We Made the Portal Cake: No Lie, It's Delicious

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Cake and grief counseling will be available at the end of this article. Vicky Wasik

In the realm of gaming, there is perhaps no cake more famous than the one promised to Chell in Portal. Served with a side of grief counseling, it initially represented hope; hope that perhaps the maliciously sarcastic Artificial Intelligence known as GLaDOS had come to feel a scrap of affection for one plucky test subject after all. But, like a dental filling through the Material Emancipation Grill, that hope was soon stripped away.

In a room where the word "help" was scrawled across the floor in blood, another message was written on the wall: the cake is a lie.

For those of us who've played, the phrase might as well have been etched across the backs of our eyelids. It's been repeated like a mantra, circulated like a meme, celebrated like a rite of passage, but in the end, the cake was never a lie. That would have been too easy, too cheap.

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Knowing GLaDOS, her pathological vindictiveness and petty humor, I'm certain that no small part of her satisfaction in baiting the player came from the fact that she was actively withholding a real cake. In so doing, GLaDOS would subvert the player's certainty that the cake was a lie and thus gain another victory in her psychological war.

To that end, not only can a determined player plumb the depths of Aperture Science to discover a real cake bathed in the glow of a single candle, it's possible to force GLaDOS to recite her own recipe—who else would lace a cake with volatile malted-milk impoundments?

Leaving aside any deadly, nonsensical, or otherwise unsavory components, I've been able to take the official ingredients given in-game and reverse-engineer a recipe in full. Forgetting the polyester resin, GLaDOS calls for one cup semisweet chocolate chips, three-quarters of a cup of butter, one and two-thirds cup granulated sugar, nine egg yolks, and two cups of all-purpose flour.

Without any instructions aside from an entry on how to kill someone with your bare hands, I was able to deduce from the ratio of ingredients (and lack of leavening agents) that the Portal Cake is, in fact, a chocolate chiffon. The chocolate and butter would be melted together, the egg yolks and sugar foamed; then the chocolate-butter would be drizzled in and the flour folded in last.

Given that the cake is little more than an elaborate Easter egg, I was surprised at how well it translates to the real world. Thanks to the emulsifying power of yolks, it's a relatively stable foam, making the recipe accessible even to beginners and producing a cake that's custardy-rich, with a sweet cocoa flavor reminiscent of German chocolate.

Which is perfectly in line with the official filling: a can of prepared coconut-pecan frosting enriched with whole eggs. To that, I can only raise my middle finger to GLaDOS and make something similar, with a custard of condensed milk, eggs, coconut, and pecan. Of course, what's inside hardly matters if the outer appearance isn't spot-on.

According to GLaDOS's recipe, the large, irregular chunks that encrust the cake are likely "sediment-shaped sediment," which I've taken the liberty of replacing with milk chocolate ground in a food processor. It's finished with a few swirls of whipped cream and Marasca cherries, which have a tart flavor and boozy bite that help to offset the sweetness of the chocolate.

In bringing the Portal Cake to life, based on the actual recipe given in-game, it's my turn to take perverse satisfaction in conquering one final test, one that no one but a pastry chef could have puzzled out. Make no mistake, this was a triumph. "Anyway," as GLaDOS would say, "this cake is great. It's so delicious and moist."