It’s no surprise I freaking love Settlers of Catan. Heck, I wrote a whole cookbook around the game. But let’s be honest – sometimes, even Overlords have lazy days. Whoever’s in charge of cranking out a gazillion new silicone cake molds every week made my life a hell of a lot easier when they caught onto the fact that if you make one with 19 holes instead of the older 17 hole models, you suddenly have a new customer base of stealthy geeks.
Tossing everything into a 19 hole “honeycomb” pull-apart cake pan is a heck of a lot faster and easier than baking cupcakes. For one thing, the tops are already hex shaped, so that’s a win. For another, you just fill one thing and bake it instead of filling 19 separate things, hoping they all come out relatively level while you eat the leftover raw batter sitting on your floor and staring through the tiny oven baking window. I should really find a new bingeworthy Netflix show. Most of all, one cake is easy to transport than 19 unruly cupcakes sliding around in a box, all while looking like an inordinate amount of effort to your gaming group. You can make your own for around $5 in ingredients and the most minimal human effort necessary to create a cake.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- 19 hole cake pan (get one here)
- 1 box chocolate cake mix (alternate: white cake mix + 2 tbsp apple pie spice and 2 tbsp honey to fake a home baked spice cake)
- 1 tub cream cheese or buttercream icing
- food coloring in red, green, yellow, and black
- 3-5 snack size disposable baggies
- melted butter or Wilson’s Cake Release (non-stick spray isn’t good enough, alas)
- OPTIONAL: candy for roads and houses; meeple shaped Geeky Sprinkles from The Geeky Hostess
I like a fertile dirt colored chocolate for the base of my Settlers of Catan map. If you’re feeling extra thematic, try to find some large, disposable blue plates at the grocery store so it’ll look like your map is surrounded by ocean. Plus, disposable plates mean one less dish to lug home and clean. We’re all about the laziness.
If you’re either not a chocolate lover (it happens) or prefer to take your this-was-so-much-work deception to higher levels, you can fake a home made spice cake by adding 2 tbsp store bought apple pie spice and 2 tbsp honey to a plain old white cake mix. For extra geek points, tuck a couple sandworm cookies around the edge of the plate. Now let’s get onto the good stuff. It is by will alone I set this cake in motion.
Mix up your cake batter according to the package directions. Before you pour it in the pan, I have one warning.
DO NOT USE NONSTICK SPRAY. IT WON’T WORK.
I know. I’ve tried. Either melt some butter or squeeze in some Wilson’s Cake Release. Use a pastry brush or, if you’re nasty, a mostly clean paper towel to spread your lube into all the nooks and crannies. Once it’s all creamy inside, then pump it full of your magnificent batter.
Regardless of what it says on the box, I find a standard cake mix takes about 45 minutes to bake at 325F in this pan. Start checking with a toothpick around 35 minutes, and keep checking every 5 minutes until you’ve learned exactly how much you hate the quirks of your oven.
Your boxed cake won’t come out as precise as the ones in the manufacturers photos. Sure, I *can* make a dense cake as bubble free and rich in detail as theirs, but that requires scratch cooking and takes a heck of a lot longer than 90 minutes. That’s prime gaming time! Once you cover your cooled cake with icing, no one will know or care, so don’t stress if the top looks a little rough. You didn’t buy this pan for the damn bees.
One tub of store bought icing is more than enough. Start by painting on your desert hex in white, then divide the rest of the icing into three bowls. Use plain old cheap ass grocery store food coloring to dye one yellow, one light green, and one red.
I started with the red, because why not? Cram all the dyed icing into a snack sized ziplock baggie, squeeze until it looks like a post-apocalyptic pastry bag, and snip off a tiny hole on the end. However small you think it should be, go smaller. Trust me.
Outline four of the hexes in red, fill in the middle, and admire your work. You should still have about half that red icing left, so go squeeze it right back into the mixing bowl and add a few drops of black food coloring. In person, this looks more grey-brown than black, though in the photos, it just looks like chocolate. If you want a lighter grey, you can take the extra step of separating the tub of icing into four portions and adding a couple drops of black to one glob. It’s more precise, but I thought we were being lazy bastards here? That’s one more dish to wash, people!
I bet you can guess what happens next. Okay, the photo probably gives it away, but I’ll still spell it out. Cram your light green icing into a clean baggie and paint it onto three hexes. Squeeze it back into the same bowl (bwa ha ha!) and add more green food coloring plus 2-3 drops of black until you have sufficiently dark green icing.
Turn the bag over (so the cut hole is facing up) and fill it with your dark green icing. Or just use a new baggie. I’m not going to judge. They cost less than 5 cents each. Once you own the pan, you can make this entire cake for $5. ($7 if you have to buy new food coloring.) A nickle won’t break the bank.
Fill in four more hexes with the dark green icing. Either throw the baggie away or squeeze whatever’s left directly into your mouth. Fair warning – if you eat a ton of green food coloring, don’t panic when you have weirdly colored poops.
You have yellow icing. You have blank hexes. You’re bright readers. I bet you can figure out how we got from the previous picture to this glorious money shot.
It’ll only take you 90 minutes from opening the box of powdery promise to admiring the glory of the world’s easiest Settlers of Catan cake.
If you’re a fondant sculptor or super into intricately decorating desserts, you can make yours look a thousand times better than this. It’ll also take you longer. Wait. What am I saying? This isn’t for people who think Allison Hendrix needs to put a little more oomph into her baking. This is for lazy gamers who are too cheap to shell out for a couple bags of chips and a two liter of Mountain Dew. Let someone else waste ten whole dollars. Your fiscally savy ass is about to bring the house down. Hell, one look at this and your gaming group might even let you be player one for a change.
In case you DO want to spend less than 90 seconds fancying up the whole cake, add some meeple shaped Geeky Sprinkles from The Geeky Hostess. Yes, meeple shaped sprinkles are a thing that exists. We truly live in a geek golden age.
Sure, unless you have the Barbarians expansion, Settlers of Catan isn’t played with meeples, but you’re being thematic here. Plus, they’re freaking adorable.
What’s that? You want your cake to be a FULLY PLAYABLE BOARD?
It’ll almost triple the cost, but if you think the honor and respect of your gaming group is worth around $15, grab multiple flavors of pocky sticks plus some pretzel rods for the roads and whatever multi-colored candy you like for the cities and settlements. Gummy Bears and Skittles both work well since they come in enough colors for a 4-5 player game.
BUT WHAT IF MY FRIENDS ARE GLUTEN FREE PALEO VEGANS WHO CAN’T EAT CAKE?
Don’t panic. I know your pain. Check out the Settlers of Catan Cookbook for hundreds of recipes centered around meeting EVERYONE’s dietary restrictions while also looking like an edible game map. That just leaves more cake for you.