Dirt Cup-Inspired Chocolate Cake

To celebrate Earth Day this year, I want to make something special this year! As my mind was sifting through everything I could make to celebrate, I remember dirt cups! As a child, dirt cups were one of my favorite treats. There’s something so wonderful about the simplicity of them. How can you go wrong with pudding, cool whip, and crushed oreos?! They’re also really easy to make, and I tried to keep this minimalist theme in mind while making this dirt cup-inspired cake.

This is definitely one of the easiest, and simplest cake recipes I’ve ever made! Ironically, it is also one of the most delicious chocolate cakes I’ve made. The pudding filling isn’t too sweet, so this is a great cake for anyone who doesn’t have a huge sweet tooth, or might not be the biggest fan of frosting. The recipe can be found below:

  • 1 batch of your favorite chocolate sponge cake (love making Yolanda Gampp’s chocolate cake recipe, using black cocoa)
  • 1 package of instant chocolate pudding (+2 cups whole milk)
  • 1 container Cool Whip
  • 1 package of Oreos, chopped in small pieces
  • gummy worms
  • green buttercream (optional)

Begin by making the chocolate cake layers. You can use whatever recipe is your favorite, but I highly recommend using a chocolate sponge cake for this, and not adding simple syrup! Usually sponge cake and simple syrup go hand in hand, but since the pudding filling is pretty soft, it keeps the cake nice and moist. This recipe is very flexible, so you can make whatever size of cake layers you prefer, and however many layers you want! I opted to make four, 7-inch cake layers, but this could definitely be made with three 8-inch layers, or even two 9-inch layers!

Once the layers are baked, allow them to cool fully. I like to place the layers in the freezer for about 45 minutes to accelerate the cooling process. Once fully cooled, level the tops using a serrated knife.

While the layers bake and cool, prepare the pudding filling! Whisk together 1 package of instant chocolate pudding with 2 cups of cold milk. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for about 15 minutes, to allow it to set. Once the mixture has firmed up, fold in the entire container of cool whip using a  spatula. When the cool whip has been fully incorporated, cover and set aside.

dirt cup pudding filling

Then it’s time to assemble the cake! I chose to stack the layers using acetate sheets (channeling a momofuku-inspired look), but after I remade this cake for one of my Food Network live streams and omitted the acetate sheets, I found it’s actually much easier to assemble this cake without them! The pudding mixture stays rather soft, so it doesn’t really firm up after being chilled. I also had some of my Oreos cascade down around the base as I removed the sheets.

Dirt cup cake - removing acetate sheet

To build the cake, cover the base layer with a generous layer of pudding mixture, spreading it evenly over the layer using an offset spatula. Sprinkle with chopped Oreos. Repeat with remaining cake layers. Once all the layers are stacked, top the cake with one final layer of pudding mixture and Oreo bits. If desired, you can also pipe some grass patches on top of the cake with some green buttercream and a small grass tip (like a Wilton #233).  The last step is to add the gummy works on top!!

dirt cup cake - with dirt cup

This cake feeds around 20 people, and will be gone before you know it! Be sure to cut the cake using a very sharp knife, as it will be very soft with all the pudding between the layers. I brought the leftover cake into my office, and my coworkers couldn’t get enough of it.

 

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Chocolate Blackout Cake

Few things can beat a good chocolate cake. I’d heard of Brooklyn Blackout Cakes before, but I figured it was just a really over the top chocolate cake. I had no clue it involved pudding, cake crumbs, and that the name in no way relates the chocolate in the cake!!

Here’s a brief snippet of history behind the name of this cake! This cake concept was developed by the Ebinger Baking Company during World War II. Civilian black out drills were being practiced in Brooklyn to ensure that light from the city wasn’t reflecting on US ships off the coast, giving away their position. Ebinger got creative with their marketing and named their cake after these drills. Their cake was filled with pudding, covered in a fudge frosting, and coated with cake crumbs!!

To honor the original cake concept, I’ve made this with chocolate sponge cake layers (soaked in chocolate simple syrup), filled with a chocolate pudding, and covered in a milk chocolate ganache.

I used a few of my favorite recipes, along with some new recipes to create this cake. This was my first time making pudding from scratch, and I tried a few recipes before I found one I was happy with. I highly recommend making it yourself, but if you’re short on time, you can always substitute in boxed pudding.

Recipes:

  • 1 batch (4 lbs) of Yolanda Gampp’s chocolate sponge cake recipe (trimmed cake tops crumbed and reserved)
  • 1 cup chocolate simple syrup (1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar dissolved together, + 3 TBSP cocoa)
  • 1 batch chocolate pudding
  • 1 batch milk chocolate ganache (650 grams milk chocolate, melted down with 217 grams heavy cream) – to be made in advance
  • 1 cup chocolate frosting (1 cup American buttercream plus 2 Tbsp cocoa, and 2 additional tsp heavy cream)

Make the milk chocolate ganache first, as it needs at least a few hours to cool and set. To make, simply place both the chocolate and heavy cream in a heat proof bowl, and heat it for 30 second increments (stirring between). Usually after about 2 minutes of heat, all the chocolate is melted. Once the mixture is fully incorporated, place plastic wrap over the top of the ganache, and let it sit at room temperature. Before adding the room temperature ganache to a cake, I give it a slow stir with a spatula.

I also recommend making the chocolate simple syrup in advance. It needs time to cool before it can be used, and preparing it ahead of time makes the following day a  bit easier. Place the sugar and water in a pot, and bring to a simmer. Once the sugar has dissolved, mix in the cocoa, and turn  off the heat. Place in a sealed Tupperware container in the fridge overnight.

Bake 4, 7-inch round cake layers using Yo’s chocolate cake recipe and instructions. Allow layers to cool fully before leveling. Place pans into the freezer for 1 hour, to accelerate the cooling process, and lock in the moisture.

While the layers bake, make the chocolate pudding. Combine the sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt in medium saucepan; slowly mix in the milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil, and continue stirring for 1 minute. Remove the pan from heat, and stir in the butter and vanilla. Pour the pudding into a separate bowl, and press plastic wrap directly onto surface to prevent a skin from forming. Place in the fridge to cool.

After the cake layers are baked and fully cooled, level the cakes by cutting off the tops using a serrated knife. Place cake tops in a large bowl, and crumb using a fork. Set aside. Use a large, sterile paint brush to douse the cake layers with a generous coat of chocolate simple syrup.

Next, it’s time to assemble the cake! Place the ganache into a piping bag, and pipe a ring around the perimeter of the cake layer.

blackout ganache boarded piping

Scoop about 3/4 of a cup of pudding into the center of the cake layer, and use an offset spatula to evenly spread it out to the ganache boarder.

blacout image pudding spread

Repeat this process with the remaining cake layers. Once stacked, cover the cake with a thick layer of chocolate ganache, and smooth with a bench scrapper. Place chocolate cake crumbs around the base of the cake.

blackout crumbs around base

Use a large frosting tip (I used an Ateco 869) to pipe a boarder of chocolate frosting around the top of the cake, then fill the center with additional cake crumbs.

blackout piping frosting on top

Then cut in and enjoy! This cake was DELICIOUS! I brought in the leftovers for my coworkers, and they couldn’t get enough of it 🙂

blackout slice

brooklyn blackout cake uncut