Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cake v Pie: Your Conference Champs

A moment of silence please.  #1 pie seed, that giant of giants, Apple Pie suffered defeat at the fluffy-light hands of pie conference’s 2010 champion...Cheesecake.   Fruit fans went home empty-handed.  Says one stunned Apple supporter...“But it has cake in the name!”

Over in the cake conference, #4 German Chocolate Cake lost the conference to a pastry that is controversial at best, the unequalled, unparalleled and utterly delicious Red Velvet.

These are your conference champions, ladies and gentlemen, fairly determined as the best pie and cake, respectively, known to man.  No hanging chads on these ballots.  Tomorrow they will move forward for one last shot at glory. 32 competitors have come and gone, two remain — but there can only be one victor. It's Cheesecake vs. Red Velvet, and the winner takes all.

The pie/cake debate will end with this.  Ready thyselves, and take to the battlefield.

While all Red Velvet Cakes use food coloring, the Red Velvet cake is not, per the accusations of its detractors, merely a cake with food coloring. The cocoa is what makes it special, and the chemical reaction of its ingredients — buttermilk and vinegar in particular — bring out the red hues in the cocoa (the red anthocyanin, to be extract). The richness of Red Velvet's color is the sum of a union between science and aesthetics.

Proponents of Red Velvet Cake thus justly argue that it is not, per the belief of its detractors, cake that merely features red food coloring. Rather, the red is steeped in patriotic history: When foods were rationed during World War II, beets were used to enhance the color of the cake. Red Velvet is the sweet tooth's battle against the Axis nations — it symbolizes the fight for good in the face of injustice, and is as patriotic as the red on any Allied flag. 


Despite its name, cheesecake is a creamy pie — like a DNA test to determine paternity, the cheesecake's crusty base, that which holds it together, confirms it is a pie. It is a versatile creation, lending itself to a variety of preparations that can pleasantly occupy and challenge cooks while pleasing a wide swatch of palates. Cheesecakes can be baked or unbaked; they can be made with heavy cream or sour cream or, of course, a variety of cheeses, ranging from cottage cheese to cream cheese to ricotta or mascarpone or any other soft cheese product.

Much like Red Velvet, Cheesecake also has deep historical routes — the ancient Greek Aegimus is said to have authored what could be considered the first cheesecake cookbook; ancient Roman Cato the Elder included two recipes for religious use in his text on farming and agriculture. Cheesecake rests in the sweet spot that is ancient democracy; it is to dessert as Latin is to the romance languages.

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