Thanksgiving 2014 is now over. It is my favorite holiday. Thanksgiving marks the end of the heat of summer, the arrival of the crisp days and cold nights of fall, leaves turning radiant colors, and often a dusting of November snow. Work has been going full steam ahead. The idea of having a day or two to recharge is a time I anticipate.
I love everything that goes with Thanksgiving. The cozy feelings of being with family. The memories of from childhood. The smells from the kitchen where turkey is roasting and other foods are readied for feasting. This year, in particular, with the world and our own country in turmoil, I felt especially appreciative to have a day to reflect and unwind. It has been an usually hectic couple of months for me.
So it was not too surprising to find myself drawn to the idea of doing something new, something different, something that seemed a bit out of character. I love to cook but I have never been too interested in baking desserts. I would rather have a crunchy, salty snack than a creamy, sweet confection . Yet when I saw an article about the Cherpumple I became determined to make it. http://www.charlesphoenix.com/thanksgiving-cherpumple-turducken-desserts/
I bought all the ingredients and there were many – amazed with each frozen pie carton and box of cake mix that comprised this concoction. They would all be put together – somehow. I looked forward to sharing it with my family. They would be amazed! It was as though you could have your cake (and pie) and eat it too – all at the same time.
I recalled how my beloved grandfather used mix everything together on his plate. My grandmother would remind him how she had labored over preparing each food and now he couldn’t tell one thing from the other. He would calmly say (with a twinkle in his eye), “It doesn’t matter. It all goes to the same place”.
So it was with this cake/pie creation that combined 3 cakes and 3 pies – all topped off with cream cheese frosting. You could eat all the ingredients separately in traditional desserts – the spice cake, the yellow cake, the white cake, the pumpkin pie, the apple pie, and the cherry pie. The Cherpumple was to be a vertical tower of fruit and dough. In the Cherpumple , everything was all combined and every ingredient would “all go to the same place”. I must have been entranced by the gargantuan combo dessert since I easily recalled how it reminded of my home and memories of my grandfather. I even baked this cake/pie in cake pans that my grandmother used long ago.
So I proceeded. I followed directions. I made three cakes and embedded a different pie in each. I kept thinking of the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence” – with the words, “a pocket full of rye. Four and twenty black birds baked in a pie……”. Maybe a flock of birds would emerge from this sweet nest. This was a poem I heard often in childhood. Did I believe then, as a child might, that birds lived in pies? Each step took me closer to the final product. What began with curiosity became a dedication to creating this creative, if rather unusual, dessert. Maybe also a way to recapture some warm childhood memories.
All went well, although I found that the cake mix dripped over the side of the pans as it baked when the batter expanded. It was messy, indeed. Yet I was able to bake and embed the pies in the cake batter – without crumbling them. And I was able to maneuver each pie-in-cake combo onto a platter without a crumbling catastrophe. Proud! Whew!
Time came to apply the final touch to this enormous mountain of doughy batters and sweet fruits infused with childhood memory. I started to paint my delicacy with cream cheese icing. I was enjoying each step and looked forward to the oohs and aahs at the Thanksgiving table. My family would be so impressed. An incredible ending to the Thanksgiving meal.
But this cake/pie had other ideas. As I spread the gooey icing, the cake began to slide off the plate, top layer first, and have a melt-down. I tried to to apply the frosting faster. The cake obeyed gravity more rapidly than I could patch it together. The cake reminded me of Humpty Dumpty – “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again”. Icing was not gluing the layers together. Oh No!!!!!! This potential masterpiece was fast resembling lava flowing down a mountain.
There would be no miraculous dessert – at least visually – to present. My experiment had failed! Or had it? When feeling disappointed, I thought again of my grandfather – it would all go to the same place. I realized that I had become more concerned about a “perfect” product.
I am happy to tell you that after first disbelieving glances and grimaces (and some eye rolling) about this unique dessert and its weird appearance, my family enjoyed it. It tasted good. It was unique – more unique than had it turned out picture perfect. I realized that my experience with this culinary experiment was comparable to a music (or other type of) performance.
How often do we work hard toward a specific performance goal and become blinded reaching for the end result. I surely had fallen into this pattern of thinking when making this remarkable cake. While the cake had a melt-down, I realized that I had enjoyed the process of making it. I had tried something new. It was fun. And my family enjoyed it.
I am reminded of the cliché, “you can’t judge a book by its cover”. I add that you can’t judge a cake by its icing. Enjoy the process!