For the past 10 years, ever since my eldest daughter was a baby in a bucket, my family has spent New Year’s Eve with our good friends The Millers. That first year, we could all fit around their small dining room table. Now their party has grown into a crowded affair, with more children than adults, but it is still just as much fun.
The party theme this year was “It goes to 11”. If you are a fan of the movie This Is Spinal Tap, then you understand the reference. If not, I’ll explain. The movie is a mock documentary about a British rock band past their prime. In this pivotal scene, lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel shows off his favorite amplifier:
Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don’t know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.
So how to interpret this theme? At first, I considered recipes with 11 layers or 11 ingredients. But then, I had an epiphany. Its not about 11, its about going over the top. You take it to the limit and then you blow everyone away.
Hmmmm… Pecan pie is fantastic, chocolate cake is scrumptious, chocolate and pecans are good together…ding ding ding. I’m going to make a PieCake…a pecan pie baked inside of a chocolate cake.
I’m not the first person to bake a pie into a cake. However, up until now, the pie-in-cake phenomena has primarily been a joke. A weird concept to be sure, but would anyone actually eat the famed Cherpumple or, more recently, the Pumpple? I don’t serve gross food. My PieCake needs to taste good and it needs to look good.
It’s 1/1/11. Let’s take it to 11 people!
Chocolate Pecan PieCake
Cake portion adapted from a recipe from The Buttercup Bake Shop Cookbook
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter plus more for greasing pan, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
- one 8 or 9-inch Pecan Pie, fully baked and cooled to room temperature
FROSTING & GARNISH
- 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- pinch of sea salt
- 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
- 8 or 9-inch pie tin, preferably disposable (you may need to cut it)
- 10 X 3 inch cake pan
Fully bake a pecan pie (or buy one, I won’t tell) preferably in a disposable pie tin (so you can take it out easily later). Let it cool to room temperature.
Preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Grease your cake pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa, coffee and water. Add in the vanilla. Set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the melted chocolate and mix until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the wet ingredients, beating well after each addition.
Spoon 1/3 of the batter evenly into the bottom of the cake pan. Take the pecan pie out of the tin (you may need to cut it out, so it might make sense to bake your pie in a disposable pie tin) and place it right side up on top of the batter. I thought that the pie might sink to the bottom either now or during baking, but like a ship, it sailed on top. Next time, I might put the pie in upside down because later I frosted the cake upside down, so if the pie was flipped in the pan, it would be right side up in the cake.
Wow! This seems like the baking equivalent of female mud wrestling. What is that pie doing wallowing in all that brown batter? I feel a little dirty. Anywho, cover the top and sides of the pie with the remaining batter. You may want to thwack the cake on the counter a couple of times to make sure there are no air pockets hiding between the pie and the side of the cake pan. Smooth the top.
Bake in a 350 F degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted at THE EDGE of the pan comes out with just a few crumbs. Why the edge? Because the pie is in the center and that will alter your results.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes the turn it out upside down onto a cooling rack to cool completely. When the cake is cool, it’s time to make the ganache frosting. Yummmmm.
MAKING THE GANACHE FROSTING: Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream to a simmer then pour over the chocolate. Let it sit for 1 minute then gently stir until the all the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth. Let it sit at room temperature for 25-35 minutes stirring occasionally until it is frosting consistency.
Frost the top and sides of the upside-down cake and sprinkle with the chopped toasted pecans. Then have fun making your friends guess what’s inside before you slice it.
I’m reminded of Horton Hatches the Egg. “My goodness! My gracious!” they shouted. “MY WORD! It’s something brand new!...It’s a PieCake.” I’m paraphrasing of course. Enjoy!