Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Cake is a LIE!!

My boys are big fans of the game Portal.  Their Dad brought home an inflatable turret a few months ago and they just had a cow about it.  They begged for a Portal birthday party and I said, "YES!"  My regular readers probably won't have any idea what to make of all the geeking that's about to go on up in heah, so I'll try to explain as well as I can along the way.  Oh, and it should also be said that I've never played the game nor have I seen the game played because when I watch it, it makes me want to zook.  My inner ear does not like first person games.  Everything I know about Portal I've learned from accounts by my children, my husband, and online.  This is how it goes:

OK, so like, you're in this science experiment, right?  And you have this guide named Wheatly. 

And he's all good until he turns bad or bad until he turns good or whatever.  There's a companion cube.  You love it.  It has hearts on it. 

You use a gun like this to shoot holes in the walls.  Sometimes they have blue flames and sometimes they have orange flames.  They look sorta like this:

These portal mirrors were an ingenious find!  My husband put these together with mirrors and rope lights from Home Depot.

 and this:

Our friend Sam showed up with this because he is fraktastically awesome!

and this:

When you shoot a hole in one wall and shoot a hole in another wall, you can jump through one and come out the other one because of this, like, space warp type thing.

An old Ikea tunnel with painted entrances worked pretty well!

One more note about portals:
If your birthday candles fall into a portal, they come out on other cupcakes!  It's happening everywhere people, you should really be careful about that...

Sometimes you're in a room with turrets.  They shoot at you.  Fortunately, these don't really...

The place where the testing occurs is Aperture Laboratories.

Propulsion Gel and Repulsion Gel... do... something...?

This gel (a.k.a. gak) was made following this recipe.  I used Wilton's gel coloring to get the orange and aqua.  Be careful with the blue, though.  That stuff stains like nobody's business.  I found those little tins for .99 cents at Michael's.  A wise man once said, "We're throwing science at the wall here to see what sticks."  This stuff will definitely stick in the name of science.

Though, in the game, the gels will rot your skeleton, this next gel (a.k.a. Jell-o) is much more user friendly!  (It probably will only rot your teeth.  Most likely...)

Push up containers and stand came from Amazon.

The man who is putting you through all these tests is named Cave Johnson, CEO of Aperture Laboratories.  Also, apparently, he has a hard time putting his name tag on...

It could be because his assistants were all blindfolded... 

Your reward for battling sarcastic robots, turrets, and GLaDOS in the name of Science is a wonderful cake.  Unfortunately, along the way you find out that the cake is, in fact, a lie.  Until the end, when you find it and it isn't anymore.  It's a chocolate cake with cherries.

Or is it?

That's right, folks.  This cake is a lie.  Meatloaf, mashed potato filling, bean frosting, mashed potato "whipped cream", and cherry tomatoes on top where those lovely cherries should go.  More about how I pulled this feat off later...

Meanwhile, everyone knows scientists in the future drink from juice pouches turned backward to look more "science y."

They also love hummus and carrots and mini quiche.

These hobos test subjects are definitely up to the task of being subjected to tests.

Our little test subjects got to go home with a bag full of gear and a couple of portals as well as a tin of Propulsion or Repulsion Gel.  You can buy a bunch of Portal swag at Think Geek, but my husband knows someone who knows someone (possibly Cave Johnson?) and scored us a bunch of this stuff for free.  I got the idea for the gels from Pamela Smerker who threw her very own super-awesome Portal party last year.

Guests at our party were serenaded by the sweet sounds of selected tracks from the Portal soundtrack and Still Alive by Jonathan Coulton.

And now back to that "cake."

     A wise man once said, "They say great science is built on the shoulders of giants - not here. At Aperture we do all our science from scratch; no hand holding."  And that wise man was Cave Johnson.  To honor his great (and wise) spirit, I shall give you a little hint about how I made this cake, though I'm afraid there really isn't a recipe.

The Cake is a Lie Portal Cake
     I made two round cake pans full of meatloaf.  It used 4 pounds of ground beef and two onions.  I made a gluten free cake so I substituted the contents of 1 (3.5 oz) bag of pork rinds ground in the food processor.  It sounds weird, but it's an old low carb diet trick that I used many times when my hubby was on the Atkins diet.  You can't tell, really.  It worked out to about 2 cups of crumbs.  I used 1 egg for every pound of meat and put the rest of the ketchup that was in the bottle, probably about 1/2 C.  Salt and pepper.  I baked it at 350° for about an hour, until the center reached 160°.

     The mashed potatoes are just regular old mashed potatoes with butter and salt and milk and a little pepper but not enough to give anything away on the outside decoration.

     The hardest part was the frosting.  Traditionally, meatloaf cake is frosted with mashed potatoes, but the Potal cake is chocolate.  Mashed potatoes aren't brown.  On Thursday I had an epiphany!  Refried beans!  I spent a day testing the best way to color the beans to make them look like chocolate.  Soy sauce tasted funny and Worcestershire sauce wasn't dark enough.  Black beans didn't work either.  Finally, I consulted my favorite message board over at Baby Center for help.  Baby Center user ~*downwithNCB*~ suggested Kitchen Bouquet as a darkener.  Kitchen Bouquet FTW!  The flavor was a bit meh, so I hid it with Worcestershire sauce and raw garlic.  Worked like magic, folks!  For the beans, I cooked a pound of pinto beans in the pressure cooker because I wasn't sure how much frosting I'd need.  I probably could have done it with half a pound.  When the beans were done cooking I let them sit in the fridge overnight to firm up.  The next day, I reheated them slowly on the stove with no extra water while the meatloaf was cooking.  I pureed them with a hand blender and added Kitchen Bouquet until it looked "chocolatey" enough.  Then I added Worcestershire sauce and pressed about 2 cloves of garlic until I couldn't taste the KB anymore and the bean flavor was pretty well masked.  Salt and pepper to season a little more, and then I slathered it on the cake!

People loved it!  I only heard one adult say, "I'm not sure I can eat this!  It looks too much like chocolate cake!"  I am never sure with meat dishes of course, but I badgered my husband to give me the honest-and-for-real-truth and he says it was pretty good!  I wasn't sure how the beans would be with the meatloaf, but nobody complained and my eldest son has been pestering me for leftovers all day, so I think it must have been OK!  The only drawback is that it really does look so much like chocolate cake that now I want to make one...

5 and 7 here we come!  Onward for Science!!


  1. Found this through Epbot and it's quite possibly the coolest thing I've ever seen. Go cool mom!

  2. Same here... Just wandered over from Epbot. This is the coolest geek party ever. You have some lucky boys there. I can't wait until my nephews are old enough for themed parties (they *will* be geeks). My favourite part here is the gel. Did the kids enjoy eating that way too much?!

    1. Thanks, Katie! The kids did love eating the gel. Just to clarify, though, the gel in the metal containers is Gak. The jell-o in the push-up containers was a total hit!!

  3. Best party ever!! I love how thorough you were with all the tie-ins! And that cake is really something else!

    1. Thank you so much! I just visited your site and have spent the last 20 minutes squeeing all over myself at your awesome dresses! You do great work!

  4. First: Awesome party! (And I'm totally trying out that "cake")

    Second: I live ind Denmark and my first thought on the frosting-colour issue was "Why would that be such a problem?" In Denmark it is standard in every kitchen to have a bottle of "gravy browner", which is virtually tasteless in savoury foods. I googled Kitchen Bouquet, which seems to be the same thing, except with flavouring. Hah, I guess brown gravy is a Danish fetish :D

    1. I hope you like the cake, Konen! Kitchen Bouquet has been around for a long time in the States, I just never thought of it! I make gravy literally once a year so it never occurred to me. I'm sure there are a lot of kitchens in the States with a bottle in the pantry, in fact, I think I remember my Mom having some as a kid. It's just not on my radar any more... I'm just glad I found it!

  5. That's awesome! (Here from Epbot.) The brown bean frosting is just inspired. Now I want to make a meatloaf "cake" - maybe with mushroom decorations..

    FWIW, I have the same problem (motion sickness) with watching other people play first-person video games, but generally I don't get sick at all if I'm the one controlling the character. If you're interested you might want to try playing and see if that works.

    1. Thanks, LJ! =) I hope your cake turns out awesome!

      I have a really hard time with games even playing them. Partly because I don't know how to control them, so the camera is constantly swinging all over the place. It's a double edged sword. I can't learn to play because the camera is all over the place and it's all over the place because I need to learn to play! LOL!

  6. What a party! You are the coolest mom. I am loving this cake...given our love of meatloaf in this house I know it will be a hit. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Thanks, Hannah! I am sure whatever you come up with will be brilliant! ;)

  7. Happy Birthday to the boys, super awesome party! Love the cake, wish I had that for dinner :)

    1. Thanks, Sarah! The cake is super easy to make. It's definitely worth a try for any dinnertime! (Especially April Fool's Day!)

  8. Wow! Thanks for posting this. My son just got into Portal and asked for a Portal Birthday this year, and I didn't even know where to begin because I don't know *anyone* else that is into the game. I'm beginning to realize that it's actually pretty huge. Either way, not much in the way of store-made Portal things. So I guess it's a good thing I'm looking into this months in advance. I love your husband's mirror idea, that's really cool! I already found a good cake recipe, but now I'm thinking of foregoing that. I was going to write a little note that said "The Cake Is NOT a Lie." But wouldn't it be so much better if the cake actually was a lie? I might just make both, because I'm sure my son would totally want to dig into the cake rather than cupcakes. Thanks for all of the ideas!


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