Layers of rich chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, crushed oreo cookies and chocolate whipped cream make up this extraordinary dirt cake!
There was never any doubt in my mind what kind of cake I was going to make my three year-old boy for his birthday last month. He is all about cars, trucks, tractors, and anything that goes, and I knew I wanted to incorporate them into the celebration somehow. Then one day while watching him dig with his tractors in the dirt in the backyard, the idea for this cake came to me.
Of course, a dirt cake!
I baked up layers of my favorite chocolate cake and my boys helped crush up the oreos. For the filling I decided to keep it simple and use a boxed instant pudding mix, but I’ve included instructions for a homemade pudding if that more your style. I frosted the whole thing with chocolate whipped cream and decorated it with crushed oreos, chocolate rocks, and mini tractors. And my big three year-old loved it!
What is a dirt cake?
A “dirt cake” is a dessert made of crushed chocolate sandwich cookies, chocolate pudding, and usually something creamy like whipped cream or cool whip. The crushed cookies create a topping that looks like dirt! It can take many forms, like a layered trifle, individual cup servings, or a sheet cake.
Turn it into a tractor excavation site!
You of course can serve this delicious cake is it is, without any additional decorations or toppings. But if you’d like to recreate this look, here’s what you’ll need, plus a few tips(some affiliate links below).
- Mini tractors— I found a set at Target, but you can also find them online. Make sure they are clean if you’re not using brand new!
- Chocolate rocks— Many grocery stores sell them, look for them in the bulk or specialty candy sections. Or you can also find them online.
- Get creative with other edible and non-edible decorations!
- Arrange crushed cookies in a mound on top of the cake and around the base of the cake. Decorate with chocolate rocks, tractors, etc. as desired.
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Oreo Dirt Layer Cake
- 1 1/4 cup hot coffee or water (295 ml)
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (110 grams)
- 2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (330 grams)
- 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups sugar (400 grams)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups full fat sour cream (282 grams)
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (267 ml)
Chocolate pudding filling:
- 3.5 oz package instant chocolate pudding , plus ingredients listed on box
- 1 3/4 cup whole milk (415 ml)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar (65 grams)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (20 grams)
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch (20 grams)
- Pinch of salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 14 oz package or similar chocolate sandwich cookies, like Oreos
Chocolate whipped cream:
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream (250 ml)
- 1/2 cup chocolate pudding , from above
To make the cake:
- To make the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans (see Notes) and line bottoms with parchment paper. See my full tutorial on how to prep cake pans.
- In a bowl, whisk together the coffee and cocoa powder until no lumps remain. Set aside. In another bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda.
- In a large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs together until smooth and pale yellow in color. Stir in the sour cream, followed by the vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture all at once and stir until combined. Stir in the cocoa mixture and mix until smooth.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25-35 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
- For best results, completely chill cake layers before assembly.
To make the pudding:
- If using instant pudding, follow instructions on box.
- OR if making homemade pudding, in a medium saucepan over medium low heat, combine the milk, sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and sugar, and stir until smooth. Heat mixture until it just begins to steam.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly add the milk mixture to the egg yolks in a small stream while whisking constantly. When fully combined, pour back into the saucepan.
- Place over medium heat and cook until thickened, about 4-5 minutes, while stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
To make oreo dirt:
- Use food processor to crush whole sandwich cookies into crumbs (do not remove filling). You can also place cookies in a ziplock bag and crush with a rolling pin.
To make chocolate whipped cream:
- With an electric mixer, beat whipping cream to stiff peaks.
- Fold in 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the chocolate pudding, until desired color, flavor, and consistency is reached.
To assemble cake:
- Place one cake layer on a cake stand or plate. Cover with approximately 1/2 cup chocolate pudding. Sprinkle with some oreo dirt.
- Repeat with remaining layers.
- Carefully frost cake with chocolate whipped cream.
- Decorate cake tops and sides with remaining oreo dirt, or as desired.
- Chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Cake can be assembled up to 24 hours in advance and stored in the fridge.
- I like to use Hershey's instant chocolate pudding.
- Can use Cool Whip in place of whipped cream if desired.
- This cake can be baked in either 8 or 9-inch round pans. 8-inch will be taller, 9-inch will be wider and shorter. You can use 2 or 3 pans, depending on the look you’re going for: double layer (2 pans), triple layer (3 pans), or quadruple layer (2 pans, then slice each layer in half). Baking times will vary slightly. These are the pans I use.