Surprise your friends and family on April Fool’s Day with this comfort-food-gone-fancy Meatloaf Layer Cake. Each slice delivers a perfect serving of savory, flavorful meatloaf covered with smooth, creamy Gruyere mashed potatoes.
My family takes April Fool’s Day pranks quite seriously. One year, my older daughter started taking hard-boiled eggs to school for lunch months ahead of time to set up an early morning joke on me.
My husband plans ahead, too, doing things like freezing people’s breakfast overnight and swapping See’s chocolates for Brussels sprouts.
A couple of years ago at dinner time, I brought the layer cake everyone had been eyeing to the table. I suggested that we have dessert first to celebrate all the awesome jokes we’d managed to pull off for April Fool’s Day.
While everyone high-fived, I cut into the cake and served up a slices. My husband asked if I’d baked a new spice cake recipe.
Finally, forks raised, everyone got a close enough look to realize that we weren’t having some new spice cake for dinner at all. The layer cake they’d seen as a sweet treat was actually constructed with meatloaf and mashed potatoes rather than cake and frosting.
I still can’t believe I managed to fool them for longer than about two seconds once I sliced into the cake. I can only guess that the cake’s smoothly iced surface and delicate piping looked so sweet and inviting that they had no reason to question its composition, even on April Fool’s Day.
While I’ll never manage to pull off this joke at my house again, I’m sharing the recipe for all the April Fool’s Day-loving pranksters out there.
Also, I wanted to formalize the directions because we kind of love eating meatloaf this way. Now I can make meatloaf layer cake without trying to remember how many pounds of potatoes will create enough “frosting” to decorate the cake, as well as which cake pan size works best for baking the meatloaf.
This recipe, divided between two six-inch cake pans, produces a layer cake that will generously serve six to eight people. Splitting the filling between two pans means that it bakes more quickly than meatloaf prepared in a standard loaf pan, an added bonus if you’re trying to prepare this meal on the sly.
Plenty of additions — sliced onions, pressed garlic, shredded carrots, minced parsley, lightly beaten eggs, breadcrumbs, ketchup, and dried thyme — combine with lean ground beef to create a delicious balance of flavors and textures.
The mashed potatoes, mixed with buttermilk, butter, and nutty Gruyere cheese, add a smooth, delicious coating to this fancy yet comforting meal.
As I typed that list of ingredients, I realized that each slice of meatloaf layer cake includes all of the major food groups! You could totally eat a tasty wedge and call it dinner, but a side of green beans as well as crisp green salad round out the meal nicely.
Since this meatloaf layer cake is best assembled ahead of time, it does require reheating each slice in the microwave for full enjoyment. This small inconvenience is definitely worth the priceless reactions on the faces of your family and friends as they realize the joke.
Fortunately, the punchline of this gag tastes just as delicious as a sweet, decadent layer cake, but in a different way. It’s the best kind of April Fool’s joke because everyone laughs together and no one feels disappointed.
Wishing you a prank-filled April Fool’s Day full of fun and laughter!
- 1½ cups finely chopped onion (about 1 medium)
- ⅔ cup ketchup
- ⅔ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
- ½ cup finely grated carrot (about 1 medium)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ pounds lean ground beef
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs (or rolled oats for gluten free option)
- Gruyere Mashed Potatoes
- 2½ pounds potatoes (about 4 large), peeled and sliced in large chunks
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
- ¼ cup buttermilk or heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- salt, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly grease two 6-inch round cake pans. Combine all the meatloaf ingredients except for the ground beef and breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Mix well to combine.
- Add meat and breadcrumbs to the bowl and knead everything together gently with your hands until the mixture is well blended. Do not over mix.
- Divide the mixture between prepared cake pans and bake until an instant read thermometer inserted in the center reads 160º F, about 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before turning out each layer on a rack to cool to room temperature. If not frosting immediately, transfer cooled layers to the refrigerator until ready to continue.
- Boil potatoes, garlic, and bay leaf until the potatoes are tender. Remove bay leaf, drain, and return potatoes and garlic to the pan, shaking over medium heat until residual water evaporates and the potatoes look dry. Remove from heat and puree the potatoes with a masher or ricer, taking care to work out all the lumps. Place pan over low heat and add Gruyere, buttermilk, and butter. Mix until the cheese and butter melt, increasing the heat slightly if needed to help the cheese incorporate smoothly into the mixture. Season with salt. If desired, beat potatoes briefly with a hand mixer or in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to make sure they're extra smooth.
- To assemble, place one layer of the meatloaf cake on a platter. Spread a generous layer of mashed potatoes on the top before adding the second meatloaf layer. Add mashed potatoes to the sides and top of the meatloaf cake, smoothing the surface with an offset spatula. Add remaining mashed potatoes to a pastry bag (or zip lock bag with the corner snipped off) fitted with a large star piping tip. Pipe a mashed potato border around the top and bottom edge of the cake. If desired, decorate with edible flowers, fresh herbs, small cherry tomatoes, cocoa nibs, or candied bacon.
- Refrigerate meatloaf cake until ready to serve. Reheat individual slices in the microwave after slicing.