Monday, April 4, 2011

Stop 8: Arkansas Dirt Cake

I am not from the south and have not spent a lot of time in the south.  Therefore, my knowledge of most southern recipes comes from Paula Deen.  Because of this, I assume all southern recipes have a lot of butter in them.  In this case, I was right.  

In the book, Warren Brown says that this is a recipe that is normally made from Oreo cookies and instant pudding.  But, he says, this is as easy, and totally worth it, to make it all from scratch.  That last part is a lie.  

Here's what the recipe calls for: a bunch of cookies all ground up to look like dirt (get it?), some cream cheese, some butter, some powdered sugar, oh, AND some pastry cream (yes, like the stuff that's in cream puffs), AND an entire recipe of whole-egg buttercream.  In other words, this recipe is hell.  

Let me just start with some numbers for you.  To make this dirt pie, I used 5 1/2 sticks of butter and 11 eggs.  That's like $27 right there, without adding in the sugar and flour and sugar and cocoa powder and the rest of the sugar.  Instant pudding and Oreos - together that's like $4.49, right?

Anyway, I started by making the pastry cream since I knew it was going to need to set.  Pastry cream is a pain to make, but I'm sure I'll go into more detail when I make the Boston Cream Pie (coming up in May).  Next I made the chocolate cookies.  These cookies were amazing.  Super easy to make and really tasty.  Too bad I had to grind em all up until they had the consistency of DIRT.  Then I go to make the whole-egg buttercream.  Brown has a way of tricking you into doing things that are way above your skill level.  Its like he doesn't let on that it's a difficult recipe until you have a handful of egg yolks in one hand and a pot of boiling sugar syrup on the stove.  And at that point it's too late.  My favorite part of this recipe was this, "Meanwhile, whip the egg whites on high speed to stiff peaks in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment.  Time everything so that the sugar syrup reaches 250F at about the same time the egg whites form stiff peaks."  Was he kidding?  How am I supposed to know how long it's going to take for sugar syrup to reach 250 degrees?  Or for egg whites to whip up for that matter.  This recipe made me a little mad (in case you couldn't tell).

So, once I had everything done and had been cooking for 17 hours and needed a nap, that's when I got to start assembling the actual cake.  
my beautiful cookies that were about to become dirt
Pastry cream.  It didn't really set right, but I figured it would be ok since it was going into another recipe.
Full-recipe of whole-egg buttercream.
So, the pastry cream, buttercream, cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar got mixed together and made the filling.  I ended up using my trifle dish because I seem to have misplaced (read broken) all of my pie dishes, which is what was called for, and because I'd never used it before, so why not?

I layered the cookies and filling and took it off to it's party to be the centerpiece and be appropriately appreciated...

("artistic" mirror shot)
Which is was!

Matt, the birthday boy, with his dirt.

Dirt on fire...

mmm, yummy dirt
By the way, I am well aware of the fact that Arkansas has no geographic proximity to NewYork.  That's not my fault.  Matt chose this cake from a variety of options he was presented with.  We will be getting back on track immediately.

Next Stop: New York Cheesecake!  I just need to find an occasion for which to make it now.  This is getting expensive!


  1. There's no denying that this was the best dirt cake ever! BUTTAH BUTTAH BUTTAH.

  2. Agreed, best dirt cake EVAR.

    Let me know when you're coming over for potluck, and Jack and I will get right on the homemade gummy worms.