Thursday, July 3, 2008


I found out about this little food oddity in a sort of roundabout way. I was reading a recap off of Television Without Pity's website for "Top Chef", and there was a little link to the Black Widow Bakery for something called "meat-cake". Basically, it's a ginormous meatloaf recipe split up and shaped into rounds like a layer cake, stacked and "frosted" with mashed potatoes.

Intrigued? Hell, yes - but that was a LOT of meatloaf for just me to eat - I'd be picking at it for a week if I made it for myself! Still, I couldn't let go of the idea, and luckily an opportunity to make this fell into my lap just a few days later. My boss was celebrating his birthday, but this was during Lent, and he swears off sweets of all kinds during that time. Could there have been a more obvious sign that I was meant to make this cake? I think not (of course, if his birthday had fallen on a Friday, I'd have been in deep shit - for some reason I can't imagine making the cake layers out of fish or mac and cheese)!

Basically, I followed this recipe almost exactly as it appeared on Black Widow Bakery's site (I didn't do the glazing that the original author tried, as that clearly didn't work for her). However, I didn't feel like whipping out my pastry bag and piping potatoes around the side, and I'm a lousy artist - if I tried to emulate the steak drawing, I feared it would look more like a part of the female anatomy than anything else. No, instead I chose to decorate the cake with parsley springs, cherry tomatoes, and strips of precooked bacon.

It really wasn't hard to make - actually, the worst part of it was "kneading" the six pounds of beef by hand. The beef was ice-cold, and since there was so much of it that needed to have the eggs, seasonings, and spices mixed in that my hand alternated between being numb and aching badly from the cold. But, once it was mixed, portioned, and popped into the oven, it was smooth sailing all the way. When it came out of the oven, I grabbed up my trusty serrated knife (Xmas gift from my old friend Banana), and trimmed off a bit of the top and sides to make all the layers uniform.

Verdict? Pretty damn tasty. Just the right amount of salt in it for me (although I like my meat to be on the salty side), although the "cake" portion was kind of dry for me. But, I suppose that's necessary - if I made it moister by using less bread crumbs, I'd run the risk of the cake being too juicy or too soft for me to stack it or even remove it from the pie pan without it falling apart. C'est la vie and all that jazz. Most of the people I work with who saw the cake cut themselves a slice, and they all seemed to like it. That actually brings to mind the one negative with this cake - it's quite heavy and quite hard to cut, so make sure your knife that you use to cut this is pretty damn sharp before you make this. There were leftovers, but the garlic and oregano in the cake really imparted a nice flavor to the meat overnight, so the leftovers were still pretty damn tasty for lunch the next day.

Definitely something I'd make again for a special occasion. Next time, I think I might go for a more Italian-type flavor. I made a sort of stuffed meatloaf a while ago that was made with red wine added to the ground beef, and the meat surrounded a center of mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, and spinach, and I thought it was absolutely delicious. I'm thinking that instead of the ketchup-brown sugar filling, I could use spaghetti sauce and some chopped fresh tomatoes, or maybe stack some slices of mozzarella cheese and fresh spinach leaves between meat layers, and decorate the cake with cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, red onion slices... I'm not sure how I'm going to go about "frosting" the cake - maybe use garlic-flavored mashed potatoes and grate some fresh Parmesean and press it into the top and sides of the cake. Well, I guess that's an experiment for another day.