Dirt Cake (er, pudding)

by Kristen on May 29, 2013 · 28 comments

in Aldi, Desserts

I’ve seen these here and there over the years, in magazines, on blogs, and in cookbooks, but I’ve never actually made one until now.

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I’m a little bemused by the fact that people always call this a cake because it’s not a cake. It’s really pudding/mousse with cookie crumbs on the top and bottom.

Regardless of what you call it, though, it’s fun to make and eat.

The recipe comes from the lovely people at Aldi and all of the ingredients can be purchased at your local Aldi store. If you haven’t got an Aldi, though, you’ll be happy to know you can find all of this stuff at a regular grocery store too.

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It just will probably cost a bit more. ;)

To make this, you need four basic mixtures: cookie crumbs, chocolate pudding, whipped cream, and a cream cheese/butter combo.

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The original recipe called for boxed instant pudding but I couldn’t bring myself to use that. The instant versions of pudding have a lot of unnecessary and odd ingredients, and if you make pudding yourself, you can use really simple pantry ingredients.

So, I modified my homemade pudding recipe to make it work. If you want to go the homemade route, you’ll need to double the pudding recipe but instead of using 4 cups of milk, use 3. And since instant pudding isn’t at all hot, you’ll want to let your homemade pudding cool down to room temperature before you proceed.

Also, Aldi’s recipe called for a carton of frozen whipped topping, but since that has weird ingredients too and since it takes only a few minutes to whip cream in my Kitchen-Aid, I decided to go the DIY route there as well.

A carton of whipping topping contains 3 cups, so you’ll need to whip together 1 1/2 cups of cream, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.

(Don’t those ingredients sound much better than the ones on the frozen whipped topping carton? And you can buy them all at Aldi.)

I did not tinker with the cookie crumbs or the cream cheese/butter mixture. ;)

Ok. So, once you’ve got your four mixtures ready to go, you’re going to fold the whipped cream into the pudding.

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Then you can fold the cream cheese mixture into the chocolate mixture. This is a little tricky to do, and I didn’t manage to get every single bit of cream cheese neatly folded in, as you can see.

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Now you’ll need either a bowl or a clean pot to assemble your dirt cake. My Aldi was out of pots, so I snagged this one at Goodwill for $3.

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It’s a 5-inch pot, but I can tell you that you’re going to need a much bigger pot if you want to put this whole recipe into a single container. My pot held maybe a third of the dirt cake and I used a glass bowl for the rest.

If you want, you can line your pot with aluminum foil. I just washed my pot really thoroughly and called it good. ;)

To assemble your cake, sprinkle half of the crumbs on the bottom of your pot (or pot and bowl, in my case!)

The crumbs do look kind of like potting soil, don’t they?

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Then add your filling to the pot/bowl.

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Top with the remaining crumb mixture, like so.

An opaque bowl would probably look neater than a glass bowl, ‘ey?
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Now comes the really delightful part: decorating the top with worms. Zoe had fun with this.

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I made this on an afternoon when all three of her big siblings were having sleepovers with friends, so I let her help me make the cake from start to finish, and she was very pleased.

“Well, this has been a great afternoon, Mommy!”

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Put your dirt cake in the fridge for several hours, to allow the pudding layer to firm up a bit.

And when you’re ready to eat, just scoop it out into bowls.

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Dirt Cake

Dirt:
1 package chocolate sandwich cookies

Pudding:
2 pkg. instant chocolate pudding
3 cups milk

(alternatively, make double recipe of homemade pudding, using 3 cups milk instead of 4. Let pudding cool to room temperature.)

Cream Cheese Mixture:
8 oz. package cream cheese
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Topping:
One regular-size carton whipped topping
or
Whip together 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

One package neon sour worms (or you could use regular gummy worms instead)

Directions:

Crush sandwich cookies, using a rolling pin or a food processor. Place half the crumbs in clean planter pot or large bowl; set remaining crumbs aside.

In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese and butter. Gradually add powdered sugar; stir in vanilla.

In another large bowl, beat together pudding mix and three cups of milk for two minutes. Fold whipped cream or whipped topping into pudding, then fold cream cheese mixture into pudding mixture.

Scrape filling into pot or bowl, then sprinkled with remaining cookie crumbs. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Decorate with candy worms before serving.

disclosure: Aldi sent me a gift certificate to buy ingredients to make this recipe, but I was not otherwise compensated, and all opinions and recipe modifications are 100% Kristen.
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Leave a Comment

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 NMPatricia May 29, 2013 at 8:24 am

I absolutely love and appreciate that you give homemade versions of some of the recipes. I tryt to do this a lot and sometimes it takes longer to create something because of all the thinking and planning involved. Yea for homemade!

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2 Kristen May 29, 2013 at 9:05 am

In the case of the pudding, it was more work, but the whipped cream was so fast and easy, it was almost no more effort. And I’m sure it tasted better than whipped topping would have.

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3 Economies of Kale May 29, 2013 at 10:25 am

Yum, this sounds good and really looks like dirt. I agree that homemade whipped cream is about 1000 times better than the stuff in a can :)

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4 Brianna May 29, 2013 at 10:46 am

I too have seen these, but never made them! Something about them weirds me out a little….haha…but when I see all of the yummy ingredients that go into them; they look so tempting at the same time. I am definitly going to step out of the box and try them sometime! They would be great for a kids party! :D

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5 Alicia May 29, 2013 at 10:50 am

Dirt Cake is one of my favorites! My friend made this for a surprise party she threw for me way back when, and I’ve loved it ever since. Such a fun dessert for kids and tasty enough for adults as well.

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6 Becky, aka SimplyBurbs Mama May 29, 2013 at 11:49 am

My new five year old Little Guy was looking at the photos for this dirt pudding over my shoulder … and is completely transfixed! Pudding that looks like mud is as good as it gets when you are five years old, apparently!!
Looks like we’ll be making this one soon as well :-)

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7 MisoB May 29, 2013 at 1:16 pm

For Chocolate sandwich cookies, are we talking Oreos? And do you take the middle out?

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8 Kristen May 29, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Yep, they’re like Oreos, though of course they’re not called exactly that at Aldi. You don’t have to take the middle out…in the food processor, it all gets mixed up very nicely.

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9 MisoB May 29, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Thanks Kristen! Looks like a fun activity for this weekend!

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10 The Norwegian Girl May 29, 2013 at 1:36 pm

yum, that looks really good! and I low how the cookie crumbs make it look like real dirt cakes!

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11 Marisa May 29, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Love this! I love your chocolate pudding and I have to ask – do you have a good homemade vanilla pudding recipe?

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12 Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl May 29, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Love this. Had an all adult dinner party a few months ago and we made them there, they’re fun, even if you aren’t a kid!

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13 Kat May 29, 2013 at 6:29 pm

I love making these as a fun treat with my nephews. We do each one individually. Another fun way to do the crumbs is to put the cookies in ziplocks and let the kids stomp on them to crush them, it doesn’t come out as fine but more fun. And yes I double layer the ziplocks and make them do the stomping in the backyard

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14 JW_Umbrella Treasury May 29, 2013 at 6:43 pm

I loved this dessert as a child! I have one particularly fond memory of my 10th or 11th birthday party. My mom and I planned a sunflower-themed party. We made individual “dirt cakes” for each guest, and put the “cakes” in small glazed terra cotta plants. We stuck a silk sunflower in each pot and used these as the centerpieces. I can remember my friends being quite surprised that the centerpieces were also functioning as my birthday cake!

And I’m glad to see that it can be made without all the “weird” artificial ingredients. I’ll definitely have to try your recipe!

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15 Linda Sand May 29, 2013 at 7:40 pm

You can also make these in paper cups so each child gets his/her own pot of wormy dirt–good for boy’s birthday parties. Fun to watch them dare each other to eat it.

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16 Jessica May 29, 2013 at 8:30 pm

My 6 year old daughter happened to read this post over my shoulder and was very taken with the cake. Consequently, we are going to have a Gruesome Garden Party for her birthday in the summer. Her 11 year old brother is going to make wormy apples (cut up gummy worms poking out of apple slices) and I’m going to try and make green coloured bread to make mouldy sandwiches. I’m not sure how the guests will take to this …….

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17 Christina May 29, 2013 at 8:43 pm

In my neck of the woods, we call this “dirt dessert.” Seems to resolve the cake/pudding dilemma! Also, I’ve served it in a plastic bucket like found at the dollar store, complete with mini shovel. Thanks for sharing your less-processed modifications.

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18 Kristen May 29, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Oh, perfect! Dirt Dessert is very appropriate.

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19 Linda May 29, 2013 at 9:43 pm

My friend and I always use vanilla pudding otherwise it’s just too chocolatey for us. Her daughter requested it instead of cake at her wedding so we got out the kitchenaid mixers and made enough for 150 guests! Went over great!

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20 Susan May 30, 2013 at 3:06 am

In my neck of the woods, we call this “Worms & Dirt.” If taking to a potluck or gathering, its fun to make in a 9×13 with plenty of worms for the littlest guests!

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21 Jennifer May 30, 2013 at 8:10 am

I just wrote this down on our summer fun calendar to make the first day of summer break! I think the kids will love making it… and eating it! I’ve never made dirt, but we have made “sand” :o) It’s always a big hit with the kids!

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22 Live and Learn-Toss and Turn May 31, 2013 at 7:32 am

We always stick an artificial flower in the pot to make it look like it’s growing out of the dirt. We usually leave the worms out unless there are going to be little boys around.

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23 Laura Vanderkam June 4, 2013 at 1:25 pm

We did these for a birthday party a year ago and they were a hit. There’s something just so fun about eating dirt. Kids love it.

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24 CathyG June 10, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I like it when the cookies are not all the way crushed but have some bigger chunks. I also don’t completely fold all the mixes together – it’s really good with blobs of the individual flavors. And I put some of the crumbs right in the mix. And we make it in a 9×13 pan, too.

If you are ever at a family buffet-style restaurant, they usually have chocolate pudding and whipped cream on the buffet, and near the soft-serve ice cream dispenser there is usually a container of Oreo crumbs for the topping. Voila – dirt dessert!

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25 Kristen June 10, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Yeah, I wanted to try crushing the cookies with a rolling pin next time. They wouldn’t look quite as much like dirt, but the texture would be fun.

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26 Kelly June 14, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I made this for our neighbours yesterday- a single mom and her two young girls. They were thrilled! What a hit. Thanks for the beautifully laid out pictures and such that made it a pleasure and a success!

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27 Anne July 8, 2013 at 8:04 am

I’ve made dirt cups before but never put anything in the bottom layer except pudding! This would probably taste more special… But pudding only is easier. ;) Especially when dealing with a dairy allergy (coconut milk can be used to make pudding.) I do single-serves. If you’re having a party and don’t want to wash up all the little cups after, you can do paper cups!

If you’re dealing with food allergies, Kinnikinnick Chocolate Animal Cookies make great chocolate cookie crumbs and have no gluten, no dairy or egg or nuts (may contain trace amounts of egg contamination), and soy lecithin but no soy oil or protein.

I also use dye-free gummy worms (I have a friend who has made her own but I’m far too lazy for that…) Surf Sweets is the brand I get. (Also free of all 8 top allergens.)

So yeah… You can make gluten-free, nut-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free (except lecithin) and dye-free dirt cups which is just, you know, fantastic when you are dealing with multiple allergies, to have something everyone can eat for dessert and the kids go nuts over it!

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28 Julie Suppa April 19, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Hi Kristen,
I am looking forward to making this dessert tomorrow for Easter. I searched many sites for a recipe for “dirt” from scratch but they all called for instant pudding and cool whip. I finally googled “dirt cake with real whipped cream” and up came your site. I bought all of the ingredients and was wondering how far in advance this can be made. We will be bringing this to a family dinner and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to layer the dessert in the morning or if I would bring everything with me and whip the cream and assemble right before serving. Have you ever had any difficulty with the real whipped cream separating? My sister in-law mentioned to me last night how much she loved this dessert but didn’t know how to make it and didn’t have a trifle bowl. I want to surprise her with this and I want it to be wonderful! Thanks so much!!!
Julie

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