Dirt Cake

Last week, I wrote about my lively conversation with a precocious 12 year old boy named Anthony. He had just finished a week long cooking camp and I was curious to know what he made. His two favorite things were Cowboy Caviar and Dirt Cake.

I had never heard of dirt cake. Suddenly I remembered being a toddler and eating some dirt when I was in the greenhouse with my father. The dirt had a lovely, sweet earthy fragrance and I wanted to eat it. So I did! I remember the grainy texture more than the flavor now.

Dirt cake is a delicious, deceptive dessert that looks like a pot of dirt but tastes like heaven. Making dirt cake is a perfect way to spend time with children. As you make this whimsical treat, you will teach them some basic cooking skills and provide many sensory and tactile pleasures. These desserts are “cup desserts” because they are made individually in clear plastic cups or glasses. You simply layer crushed Oreo cookies (the dirt) with instant chocolate pudding (the mud) and top with gummy worms and artificial flowers or bugs.

To crush the cookies, place them in a Ziploc bag and smash them with a rolling pin until they are finely crushed. Mix the pudding and then assemble the desserts; alternate layers of pudding and cookies. Cover and chill for a couple of hours. But don’t chill them for too long or the cookies will get soggy.

If you want to fancy it up a bit, you can make the chocolate pudding from a recipe. This was the very first thing I learned to make from scratch ingredients and I whipped it up with my sister. My mother usually kept a box of Droste unsweetened cocoa powder from Holland in the cupboard. To this day, it’s the same cocoa powder I use and it’s still in the exact same package – a bright red box with a picture of a Dutch lady wearing a big, funny white hat. I’ve tried other cocoa powders but this one is still my favorite (of course, you can get it on Amazon, $6.99 for 8 ounces).You can make a whipped cream frosting to top off your dirt cake: mix ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa , ⅓ cup powdered sugar, one cup whipping cream and a pinch of salt. Whip the cream first until it forms stiff peaks and fold in the rest. Yum!

I asked Anthony about the next thing he was going to make and he replied “Dessert Cake”. That made me laugh and I’ve been laughing about it ever since. Maybe I can get him on the phone soon and he can tell me all about it.