Dessert confession: I am not a pie person.
Unless it’s Key lime, I can easily pass pie by, even if my disinterest in crusts and cobblers containing apple, cherry, blueberry, pumpkin or (shudder) mincemeat deeply offends my pie-baking mother-in-law. So if you’re serving pie a la mode, just hand me the a la mode, please. But if there’s cake, feel free to give me the biggest piece — and then another.
I am a cake person.
It turns out the world may fall into two distinct groups: pie people and cake people. Recently, representatives from both camps squared off in a battle over bragging rights on Vox.com: “Is cake the great American dessert? Or is it pie?” the site wondered.
“Pie is an American tradition about love and family. Pie is delicious, and complicated, and infinitely better than cake,” Vox’s Kelsey McKinney writes in The Case for Pie, noting that, in literature and on film, pies are often depicted as being worth stealing off windowsills. In addition, she maintains: “Pie is patriotic. You never hear someone say something is ‘as American as cake.’ No. They say ‘as American as apple pie,’ because pies are the most American of desserts. ”
You may feel yourself nodding in agreement (and humming a certain Don McLean song), but before you declare victory for the pie, you owe it to the gods of dessert to allow cake to make its case — or rather to let Alex Abad-Santos argue cake’s case.
“Served at weddings, first birthdays, golden anniversaries, going aways, graduations and holidays, cakes have been the way humans tell other humans they matter,” Abad-Santos notes.
What’s more, he adds: “Regardless of the cake, there’s some wondrous alchemy going on when cake is made. The memories of your mother or father spinning eggs into spongy sweet layers of dough or willing pillowy frosting from sticks of butter are as magical as the cake itself.”
Baked as a rare treat during the Depression or in times of war, cake is a symbol “of American ingenuity and resilience,” he argues. Plus, “Remember: If someone loves you enough to break you out of prison, they do not bake you a pie. They bake you a … cake.”
Clearly, there are claims to be made and strong feelings on both sides of this pressing issue. But there may be no better way to settle the pie-versus-cake debate than in the kitchen.
Get baking. And may the best dessert win.
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