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      Dirt Cake by Darlene Womack

      There are lots of recipes for Dirt Cake out there on theInternet, but this one is a little different. It really has cake in it! Ittakes a while to make, but we think it's worth it. Don't let all the steps scareyou! Read over them and decide which ones you want to do. It's YOUR Dirt Cakefrom here on out!

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      Step 1: Make a chocolate cake. You can use your favoriterecipe or a mix. Here is the recipe I use for a moist, delicious one. It makestwo 8" or 9" layers. Use one now and freeze the other one for later.

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} ChocolateCake

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} 3/4 cupsoftened butter

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} 2 cupssugar

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} 3 largeeggs at room temperature (leave out of fridge for about half an hour)

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} 2 tspvanilla

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} 2 cupsunbleached all-purpose flour

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} 3/4 cupunsweetened cocoa powder (like Hershey's)

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} 1 tspbaking soda

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} 3/4 tspbaking powder

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} 1/2 tsp salt

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} 1 1/2 cupsmilk

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      Grease and flour 2 round or squarecake pans and set aside. Preheat oven to 350*. In a bowl, sift or stir togetherthe flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In alarge mixing bowl beat butter on medium to high speed for about 30 seconds. (Astand mixer works great for this cake as there is a lot of mixing.) Graduallyadd sugar a little at the time, beating on medium speed until well mixed. Ittakes about 3 minutes or so. Scrape the sides of the bowl and the beaters. Beatfor another 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at the time and continue beating foranother minute. Beat in vanilla. Next, alternate adding the flour mixture andthe milk, beating on low speed just until combined. After everything is addedin, mix on medium speed for another 20 seconds, just to make sure it's allmixed well. Spread the batter into the pans and bake for 30-35 minutes. Checkfor doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean,it's done. Cook cake in the pans for 10 minutes then remove and place oncooling racks until completely cool.

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      Step 2: If you are going to have cookie "flowers" in yourDirt Cake, it's time to mix the cookie dough! Or, you can use ready-to-usecookie dough, if you must J If you are going to use silk or real flowers, skipthis part.

      SugarCookies

      Thoroughly cream together: 2/3 cupshortening (or 1/3 C shortening and 1/3 C butter), 3/4 cup sugar and 1 tspvanilla. Add 1 egg and beat until light and fluffy. Stir in 4 tsp milk. Sifttogether and add into creamed mixture: 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, 1 1/2tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt. Divide dough in half, roll into 2 balls, putback into bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour. Preheatoven to 350*. Working with 1/2 at the time, roll dough out on a lightly flouredsurface. The dough should be about 1/4" thick, if you are using cookie sticks;1/8" thick for regular sugar cookies. Cut into flowers using cookie cutters.Carefully insert cookie stick from one of the outside edges of the shape,twisting slightly while inserting. The dough tears sometimes. If this happens,just take some of the excess dough and piece around the tear, smoothing it outas much as possible. Immediately (and carefully) place each cookie onto thecookie sheet as soon as it is cut and stick has been inserted. The longer thedough is out, the softer it becomes, and harder to work with, so cut, stick,cookie sheet. Once it's on the sheet, you don't have to handle it again untilit's baked. Bake for about 8-10 minutes. Cool for 2-3 minutes before removingto cooking rack. Makes between 1 and 2 dozen, depending on size of cookies.

      Royal Icing

      A little tricky to work with, butnot impossible. Beat together 3 Tbsp Meringue Powder, 4 cups powdered sugar, 1Tbsp clear vanilla flavoring and 5 Tbsp warm water. Beat for about 7 minutes oruntil stiff peaks form. For thinner icing, add in 1 tsp warm water for each cupof icing. This recipe makes about 3 cups of icing. I found that when I addeddrops of food coloring it thinned it out enough. Be sure to keep grease,butter, or oil away from utensils you are using to mix icing. Royal Icing isused to decorate cookies and not meant to use to frost cakes with. It hardensfairly quickly. Store extra icing covered, at room temperature. NOW, you areready to decorate your cookies! Good luck!

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      Step 3: Make some dirt out of about half a pound or so ofOreos If you have a little one around (or do it yourself it's fun!), tell him/her togo get their plastic toy hammer and come to the kitchen. You've got a job forthem to do. While they are digging in the toy box, put those cookies in aplastic bag and seal it up. Squeeze the air out first or it will explode oncethat hammer comes down on it When little one returns, have him/her pound awayon the bag of cookies until they resemble dirt. Turn the bag over occasionallyso they don't wear a hole in one spot. Or, if you are doing it, use your foodprocessor or the back of a heavy duty ladle or spoon on the plastic bag. Arolling pin works, too.

      Step 4: Make the filling. Soften 6 ozs cream cheese and 3Tbsp butter. Place in a large bowl and beat until creamy. Set aside. In anotherlarge bowl, whisk together 1 small box INSTANT choc pudding mix, 1 small boxINSTANT vanilla pudding mix and 2 1/2 cups milk, until well blended. It'll bekind of thick. [Don't follow the directions on the box! It will be too thin foryour cake if you do] With a rubber spatula or a big spoon, fold pudding mixtureinto the cream cheese mixture. Then, fold in an 8 oz container of Cool Whip.And. there's the filling!

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      Step 4: TIME TO PUT IT ALL TOGETHER - FINALLY!{}

      If you are using a flower pot with holes in the bottom,remember to put some foil or something in the bottom so all your cake will stayinside the pot. You can use a (clean!) flower pot, mini flower pots or abucket. First, break part of the cake into small pieces (a little bigger than abite) and put a layer of it down into the pot. Next, scoop in some filling andspread it out. Don't be shy, there's plenty! Throw some "dirt" (crushed Oreos)on top of that, then more filling, then more cake, more filling and ending upwith "dirt" on top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. It's muchbetter the day after. Just before serving, plant your "flowers" in the dirt.Show off your decorated cookies on a stick, put some silk flowers in or coverthe stems of real flowers with plastic wrap and plant those.

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      Step 5: Use as a center piece for Easter dinner, then eat itfor dessert! Enjoy!

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      As always, if you have questions, please feel free to callme at 205-422-5009, email me at vdarlenew@bellsouth.netor visit me on facebook at Darlene's Kitchen.

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      Thanks for watching today!

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      -- Darlene

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