Happy Yesterday-Was-Pi-Day, everybody!
Yes, March 14, aka 3.14, is a day worth celebrating. Pi gives us many things, and I remember all of them because I did very well in my high school geometry class. I remember circles. I remember 3.14. …and that’s all, right?
Anyway, Pi Day also gives us something even more exciting than huge mathematical advances that will be a part of human life and understanding forevermore.
Pi Day gives us the PieCake.
Equal to the Turducken, PieCake is a pieception* of epic pastry proportions. It is literally a pie inside of a cake. And this Pi Day, we had two.
For any PieCake, basically take any pie you want and and put it inside any cake you want. The trick is to bake the pie completely and let it cool to room temperature. Then you put about a third of the cake batter recipe into your cake pan, nestle in the pie, and finish pouring the cake batter over it, letting it drip down the sides of the pie and filling in the area. I recommend using a springform pan to fit in the most batter without overflow. I also recommend using disposable pie tins, as I had to cut the tin off the pie to keep the pie whole.
For the first PieCake, we had a cherry pie inside a chocolate cake with luscious chocolate frosting.
For the second, a blackberry-raspberry pie inside of a lemon cake with lemon buttercream frosting.
My friend Madison came over Wednesday night to help make the pies. This was a smart move. People, PieCake is more than the sum of its parts in many ways, and one of those ways is the time it takes to create. You’d think that making two pies and two cakes would be the same amount of time as two PieCakes, but you, like I, would be wrong. PieCakes take your whole entire life to finish. Or at least a full day.
On Pi Day Eve, we made one cherry pie and one blackberry-raspberry pie. And man, they were gorgeous. We followed recipes from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, which in my family is known colloquially as The Red Checkered Cookbook. I also whipped up the chocolate cake batter that night, using a recipe that’s been in my family for centuries (read: decades) that we call Mormon Chocolate Cake.
The cake isn’t actually Mormon, but it came to my family through a Mormon couple, and the title stuck.
This cake is what my husband always describes as “the best cake you’ll ever have.” And it’s true.
Here’s the recipe (thanks, Mom!):
1) Mix together:
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1 ½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
2) Bring to boil in saucepan:
2 sticks butter or margarine
1/3 c. cocoa
1 c. water
3) Pour liquid over dry ingredients
¾ cup vinegar (can substitute ¾ cup milk with 1 T. vinegar)
2 beaten eggs
1 t. vanilla
½ to ¾ c. chocolate chips
Mix together (will be soupy) & pour into greased and floured 9 x 13 pan. Bake 25 – 30 minutes at 350 (check with toothpick). Cool to room temperature. Frost.
1) Bring to boil:
¾ stick butter or margarine
3 T. milk
3 – 5 T. cocoa
2) Add: 1 t. vanilla
3) Remove from stove and add enough powered sugar (about 2 c.) to reach spreading consistency. Note: If not a good consistency, add a touch more milk and continue to stir. Add a little more powdered sugar (and milk, if necessary) until you’re good.
I let the batter sit in the fridge overnight while our pies cooled to room temperature. The next day I just let it warm back up while I worked on the pies.
Because 8 ¾” pies don’t fit into a typical springform pan. Although I was hoping for the stunning vision of a complete pie, fluted edge and all, boldly announcing itself through each slice of cake, it wasn’t to be. I cut the crusts off each pie using a serrated knife, and nestled the amputated pie into the springform after greasing-flouring-parchmenting-greasing-flouring the pan and laying the batter foundation. (With dark cakes, use cocoa powder to coat the pan; with light cakes, use flour). The cherry went first. (I only own one springform pan.)
Mormon Chocolate Cake is only supposed to take 25-30 minutes, as stated above, but this is not the case for PieCake. I checked it after 30 and every 10 minutes after that with a long knife. Originally I thought it was finished after about 45 minutes. I pulled it out, let it cool, and when it was about room temperature, I unclasped the springform pan.
Immediately still-liquid batter started oozing all over my countertops, practically bleeding out of the cake as I yelled at it to stop. Reforming the springform around it and cleaning it up with paper towels worked better than yelling, for reference.
It was around this time my husband called to ask how everything was going, and I pretended like I was the combination of Oprah and Martha Stewart incarnate instead of telling the truth. Oops.
So for another half an hour or so this piestrosity went into the oven, and the second time I took it out, it was actually baked.
Total time was around an hour and fifteen minutes.
While this one baked, I worked on my raspberry-blackberry lemon PieCake. I used this recipe for the cake:
I also used the lemon buttercream frosting on this page, although I forewent the milk in lieu of extra lemon juice.
The second PieCake went more smoothly than the first, mostly because I gave it plenty of time and made sure to check the bottom layer of cake thoroughly with my knife. I did get a little impatient though, as I was delivering these PieCakes to the Geology department office, and was already half an hour later than I thought I’d be due to the extra baking time, so my lemon cake wasn’t cooled enough when I frosted it. But leaving it in the springform with slightly melty frosting worked pretty well for transporting it in my car, especially since I only have one cake carrier.
PieCakes, might I modestly say, are a success with hungry scientists, and probably any other reasonable human as well. When feeding geologists, expect many comparisons to subduction zones and magma chambers and the like.
Both were delicious. One of my geo people expressed what I had been feeling when he said, “This lives up to all my expectations.”
The cherry chocolate cake held its form perfectly, with the pie clearly defined within the cake. The berry lemon cake was still warm, as was the frosting, and when we cut into it, the filling and frosting oozed out together, which gave it an appearance like a lava cake, or like baked brie. Not as striking as the other PieCake, but still appealing in its own way.
While I was baking these, I have to admit (especially around the time of the oozing batter fiasco) I thought I’d never make a PieCake again. But sometime around when I dug into my second helping, I thought, “Well, maybe only once a week.”
Or at least once a year for Pi Day.
*Thanks for the term, Winjamin!