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Flowering Cactus Cake

PRICKLY as it might appear, this dessert from the desert is one your guests will get their hands on in a hurry! Starting mouths watering will be the confection's deliciously moist chocolate cake—featuring a hint of mocha flavor—from crafty cook Opal Foss. A cactus plant grew out of her recipe, thanks to CT's kitchen staff. They baked the mix in loaf pans, then topped the treats with green frosting, licorice "spines" and gumdrop "flowers". You can do the same for a fun-filled birthday fiesta!
  • Total Time
    Prep: 30 min. Bake: 1 hour 5 min. + cooling
  • Makes
    12-14 servings


  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 2-1/4 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1-1/2 cups cold brewed coffee
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Green paste food coloring
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons milk
  • Sugar
  • 22 to 25 red gumdrops
  • Black shoestring licorice


  • In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in chocolate and vanilla. Combine flour, salt and baking soda; add to creamed mixture alternately with coffee. Pour into two greased 5-3/4x3x2-in. loaf pans and one 9x5-in. loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes (small loaves) and 65 minutes (large loaf) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  • For frosting, cream butter and shortening in a bowl. Gradually add confectioners' sugar, vanilla, food coloring and enough milk to achieve desired consistency.
  • Using a serrated knife, level the top of each cake. Round corners of small cakes; set aside. Place large cake, cut side down, on a 13x12-in. covered board. Round top corners. Frost top and sides of large cake. Frost small cakes; position at a slight angle on each side of large cake with one higher than the other.
  • Sprinkle sugar on a work surface. For each large flower, place four gumdrops on sugared surface. With a rolling pin, roll each gumdrop into an oval; cut in half lengthwise. With cut side down, roll up one piece to form a bud shape. Wrap remaining pieces around it so rounded edges form petals. For smaller flowers, use two or three gumdrops.
  • For cactus spines, cut licorice into 1/2-in. strips. Cut each strip in half lengthwise, but not all the way through, leaving strips attached at the bottom. Arrange randomly over cake.

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