We didn’t give my niece sweets until she was three years old. She loved macaroni and cheese so I made a mac ’n’ cheese birthday cake for her second birthday. I dyed the mashed potato decorations with beets and spinach, but you can use turmeric, carrots, parsley, red cabbage and so forth.
- 2 pounds dry pasta (macaroni, penne, rigatoni, etc)
- 2 pounds extra sharp cheddar, 1/2 grated, 1/2 cut into cubes
- 3 cups milk, warmed
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2/3 cup unsalted butter
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 cup of grated cheese (Parmesan, pecorino, aged gouda)
- 1 1/2 cups plain bread crumbs
- Cold smooth mashed potatoes plain and colored with natural food coloring (I used beet juice and spinach juice to dye them pink and green)
- Piping bags or parchment cones fitted with a large star tip. You will need one for each color you make.
- You have to make the cake ahead of time to give it enough time to cool so you can remove it from the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Have pasta ready in a large bowl.
- Prepare the baking pans by greasing thoroughly with warm butter and thoroughly coating the pan with bread crumbs.
- Prepare the béchamel by melting the butter in a medium sauce pan, then adding the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. It will make a paste, keep stirring and cooking it for about two minutes. Do not brown it or burn it.
- Stir in the warm milk and continue to stir until the sauce thickens and comes to a boil.
- Add nutmeg, salt and pepper and continue to cook for another few minutes to let the sauce thicken a little and cook off the floury taste. Remove from heat.
- Add the grated and cubed cheddar cheese and stir until the cubed cheese is 1/2 melted. If the cheese doesn’t melt, you can return the pan to the stove on a low flame, stirring constantly to keep the sauce from scorching.
- Add cheese sauce to the pasta and mix thoroughly. Press the pasta mixture into the pans and top with the bread crumbs, grated cheese and dot with the butter pats.
- Bake for 30 minutes. The dish is ready when the top is browned and the mac ’n’ cheese is bubbly.
- Grease a 12” x 3” cake pan heavily with butter.
- Mix bread crumbs and grated cheese and thoroughly with 2/3 of the bread crumb mixture. Be extra careful to grease and crumb the inner edges of the pan well.
- Press pasta mixture into the pan. Cover top with remaining bread crumb mixture.
- Bake for 30 minutes. The “cake” is ready when the top is browned and the mac ’n’ cheese is bubbly. Cool for 45 minutes to one hour—you want it to still be warm so the “cake” releases from the pan. If you take it out too early it may be too warm and fall apart.
- Place a heat proof platter or sheet pan on top of the cake pan and carefully invert it the cake pan and the platter-sheet pan together. Place the platter-sheet pan on a flat surface. Tap the cake pan gently and ease the pan off the “cake.”
- Put mashed potatoes in the piping bag or cone. Decorate your cake with mashed potatoes as desired.
- Reheat the Macaroni ‘n’ Cheese Birthday Cake before serving in a 350° oven for 20 minutes.
Yield: 8-10 servings