I, like so many other Asians, inherited horrible nearsightedness from my parents, an affliction I discovered at age 11. I wear contacts because the weight of the lenses required to give me 20-20 vision with glasses would likely strain my neck. They’re also more practical for physical activities like running, volleyball, and chasing Clarice and Dr. Lecter around the house. Additionally, by the age of 6, Dr. Lecter succeeded in destroying two pairs of my glasses. And so I wear contacts. Earl has recently discovered that he needs to wear his glasses full-time, and I really sympathize, though it took him 14 years more than it took me to become dependent on corrective lenses. Plus, when he takes glasses off at night, he has this Clark Kent-like She’s All That transformation where he goes from Dignified Englishman to 160 pounds of dead sexy British manflesh.
What I meant to convey before Earl distracted me is that after needing glasses or contacts for over two decades, I believe in the phenomenon where other senses are heightened when one is lost. I am pretty sure my brain and body haven’t been fooled by corrective lenses and, understanding that my vision problems are so severe as to leave me vulnerable like a naked mole rat, have increased my chances of survival by enhancing my other senses. I have excellent hearing and pitch differential (try this test! I get between .375 Hz and 1.2 Hz for reference). I also have Dog Nose. Recalling that taste is what the tongue perceives and flavor is the sum total of taste and other sensory perceptions, having a good sense of smell augments both orthonasal olfaction (smelling food before you’ve put it in your mouth) and retronasal olfaction (the perception of food flavor within the mouth by the nose). I haven’t suddenly become a supertaster though. Supertasters have a higher concentration of taste buds on the surface of their tongues and are therefore more sensitive to taste. In fact, supertasters are often picky eaters who prefer bland foods because too much taste overwhelms them. So as much as my body wants to compensate for my poor eyesight, I don’t think I’ve spontaneously generated more taste buds, which is good because I like not being limited to bland food.
But as I’ve aged, my palate has become more selective and I no longer have much desire to put shitty food in my mouth. So when my friend asked me to make some pies for his wife’s surprise birthday party, it was with a small amount of hesitation that I suggested making a cherpumple: a monolithic dessert comprising three layers of cake, each with a pie baked inside (cherry, pumpkin, apple). The fun in making and consuming a cherpumple outweighed my hesitation though. My friend seemed rather keen on the idea, and I found the challenge rather appealing, so I started doing my research.
I hesitate to call it a recipe so much as instructions for construction, but I’m sharing my findings here. I opted to use blueberry pie instead of pumpkin pie for two reasons: first, the party took place in late summer and blueberry is a much more summery pie, and second, “cherblueple” is onomatopoetically better.
Things You Will Need
- 3 10-inch circular cake pans
- 3 store-bought 9-inch pies, fresh or frozen
- 3 boxes of cake mix
- 3 tubs of store-bought frosting
- All the eggs/oil/water required for the box cakes
- A slicing knife
- Spatulas for frosting
- Lots of baking/cooling time
I don’t normally condone store-bought pies, but apparently pies manufactured by machine are more structurally sound than your delicious and flaky yet altogether too flimsy homemade pie. They also save a heck of a lot of time and labor.
I recommend baking each layer one at a time unless you have a fancy convection oven. Conventional ovens can be unpredictable with hot spots and uneven baking and such. I don’t really have recommendations on what flavor cake to pair with what flavor pie or what flavor frosting to use. More on why later. Pick what you want, I don’t care.
1. Bake the pies if they were bought frozen and let them cool to room temperature.
2. Grease and flour the cake pans. Mix the cake batter per the box instructions and pour a small amount into the pan to cover the bottom.
3. I should hope I wouldn’t have to clarify this, but remove the pies from their pie tins and center them in the pool of cake batter. Don’t worry if there are cracks or slits in the pie; the batter that seeps into the pie and bakes into cake will give the overall complex some structural integrity.
Mmm, so wrong
4. Pour the rest of the batter over the pie to cover it without overflowing the cake pan.
5. Bake according to the instructions on the box, but add 15-20 minutes of extra time to make sure the cake is fully baked. I had one disastrous layer where the top of the cake appeared fully baked, but when I removed it from the pan, the bottom was a gloopy, viscous mess. I ended up tossing it out and baking a completely new layer. Repeat for the other two layers.
6. Let each layer cool on a wire rack. Slice off any raised mounds so that the surfaces of the cakes are flat.
7. Place the bottom layer on whatever platter you plan on serving the cherpumple (or cherblueple, as it were). Frost the top of the bottom layer. Gently place the second layer on top of it and frost the top of that layer as well. Gently place the third layer on top of the second layer.
8. Frost the entire structure. Cut, and serve.
I mentioned my Dog Nose and increasingly selective palate earlier because I suspect my feedback on what this monstrosity tastes like won’t be wonderfully received. It was too much. TOO MUCH. The pie fillings, the crusts, the cakes, all that frosting…consuming all of it at once was overwhelming and my body rebelled.
It was like listening to a band where each band member plays brilliantly but each is a quarter of a step off the next.
It was like the first time I saw Las Vegas at night, and faced with all that neon and all those hooker flyers, had no idea what to look at first. Lights or boobs? Lights or boobs??
It was like walking past Abercrombie & Fitch.
The cherblueple overpowered my senses of taste and smell and every single one of my taste buds cried piteously. I had to take a moment to sit down and let each of those flavors settle before my stomach rejected them all at once. I commonly tell people that I have a separate dessert stomach, but the cherblueple enlightened me about how weak that dessert stomach really is. But, like Vegas, I have no regrets about what I put in my mouth and what came out of my body as a result and, still like Vegas, given enough alcohol and charming, I could be convinced to try it again.