My dad’s favorite April Fool’s joke wouldn’t play very well this year. When I was a girl, he’d celebrate this mischievous holiday by waking me up with the proclamation that a foot of snow had fallen overnight. No school!
A blizzard on April 1st? Not likely. Yet in my groggy state, I typically took the bait. Given the reality of school over sledding, I never thought the joke was as funny as Dad did. After the winter we’ve had this year, most people would merely groan.
On this day of good-natured spoofs, I often tried to pull the proverbial wool over my own kids’ eyes. Apparently though, my kids were less gullible than me. Eventually, I did determine that the most surefire way to deceive was through their stomachs.
The biggest laughs came from a simple glass of fruit punch ⇩⇩ that I served alongside the kids’ after-school snack. When they sipped through the straw, the joke became apparent. The non-flowing fruit punch was, in fact, red Jell-O. Silly as it was, we laughed so hard and, ultimately, they were still quite content with their snack.
Knowing my family’s fondness for meatloaf, I devised a new ruse for this year. Sometime after the “fruit punch” success, I saw a picture of a unique cake. The layers of this cake, however, were meatloaf and the icing was mashed potato.
To ensure the funny factor was accompanied by tasty wedges that didn’t crumble, I chose a recipe that is somewhat firm and slices well. For ease on a busy weeknight, the loaf mixes up quickly in one bowl.
The photo that sparked this idea depicted a two-layer cake slice and called for baking in two 8-inch cake pans. Because I have only 9-inch round pans and thought those layers might be a bit thin, I baked the meatloaf in a round casserole dish. A bonus with this method was less work when it was time to turn the cake out of the pan and frost. Feel free to adjust the recipe based on the pans you have. If you happen to use cake pans, reduce the cooking time to account for the two thinner layers and expect to use the larger amount of mashed potatoes.
Even if your family catches you in the act of preparing this silly dinner or spies some ground beef peeking through the unconventional frosting, the prank is still likely to score a lot of laughs. Given the taste, this meatloaf might even make the dinner rotation throughout the year, whether as a cake or in free-form fashion.
Over the years I have now made this meatloaf so many times in a more traditional shape－and with a glaze instead of a mashed potato “frosting.” Following is the recipe for Family Favorite Glazed Meatloaf, which may just become a favorite in your house, too!
Yields 8 servings.
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
- 1/2 pound pork sausage (I use sweet)
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I’ve also used gluten-free bread, finely chopped)
- 3 sliced green onions (white and green parts)
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (may substitute Worcestershire sauce)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2-3 cups hot mashed potatoes (may use one 24-ounce package of refrigerated mashed potatoes, heated; see notes)
- 8 cherry or grape tomatoes, optional for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 1 1/2 quart round casserole dish and line the bottom with parchment paper. (Any similar size round ovenproof dish may be used.)
In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the milk and eggs. Mix in the green onions, parsley, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Add the ground beef and sausage, and thoroughly combine. (I find this easiest to do with my clean hands.)
Place the mixture in the prepared baking dish, patting to make level.
Bake the meatloaf until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees F, or about 50-60 minutes. (Precise cooking time will depend on the depth and width of your baking dish.) Cover loosely with foil, and let stand for 10 minutes.
Carefully, pour off any juices from the baking dish, and then run a knife around the sides to loosen. Place a flat serving platter over the casserole dish, and flip to invert the meatloaf onto the platter. (I place two slightly overlapping pieces of foil or parchment paper between the meatloaf and the platter before flipping. These will keep the platter clean while the meatloaf is being iced and can be easily pulled from opposite sides once finished.)
Using a spatula, spread the mashed potatoes over the meatloaf as you would icing. If any juices leak onto the platter, dab them with a paper towel.
Place the tomatoes, stem ends down, in a ring around top of the “cake” to resemble cherries. Cut the meatloaf into wedges, and serve immediately. If not serving immediately, allow the meatloaf to sit at room temperature for up to two hours. Reheat at 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until hot.
- If preparing homemade mashed potatoes, beat in a good amount of milk. If the potatoes are too stiff, they will be difficult to spread.