A Pudding-Soft, Berry-Studded Dessert to End Your Cake vs. Pie Debates

July 11, 2017

When Ali Slagle told me she'd give up cake for pie, I nearly lost it. To be fair, we were eating pie at the time, so "out of sight, out of mind"? That's my only explanation.

I love pie as much as the next person, but give up cake?! Did she say give up cake?!

Cake, I'd argue, is a bigger category, with more diversity. Cake can be squishy, fruity, nutty, crunchy. Cake can be tall or squat, airy or dense, large enough to feed a wedding reception or made just for one. Cake can be everything pie can be, and then some!

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We've had this fight before—but now I can say with more gusto that cake wins.

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Top Comment:
“Gf baking tends toward dryness anyway--what better remedy than soaking it in milk?! Ha!”
— Nancy

But for all of you who, if faced with that cruel dilemma, couldn't fathom giving up pie, consider a cake, by way of the very talented baker, writer, and photographer Samantha Seneviratne and her 2015 book The New Sugar and Spice, that will scratch your pie itch. And if you're a pudding person (Bueller? Bueller?), it will satisfy you, too.

Sam's cake is as worthy a pedestal for your prized summer berries as pie. Because her real innovation—besides turning tres leches into cuatro leches (cream, evaporated milk, condensed milk, and, fourthly, whole milk)—is cramming halved blackberries over the top.

The high-rising cake eclipses the berries, which relax into the batter below. When the cake comes out of the oven, you poke holes all over its top and drown it in the sweet milk. It pools in the blackberries' bellies and fills all of the cake's pockets.

Poke. Pour. Patience. Photo by James Ransom

Chill the cake for four hours, enough time for it to become pudding-soft. Then spoon more leche on top and scatter over any lingering blackberries. You've got a cake, a custardy blackberry pie, and a pudding all in one. You have gamed the system.

It's a cake that's as refreshing as cakes get; that's better the next day; and that's delicious eaten cold, straight from the fridge. If you want to get creative, try using halved strawberries, cherries, or sugar plums instead. Or take your personal favorite tres leches recipe and add fruit; I, for one, want to try blueberries or raspberries on top of this coconut tres leches.

Tidal pools of cream. Photo by James Ransom

Sure, it's a lot of dairy to buy for one cake. But drizzle the leftover sweetened condensed milk into your iced coffee, turn that evaporated milk into Laurie Colwin's creamed spinach; and use your whole milk and cream to make ice cream.

Because even if we can't come to a consensus about cake or pie, at least we'll always have ice cream, which—let's all agree—is excellent on either.

Ali Slagle has also said that she would choose raspberries over blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. Please weigh in in the comments below. (I'd choose blueberries over any berries, any day of the week.)

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Nancy
  • robinorig
  • Natalia
  • wendy  bayliss
    wendy bayliss
  • Julie
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Nancy July 19, 2017
There are so many cup-for-cup gluten free flours on the market. Does it seem reasonable that the flour could be substituted for one of these? Gf baking tends toward dryness anyway--what better remedy than soaking it in milk?! Ha!
robinorig July 16, 2017
@Wendy Bayliss Why can't you defrost the frozen berries and then use them like fresh?
Natalia July 12, 2017
I'd love to skip the eggs and substitute with something that won't ruin this cake. Any ideas for what would be the best replacement in this case?
wendy B. July 12, 2017
Do you think this would work with frozen berries (it's freezing cold down in this part of the world, so no fresh berries to be found ☺)
Sarah J. July 12, 2017
I think it should work! Maybe use a few less berries, though—just because I worry that crowding frozen berries on a cake could lead to some steaming issues.
Julie July 11, 2017
Oh... My... I need this in my life immediately!
Sarah J. July 11, 2017
I can say with certainty that you do!
Alexandra S. July 11, 2017