subsequent to the Cherpumple, Phoenix created the CherBluble for July Fourth: cherry, blueberry, and apple pies are baked into red, white, and blue-colored white cake layers.
Phoenix doesn’t claim to be the first person to bake a pie in a cake (who knows who that was?), but more officially the first person to have gone Internet-viral with it.
The PieCaken name and concept was created by Zac Young and his team in November 2015 for a holiday dessert.
They were brainstorming Thanksgiving specials for David Burke Fabrick, a restaurant [now closed] in the boutique hotel Archer New York. The Executive Chef was very excited to be serving a Turducken special main course.
The pastry team set out to make the Turducken of desserts, which they called PieCaken. That original was three layers: pecan pie, pumpkin pie, and spice Cake, with apple pie filling and a frosting of cinnamon buttercream topped with oat crumble.
It became a sensation, and press coverage created a plethora of orders. (And frankly, it’s a better concept than the Cherpumple.)
To boot, Chef Young was named one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America that same year.
Here’s a Thanksgiving PieCaken recipe from Chef Young.
Ingredients For 8-12 Servings
For the Apple Upside-Down Cake
*Buttermilk substitute: For 1/2 cup buttermilk, substitute 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1/2 cup.
†Seriously, we don’t think that a cake as complex and rich as this needs whipped cream or ice cream!
1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Spray an 8” cake pan with nonstick spray and line with a round of parchment paper.
2. MAKE the apple topping: Peel, core and cut the apple into quarters. Slice each quarter into very thin (1/16”) slices. Melt the butter in the microwave. In a bowl, toss the butter, brown sugar and apples together. Spread the apple mixture into a thin layer in the bottom of the prepared cake pan and bake for 10 minutes. The sugar and butter should be melted and the apples should start to soften. There may be a little liquid that has seeped out of the apples, which is fine. Let the pan cool while you make the cake.
3. MAKE the spice cake: Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl and whisk until blended together. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the oil and sugar together. It’s actually easier to do this with a whisk than with an electric mixer; but if you really like the mixer, use it. Add both of the eggs and whisk until smooth. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and whisk until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in two installments, whisking until blended.
4. CAREFULLY POUR the batter over the apple layer. If you simply dump it on top, you run the risk of displacing the apples and ruining the pretty apple design, but it will still taste good.
5. RETURN the pan to the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the center of the cake is fully cooked. Once the cake has cooled for 20 minutes, flip it out of the cake pan and onto a cooling rack. Remove the parchment. Let cool fully while you make the frosting.
6. MAKE the cinnamon buttercream frosting: Find a pot that will fit the bottom of the bowl of the stand mixer, fill it with three inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place the egg whites and the sugar in the mixer bowl and place over the simmering pot of water. Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm, about 4 minutes.
7. PLACE the bowl on the mixer stand, fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on medium high until cool (about 8 to 10 minutes). Cut the butter into 1 inch cubes and gradually add to the mixer. Mix until the butter has incorporated and the frosting is light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the salt, vanilla and cinnamon and whisk until combined.
8. ASSEMBLE the PieCaken. It is easier to assemble if the pies are chilled. With a small knife, cut the outer crust off the pies, leaving only the filling and the bottom crust. With a serrated knife, cut off what was the top of the cake, which is now on the bottom. Do this by cutting straight through the cake horizontally about a half inch up the side of the cake. Reserve the scraps for snacking.
9. PLACE the pecan pie on an 8-inch cake board or serving plate. Spread a ½ inch layer of frosting over the top of the pie. Place the pumpkin pie on top and spread a ½ inch of frosting on top. Place the cake, apple side up, on top of the frosting. With a serrated knife, trim the sides of the cake to be flush with the pies. Add the scraps to the snack pile.
10. USING an offset spatula, spread a ½ inch layer of frosting around the cake, covering the sides. Using a piping bag with whatever tip you want, pipe a pretty border around the top of the cake. Zac likes to leave the top of the cake unfrosted so that one can see the apples.
11. REFRIGERATE the PieCaken for at least an hour, or tightly wrapped for up to 5 days. Let sit at room temperature for an hour before serving so the buttercream softens. Cut the PieCaken into 8 to 12 slices using a sharp knife dipped in hot water. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
Comments are closed.