Introduction: Dinosaur Excavation Cake

Picture of Dinosaur Excavation Cake

This year for my birthday cake I wanted something completely different, I wanted to make a cake that could be interactive, fun and tasty. And what's more fun that playing with your food? How about digging through you birthday cake looking for dinosaurs?!

Uncover dinosaurs buried under layers of delicious chocolate with each layer denoting a prehistoric era complete with biscuit and chocolate chunk boulders, a true paleontologist experience! Using your chisel fork you can dig through the 3 major prehistoric periods to find forgotten fossilized friends, like stegosaurus, triceratops and ceratosaurus.

Using a large baking dish to create a large, deep cake, progressively layer lighter colour cake batters over small toy dinosaur* fossils, then bake. Combine the thrill of digging for dinosaurs with a tasty birthday cake, celebrate with a dinosaur excavation cake!

Enough talk, let's bake!

*baking anything into a cake can pose a choking hazard and may cause the buried item to leach deleterious substances into the cake itself. Make sure your items are appropriate and always inform your guests if there is something buried in their food prior to consumption.

Step 1: Equipment + Ingerdients

Picture of Equipment + Ingerdients

  • large baking container (metal cookie tin or other)
  • oven
  • hard plastic dinosaur toys*
  • sharp knife
  • mixing bowls
  • small bowls
  • parchment paper
  • scissors

  • all-purpose flour
  • sugar
  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • milk
  • vegetable oil
  • eggs
  • salt
  • cocoa powder
  • vanilla extract
  • assorted biscuits, cookies or chocolate
    (maybe all three!)

The dinosaurs I used were hard non-toxic plastic.
*For the Debbie Downers out there remember it's been proven that heating up plastic releases harmful radiation and may cause your brain to expand to super-large dimensions, possibly giving you mind-reading abilities. If you don't feel comfortable with your potential new super powers then you better not try.Leave your comments below!

Step 2: Mash Cookies and Chocolate

Picture of Mash Cookies and Chocolate

Since there are 3 distinct periods for dinosaurs (Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic) I figured on using 3 type of goodies as my 'rocks' in the layers of cake: Ladyfingers (cookie), chocolate filled wafer sticks (biscuit), dark chocolate and burnt almond bar (chocolate bar).

Almost any type of biscuit or cookie can be used, giving you different textures. Some alternatives might be sandwich cookies (like Oreo and Pirate), specialty cookies (like ginger-molasses cookies or Arrowroot), or any type of chocolate bar (the more goodies inside the better!).

Using kitchen scissors these were all cut into chunks and placed in small bowls to be added to our cake later.

Step 3: Make Cake and Mix Colours

Picture of Make Cake and Mix Colours
For this recipe you will need chocolate cake and white cake, you can make these from scratch or buy the packaged stuff.
For the kitchen buffs, here's the recipes I used:

Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 1-½ tsp baking powder
  • 1-½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
White Cake

  • 2-½ cups flour
  • 1-½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup milk

It's important to find cake mixes that cook at the same time and temperature. Both of these mixes were listed to be cooked at 350°F (180°C) for about the same amount of time.

I made double-batch of chocolate and one white cake batch. After making the batches I mixed the products in different proportions in separate bowls to get 3 distinct shades of brown from light to dark, signifying the different layers between prehistoric periods and the expected variation of soil between eras.

Step 4: Pour Cake Mix

Picture of Pour Cake Mix

Predicting that cake removal would be difficult once baked, I went overboard to ensure the cake would come out in one piece and buttered the inside of the tin as well as lined it with parchment paper.

Once you've lined your baking dish start with the darkest cake mix and pour in a base layer. You can either add in the crushed chocolate and biscuits for rocks between layers or incorporate them into the mix, maybe using different types of biscuits for each layer.

With the base layer of dark cake mix in the pan inset a few dinosaurs, then pour on the next lightest cake mix into pan, covering the base layer and dinosaurs. Continue this until you've exhausted all cake mixes, topping off the cake with the lightest cake mix and any extra biscuit and chocolate crumbs.

When placing dinosaurs in cake mix pay attention to orientation and alignment of dinosaurs (make them all face the same way at regular intervals), this will make cutting and serving your cake much easier.
It's alright if your dinosaurs are poking out the top a little, as they will be covered when the cake begins to rise.

Step 5: Bake

Picture of Bake

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

The cake recipes I used required about 20-30 based on a 1 litre / 8-9" round baking dish. Since the baking pan I used was  much larger I had to extend my baking time. I kept the 350°C (180°C) temperature but extended the bake time initially to about 50 minutes, checking every 15-20 minutes. In the end my cake took about an hour of baking before it was ready.

To test to see if your cake is finished baking, insert a bamboo skewer into the center of the cake and sink the the bottom. When removed if the skewer comes out clean the cake is done, if the skewer comes out with cake mix stuck to it then the cake needs longer to cook.

To prevent the top from cracking too much I used a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the tin, this was removed for the last 10 minutes of cooking to let the cake finish cooking.

Step 6: Serve and Excavate!

Picture of Serve and Excavate!

Time to serve your dinosaur dessert!
If you remembered to configure your dinosaur arrangement in an easily remembered pattern cutting the cake should be a breeze (you did remember, right?).

Cut cake into thick slices, making sure that there is a dinosaur in each slice. Then serve your layer treat to your guests, reminding them that they are a paleontologist on a the hunt for dinosaurs. These dinosaurs are buried deep, so they better gobble down some prehistoric layers to find them!

Did you make your own version of this dinosaur excavation cake? Post a picture in the comments below and earn a digital patch and a 3-month Pro Membership to!

Grab a cold glass of milk and get digging!


jterry3 (author)2011-08-25

Possible choking hazard if the toys are small. Be careful.

tragediecomedie (author)jterry32016-10-14

Yeah, if you or your kids are complete idiots. I know this comment is 5 years old, but every time I share this recipe, there is one troll who has to say this. The kids know the dinos are in the cake. The point is to dig for the dinos, so it's not a secret. Also, they are large enough. Look at the packaging. If a kid chokes on these, they purposefully shoved one in their throat. In that case, let Natural Selection do its job.

LelaMarie967 (author)2015-01-29

I wish my sons were little I would make it for them . I may make it for me.great job !

JeffS2 (author)2014-12-09

I'm sure that there's worse stuff in McDonalds than the plastic from the Dinosaurs anyway.

JeffS2 (author)2014-12-09

I'm sure that there's worse stuff in McDonalds than the plastic from the Dinosaurs anyway.

JeffS2 (author)2014-12-09

THIS IS GREAT! I'm going to make one for my kids.

I saw your glowing table and that's how I found this. Your very talented and creative. Keep it going!

cfirestone (author)2011-08-25

Perhaps you could use the dino molds and make hard candy dinos?


2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
2/3 cup light corn syrup
Flavorings and colorings to taste (just a few drops will do)

Measure 2 cups sugar, 2/3 cup light corn syrup and 3/4 cup water into a saucepan and blend together. Place over low heat and stir until mixture boils. Cover the saucepan for 5 minutes so that any sugar crystals that have formed on the sides of the pan will be washed down. Now put in the candy thermometer and let the candy boil without stirring. Using a pastry brush or a fork wrapped with muslin and dipped in water, wash off any crystals that might form. After the candy reaches 280 degrees, lower heat so as not to discolor the candy. When candy thermometer registers 300 degrees, remove pan from the heat and allow it to stand until all the bubbles have simmered down. Then add the flavoring and coloring. There are many to choose from but one favorite is anise along with red coloring. One teaspoon of a flavoring extract should be used for this recipe, while only a few drops of an oil such as peppermint, wintergreen or cinnamon are enough. Coloring should be added gradually until the desired intensity is reached. It is important to stir these in as gently as possible. Too much stirring will cause the syrup to solidify into a hard sugary lump. Now the candy is ready to be formed. It may be poured into a pan, 7 by 7 inches, and marked into squares as it begins to harden. Or it may be poured in rounds on skewers or sticks to form lollipops.

Given that you can completely melt a tray of hard candies in a 270°F oven in 15-20 minutes, I suspect they would at the very least severely deform by the time the cake was done. However, you might be able to get away with baking the cake layers separately, and about 5 minutes before the cakes are done, press the (chilled) candies into the top of each layer so that it can finish baking around them. From there, if they survive, a little icing might be enough to finish hiding them once assembled. So many fun possibilities to experiment with!

cfirestone (author)cfirestone2011-08-25

even better :

counterillusion (author)2014-04-08

Wow, this is BEYOND AWESOME. I'm definitely bookmarking this to come back to try after exams!

ptninjamonkey (author)2013-07-14

awesome!!! want to do this!!

Gumby45 (author)2012-12-12

That's a really neat and cute idea :D If I could cook, I would make this :B

mblondin made it! (author)2012-04-07

I made one too for my best friend's birthday! (He turned 20! ;D)

I couldn't find anything non-toxic, so in the end, I made three separate layers for each period, and after each layer was done baking, I pushed the dinosaurs into the cake.

I used Oreos for the rocks for mine; and three kinds of cake: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white angel food.

Also, the dinosaurs glow in the dark. So not ONLY is this cake a dinosaur excavation cake, it is also a GLOWING one.

We will be eating it tomorrow while we go to the Dinosaur Museum; all the kids below the age of 20 will be jealous of us big kids and our Dinos. ;D

mikeasaurus (author)mblondin2012-04-10

That's so amazing, thanks for sharing! I like the mix of light and dark cakes, and the glow-in-the-dark dinosaurs are perfect.

Enjoy the digital patch and 3-month Pro Membership!

xchanyazy made it! (author)2011-12-11

I made this for my son's birthday party last week (3 years old), and it was a hit.

Changes I made - used a buttered pyrex baking dish (shaped kind of like an oval dutch oven) and put the dinosaurs in after the cake came out of the oven since the bottom was accessible before I flipped it over.

I used Oreos and Pirouettes for the rocks, with differing densities of each depending on the layer.

Depending on the piece of cake, you could definitely tell there were separate layers or it looked like a swirl cake. I wonder if "floating" the batter (like with a layered drink) would help.

I also had to use normal dinosaur figurines as I could not find appropriately sized dinosaur skeletons in time. I was tempted to use a big skeleton and just put a bone or two in each slice, and then recreate the skeleton after, but that may be a birthday party for slightly older kids (you know, like me).

Thanks for the instructable!

mikeasaurus (author)xchanyazy2011-12-12

That's so awesome, your cake looks great!

Enjoy the patch and 3-month Pro Membership!

shortone (author)2011-11-28

Put you in my gift guide for guys! Just thought I'd let you know :)

mikeasaurus (author)shortone2011-11-28


shortone (author)2011-11-27

pfft, any 19 year old with a sense of fun should love this cake.

personally, I would love it for my 20th birthday party ^_^

sbarker2 (author)2011-11-01

My partner would love this for his Archeology graduation. Could you put like a mini china pot or some sort of ceramic/metal object in the cake? Would that be safer then plastic?

gothicpretzel (author)2011-09-15

You could also use marzipan to mold dino bones. they bake nicely, and they stay pretty soft. :)

and it works better for something like a kids party. :)

dessert911 (author)2011-09-08

reminds me of a cake I made with my daughter when her science class was studying plate techtonics. put two cakes side by side. one four thin layers of chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, other side yellow cake with chocolate frosting. set up cardboard underneath so the two sides can be pushed together toward middle. the result will demonstrate the theory deliciously. BTW do not frost the side facing the class.

chicopluma (author)2011-09-01

can the dinosaurs be made of hard candy without them melting when you cook the cake? It would be awsome, well your idea is already awsome

projectsugru (author)2011-08-30

this is totally AWESOME, I love it :) Such a wonderful idea.

I wonder if this idea could be used to help kids eat healthy food too ?...

Green Silver (author)2011-08-26

You could do a Michael Jackson skeleton cake, but you'd have to put a warning on it. "May contain small plastic parts" and "Not suitable for under 18 year olds" :D

triumphman (author)2011-08-25

I agree with the Downers, placing the dinosores between the layers after baking them would be a wise and safer choice. You could dig a hole and fill it with chocolate stuff. Why do you think the UK has banned so many lead filled toys and stuff from China??? And all the water bottles are being replaced! LEAD in the plastic is toxic to humans! Baking will draw out the lead and it will be ingested when the cake is eaten ! FYI ! Your choice. Be safe, seek Peace & Joy. Triumphman.

acoleman3 (author)triumphman2011-08-25

are you serious? i mean, come one already. with all the toxins in our food, the air, the water, the fact our medications are toxins and the other toxins we dont even *know* you honestly think this is going to tip the scale either way? its no different then worrying about the fly in your cereal when you're standing knee deep in a cesspool.

Tih (author)2011-08-25

Loved it!
I'm a kindergarten teacher and i have to do this for my kids :D

billbillt (author)2011-08-25

Very COOL!!!

jenelope (author)2011-08-25

If you're really concerned about the plastic chemicals in the cake, you could probably use these silicone dinosaur fossil ice cube trays as cookie molds:
The official max heat for them is 400F, but based on a user comment, I wouldn't go higher than 350. Which just happens to be a common temp for shortbread recipes.

ScattyCrafter (author)jenelope2011-08-25

Brilliant thanks for that idea, now I just need to source the icecube tray in UK if I can.

lmnopeas (author)2011-08-24

Totally digging this instructable!

somewhiteguy (author)2011-08-23

This is an awesome idea. You could also surround the dinos with chocolate and call it oil deposits :-D
Definitely going to try this.

A pool of pudding on top could be a tar pit!

I did a LaBrea Tar Pit birthday cake once, about 15 years ago. It had a chocolate tar pit in the middle with plastic prehistoric creatures sinking in it, ringed with broccoli trees.

CementTruck (author)2011-08-24

Semi Debbie Downer here. I like the idea a lot. The plastic just has me worried. On the upside (there's always a silver lining), when they dig us up many eons from now they'll know exactly what our lower digestive systems looked like from all the plasticized colons they dig up. ;) JK.

Just a thought; You could bake layers separately and then position the dino skeletons on each layer in a grid pattern (OCD alert) so it is easy to cut the cake. You would need to dig out a little bit of each layer, lay the dino down and re pack with the crumbs. The strata just wouldn't look as cool and random as what you have here.

How big were the skeletons? it's hard for me to tell the scale.

Cool 'ible! Great idea. Nice photos.

CementTruck (author)CementTruck2011-08-24

I voted for this by the way!

depotdevoid (author)2011-08-24

" . . . may cause your brain to expand to super-large dimensions, possibly giving you mind-reading abilities."

Sadly, after having my brain expand to super large dimensions, I have to use all my new found psychic powers to psychokinetically hold up my freakishly oversized noggin.  I insist you warn people of this danger in the future!

Also, great instructable, and happy birthday!

sunshiine (author)2011-08-23

Happy birthday and nice ible!

mikeasaurus (author)2011-08-23

Do truck utensils count instead of truck tools?

"my son is too old to appreciate this" .
Really? If that's the case I'm in big trouble.

CatTrampoline (author)2011-08-23

Wow! You have set the bar pretty high for this challenge.

cammers (author)2011-08-23

I love this. Well done.
And happy birthday.

ChrysN (author)2011-08-23

Fun idea!

instruct39 (author)2011-08-23

really neat!

wilgubeast (author)2011-08-22

Did you use real dinosaurs? I'm on the paleo diet, and I'm wondering if dinosaurs count? Did cave men eat dinosaurs?

mikeasaurus (author)wilgubeast2011-08-23

Cavemen totally ate dinosaurs, obviously. It's what triggered the Renaissance, right?

wilgubeast (author)mikeasaurus2011-08-23

The Renaissance? I thought that was just something that happened to Italians.

SHIFT! (author)2011-08-22

Happy Birthday Dude! Let's go out and celebrate it when I return this school year!

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm Mike and I make crazy things at Instructables HQ in San Francisco. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!
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