Introduction: Dinosaur Excavation Cake

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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

  • 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

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

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

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

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!

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.

Grab a cold glass of milk and get digging!

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