Madonna Jean’s Dirt Cake

Aunt Madonna

For me, cooking and baking are more than just a pastime or hobby; it’s in my DNA. I used to sit in my grandmother’s tiny kitchen and help her bake pies and cakes, cook meals, and listened to all her tips and tricks. My mother’s food was always good, but rarely healthy. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, and since both of my parents worked, a lot of our meals were “Just Add (fill in the blank)” boxes of whatever was inexpensive. My aunt was also a wonderful cook, and she showed me some desserts and dishes that I will never forget. She was one of the biggest influences in my life. She definitely influenced the way I operate in the business world, and was a great role model for the women whose lives she touched. She was one of those people who made you better for having known them. If you could count her as a friend, you were the lucky one. My aunt died of breast cancer in 1998. She fought it for years. At one point near the end, I actually moved in with her to help her out. Some months before she died, she told me there were two things she wanted to see before she passed. The first was me to turn 18, which she did. The second, was for me to graduate high school. My birthday and graduation were a mere 2 months apart, but she didn’t make long enough to see me graduate.

There are many recipes I get from friends or family. Sometimes I can’t remember exactly who gave it to me, or where we were. This is not one of those recipes. I remember exactly how she taught it to me, where we were, and where we were going. Every time I make it, I still hear her voice telling me how to complete each step.

This recipe is awesome for so many reasons. The main reasons are, of course, the most important. It’s quick, easy, and inexpensive. You can easily make it to feed tons of people, and it’s easy to add variations to fit any occasion. The first time I made this for the group at the post I’m at now, they gave it a nickname… Cup of Love. I think about my aunt, and there could be no higher praise. This recipe is almost impossible to screw up. It requires no cooking, and you can complete it in 3 easy steps. Without further adieu, I give you the original Madonna Jean’s Dirt Cake… AKA, Cup of Love.


  • 2- 15.5 oz pkg Oreo Cookies (Can use reduced fat)
  • 1- 8 oz pkg Cream Cheese, room temp
  • 1- 12 oz tub Whip Cream
  • 1- 1.4 oz or 3.4 oz pkg Vanilla Pudding (no cook)
  • 2 C Milk (for pudding)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  1. First, empty the packet of pudding into a mixing bowl and add the milk. It doesn’t matter if you use the 1.4 oz box or the 3.4 oz, they both take 2 C of milk. Mix it well and put it in the fridge to chill.
  2. Crush one entire package of cookies plus one row of another. You can do this a few different ways. You can put them in a food processor, or, dump them into a plastic bag. You don’t want them to be completely crumbs. You want pieces. If you cut the cookie into quarters, that’s about the size you want, but it doesn’t have to be perfect.
  3. Combine the cream cheese and whip cream in a bowl. Add the chilled pudding and vanilla. Stir until completely combined. Layer the dessert beginning with the pudding. There’s enough for 3 layers.

Your cookies should be around this size. The majority should be no smaller than a dime, but smaller than a quarter.

Little pockets of cream cheese are perfectly fine. Don't try to mix them out.

When layering, dollop pudding in the middle of the cookies.

Gently push to the outside in an even layer. Just like icing a cake. Keep from lifting the cookies into the pudding by tilting the bottom of the spatula toward the outside when spreading outward, and turn the bottom inward when moving back toward the center. Try not to lift it too many times until you've spread the layer out completely.

Pit it in a trifle bowl when entertaining, or a new, clean, flower pot with gummy worms and a plastic flower for a springtime gathering. Serve it using a gardening trough to complete the theme.

Like I said before, there are several ways to vary this dessert. Last week I made a St. Patty’s Day version of this by using mint Oreo cookies. You can also use green food coloring in the pudding to give it the full effect. Spring is here, at least in California, and now the golden Oreo cookies are out. If you’ve given up chocolate for Lent, use these instead.

Now, as much as I love my aunt, I have changed one thing. I make my whip cream from scratch. It’s way too easy not to, and I always have heavy cream and powdered sugar on hand. Here’s how to do it:

  • Pour 1 C heavy cream into a mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer. Add 1 TBSP powdered sugar and 1 tsp of either vanilla or almond extract. Whisk, mix with a hand mixer or whisk attachment with stand mixer until the cream thickens and forms stiff peaks. All done!

For friends that are chocoholics, you’ll find this version particularly exciting.

  • Use chocolate stuffed Oreo cookies in place of regular for extra sweetness, or use the regular ones to balance the extra sweetness of the chocolate.
  • Use chocolate fudge pudding instead of vanilla.
  • Use chocolate whip cream or, if making your own, use 2 TBSP of powdered sugar and 2 tsp of unsweetened cocoa powder.

Posted on March 24, 2012, in Desserts and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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