FARGO – We all have holiday traditions. Mine include watching “White Christmas,” spending too much money and – as of late – making crazy dessert mashups. I blame my fellow Forum columnist Tammy Swift for planting the seed when she wrote about the Cherpumple in 2010. You’ve probably heard of the Cherpumple which is three pies (apple, cherry, and pumpkin) baked inside three cake mixes (yellow, white, and spice or carrot). Swift described it as a “gastric Chernobyl”.
She might not have been impressed but I was. A few years later, I treated my family to the Pumpecapple, which is similar to the Cherpumple, but contains pumpkin pie surrounded by spice cake, pecan pie surrounded by chocolate cake and apple pie surrounded by caramel cake. I called it a “monstrosity” at the time but my family seemed to enjoy the spectacle of it all.
So this year, I was looking for my next mash up when I found a link for the Pielogen by Executive Pastry Chef Zac Young at Food.com. It followed the madness of the mashup by combining an eggnog cheesecake with a pecan pie and a chocolate caramel cake log. But it also looked spectacular – like a real Christmas log. I read the recipe and it looked fantastic, but also a little time-consuming. I encourage you to go to his site to try it yourself.
However, I was feeling a little time-crunched this week, so I decided to take Young’s Pielogen and simplify it. (I also think we need to tweak the name. Pielogen almost sounds like a computer program. Let’s go with PieLogNog, to celebrate all three layers of the dessert.)
I decided to combine a few recipes to make the easy PieLogNog cake. But to summarize, I used Young’s Pielogen recipe for the chocolate caramel log, A Taste of Home recipe for the eggnog cheesecake, one that uses store-bought eggnog instead of creme fraiche and whiskey. I also completely cheated by using a frozen, store-bought pecan pie along with a Pillsbury buttercream mix and caramel sundae sauce. (I hope Santa doesn’t put coal in my stocking).
For this dessert, how you put it all together is key. Watch that process in our video.
Because the eggnog cheesecake turned out to be larger than the pecan pie, I used it as the base, followed by the pie, then the caramel chocolate log. I took Young’s advice and used Health bar pieces to accent the bottom of the “log”. And because we’re in the north where Christmas is almost always white, I also sprinkled a bit of powdered sugar on the log. In the end, I’d say my simplified PieLogNog looked a little more rustic (ahem…messy) than Young’s Pielogen. I guess that’s why he’s the professional pastry chef. But I was pleased with the results.
This is an absolutely decadent holiday dessert. According to Young, one piece (about ⅛ cake) is 2,350 calories. That’s shocking, but after having just a couple of bites of the cake, I have a hard time believing anyone could eat more than just a few bites. It’s very, very good, but very, very rich. The eggnog cheesecake was my favorite part with the creaminess of the filling and the sweet graham cracker crust made even better when some of the pecan pie filling would ooze into the bite. The salted caramel buttercream that makes up the bark of the log is also a nice complement to the dark chocolate cake.
I’d call the the Pielogen (or even my simplified PieLogNog) a definite holiday tradition worth repeating.
Chocolate Caramel Log Cake/Salted Caramel Frosting
1⁄2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup warm water
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1⁄4 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1⁄4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 Pillsbury Purely Simple Buttercream Frosting Mix
3/4 stick of butter
1/4 cup caramel sundae sauce
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup eggnog
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
Dash ground nutmeg
Pecan Pie: Your favorite recipe or pick one from your grocer’s freezer
Chocolate Salted Caramel Frosting
2 Pillsbury Chocolate Purely Simple Buttercream Mixes
1 1/2 sticks of butter
1/2 cup caramel sauce
2 teaspoons of salt
20 mini Heath bars, crushed
2 tablespoons (or so) of powedered sugar
Decorations for cake (greenery)
Cake log: Preheat the oven to 325. Line one jelly roll pan with parchment paper spraying the sides and bottom with nonstick spray before lining. In a medium bowl, whisk the warm water with the cocoa powder until smooth. In a KitchenAid mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl by hand), beat the sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs on medium speed until combined. Turn the machine to lowest speed and add the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir until just incorporated. Stream in the cocoa power and water mixture and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Stir in the buttermilk, the batter will be very liquid. Spread the batter into an even layer making sure to get into the corners of the pan. Bake at 325 for 12 to 18 minutes until the cake is springy to the touch and baked through. Let cool while you make the buttercream.
Salted Caramel Buttercream: Follow directions on the back of the Pillsbury Purely Simple Buttercream mix, but only use 3/4 stick of butter instead of 1 stick. While mixing in the water, add 1/4 cup of caramel sauce and salt. Spread the buttercream on the cooled cake. Starting with the short end of one of the strips, start rolling the cake on itself to make a pinwheel, peeling the parchment as you go. When you reach the end of the first strip, gently place it a few inches away from the short edge of the next strip. Continue rolling the second strip around the first wheel. Repeat with the 3rd strip until you have a giant chocolate caramel pinwheel. Freeze for at least 4 hours.
Eggnog cheesecake: Place a greased 9-in. springform pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil (about 18 in. square). Securely wrap foil around pan. In a small bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, sugar and butter. Press onto the bottom of pan. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 325° for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and flour until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Gradually stir in the eggnog, extract and nutmeg. Pour filling over crust. Place in a large baking pan; add 1 in. of hot water to larger pan. Place springform pan in a large baking pan; add 1 in. of hot water to larger pan. Bake at 325° for 45-50 minutes or until center is just set and top appears dull. Remove springform pan from water bath. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer.
Chocolate Salted Caramel Buttercream: Mix two packages of Pillsbury Purely Simple Chocolate Buttercream Mix as per package instructions except decrease from 2 sticks of butter to 1 1/2. While mixing in the water, add 1/2 cup of caramel sauce and 2 teaspoons of salt. Set aside.
To Assemble: Place a dollop of frosting on a cake platter to secure the dessert. Place the eggnog cheesecake on the plate. Top with thin layer of chocolate caramel buttercream. Top that with the pecan pie, frost that layer. Trim off the top of the chocolate caramel log to reveal the “cross section of the log” then place it on top of the frosted pecan pie. Frost the sides of the cake. Sprinkle crushed Health bars at the base of the cake. Using a cake comb or a carrot cutter, make lines on the outside of the cake to resemble a log. Sprinkle with powdered sugar for a snow effect. Garnish with greenery and red berries.