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February 22, 2011 / Kate

Dessert Turducken aka Capownie!

Special Winter Edition

Remember the third Indiana Jones movie? The good one after the bad one and before the mediocre one? Sean Connery plays Indy’s dad and his holy grail is the actual Holy Grail. Indy eventually finds it guarded by some ancient dude, they vanquish the bad guy and, well, it’s all pretty anti-climactic from there. I mean, it’s The Grail and they just shove it in a saddle bag and ride off. The faux grail was far more exciting. It could instantly age you to dust, it was like watching a skin care infomercial in reverse.

Anyway, MY holy grail has long been the Dessert Turducken. For those that don’t know (For shame, foodies. For shame.), Turducken is a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken [see diagram]. How fun is that?! Seriously. An alarmingly quick Google search indicates that no one really knows where turducken originated, though the French and the English seem to lay the greatest claim on it. It’s mostly agreed upon that it’s been around for a couple hundred years and whoever thought of it was, quite certainly, insane. And awesome. I’m sure turducken’s creator would’ve gone on to invent many more astounding and logic-defying recipes if he/she hadn’t perished in a tragic accident involving an attempt to roast a whole pig from within a cow.

When I first learned of turducken, I knew there had to be a way to make its dessert equivalent: Three complete desserts, one inside another. I came up with a number of rules regarding what would constitute an actual dessert turducken, but they basically boiled down to each of the three desserts had to be desserts in their own right and not “fillings” (e.g. mousse, it’s a dessert but it’s also frequently a filling, therefore it doesn’t count). This was tough and for a while I was stumped.

My salvation came this past winter when a few of my friends, knowing that I am a crazy person, sent links to a dessert being made by a bakery out on the East Coast called Pumpple Cake. You can read about it, but it’s basically an apple pie in a vanilla cake and a pumpkin pie in a chocolate cake, layered and frosted. This was genius! A food humorist out on the West Coast did them one better with the Cherpumple, which added a third layer of cherry pie baked into vanilla cake (the apple pie was in a spice cake). Though he used premade pies and cake mixes — boo.

Of course neither of these is dessert turducken by my rules since they have only two layers of dessert; I needed a third. At first I was going to drop cookies into a pie, but then I decided I really don’t like pumpkin pie and changed it to pecan and for some reason brownies seemed a natural fit. Duh! So I had my turducken: a chocolate cake stuffed with a pecan pie stuffed with a brownie topped with a vanilla cake stuffed with an apple pie and covered in caramel buttercream — “Capownie,” CAke+Pie+brOWNIE. (Note: I was going to put a blondie into the apple pie, but given that it was to be the top layer of the cake, I feared disaster awaited in the slicing. Since this was all a big gambly experiment, I decided to leave the blondie out. Sorry purists.)

UPDATE 2/21/12: Full (and improved) Capownie recipe can be found here.

The complete recipe is far too long to detail here (shoot me line if you really want the whole darn thing), but, should you wish to use up four or five days of your life in pursuit of the ultimate dessert absurdity I will share some of the things I learned:

  1. Pre-cook the apples before you bake them in the pie. You’re going to want to get all the liquids out that you can. I cooked them in a saucepan on medium for about 15 min, draining the juices at least twice. Then I added some cornstarch, brown sugar, spices and maple syrup and cooked it for another 5 min. You want to make sure the apples still have some texture; you don’t want to reduce them to applesauce.
  2. About 1/3 of a regular brownie recipe should fill a 9″ crust with enough room for about 1/2 of a normal pecan pie recipe on top
  3. Line the bottoms of the pie and cake pans with greased parchment paper for successful removal.
  4. If you make 9″ pies, you will need a 10″ x 3″ deep cake pan for the cakes. It’s ginormous.
  5. Don’t undercook the pies, they really won’t cook anymore from inside the cake.
  6. Bring the pies up to room temperature before you try baking them into the cakes. Otherwise they will keep the surrounding batter from getting hot enough to cook, resulting in a verrrrry long bake time.

Some friends and I did a 5k run before we tried eating the Capownie. It’s delicious, but you’ll need all the help you can get. (Full recipe here.)

And because I love you guys, here’s THE BEST caramel frosting I’ve ever had, EVER. Seriously.

The Best Caramel Buttercream

(adapted from Salted Caramel Frosting from and Classic Caramel Sauce from Cook’s Illustrated)

Note: This makes just enough to cover the outside of the Capownie.

1 cup water
1 tbsp corn syrup
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter, cold
1 tsp vanilla extract

16 tbsp unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
2 tsp kosher salt
2 cups powdered sugar

Pour 1 cup water into 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan; add corn syrup and sugar to center of pot to keep granules from adhering to sides of pot. Bring to boil over high heat, covered. Uncover pot, DO NOT STIR! You can insert a candy thermometer at this point, but you don’t have to. Continue to boil until syrup is thick and straw-colored, registering 300° on candy thermometer, about 15-20 minutes. You need to watch it like a hawk from now on, it only takes seconds to go from “caramel” to “black death.” Reduce heat to medium-high; continue to cook until sugar is medium/dark amber, and registers 340° on candy thermometer, about 5-10 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, when temperature of syrup reaches 300° and is lightly colored, bring cream and salt to simmer in small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over a low heat. Keep cream lightly simmering until the sugar has reached the right color/temperature.

Remove sugar syrup from heat. Pour about one quarter of hot cream into sugar syrup; let bubbling subside. Add remaining cream; let bubbling subside. Stir very gently until smooth; stir in butter. Set aside until cool to the touch, about 25 minutes.

Combine butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add powdered sugar, and mix until completely incorporated.

Turn mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add caramel. Beat frosting on medium-high speed until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until stiff, about 30 minutes, before using.



Leave a Comment
  1. rsmacaalay / Feb 22 2011 11:46 pm

    Wow thats what I call DESSERT!!! Can I have a slice please?

    • Kate / Feb 24 2011 10:29 am

      Haha, thanks! I’ve got some in the freezer, we’ll have to trade ;-) I love the photos on your site — you are a much better food photographer than I.

  2. spicegirlfla / Jul 12 2011 1:02 pm

    OMG! that is truly amazing! and oh so much work, but for this stunning masterpiece, it is well worth it! I seriously doubt I will attempt to make it, but I will tell everyone I know about your Cowponie!!

    • Kate / Jul 12 2011 5:14 pm

      Thank you! It was both a lot of work and worth it. I had so much fun making it, although there was quite a bit of praying and cursing in my kitchen that week!


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