In this quick and inexpensive tutorial, we are going to show you how to make a Cake ATM Excavation. You may have never heard of a cake ATM. I had never heard of one until recently when I ran across an awesome little video online of a little girl pulling a constant string of clear sleeves filled with dollar bills from her birthday cake. Her reaction was so excited and genuine that in typical Excavating Adventures fashion, we wanted to try and turn it into an excavation activity. Let's just say that this excavation turned out awesome!


These Cake ATM Excavations are super easy to make and are a great activity to use to surprise the young Excavating Adventurer in your life. We also have a Real Money Dig Kit tutorial that uses spare change to create a super cool excavation activity that is also a ton of fun. 


Be sure to check out our free Digital Dig virtual gem mining. Answer trivia and earn points you can redeem for free rocks, minerals, fossils, seashells, excavation kits and more! New ways to earn points are added often.





Plaster of Paris


Mixing Bowl

Wooden spoon

Measuring cups

Popsicle sticks – Popsicle sticks are inexpensive, readily available, and make great excavation tools.

Safety goggles or glasses – You we need to provide or borrow a set for each student.

Optional – Brushes and magnifying glasses.

Birthday cake ATM - You can buy these online for usually less than $10

Plastic bin or tray about the size of a shoe box

Enough dollar bills to fill each sleeve.

Little plastic dinosaurs or some other small toys to include in the excavation. You can also add a bunch of coins and rocks and minerals. 

Glue gun and glue sticks


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Excavating Adventures Pro Tip: Do not feel like you have to use real money in this excavation activity. Make a bunch of fun coupons and add these instead. You can make free movie night coupons, get out of a chore coupons, free ice cream coupons, or pretty much anything you like that would be fun and exciting for your Excavating Adventurer to discover. 




  1. Load the sleeves with the dollar bills.
  2. Use the glue gun to seal any cracks in the cake ATM to prevent the mixture from seeping inside. 
  3. Set the cake ATM in the center of the container. You can sprinkle some other toys or coins around the container as well. 
  4. Set something heavy on top of the cake ATM to keep it from trying to float. 
  5. Mix 1 cups sand with 1/3 cup Plaster of Paris.
  6. Add 1/3 cup of water and mix until you have a pancake batter consistency.
  7. Pour the mixture into the container and allow to set and firm up for about ten minutes. This will make a little base to hold the cake ATM in place. 
  8. Repeat the above steps to make more mixture. Add a few coins or toys each time you add the mixture. This will leave items at different layers to be discovered. Add mixture until you reach the top of the cake ATM.
  9. The cake ATM will have a plastic clip that is attached to the sleeves of money. Glue gun a dinosaur or two to the plastic clip. 
  10. Place the Cake ATM Excavation in front of a fan overnight until it is completely dry.
  11. Once the excavation is dry, sprinkle some sand on the surface of the excavation to camouflage the cake ATM. You can add more dinosaurs to the surface as well to decorate the excavation. 
  12. Distribute the excavation, excavation tools, and safety goggles to your Excavating Adventurer.
  13. Have fun watching as they remove the dinosaur to begin excavating and the cake ATM starts flowing a constant stream of money!
  14. You can then encourage them to dig in and discover the other fun items you have hidden inside. 


Take some time to explore our science website for kids filled with all kinds of awesome goodies. We have monthly excavations that get delivered right to your door, Build Your Own excavations, a blog filled with amazing excavation ideas, trivia, tons of free stuff and much, much, more!