The cherpumple had me in a kerfuffle.
Allow me to explain.
A Los Angeles man named Charles Phoenix has created the turducken of Thanksgiving desserts and dubbed it the cherpumple.
Turduckens are pretty commonplace these days; the cherpumple decidedly is not. A cherpumple is a three-layer cake sporting an entire pie in each layer (spice cake holding an apple pie on the bottom layer, a pumpkin pie nestled in yellow cake in the middle and a top layer of cherry pie baked into white cake) iced with cream cheese frosting.
“When you slice and serve it,” Phoenix says in a video on his cherpumple-pumped site charles phoenix.com, “your company will be astonished.”
Or confused. Or frightened. Maybe even queasy. One need only search the Internet for other attempts at cherpumple baking to see alarming variants of a monster cake.
Phoenix, according to the article, got the idea for the pie/cake after his family’s last Thanksgiving when he noticed everyone took a sliver of the assorted pies — cherry, pumpkin and apple. He thought he could combine all his family’s traditional holiday desserts in one. The cherpumple was born.
But one thing bothered me about this strange and clever creation. Who the heck eats cherry pie at Thanksgiving?
I thought I could best the cherpumple. And now I present to you the pumpecapple.
OK, maybe it doesn’t roll off the tongue, but the pumpecapple – my “improvement” on the cherpumple – better represents Thanksgiving flavors with layers of pumpkin, pecan and apple pies baked in cake. I also thought good pies and homemade cake batter (Phoenix used frozen pies and box cake mix) would make a crazy dessert idea palatable. Even delicious.
My first and only call was to Three Brothers Bakery on South Braeswood. (You think I’d make this thing myself, are you crazy?) Three Brothers immediately came to mind because the Houston bakery’s pecan pie recently was recently singled out by Country Living magazine as one of the best pies in the country.
Janice Jucker, one of the business’ owners along with her husband, Robert, immediately bit. Three Brothers was game, and they also suggested improving on the layers: Apple pie baked in a spice apple cake; chocolate pecan pie in a chocolate cake; pumpkin pie in a pumpkin spice cake. Robert did the baking, and decorator Heather Campbell did the icing (Janice did a lot of the encouraging and cheerleading).
Last week I visited the shop on the day they finished the pumpecapple. It was astonishing: a nearly 10-inch-tall behemoth that weighed 23½ pounds and took the staff about five hours to complete. Janice estimated she’d probably have to sell such a cake for $175 – that’s how much parts and labor went into it.
Robert fussed that the layers weren’t perfect. “If I had three times to do it, I’d get it right,” the fifth-generation baker said.
To me, it was a marvel and decidedly prettier than the cherpumple. And made with Three Brothers pies, it grossly outclassed its Frankencake inspiration.
But how did it taste?
We were about to sample a slice when a loyal Three Brothers customer walked in and saw the pumpecapple.
“That looks delicious!” said Sheila Sheppard, who had come in for some cinnamon rolls and a few gingerbread men. We quickly gave her a spoon to dig into a multistratum slice that looked like it could feed three.
“If I could afford it, I’d take one right now. It would be appetizer, dinner and dessert,” she said. “I’d save it all for me.”
There you have it, from an impartial taster. Me? I very much enjoyed it. As did our photographer. And hopefully, so did the Juckers, without whom there would be no pumpecapple.
But mostly I admired the baker’s effort put into this experiment. Three Brothers Bakery is a good sport that took a wild idea and made it work. I’m not sure if they’d ever sell the pumpecapple, but at least you know there’s a Houston bakery that can make one. Christmas pumpecapple, anyone?