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The challenge of the Cherpumple

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Barb Randall made a cherpumple for Review/Tidings assistant editor Kara Hansen Murphy's birthday celebration. The dessert contains cherry, pumpkin and apple pies baked in cakes.“It turned out exactly how I thought it would!” is what my dear friend Lynne Maginnis used to say if a cooking experiment went haywire. You didn’t hear her use the phrase very often, but we got a kick out of giving food goof ups a positive spin.

Last week I created a culinary flop of gigantic dimensions and try as I might, I couldn’t cover with her optimistic phrase. And to make matters worse, I couldn’t just whip up a beautiful substitute. My coworkers were expecting to feast on this very special dessert.

It is our tradition to celebrate staff members’ birthdays and the birthday person gets to choose what type of cake or other food they would like served in their honor. Review and Tidings assistant editor Kara Hansen Murphy celebrated her birthday Nov. 24 and she wished to have a cherpumple — the dessert version of turducken.

The cherpumple has a cherry pie, pumpkin pie and apple pie baked inside cake layers that are stacked and frosted to make a very large dessert. She shared a video clip of one being made and I was hooked — I simply had to make one.

Frankly it didn’t sound hard to construct. The recipe called for already baked pies, cake mixes and ready-made frosting. The pies came easily out of their tins intact and fit nicely into the cake pans, into which I had poured batter. I added more cake batter to fill the space on the sides and cover the top of the pie, then popped the pan into the oven for the allotted 30 minutes.

Then I created the second and third cakes, following the same procedure. When the timer went off signaling the completion of the first cake, I tested it. It wasn’t quite done, so back in the oven it went. A few minutes later the cake tester came out clean, but the top of the cake was still too soft, so again it went back in the oven.

Several minutes later I smelled cake batter burning. Batter from the second pan had expanded over the edge of the pan and dribbled onto the oven element. Will the cake taste of burnt sugar? How much smoke is this going to create? Shall I turn the whole thing off and go bake the cakes at my neighbor’s? Is the smoke alarm going to go off? Eek! I opened doors and windows and threw on a jacket and kept at it.

After 45 minutes in the oven — far longer than I thought was necessary — I took the cakes out and placed on them on racks to cool. After a customary amount of time I removed them from the pans and left them to cool completely on the racks.

The cakes oozed more batter. What was going on? I quickly slapped a plate on one of cakes on a rack, inverted the whole thing so that the cake fell onto the plate and shoved it in the microwave for a few minutes.

The cakes seemed wet. I finally resign myself to the fact that this is not going to be the prettiest cake I’ve ever made, and went to bed. The next morning the cakes looked even more traumatized. They had sunk in the middle, some sides were high and I couldn’t cut them off because of where the pie was situated.

I was grateful for the instruction to generously slather the whole thing with fluffy frosting. With a sprinkle of bright green jimmies and Red Hots and the finishing touch of a fresh holly sprig, the cake was as good as it was going to get. It looked like something Dr. Seuss would have enjoyed.

But somehow it all came together. When we served the cake later that afternoon it was delicious and the slices were very festive with the three sections of pie prettily exposed.

So were did I go wrong? Who knows; that isn’t the point. The point is that not everything is going to turn out perfectly, no matter how hard we try or how experienced we are. But that shouldn’t keep us from trying new things. If we only do things at which we know we will excel, we will surely miss out on some wonderful experiences.

I think we were all glad Kara chose cherpumple to celebrate her birthday. It was a fun and unique cake that we surely won’t forget. Will I bake another cherpumple? Yes indeed. I have to master it. And even if it doesn’t come out 100 percent next time I’ll be able to say that it “turned out exactly as I thought it would!”

To view the video of how to make a cherpumple, visit charlesphoenix.com/category/test-kitchen/

Bon Appetit! Eat something wonderful!

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext. 101 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..