I‘ve been laughing to myself all week – so excited to share this with you guys because look at this absolutely ridiculous cake. Roy’s Birthday has so far been one of my greatest baking challenges on the blog each year. How do you make a birthday cake for someone who doesn’t like dessert? That’s honestly almost like trying to recommend a book to someone who hates reading. The funny thing is that at certain points in the year, he’ll crave donuts or ice cream for a week and I’ll come home to a half eaten box of Krispy Kreme on the counter and pints of Häagen-Dazs taking up precious space in the freezer. Last year I thought I could get away with making a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake. It was one of my favorite ice creams I’d ever made, but a rather failed attempt in my book because he only ever asked for one slice. It obviously was not ice cream week.
So this year I took a different approach. Inspired by the Fried Chicken Cake by Bree’s Cakes that took over the internet a year or so ago, I tried my own hand at this savory cake and oh whoa has it changed my perspective on the definition of a *birthday cake*. If there’s one thing in this world Roy loves to eat, it’s fried chicken. His favorite spot lately has been Kyochon and their honey wings, which is where I got the kfc style chicken wings sitting atop this cake. They’ve got that typical Korean-style thickly battered and uber crunchy exterior, but made a million times amazing by it’s sweet and salty flavor.
I have always been about desserts, and sweet birthday cakes – decorated in marzipan, fondant, drizzled with ganache, topped with light and airy meringues – are what I know best. Naturally, I was really intimidated when it came to obstacles like using mashed potatoes in place of buttercream. There are so many ways to make mashed potatoes and the key part of a successfully iced cake is the consistency of the frosting. You can’t exactly Google “mashed potato frosting recipe”. I was also worried about getting the mac & cheese layers to hold together when removed from the pan. There were so many things I wasn’t sure about as I started getting to work in the kitchen, but the craziest thing about this cake is that it might just be the easiest cake I’ve ever made. Sometimes dessert recipes can be so challenging, but mac & cheese? Cornbread? Mashed potatoes? All so incredibly simple! PS did I mention that every component is even more delicious than I had hoped for??
The KFC Cake works like this: one layer of mac & cheese, one layer of cornbread, and another layer of mac & cheese, frosted with mashed potatoes, topped with Korean fried chicken wings, and drizzled with honey. Those problems I was worried about initially were solved with a little basic cooking knowledge. The mashed potatoes require a lot of butter and some warm milk to make the consistency extra smooth and spreadable. For the mac & cheese, I added eggs to the mixture to bind everything together (think quiche). It worked perfectly. Plus, I’ve discovered some new go-to recipes when it comes to making some all-American dinner classics.
We had a bunch of friends over this past weekend to celebrate Roy’s birthday. The cake was a hit! And the fact that I can pack Roy and I a slice of leftover *cake* for lunch is just the cherry on top.
The KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) Cake
for the macaroni & cheese layers
16 oz. box elbow macaroni
2 cups whole milk
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
4 oz. cream cheese, melted
4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (reserve 1 cup for sprinkling)
salt and pepper
4 large eggs, beaten
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line the bottom of two 8-inch pans with parchment rounds and set aside.
2. Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Once cooked, drain the water and return the macaroni back to the pot.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the milk with the melted butter and cream cheese. Whisk lightly until evenly combined.
4. With the burner on a low heat, add the milk mixture and shredded cheddar to the pot with the macaroni. Stir together gently until the shredded cheese has also started to melt. Remove the pot from the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once seasoned, fold in the beaten eggs until evenly distributed throughout the macaroni.
5. Split the macaroni evenly between the two 8-inch pans. Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheddar cheese on top of the macaroni. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Halfway through baking, the pans may need to be rotated so the top of the macaroni is evenly browned. The macaroni may rise quite a bit towards the end of baking. As soon as it is removed from the oven, it should settle down into an even layer. Make sure both layers have cooled completely before moving onto the assembly.
for the cornbread layer
Adapted from Life Made Simple Bakes
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill medium grind cornmeal, which gave the cornbread a great gritty texture)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
6. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease and line the bottom of one 8-inch pan with a parchment round and set aside.
7. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all purpose flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
8. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugar, and honey. Add in the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Stir in the buttermilk. Taking the flour mixture, add the dry ingredients to the wet in three additions. Mix well with a spatula until there are only a few lumps left.
9. Pour the cornbread batter into the prepared pan. Let it sit on the counter for a few minutes before baking. Bake for 25-35 minutes until the top is golden brown and a cake skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before assembling the cake.
for the mashed potato icing
1200g starchy potatoes (I used yukon gold)
2 sticks (16 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, warm
salt and pepper
10. Wash and peel each potato, then quarter into even pieces. Rinse well with cold water and place in a large pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the potatoes. Set on the stove over medium-high heat until the potatoes are so tender they almost fall apart (about 20-30 minutes).
11. Drain the potatoes and place back in the pot. Cook again over medium-high heat for a few minutes until any excess water evaporates from the pan. Transfer to a large bowl.
12. Use a potato ricer or potato masher to mash up the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
13. Add the butter to the mashed potatoes about a tablespoon at a time, using the potato masher to mix the butter and potatoes together. Once all the butter has been incorporated, begin adding in the milk. You may not have to use all of the milk so try adding a little at a time until you reach a smooth and creamy consistency. Season again with salt and pepper as needed.
14. Place one layer of mac and cheese on desired serving dish. While the mashed potatoes are still warm, ice the first layer. Add the cornbread layer, ice, and add the final mac and cheese layer on top. Crumb coat the entire cake and let chill in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
15. Use the rest of the mashed potato to finish icing the entire cake. I placed the last bit of mashed potatoes in a piping bag fitted with a star piping tip to create the swirly dollops crowning the top of the cake. Finish off with either homemade or your favorite store-bought fried chicken (I used the honey wings from Kyochon in Koreatown – it’s Roy’s FAVORITE) and drizzle honey down the sides just before serving. ENJOY, FRIENDS!!!!