Introduction: Christmas Pie-cake - Vegan and Gluten-free

About: Specializing in sewing, soldering and snacking. More stuff I do... I teach an interactive fashion and textile class called Wearable and Soft Interactions at California College of the Arts. www.wearablesoftin…

Some believe that there are two kinds of people, people who like pie and people who like cake. I think there's a third kind, people who want both. This recipe is the best of both of those worlds. Made from a sweet and slightly tangy cranberry and pear pie, baked in the middle of a flourless chocolate cake. This pie-cake is a lovely contrast between dark, rich chocolate and a fresh fruit filling. I made this for a thanksgiving potluck (despite the name) and have friends who have vegan and gluten-free diets. Not wanting to leave them out, I made this recipe vegan and gluten-free. It was a HUGE hit at the potluck, a couple days afterwards I was contacted by one of the guests to cater their Christmas party (they overheard me bragging about my job) based on the deliciousness of this pie-cake, true story!

The ingredients include seasonal winter fruits, which makes this a perfect holiday dessert. It's absolutely delicious and will surely be a favorite at any party, plus everyone will be able to enjoy it since it doesn't include any dairy or gluten.

Step 1: Ingredients and Tools

Pie Filling

  • 3 pears (I used firm Bartlett pears)
  • 2.5 cups fresh cranberries
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons of arrowroot starch/flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons butter alternative (I used Earth Balance)

Pie Crust

Making your own is quick and easy, or store bought pie crusts can be found. I mostly see either gluten-free or vegan, but getting it both in one crust is possible too! If you would like to make you own, the ingredients are listed below. Follow the above link for directions on how to make it.

  • 1 1/2 cup gluten-free flour (I used the mix of gluten-free flours listed below)
    • 1/2 cup almond
    • 1/2 cup rice
    • 1/2 cup coconut
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tbsp sugar (less or more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter alternative
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 4 tablespoons ice cold water
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • additional shortening for pie dish


  • 30 ounces of vegan chocolate*
  • 1 cup butter alternative
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Water Ganache

  • 18 ounces of vegan chocolate*
    • 6 for pie topping
    • 12 for "frosting" the cake
  • 1 cup of water

Cake Topping

    • 1 cup fresh cranberries
    • 1 - 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
    • 1 - 2 tablespoons of sugar
    • bundle of fresh mint
    • powdered sugar


    • 9" pie pan
    • 10" spring form pan
    • parchment paper
    • spatula
    • wooden spoon
    • mixing bowls
    • hand strainer (for powdered sugar dusting)
    • double boiler or a small saucepan that can sit in a larger pan

    *chocolate that contains no milk fat (I used a half and half mix of dark and semi-sweet chocolate chips for the cake batter and ganache)

    Step 2: Prepare Fruit

    Rinse pears and cranberries under cool water.

    Peel pears and cut into thin slices.

    Preheat the oven for 375 degrees fahrenheit and place the oven racks on the two lower rungs.

    Step 3: Filling

    In a saucepan, combine sugar, water and arrowroot. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly until thick and smooth. Add cranberries, spices, salt and vanilla and cook for 5-7 minutes until berries pop and start to break up. If the mixture gets to be too thick, add some water 1/2 tablespoon at a time. Take off heat and add butter, stirring it in as it melts

    Pour the cut pears into a large bowl, use a spatula to scrape out the cranberry and sugar mixture in. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir together. Don't over stir it, just enough to evenly combine.

    Step 4: Bake Pie

    Prepare a homemade crust or thaw a store bought one.

    Pour the mixture in the crust and spread it out using a wooden spoon. Put the pie on the upper shelf and a cookie sheet under it to catch any drippings.

    Cook for 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Drop the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

    Step 5: Water Ganache

    After the pie has cooled, it's time to add a chocolate shell on top. This is so the filling does not come out when it's turned upside down in the cake pan later on.

    Combine 6 ounces of chocolate and 1/3 cup of water in a saucepan. Melt the chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly until it's smooth. Pour over the top of the pie and cool for 10 minutes. After than, put it in the fridge to harden.

    Step 6: Cake Batter

    Chop the butter up and combine with the chocolate in a small saucepan. Use a double boiler, if you have it, if not, put some water in a large pan and bring to a boil. Turn the temp down to medium and place the small sauce pan in the water. This acts just as well as a double boiler.

    Stir constantly until smooth. Take off heat and mix in sugar, let sit for 5 minutes.

    Mix in the pumpkin puree.

    Step 7: Bake Pie and Cake As One

    Line the bottom of the 10" springform pan with parchment paper and grease the sides.

    Pour 1/3 - 1/2 of the cake batter in, spread the batter evenly using a wooden spoon.

    Now is the time where two become one. :)

    Use a small knife to cut along the outside of the crust. Take the pan and turn it upside down, dropping the pie in the middle. Don't worry if some breaks occur in the crust during the process, just reassemble any pieces that break away. My crust stuck to the pan a little and broke up after I turned it. After it's baked, you won't be able to tell.

    Pour the rest of the batter on top, spreading it around the sides.

    Bake at 300 degrees fahrenheit for 60 minutes.

    Once done, turn off heat, open the oven and pull out the rack to let cool and settle for 10 minutes. The cake will still appear and feel a little soft. Put the cake in the fridge to chill and set over night.

    Once it sets over night, it does not need to be refrigerated to stay firm.

    Step 8: Remove From Pan

    Take the cake out of the fridge, watch out, it's heavy... with deliciousness.

    Put a plate on top of the pan and flip it, with cake and pan. Unhook the sides of the springform and remove. Next, remove the bottom and the parchment paper. If the bottom is proving to be difficult, heat up some water in a large pan and carefully touch it to the bottom (which is now the top) for a few minutes to warm the chocolate up enough to loosen.

    When everything is removed, the cake will need a bit of a make over. This is where the second batch of water ganache comes in.

    Mix 12 ounces of chocolate with 2/3 cup of water, stir over low heat until smooth. Use a butter knife or small spatula to spread the ganache over the sides and top.

    Step 9: Finishing Touches

    Mix cranberries with the maple syrup, coating them well. Add sugar to the mix to give them a glistening and snowy effect.

    Dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar using a hand strainer.

    Place the sugared cranberries around the edge of the pie-cake and in the middle, arranged with mint leaves to look like holly berries. The piecaken is complete!

    To cut, use a sharp knife. It's can be helpful to warm the nice up a little if taking it right out of the fridge. It's a rich dessert, so small cuts go a long way. Though it's so good, it's nearly impossible not to eat a quarter of the cake right after the first bite. :)

    If you are headed to a party and short on pie-cake sized tupperware, keep it on a plate and slide the springform over the sides. The top edge will come just above the top of the pie-cake, cover the top with tin foil and you are good to go.

    Enjoy and if you make one, let me know how it goes in the comments!