You've never seen a pie like this.
Jessica Leigh Clark-Bojin didn't set out to change the world when she began baking towering, vertically-inclined pies. But now, it's only a matter of time before her epic creations take over wedding cake's coveted spot on the buffet table.
"I'm actually a filmmaker and my formal degree was in graphic design," the Vancouver-based artist told Food & Wine in a phone interview. "Baking was just this random thing that came along. A fluke."
In July 2016, after making a determined New Year's resolution in 2015 to not eat any sugar for a year and–somehow—sticking to it, Clark-Bojin decided to figure out a way to get some sugar-free desserts into her diet. "I really, really like sweets," she laughed. "So, out of desperation for some kind of dessert that didn't have sugar in it, I learned to bake pies without any sugar."
A self-proclaimed "big nerd," Clark-Bojin wasn't satisfied with a plain-old pie crust. Yearning for a way to "nerd up" her baking, she began searching Google for interesting pie crust designs, but, ultimately, she was nonplussed by the things she found. There really wasn't anything out there in the realm of "experimental pie design."
A subsequent deep-dive into the history of pies only served to further pique her interest.
"In Tudor times and Medieval times, pies used to be really complicated and tall. They were a central feature at all sorts of events," she explained excitedly. "I realized that now, pies just aren't treated the same way as other desserts in terms of pop culture representation and other interesting techniques. I wanted to see if I could do something about that."
The vertical element came into play when she began thinking about the wedding possibilities for these intricate pies.
"A lot of people really want pies at their weddings instead of cake, but they end up going with cakes anyway," she explained. "Because of the low profile of pies, they just don't look as great on the buffet table. So I started thinking, how can I build them up?
She created her blog, Pies Are Awesome, in August 2016, to showcase her creations. But the vertical "piescrapers," as she calls them, were, initially, "disaster after disaster."
"It was pretty hilarious, actually," she admitted. "Finally, I hit upon a way to stabilize different tiers using techniques from paper sculpture, another hobby of mine. I realized how to double up certain layers of dough with egg in the middle, allowing me to push these experiments higher and higher."
As she gained recognition online, her extraordinary photographs of tiered pies caught the eye of places like Food Network and The Chew, and what had begun as a personal experiment was suddenly garnering Clark-Bojin millions of hits per week.
Now, the pastry maven's goal is to teach others how to make equally epic pies. She developed an entire line of "pie guides" intended to allow others to mimic her work at home, and has since launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund them. A corresponding book and guide on the art of modifying store-bought pies, aptly titled "Piemodding," will be published June 5.
"In recent months, I've decided to really make this my central focus. And so far, it's been going great," she added. "I've been having more fun doing this than I've had with any other job my entire life."
If you want to taste one of these sky-high beauties, however, you'll have to get to work in your own kitchen. "I don't sell the actual pies themselves, no—at least not yet. People ask me that a lot," she said. "I'd far rather teach people to do it themselves. I'd rather spread the art."