Food art wise, meatloaf is a versatile medium. It can be baked as a cake or molded into strikingly realistic interpretations of your friends or Old Gregg or if you’re like me and really hate the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger (look for a future post on meatloafing your friends & enemies!). I’m partial to meat cake.
There appear to be two schools of thought with regard to meatloaf: the ketchupers vs. the gravyers. I’m firmly in the ketchup camp. Gravy is for salisbury steak. For meat cake, ketchup works best.
To make your own meat cake, the list of ingredients is fairly simple:
- your favorite meatloaf recipe (doubled)
- solid cake pan (x2)
- mashed potatoes (as creamy as possible, with a bit of milk and butter)
- small can of tomato paste (or homemade)
- fresh steamed green beans or green peas
- somewhat sturdy plastic freezer bag (to serve as your frosting pastry bag)
Make your meatloaf as you normally would, but divide it into the two cake pans. Bake. While the meatloaf is cooking, boil some skinned potatoes. Once they’re cooked, mash them and add enough milk and butter to make them smooth but firm. You want to avoid lumps as they’ll block the opening of your frosting bag. During this time, I also recommend steaming some washed, trimmed, fresh green beans. These will be your accessories. If you don’t have fresh green beans, you can substitute frozen/fresh green peas. As the meatloaf cooks, keep an eye on it as the flat version cooks must faster than the loaf.
Take the meat cake pans out of the oven and let the meatloaf cool. While you’re waiting and if you’ve finished your decorative bit prep work, you can check out Rock Out with Your Crock Out.
Once the meatloaf is cool enough to handle, spread some mashed potatoes atop a cake plate or a standard dinner plate. The goal of the mashed potatoes is to keep your meat cake in place. Sit the bottom layer of your meat cake flat-side down. Then spread more mashed potatoes and the tomato paste. This is the all-important middle section. In a cake, this might be raspberry.
Now that your meat has been stacked, you’re ready to apply the mashed potato frosting. I recommend tepid potatoes as they seem to spread a bit more easily than if they were hot or cold. I apply them the same way that I do regular frosting using a regular silverware knife. As you’re applying the frosting, spread it as evenly as possible while avoiding spreading the tomato paste in the middle around. The goal is meat cake, not bloody meat cake (that can be a future project!).
Another important bit of advice while frosting your meat cake: don’t apply too much! If you do, the potatoes may slide down the side and your masterpiece will resemble ketchupalanche. Luckily, my dinner guests were kind enough to overlook my mistake. Perhaps this is because they didn’t want me to create meatloaf replicas of them in the future.
Once you’ve worked your way around the cake and the frosting is uniformly applied on the sides and the top, the real fun begins. Put the remaining mashed potatoes in a freezer bag and make sure the top is fully closed. This will become your pastry bag. By cutting a corner off the bottom (~ 1/4″), you’re now able to do the detail work. Slowly go around the edge of the top of the cake and make as close to a scalloped edge as you can. Make sure the line is solid as this will be your Hadrian’s ketchup retaining wall. Once you’ve gone all the way around once, do so again.
You’re now ready for my favorite part: the spreading of the ketchup. Turn your ketchup bottle upside down and squeeze the bejesus out of it. Your goal is to fill the wall with ketchup and come close to the top of the wall’s edge, but not quite. Once you’ve got your ketchup top, you’re ready for lettering. Personally, I prefer the word “MEAT” but you can spell anything you’d like as long as it fits. To do the lettering, I use the same mashed potato filled freezer bag and carefully do each letter. If your ketchup reservoir is deep, you may need to stack your letters.
Once you’ve got the lettering down, use the green beans and/or peas to gussy up your meat cake. Lend a bit of Southern charm by adding lattice-work. Or create flowers out of peas. Or stripes along the sides. You can also use carrots or snap peas or whatever else sort of veggie that you’d like.
And that’s it. Oh. For serving, I slice the meat cake then, pop the pieces in the microwave. Or serve it at room temperature/cold and tell my guests to pretend it’s a meatloaf sandwich. Depending on what you’ve written in the ketchup, it might be enough for them to shut up and eat it.
© Josephine Lowry. Every time someone steals another person’s image and/or copy, a unicorn gets a tapeworm. Link to my blog instead.