Thanksgiving PieCaken

"Can't decide between cake or pie for dessert? Don't. This epic confection hits all the right flavor notes, textures and will undoubtedly be the most impressive dessert you ever make."
photo by sheadley2015 photo by sheadley2015
photo by sheadley2015
photo by Zac Young photo by Zac Young
photo by Zac Young photo by Zac Young
photo by peggyalderton photo by peggyalderton
photo by Zac Young photo by Zac Young
Ready In:
5hrs 30mins
1 8 inch cake




  • Preheat the oven to 350.
  • Spray a 8” cake pan with non stick spray and line with a round of parchment paper.
  • Make the Apple Topping:

  • Peel, core and cut it into quarters. Slice each quarter into very thin (1/16”) slices. Melt the butter in the microwave. In a bowl, toss the butter, brown sugar and apples together. Spread the apple mixture into a thin layer in the bottom of the prepared cake pan and bake in the oven for 10 minutes; The sugar and butter should be melted and the apples should start to soften. There may be a little liquid that has seeped out of the apples, that is fine.
  • Let the pan cool while you make the cake.
  • Make the Spice Cake:

  • Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a medium bowl and whisk until blended together. In a large mixing bowl whisk the oil and sugar together, it’s actually easier to do this by hand than with an electric mixer. If you really like the mixer, use it. Add both of the eggs and whisk until smooth, you don’t have to spend a lot of time on this, just whisk it together. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and whisk until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in two installments, whisking until blended.
  • Carefully pour the batter over the apple layer. If you dump it on top, you run the risk of displacing the apples and ruining the pretty apple design! (it will still taste good).
  • Return the pan to the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes until the center of the cake is fully cooked. Once the cake has cooled for 20 minutes, flip it out of the cake pan and onto a cooling rack. Remove the parchment. Let cool fully while you make the frosting.
  • Make the Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting:

  • Find a pot that will fit the bottom of the bowl of a KitchenAid, fill it with three inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place the egg whites and the sugar in the mixer bowl and place over the simmering pot of water. Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm, about 4 minutes.
  • Place the bowl on the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium high until cool (about 8 to 10 minutes). Cut the butter into 1 inch cubes and gradually add to the mixer. Mix until the butter has incorporated and the frosting is light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the salt, vanilla and cinnamon and whisk until combined.
  • Assemble the PieCaken:

  • It is easier to assemble the PieCaken if the pies are chilled.
  • With a small knife, cut the outer crust off the pies, leaving only the filling and the bottom crust. With a serrated knife, cut off what was the top of the cake, which is now on the bottom. Do this by cutting straight through the cake horizontally about a half inch up the side of the cake. Reserve the scraps for snacking.
  • On an 8 inch cake board or serving plate, place the pecan pie. Spread a ½ inch layer of frosting over the top of the pie. Place the pumpkin pie on top and spread a ½ inch of frosting on top. Place the cake, apple side up, on top of the frosting. With a serrated knife, trim the sides of the cake to be flush with the pies.
  • Eat the scraps.
  • Using an offset spatula, spread a ½ inch layer of frosting around the cake, covering the sides. Using a piping bag with whatever tip you want, pipe a pretty border around the top of the cake. I like to leave the top of the cake unfrosted so you can see the apples.
  • Refrigerate the PieCaken for at least an hour or tightly wrapped for up to 5 days.
  • Let sit at room temperature for an hour before serving so the buttercream softens.
  • Cut the PieCaken into 8 to 12 slices using a sharp knife dipped in hot water.
  • Serve with whipped cream or ice cream!

Questions & Replies

  1. What's on the side of the cake? The crumble all over?
  2. We made all the layers ahead of time, and froze them. Assembled it frozen, and let it thaw in the fridge. It was delicious. My only question is, has anyone successfully froze a pumpkin pie? Ours retained a lot of water when it thawed, and was spongy. We could do it next time without freezing the pumpkin pie, but just wondering if there is a trick out there. Thanks!
  3. Was thinking the cake would be heavier than the pies... I'm sure there is a reason, but I am not sure... what is the reason for the cake being on top please? I'm afraid my pies are going to be squished, even if cold when assembled. Thanks!
  4. What's the easiest way to take the pies out of the tins???
  5. Is it possible to freeze a piecaken?


  1. This was excellent! Made it as written. Despite the comments about the buttercream being too salty, I think it was just fine. Less salt would have probably been fine too though. The only think we need to improve on is the pumpkin pie, but only because we froze all the layers bc we made them ahead of time, and the pumpkin pie retained water. Was still yummy, just spongy. Could have been the recipe we used, or maybe we just shouldn’t freeze pumpkin pie. This was overall a success and a new holiday tradition! Thanks!
    • Review photo by peggyalderton
  3. This is a great recipe! The cake has great flavor and was a big hit this year at thanksgiving! Everyone was confused at first and curious to try it. The whole cake was gone and many went back for seconds.
  4. Zac, I cannot WAIT to make this recipe - especially after seeing Kelli Ripa rave about it. On the Apple Upside-down Cake recipe, it staes "1 large Granny Smith apples". Is this a type-o? Only one apple for the recipe? I wonder if it should be 11? Just curious. I hope you receive this comment and respond. I can't wait to make it. Coming to NYC for Christmas next month, and we will definitely dine at your establishment. Happy Holidays!
  5. This recipe is good. You do not need to worry about it tasting bad, because it is delicious. However, I recommend listening to these 3 important tips before making it. These tips were made from my own mistakes. —————————————————— 1. Be careful with the Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting. Mainly because it’s too salty, like many people have already said. The amount of salt that the recipe calls for does not ruin the cake, but it makes the frosting have the taste of salt. Using half of the regular amount of salt for the frosting is not a drastic change, but it improves the cake. Alternatively, be careful because you might not have enough frosting to cover the cake. My cake actually uses 1 and a half batches of Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting just because I did not have enough to cover it with one batch. Moreover, make sure your Buttercream is not very cold when applying, otherwise it gets too hard. ——————————————————2. Double check you have every ingredient and piece of equipment needed to make the cake. Firstly, this is because there are lots of ingredients, and secondly, because the cake requires lots of equipment too. You need a double boiler, a kitchen aid, an 8” cake pan, and more. Failure to have these will result in lots of time lost, and it might cause the process of making the cake to last the entire day. ——————————————————3. Be prepared. This Piecaken is very hard to make. Know what you have to do, and watch tutorials before getting your hands dirty. If you want your cake to turn out good, then take time ensuring that you won’t mess up. Part of this includes using your foresight. For example, when I made the spice cake, the batter almost reached up over the cake pan’s walls when I poured it in. Then when it was baking, it actually rose over the cake pan and was spilling over slowly. I had to improvise by repositioning the parchment paper in order to save it. However, all of that could have been avoided if I used my foresight and realized that the cake was going to rise before I put it in. Lastly, don’t put whipped cream on as decoration. I tried that and it melted even in the refrigerator. You can actually see some remnants of whipped cream on the top of my cake.
    • Review photo by bradpen06


  1. I used my mom's Kentucky Prune cake recipe, but substituted my home canned apple pie filling inside the cake and on top. (There's not much Piecaken left. Everyone ate it before I could get a picture)!
  2. Use apple cinnamon bread mix as cake and use as bottom layer, put pecan on top so nuts show and skip the apple topping step. USE WAY LESS SALT in icing...1/4 teaspoon was PLENTY


Contributing Host of Cooking Channel's "Unique Sweets", guest judge on "Chopped" "Beat Bobby Flay" "Worst Cooks In America" and Pastry Director of Craveable Hospitality Group.
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