KENNEBUNK, Maine — Chef Shanna O’Hea of The Kennebunk Inn likes a challenge.

The chef/owner recently was challenged to create a culinary delight using a can of Chef Boyardee on the Food Network show “ Rewrapped.” Her creation — a crumble spice cake — won the competition.

O’Hea, who is head chef at the Inn’s Academe Maine Brasserie and Tavern, is now the proud owner of a year’s supply of beef ravioli.

“In the spirit of giving back,” O’Hea, who made her food TV debut in 2011 on “Chopped,” is baking the winning dessert for guests who make a donation to the Good Shepherd Food Bank this weekend. “People have been asking to try it. I’ll serve this in exchange for canned goods or a cash donation,” said O’Hea.

How did she dream up this this iconic redux in under 30 minutes?

By pureeing a can of beef ravioli and subbing it for applesauce, a chief ingredient in her buttery, nutty, ginger cake. To make her dish stand out, and impress the panel of judges, “I took it in a different direction,” said O’Hea, who gave the BDN a taste this week. “I knew the judges would like it because it’s a little complicated. Dessert is in my comfort zone.”

It sure is.

The autumnal crumble is a layered, crunchy dessert that strikes a sumptuous balance between bold and sweet. Any meaty essence is subsumed in her gourmet take. O’Hea knew molasses was bold enough to mask the beef flavor of the classic heat and serve meal. Cream, made with Myers Rum, was the perfect foil for the raspberry coulis which was laced with Boyardee’s tomato meat sauce pureed in a Vita-Mix. Together it’s as refined as you’re going to get with this 1970s classic.

It sounds like a novelty, but tastes like a signature dish.

Growing up with Boyardee’s Spaghetti O’s, O’Hea, who learned to bake from a classic French pastry chef in New York City, was familiar with the product. “They actually kind of taste the same.”

Known for inventive and playful cuisine such as lobster lo’Maine and Oprah’s O Magazine-approved lobster pot pie, which she now ships across the country, O’Hea is no stranger to the spotlight.

Though she had to travel to New Jersey on a Friday in August at the height of the tourist season to compete, she leapt at the opportunity. “I own my own business, so it’s hard to just disappear, but it’s fun,” said O’Hea, who also re-created her version of beef ravioli, using wonton wrappers, for the first round. “It’s really good PR for the inn.”

And a fine dessert that could become a mainstay. “We’ll see how it goes this weekend.”

A tip of the toque to O’Hea for teaching Chef Boyardee new tricks.

Visit Academe, 45 Main Street, Kennebunk, Friday and Saturday and next Tuesday, Oct. 21, to try her beef ravioli crumble spice cake and re-created ravioli in exchange for a donation to the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.