The Pie Vs. Cake Championship Match: One Dessert To Rule Them All


Butler/Duke who? NCAA wha? Today’s real championship is about one pie, one cake, and the final battle to bring closure to an endless war. It all comes down to this. And there can only be one.

[The original bracket and tournament guidelines are available here.]

After Friday’s extended competition, we saw the fall of a giant: #1 seed Apple Pie has left the tournament empty-handed, much to the dismay of many a fruit fan. Meanwhile, #4 German Chocolate Cake suffered, losing the conference to a pastry that is controversial at best. So let’s celebrate your conference champions: Pie Conference champion Cheesecake, and Cake Conference champ Red Velvet. They have been fairly determined as the best pie and cake, respectively, known to man. And now they will move forward for one last shot at glory. 32 competitors have come and gone, two remain — but there can only be one victor. It’s Cheesecake vs. Red Velvet, and the winner takes all. The pie/cake debate will end with this.

Before we vote, let’s take a deeper look at our competitors.

While all Red Velvet Cakes use food coloring, the Red Velvet cake is not, per the accusations of its detractors, merely a yellow cake with food coloring. The cocoa is what makes it special, and the chemical reaction of its ingredients — buttermilk and vinegar in particular — bring out the red hues in the cocoa (the red anthocyanin, to be extact). The richness of Red Velvet’s color is the sum of a union between science and aesthetics.

Proponents of Red Velvet Cake thus justly argue that it is not, per the belief of its detractors, cake that merely features red food coloring. Rather, the red is steeped in patriotic history: When foods were rationed during World War II, beets were used to enhance the color of the cake. Red Velvet is the sweet tooth’s battle against the Axis nations — it symbolizes the fight for good in the face of injustice, and is as patriotic as the red on any Allied flag.

Despite its name, cheesecake is a creamy pie — like a DNA test to determine paternity, the cheesecake’s crusty base, that which holds it together, confirms it is a pie. It is a versatile creation, lending itself to a variety of preparations that can pleasantly occupy and challenge cooks while pleasing a wide swatch of palates. Cheesecakes can be baked or unbaked; they can be made with heavy cream or sour cream or, of course, a variety of cheeses, ranging from cottage cheese to cream cheese to ricotta or mascarpone or any other soft cheese product.

Much like Red Velvet, Cheesecake also has deep historical routes — the ancient Greek Aegimus is said to have authored what could be considered the first cheesecake cookbook; ancient Roman Cato the Elder included two recipes for religious use in his text on farming and agriculture. Cheesecake rests in the sweet spot that is ancient democracy; it is to dessert as Latin is to the romance languages.

And now, we’ll take to the polls. Voting will remain open until 4/6, 2pm EDT — at which time a winner will be made clear, and the debate between pie and cake will be settled once and for all. Ready thyselves, and take to the battlefield!

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