Cooking From Video Games: The Portal Cake – This Was (Not) a Triumph

I am not a baker nor am I a chef.

The most complicated thing I cook on a regular basis is pasta. Sometimes I’ll put butter and Parmesan cheese in my pasta. If I’m feeling crazy, I’ll even put some pepper in there. And if I’ve really gone postal I’ll skip all that and use marinara from the jar.

My point is, I don’t cook. I like to cook, but usually I’ll screw something up along the way or I’ll skip four or five ingredients I feel are ‘suggestions’ because I’m not made of money and who the hell actually needs all those spices? Plain is the new spice.

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Now that all of that is out in the open, I decided I’d try my hand at something. An experiment if you will. My best friend does this thing called “depression baking”. That is, they bake when they’re feeling depressed. And we’re millennials so, as you’d expect, we’re depressed a lot. I can’t tell you how many pies, muffins, brownies and cookies I’ve eaten from living with someone who depression bakes.

Anyway, my friend has some experience in the kitchen where I don’t. They also have this cookbook that has recipes on how to make things from movies. And that got me thinking it could be fun to do that – but with food from video games rather than movies.

My first idea: the cake from Portal. You know, the one that’s a lie? That one. For some reason, I thought it wouldn’t be a total disaster. So, I purchased all of the ingredients, pulled my best friend away from the definitive edition of Tales of Vesperia and we started working in my tiny kitchen.

Here’s how to (sort of) make the cake from Portal that you would only feed to your close friends and never to your co-workers or anyone else that you don’t want to kill.

Note: We decided to make a simplified version of the actual recipe from the video game because the cake from the game includes: fish-shaped candies, alpha resins, fiberglass surface resins and volatile malted milk, 12 medium geosynthetic membranes, 1 cross borehole electromagnetic imaging rhubarb and more. As some of these were hard to get our hands on we went with just a chocolate cake. I hope it will suffice.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing pans
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus a little extra for pans
  • 2 ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour (I have no idea what the difference is between cake flour and regular flour so in my personal opinion use whatever the heck the you have in the pantry)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups vanilla frosting
  • 3 cups chocolate frosting
  • A chocolate bar (anything here works really, I used Baker’s semi-sweet baking chocolate and half a bar was plenty. If you use something thinner you might need more)
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Whipped cream

Equipment you will need:

  • 3 8-inch cake pans
  • 5-87 large to medium to small sized bowls (we used a lot of bowls, I’m not quite sure what happened)
  • Electric mixer w/paddle attachments (we do not own an electric mixer with a paddle attachment so I used a hand mixer with a best friend attachment)
  • Wire cooling racks
  • Patience and the ability to read instructions correctly

How to make your own Portal cake:

Step 1: To start off you’ll want to preheat your oven to 350 degrees and resist the urge to stick your head inside. Take a little bit of butter and spread it all over the pans. Be sure to get the sides too. Get your fingers in there to do the dirty work. Trust me, you’ll love it. After that grab a few pinches of cocoa powder (I recommend washing your hands after the dirty butter spreading you just did) and sprinkle it into all three pans. Tap the pans like you’re playing the tambourine until it is has fully spread around the pan and then shake out the excess into a trash can, sink, fire pit, black hole or underground testing facility.

Step 2: When a recipe says to use a sifter, you should probably use one, but we don’t have one so we, er, didn’t. But if your life is more put together than ours and you do have a sifter, sift your cocoa powder into a medium bowl and whisk in boiling water. Set aside to cool.

Note: Don’t forget that all that’s in that bowl is cocoa powder and water so when you “accidentally” eat some and try to spit it out, it gets all stuck in your mouth so you just have to wash it down with water and you forever taste super bitter cocoa. Not speaking from experience, but maybe don’t do it.

Step 3: In a bowl of an electric mixer (or in a regular bowl with a hand mixer and a friend) with the paddle attachment (or regular attachment because its the only one you have) cream butter on low until light and fluffy.

Note: If your butter is too hard to cream, open up your toaster oven and put the sticks on the door of the open toaster oven that you’ve turned on to get soft. When they start to melt on the door, take them off, stick them on a plate and nuke them in the microwave for five seconds at a time until softened. OR just soften your butter at room temp ahead of time, either way works for me.

Once light and fluffy, gradually (or all at once if you’re a daredevil) beat in sugar until even more light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extra. Finally beat it, just beat it with the four eggs one at a time until fully combined.

Step 4: In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. On the other side of the kitchen, whisk milk into the cocoa/water mixture from before that you definitely did not accidentally taste. Set your mixer to low speed and add flour and the cocoa mix to the batter (i.e your buttery, sugary, eggy mixture).

Step 5: Spread the batter evenly into all three pans. Now, I know you’re not a magician so there’s probably no way for you to evenly pour them into the pans so I’ll let you in on a secret. There’s really no way anyone can tell. And no-one cares. It’s not going to look like cake anymore anyway when it’s flowing down their gullets. Okay, kid?

Bake the cakes 30-45 minutes, checking occasionally because you’re paranoid by stabbing a fork or toothpick into the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done!

Transfer your cakes to your wire rack. Let cool for 15 minutes, or whenever you’re done watching that Vesperia cutscene, and then flip the cakes back onto the rack. (We did this by putting a plate on top of the pan, flipping it over, and banging on the bottom of the pan like a bongo drum until it came loose.) Then, when you’re feeling brave stick it back on the rack until completely cool.

Step 6: Place one cake layer on whatever you want the cake to be stuck on for the duration of its life, and spread 1 ½ cups vanilla frosting over the top. Add the next later and the other 1 ½ cups of frosting. Lick – I mean wash – the utensil you used or get a new one, add the final layer and spread your chocolate frosting over the tops and sides.

Step 7: Sprinkle the cake with your chocolate shavings. In order to shave the chocolate I used a cheese grater. Unfortunately all I had was a small grater so rather than chocolate shavings we got what was basically more cocoa powder for the top. My friend said it looked like ants. True, but not helpful. Whatever you have works honestly. Top with a few dollops of whipped cream around the edge and then top the dollops with cherries.

Step 8: Take selfies and pictures with the cake as quickly as possible because it won’t be long until the cherries will fall off and your roommates will scream at you about the fact that your cake now looks funny because the cherries fell off.

Things that went wrong so they won’t happen to you:

  • Mix milk into your cocoa/water mixer before putting it into the rest of the batter or you’ll end up with weird cocoa powder chunks in your cake and your cake will end up being a carrot cake consistency.
  • Do not spill flour on your dog when they come to investigate what on Earth you’re doing in the kitchen.
  • When washing all of your dishes, do not make a giant bowl tower filling them all up with water so when you get to the biggest bowl that’s now completely full with water, it tilts over sending water towards your cooling cakes only narrowly avoiding them.
  • Use the correct utensils (i.e sifter, electric mixer, etc.) so you don’t end up with our weird carrot cake consistency,

Got ideas for food from video games you’d like to see us try and make (probably badly)? Tweet us @game_spew.