Woodgrain Cake + Fudge Frosting + Meringue Mushrooms

I brought this cake two and a half hours away to be the post-bbq dessert on Memorial Day. All of the mushrooms survived the trip. I thought that was nice of them.

I’ve been wanting a reason to make meringue mushrooms ever since I knew they existed. This woodgrain cake gave me the motivation to finally do it!

Would you care to have this piece? I’d totally share if Jake and I hadn’t finished the last two pieces after our pizza last night. But you should know that this cake is dense and dreamy. And the frosting is dark chocolatey and fudgey and just the perfect accent to the cake, I’d say.

Woodgrain Cake
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 t vanilla or 1/2 a vanilla bean
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 3 T Dutch process cocoa


  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray a 9″ x 2″ round cake pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment paper and spray again. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl (using a hand mixer) or in the bowl of a stand mixer, blend the sugar and eggs until lightened, about 2 minutes. On a low speed, blend in the oil, milk and vanilla until well combined and smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk to remove any lumps. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients. Combine on medium speed for a couple minutes or until the batter is smooth and lump free. Be sure to scrape down the bowl.
  4. Remove 2 cups of the vanilla batter and place in a 2 cup measuring cup. Sift the cocoa over the remaining batter and stir to combine.
  5. Now to get your woodgrain on. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of vanilla batter into the center of the cake pan. Next, spoon 3 tablespoons of the chocolate batter into the center of the vanilla batter. This causes the vanilla batter to spread out. Continue alternating batters, in bulls-eye fashion until all the batter is used. You will now have thin rings of each batter on the outer edges of the pan, thicker rings towards the center (like below).
  6. Bake the cake in the center of the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the cake is lightly browned and a small sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean. The top will probably crack, don’t worry about it. Test inside the cracks to be sure it’s done. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Frost with fudge frosting!

Check out the woodgrain! I think if this was a real tree it’d be 10 years old.

Fudge Frosting
Recipe from 125 Best Cupcake Recipes


  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 T milk
  • 1 t vanilla


  1. In a small bowl, beat powdered sugar and cocoa powder into the butter until smooth. Add the vanilla and slowly add the milk. Beat until it’s smooth and fabulous.
  2. Frost that cake! Make meringue mushrooms!

These mushrooms are fun. Half of the ones I made turned out cute and were useable and the rest were practice and some were weirdos so I didn’t use them. Pictured are the ones that had potential to be toadstools. So there you go. It was the perfect amount!

Swiss Meringue Mushrooms
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart


meringue –

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 t vanilla extract

equipment –

  • a candy thermometer

mushroom assembly –

  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 ounce white chocolate

sprinkling –

  • cocoa powder


  1. Make meringue! Combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl of a standing electric mixer; set over a pan of simmering water. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the bowl. Cook, whisking constantly by hand, until the mixture registers 140ºF and the sugar is dissolved (it should feel slippery and smooth when rubbed between your fingertips), about 5 minutes. (I had trouble getting my candy thermometer to reach the mixture so I just kept taking the bowl off the water and tilting the bowl to see what temperature it read. It worked though!)
  2. Transfer bowl to a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to high speed, mix until the meringue is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), and forms stiff, glossy (but not dry) peaks, about 10 minutes. Mix in the vanilla.
  3. Bake! Preheat the oven to 200ºF. Line rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Transfer swiss meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip (#6 for small mushrooms like I made).For caps, pipe dome shapes in various sizes onto prepared baking sheets. Flatten tips with a damp finger. Pipe stems onto baking sheets, releasing pressure halfway and pulling up to form a peak. Make one stem for each cap. (The stems take practice…)
  4. Bake the meringue shapes for 1 hour, rotating halfway through. Reduce oven temperature to 175ºF. Continue baking until meringue is completely dry to the touch but not taking on any color, 30-45 minutes longer.
  5. Assemble! Melt bittersweet chocolate carefully in the microwave. Using a small offset spatula, spread a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate on the bottom  cooled caps. Cool until set. Melt white chocolate carefully in the microwave. Spread over the bittersweet chocolate.
  6. Using a paring knife, make a small hole in the center of the coated cap. Dip one end of the stem into the remaining white chocolate and insert into the hole; place on a plate and refrigerate until set. Top the frosted woodgrain cake. Sprinkle with cocoa powder.

So now you know how I spent my Sunday.

15 thoughts on “Woodgrain Cake + Fudge Frosting + Meringue Mushrooms”

  1. Megan, this cake looks awesome. I have already made a “rainy-day date” with one of my girlfriends so we can tackle it together.
    You have oil in the directions for the cake, but none in the ingredients list. How much oil are we talkin?
    Looking forward to making this!

    NB – do you think you could also use the same ringed technique with the alternating batters to do a checkerboard cake? Or do you really need a checkerboard form to do that?

  2. Hey! Sorry about the oil confusion. I added it to the ingredients, and it’s 1 cup!

    Also, you totally can freehand the checkboard cake. You certainly don’t need the checkerboard form, but it just makes it easier. In my fanny farmer cookbook she suggests just pouring the batter in a mehodical way getting it to be a bulls-eye, but I think that using this technique could work, but I’m just not sure!

  3. I’m quite certain that all would be destroyed at step five for me. There would be cake on the ceiling and cake on my cats’ backs. HOW do you do what you do, Miss Megan? Jake is a lucky fella, and we are all lucky readers.

  4. i can’t believe this cake. we learned to make a lot of high end designed cakes in school (the curriculum was European) but i never saw this method. you did a really good job.

  5. You are pretty much my cake hero, Megan. Was Aunty so very impressed?

    And you’ve discovered the one kind of mushrooms I won’t mind eating…didn’t know it could be done. 🙂

  6. Ozzy – Thanks so much! I was so excited to find this recipe.

    Sally – I forgot about your mushroom hate! I bet you’d like these guys for sure. It’s a mushroom miracle! Aunt Nita loved it! 🙂

  7. I adore everything about this cake! The little mushrooms are divinely cute and the whole thing looks perfect. The uncut cake is so sweet – a forest of mushrooms! But the woodgrain – wow. It almost looks too pretty to eat 🙂

    Incredible work, Megan! I am so, so impressed.

  8. I finally got around to making this cake, without the mushrooms, after admiring it ages ago. It was delicious and looked very pretty but I think not much like wood, I didn’t have your patience and had messier rings, think if I did it again I would put the batter in jugs. My housemate loved the frosting and ate the leftovers with a spoon.

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