A Tetris Cake for Someone You Really Love, or, Dewy Velvet Chocolate Cake with Bourbon Vanilla Frosting

Judson's birthday was last month, and while I'm now super late, I can't let it pass without telling you about his cake, because as we all know, Judson's birthday means two things: I want to make a cake and he doesn’t care about cake. So while I took to heart his request to ‘please, please don’t go over the top with food at my party’, I still couldn’t resist making a proper cake for the guests at his shindig.

Only I can’t ever just leave it at… you know, a plain old cake. For his birthday in years past there’s been the Domo cake with corresponding speech bubble; the ill-fated sushi cake (which was the same year as the jello shots inside of real strawberries, so I feel like I should get a pass for the cake only looking ‘meh;’ the key lime pie made in a country where I can’t buy key limes; and too many others to count. (I’m pretty sure there were beer popsicles one year? And another year, jello shots in the shape of the Scottish flag made with the largest bottle of blue curacao I've ever seen and if anyone can remember what I used to make the white ones, then they're doing better off than me).

So this year, Judson had a board-game party for his birthday- relatively chill, lots of games and puzzles and nerdy jokes and day-drinking, so I decided to make him a Tetris cake. Not content (and let's be real, not skilled enough) to use frosting for the shapes, of course I decided to make square macarons. But I didn't reckon on there being seven iterations of Tetris shapes. Did you know there are seven Tetris shapes? Well, there are. I'll give you a minute to think it through, but here is a list: line, square, T, squiggle-to-the-left, squiggle-to-the-right, L, and backwards L. I considered wussing out and only doing some of them (no I didn't) but instead of that, I called on my best baking buddy and while strolling through the streets of Barcelona, we brainstormed the best way to divide up a single batch of macaron batter into seven different colours out of which to build the shapes.

We haven't really talked about macarons much here because (no surprise) there are no recipes for them in the recipe box, but they're my absolute favourite dessert and one that I previously thought so untackle-able that I refused to even try to make them. Fast forward to this spring when I finally gave it a chance, and you know what? I'm not half bad at macarons! (Actually, I'm rather good at them and wildly enjoy making them). But being good at making them doesn't mean they're easy, and when you divide something as temperamental as macaron batter into sevenths, things are bound to get iffy. Combine the fact that I was using food dye to colour them pretty vibrant colours as well, and some of my shapes had some cracks in them, I'll admit it.

But the cake, dear reader, was amazing: plush and soft and so moist it hardly held together when I frosted it with the softest buttercream I could manage. I know I say I love one of the cakes I've made often, but this cake and the banana caramel cake from 2015 are without a doubt my two favourite cakes I've made since starting the Recipe Box Project. If you're a new reader, start with this cake... skip the macarons and it's actually beyond easy!

Or, even if you're not new here, next time you need a cake for someone you love dearly, give this one a go. It's the perfect way to tell someone happy birthday.

This is the footnote on the recipe for this cake... And i also quoted it to judson like a billion times when he kept requesting that i rein it in on party foods.

This is the footnote on the recipe for this cake... And i also quoted it to judson like a billion times when he kept requesting that i rein it in on party foods.

Some Notes:
  • As listed below, this will make you enough for 2 9x13-inch layers. If you'd rather have 2 9-inch round layers, you may halve the recipe.
  • If you've never made macarons before, then don't try to make them square the first time. I've made them close to a dozen times and still had some trouble making it work.
  • I used this recipe as my inspiration, splitting the nut & sugar mixture into seven by weight before I even beat the egg. Then I beat the eggs as normal, divided the weight of the egg into sevenths, and added it to my individual bowls of nuts & sugar. Add the food dye at that stage and make as normal, but work quickly. Fill your piping bags and pipe 1-inch squares onto parchment or a Silpat.
  • You'll also need to make your Tetris pattern. I used a 9x13 inch pan to make my cake, so I went for 8 columns of 1-inch Tetris blocks (because the macarons will swell a little in the oven and you'll need a bit of space around them). I found it useful to print out graph paper and doodle a few options before I committed to this one.
  • Once you decide on your pattern, make sure that you'll have enough Tetris blocks to make it- one batch of the above macaron batter makes approximately 16 square macarons in each colour, but that's very dependent on how well you scrape the bowl, how much you can get out of your pastry bags, etc.

the verdict:

5 spoons out of five. I still have dreams about this cake.

Two years ago: Bacon Rounds

the recipe:

Dewy Velvet Chocolate Cake with Bourbon Vanilla Buttercream

the directions:

Line 2 9x13 pans with paper on bottom and preheat oven to 175C/350F.
Sift flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa into a large bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat eggs until thick and lemon-coloured.
Gradually add sugar and beat until very well-blended and almost smooth.
Add oil, buttermilk and vanilla to dry ingredients and beat until very smooth.
Fold in egg mixture thoroughly but gently.
Pour into prepared pans and bake 30-35 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the middle comes out very slightly sticky.
Allow to cool completely before frosting.


Beat butter until very light and fluffy.
Add powdered sugar gradually until mixture has the consistency you want.
Add cream, vanilla and bourbon and blend well; adjust powdered sugar if necessary.
Frost and fill cake, then decorate with macarons if going for a Tetris cake.

the ingredients:
the cake:

3 c cake flour, sifted (OR 3/8 c cornflour PLUS 2 5/8 c flour, all sifted together)
2 ½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
1 c cocoa
4 eggs
2 ½ c sugar
1 1/3 c vegetable oil
2 c buttermilk (OR 2 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar PLUS scant 2 c buttermilk)
1 tsp vanilla extract

the frosting:

2 c butter
6-7 c powdered sugar, sifted
½ tsp salt
4 tsp cream
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp bourbon