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The Holiday Baking Conundrum: Pie or Cake?

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If you've got a sweet tooth, most likely anything sugary will do in satisfying it (you're so easy). But for the more discerning dessert dabbler…say, your new mother-in-law, preferences play a key role in what will be eaten or left behind on the plate. And with holiday season essentially underway, there are lots of occasions for dessert—be they traditional holiday meals, holiday parties or informal gatherings. Which route should you go in the dessert category to satisfy your guests? Pie? Or Cake?

While you can of course, always serve both, there are pros and cons to both cakes and pies.


Cakes often take less time—you can even use a mix when absolutely necessary with no one knowing your secret. As far as the investment goes, the ingredients for a basic cake are typically less expensive than pies. With a little creativity, you can dress up the icing or frosting, as well as the ingredients. Even healthy ones can make it into cakes like zucchini, carrots and bananas.

Pies, on the other hand, can be an excellent outlet for all your leftover fruits—fresh or frozen—that pumpkin you never carved for Halloween, sweet potatoes and other miscellaneous ingredients, which can save you in a pinch. Something feels all-American—and dare I say, urban-homesteader-chic—in making a pie from scratch, too. Imperfections are part of the perfection of pies…slightly burnt crust, uneven shapes, they add to the quaintness of pie. You've got a wider margin of exploration too—from the straight-up fruit pies to mousse pies, cheesecakes and of course, pumpkin. You can easily make all raw pies, too—something much more difficult in the cake realm. Crusts of nuts and dried fruits stand up to ordinary dough crusts and raw coconut crème fillings are as good as anything coming out of the oven. Pies can be savory too, making them a fun addition to a meal. (Although, this article is more about dessert.)

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From the Organic Authority Files


Cake is the quintessential birthday food. Buttercream frosting dotted with melted candle wax…it's a grueling, bland rite of passage. Despite the many ways to reinvent cake, it's still, at its core a spongy, crumbly reminder of birthdays passed. For the gluten sensitive, it's also no fun, unless you've put together a gluten-free option. These can certainly do the trick, but they're also more expensive and can leave cakes denser than regular flour.

Pies require a lot of labor—from preparing the delicate crust to peeling and slicing fruit, preparing mousse and other fillings, it's not something you can whip up in a jiffy. There are no real short cuts, save the store-bought crusts and using filling mixes, but any pie-connoisseur will tell you that's like trying to pass McDonald's off as 5-star restaurant cuisine. Pies are messy, too. Cutting a fruit-filled pie often tends to not look as good as the recipe picture and stains on tablecloths and clothing, far too common.

The Verdict

Leave cakes to birthdays. Go with pies whenever possible. Nothing beats a warm flaky crust spilling over with gobs of gooey fruit filling or soft squash, sweet potato or pumpkin.

Martha Stewart has 25 perfect pie recommendations from the chocolate-y pecan to the standard fruits to drool over (and which can be easily veganized with coconut oil instead of butter). The good people at the Post Punk Kitchen have delved deep into the art of vegan pies with this incredible bakebook that's sure to satisfy all of your sweetest holiday events—and beyond.

Keep in touch with Jill (and send her your vegan pie recipes!) on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: madprime

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