How to Make a Mystery Machine Cake

There’s really not much to it.

You will need:

  • 1 box cake mix (and supplies to make it)
  • some cardboard or a small box
  • waxed paper
  • 2 cans of white frosting
  • food coloring
  • premade tube of orange frosting
  • frosting bags and tips
  • 5 Oreos
  • toothpicks

First, split your cake batter between two loaf pans and bake until done. I used my small one (8.5 x 4.5 inches) because a smaller area gives you more height. For the other I had to use a regular loaf pan – more like 5 inches? It doesn’t matter too much, these are not technical specifications. Once they’re done, turn them out to cool.

I wanted to raise my cake off of the tray slightly, to leave room for the wheels. I wrapped a box of Rice-a-Roni in waxed paper, but that turned out to be a little thick; I’d have been better off wrapping a few layers of cardboard to raise the cake about half an inch.

Next, stick your cake pieces together. I put the flat sides to the outside (top and bottom) and stuck the uneven top sides together, without leveling. I’m a heretic, I know.

This involved a lot of frosting. (If you’re using premade frosting, as I was – I know! Heretic! – giving it time to sit out helps it dry and solidify to hold a little better.)

Then I coated the whole shebang with some groovy blue-green frosting. (To get that ‘vintage’ turquoise shade, color it a medium blue and add some green. I colored an entire tub and had leftovers, but your mileage may vary.) As you can see, it’s starting to look a little van-like now. I told Greg this was what the Mystery Machine looks like after forty years. Paint job faded, up on blocks…sad.

With white from the second tub, add windows, headlights, bumpers, and the luggage rack on the top.

Next, color the second tub a lime green by adding a little yellow to your green. Your ‘spare tire’ Oreo will NOT stay on with frosting alone; this is an easy fix, however. Take a toothpick and drive it halfway through the cookie (so the tip is in the filling and not sticking out the front) and then poke it into your cake like a thumbtack. A delicious, unhealthy thumbtack. Cover it in green, and pipe green in appropriate designs around the sides of your Mystery Machine.

Using the same technique, attach the tires. With your little orange tube, add flowers to the tires and the van, and either write the appropriate number (if you run out of time and energy, like I did), or go for the gold and write “The Mystery Machine” on both sides of your sugary van.

There! You did it! You made an amazing custom cake without special pans or equipment, with only rudimentary baking and decorating required.

I felt a little guilty using mixes and premade frosting, but you know what? I’m physically and emotionally exhausted right now. Now that we’ve passed Charlie’s birthday, the next thing on our List is “Pack Up and Move Out,” and I am so not ready.


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