Do More People Like Pie Or Cake?

In the grand scheme of culinary delights, the pie vs. cake debate remains a friendly rivalry that adds flavor to our collective love for desserts. Whether you find solace in a warm slice of pie or revel in the sweetness of a perfectly frosted cake, one thing is certain – both have earned their rightful place in the pantheon of beloved treats. Perhaps, in the end, the true winner is the joy we share in savoring these delightful creations with friends and family.

Which Is Better, Pie or Cake?

At the Southern Foodways Alliance symposium, the storied desserts faced off—via the NYT’s Kim Severson and CNN’s Kat Kinsman. For whom was victory sweet?
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CNN’s Kat Kinsman of Eatocracy and Kim Severson of the New York Times debate pie versus cake at the Southern Foodways Alliance

This past weekend the Southern Foodways Alliance held its 16th symposium in lovely Oxford, Mississippi. Along with some incredible food and inspiring presentations on “Women at Work,” there was a Lincoln–Douglas-style debate on a subject that divided attendees more than any Red State/Blue State alignment could: Pie vs. Cake. Both baked goods have a rich history in the South, but only one, to borrow a phrase, would reign supreme.

And so it fell to Kat Kinsman from CNN’s Eatocracy (Team Pie) and Kim Severson of The New York Times (Team Cake) to make their cases. What follows are highlights from the debates. We won’t tell you who came out ahead in Oxford, but we’d love to get your take. And in case you need some sugary fuel, make some cakeOr pie.

The Case for Pie, by Kat Kinsman

Pie Is Humble
“Unlike its gussied-up and admittedly lovely cousin, cake, the humble pie is born of economy and austerity—a testament to its makers’ thriftiness, prowess, and sensibility. If we wanna get all historical about it, we can look to the Egyptians’ use of dough as a cooking, serving and storage vessel. We can note Medieval Britain’s fetish for stuffing meats, dates, currants, and pepper into crusts (along with the occasional live bird and court dwarf) in order to serve and preserve it. The Pilgrims (who never got invited to the live bird pie parties, anyhow) adapted some of the same strategy when they set up shop in the New World (minus the whole morally dicey dwarf encasement part of it).”

Pie Is Honest
Cake’s “flaws, both cosmetic and culinary, can easily be ameliorated with the application of a whole lot of frou-frou crap. Sometimes the cake is a lie. But pie: pie is naked, unapologetic, and honest. It eschews geometric perfection and requires no extra adornment.”

Pie Is Your Friend
“Cake, in its most exalted form, is showy. It is smooth-edged, statuesque, and…almost ‘too pretty to eat.’ It is Carrie Underwood to pie’s June Carter Cash (and frankly, who’d you rather have at your table?).”

Pie Is Skill
“To make a perfectly socially acceptable…cake these days, you don’t actually need to know much of the art of cake making”… But if you are “crafting” a pie crust, “it’s most likely because at some point in your life, someone thought well enough of you to stand beside you at a counter and gift the muscle memory from her hands to yours. Your mother, your aunt, your grandmother, or—heaven forfend—your mother-in-law decided it was time to truly assume you into the sisterhood. She guided your fingers as they worked the flour into the fat, flicked in the water, and kneaded it all to the proper mass.”

Pie Is Currency
“As we all know, in the South, there is perhaps no currency more vaunted and valuable than having a recipe with an ingredient that no one else can figure out… So while there is now a particular canon of classic pie formats—your fruit pies, cream pies, nut pies, custard pies, chocolate pies, meringue pies, molasses pies, mince pies, sweet potato pies, onion pies à la Eudora Welty, savory meat pies, not to mention single crust, double crust, lattice crust, hand pies, and so on—there is enough variance to allow each happy homemaker to put her own stamp upon it. And believe that hers is the superior version.”

The Case for Cake, by Kim Severson

Cake Is Essential
“Like family and church, cake is one of the pillars of Southern culture. Cake’s position as the cultural currency for Southern women is of such importance that I have worn a dress. It is the first time I have been in a dress in more than 20 years.”

Cake Is History
“There are cakes invented to honor presidents, like the dense, creamy fruitcake named after George Washington. We have the Robert E. Lee cake, made with soft sponge cake and tart citrus, because the Confederate commander loved it.”

Cake Is Community
“Cakes were sold to rebuild churches in the aftermath of the Civil War and are still the preferred vehicle at bake sales. The very best cake would go first at the community dinner, and its baker elevated to something no pie would ever allow her to achieve.”

Cake Can Get You Out of Trouble
“If pies are folk art, cakes are masterpieces. And they don’t try to break you out of prison with a pie.”

Cake Is Life
“Cake is the marker of holidays and life events, a way to say this thing, this moment, has meaning. Real meaning. One has a wedding cake, not a wedding pie. More than 350,000 babies are born each month. And when they turn one, according to brand new research commissioned by Betty Crocker and unearthed by the crack research team of cake supporters at Food & Wine magazine, 58 percent of mothers say watching their one-year-olds dive into their first birthday cake is the most memorable moment of the child’s party.”

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