The world of baking has taken a turn for the visual. With the rise in social media’s relevance to a business’s success, bakers are looking to create treats for not just the taste buds, but the eyes as well.
One person who understands that well is Jessica Leigh Clark-Bojin. The pie maker who blogs about her creations under the name Pies Are Awesome has become world famous for her detailed pies. Also known as @ThePieous on social media, Clark-Bojin has been enchanting pie lovers with her epic pie art creations since 2016. She has appeared as a judge on The Today Show and Food Network, as well as in hundreds of print and online publications, and has worked with major names in popular culture like Star Wars and Marvel.
Now, she is bringing her pies to an even bigger audience with the release of a new book, which hit bookshelves on Tuesday, November 9. Pies Are Awesome: The Definitive Pie Art Book: Step-by-Step Designs for All Occasions features groundbreaking decorating techniques and twenty-five pie art projects that are centered around cherished celebrations throughout the entire year.
The ample step-by-step photos take you through Clark-Bojin’s easy-to-follow pie art techniques, while the friendly and funny writing style encourages experimentation and creative discovery. Pies Are Awesome also includes tricks for working with your own tried-and-true dough recipes and store-bought dough; modifications to personalize projects; and online resources for printable templates, pie communities, friendly challenges and more.
The book arrived at just the right time with holiday season upon us. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah are covered in detail, but so are many more celebrations that take place throughout the year. From year-round events such as birthdays and weddings to cultural holidays like Diwali and Día de los Muertos, Clark-Bojin structured the book around celebrations for a specific reason.
“To me, the whole point of decorative pies is that it makes people happy,” she says. “Pies are awesome on their own – they’re delicious, they’re nostalgic, people have strong connections to them especially when it comes to the pies of their family and cherished family recipes. But when you can combine that with some kind of visual subject matter that is going to put a massive smile on a person’s face, that just amps up the awesome.”
Adding to the fun of the book, Pies Are Awesome even received a foreword from legendary pastry chef and television personality Duff Goldman. Previously, Goldman has reached out to Clark-Bojin because he was doing a pie art challenge against Buddy Valastro on the Food Network show “Buddy vs. Duff” and had some questions about what dough to use. After that, they stayed in touch and continue to help each other out with baking queries.
Pie artistry was a relatively untouched concept when Clark-Bojin started her journey back in 2016. Decorative pies were not seen as a priority for consumers or bakers alike, but that has changed in response to public interest online.
“It has been fascinating to watch the evolution from being the only pie artist on the Internet in 2016 to now, there’s hundreds of amazing pie artists out there,” she says.
She started baking, interestingly enough, as a result of a resolution to avoid sugar for one year. Pies were one of the few desserts she could make that didn’t need added sugar. One of her original pies featured a cut-out shape of a dragon with apple peels to look like it was breathing fire. She posted the image to social media for her family to see, and it received high praise. She soon looked at pie art as a potential venture.
In the years since, Clark-Bojin has created some truly masterful pies. She has become well-known for her “piescrapers,” pies that are built upward using a series of engineering and baking tricks to enhance structural integrity and make the pies stable. She has also wowed on Instagram with her detailed pie portraits depicting a wide range of celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Vin Diesel and David Bowie, among others.
One of the reasons there hadn’t been a prevalence in pie art up until that point, as opposed to cake art and cookie art, was the difficulty in achieving the end result without things puffing up and changing unpredictably.
The first thing you need to keep in mind is what your goal is with the pie. Your dough and filling will depend on a variety of factors, including time (when taste and texture are your only considerations), following a family recipe and putting a new spin on it, or if you’re creating a pie portrait.
“Once you know what that critical element is that you have to get right first, then you can reverse-engineer the rest of it,” Clark-Bojin says. “For instance, if you’re making a pie-trait, you’ll need a dough that won’t puff up much and distort the image. Whereas, if you’re making Grandma’s secret peach pie recipe, it’s going be a butter dough and you’ll need a design that works with that color of filling and the dough.”
One of the things Clark-Bojin has included in Pies Are Awesome is a big grid that lists every type of pie dough a baker might encounter and what each dough is good/bad at, so if they’re in a hurry and don’t have a lot of time to research and experiment, they can look that up easily in the book.
Helping bakers is important to Clark-Bojin because she believes that is one of the most important elements of the baking community: the willingness to share tips amongst each other.
“My goal with the book is to let people know what is possible in the world of pie art and set them up for success, but also all pie is good pie and pie art is about spreading joy.”
She continues her work with educating others in the concept through pie tutorials online, as well as live events. In May of this year, she was one of the many distinguished speakers at The Bake Fest, a virtual gathering providing the global baking community with the unique opportunity to connect, learn and grow, and she’ll do that again in 2022.