Ice Cream Cake that Gets the Job Done

March 1st, 2012 · 25 Comments · Baking and Sweets, Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations

When I was in first grade, I remember my teacher handing me a notebook. Its cover was made of brown craft paper, and a piece of black fabric wrapped around the stitched spine. She distributed one to every student in class saying something about how we could use it as a journal or a workbook — whatever we wanted! This was about as exciting as it got for me, and almost instantly I had a creative vision. I am going to draw a sabre tooth tiger on the first page of this beautiful blank notebook. I don’t know why it called to me like that — why do any of these ideas ever call to us? — but I could picture it exactly, right down to the green eyes and sinister curly fangs. I grabbed some black and orange markers and began outlining my creation with the confidence of Henri Matisse. By the time I had finished, it resembled a forest fire way more than a mammal. It looked nothing like what I had pictured in my head.

This wasn’t the last time I’d be disappointed by the poor execution of what I felt was clearly a brilliant idea. As an editor often responsible for both conceptualizing a story idea and then figuring out the best way to tell that story, it took me a long time to learn how to prevent the inevitable letdown. But as a baker, I have yet to figure out how to reconcile the two processes. This past weekend, when my newly turned ten-year-old begged and begged me to make a homemade ice cream cake for her birthday, I pictured this in my head. And at some point I think I called up this beauty, too. But there were so many steps and instructions! And they both seemed so complicated and intimidating! They involved baking cakes the night before. Freezing. Thawing ice cream to an exact spreadable consistency. Freezing again. Thawing before serving. I knew I wouldn’t have the patience to follow their recipes by the letter, so after a feeble attempt at convincing her to order something from Carvel, I decided to just wing it and follow Phoebe’s vision. She would like five layers: one layer mint chip ice cream, one layer chocolate ice cream, a layer of crushed Oreos, and two layers of frozen chocolate cake in there somewhere. I followed her orders to the best of my abilities, but the cake broke into a million pieces before I could even start layering. And I didn’t have enough ice cream. And then the five layers of cake and ice cream sorta ended up mushing together to make one. That is why you are only looking at only the top — which, I thought came out kinda nice. Is it going to cause a pinning frenzy on Pinterest or garner a tweet from Joy the Baker? (Whose book is out, btw.) No chance. But after the celebration, Phoebe said her birthday cake was exactly what she had pictured in her head…and that it was the best cake she’d ever had.

Ice Cream Cake that Gets the Job Done

One 13 x 9 sheet of Rosa’s Chocolate Mud Cake, removed from pan (do this carefully; mine broke in two large pieces) and completely cooled
2 pints of 2 of your favorite ice creams (4 pints total; I used half this amount and wished I had more)
8 to 10 Oreos or Chocolate wafers, placed in a ziploc bag and crushed with your hands or a rolling pin
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Using a serrated knife, slice the sheet cake horizontally. Place each cake layer on a cookie sheet, cover with foil, and freeze overnight.

In the morning, remove ice cream from the freezer and dump each flavor into two separate bowls. Let ice cream thaw and stir each flavor in its individual bowl until they become creamy and thick, but not soupy.

Line a metal sheet pan with wax paper (as shown below). Place one layer of cake on the bottom. Spread first layer of ice cream on top. Sprinkle crushed cookies all over ice cream. Place second layer of cake on top. Spread second layer of ice cream on top.

Freeze overnight or a minimum of four hours.

Remove from freezer and, lifting wax paper, remove cake from pan. Trim the cake on the sides so it looks nice and tidy.

For Birthday Message: Melt chocolate chips in a metal bowl set over boiling water. (Bowl gets hot! Use potholders when handling.) Stir with a rubber spatula until completely melted. Spoon chocolate into a plastic Ziploc bag and squeeze chocolate all the way to the bottom corner of one side of the bag as shown below. Snip the tiniest bit off the corner of the bag. Squeeze chocolate out of the makeshift pastry bag, and write your message across the top of your birthday cake. I find writing in script is easiest because you don’t have to keep stopping and starting.

Freeze cake again and remove about 10 minutes before you want to serve.

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25 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lauren // Mar 1, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    That looks delish. I always wanted to try http://joyinmykitchen.blogspot.com/2011/06/copycat-carvel-ice-cream-cake.html I LOVE the crunchy fudgey ness :)

  • 2 Juliana // Mar 1, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    For my daughter’s 3rd birthday two weeks ago, my husband begged for an ice cream cake, with both cake and ice cream in it. I looked at that same chocolate meringue recipe and many others looking for helpful instructions, but similarly gave up. I ended up baking a half recipe of chocolate cake in a spring-form pan, shaving off the top to make it level, then topping it with about 2.5 pints of softened ice cream (a vanilla bean layer and a raspberry sorbet layer), and re-freezing. I moved it to the fridge about half an hour before serving, and it softened up well. And I drizzled chocolate sauce on top, for decoration, because I couldn’t make the top very pretty. It turned out amazingly well, BUT I learned that spring-form pans (or at least mine) do not seal adequately for cake batter — I should have lined it all-the-way-up the sides with parchment paper, and then placed it on a cookie sheet too. The spring part is nice for holding the ice cream in while it hardens then allowing you to present the cake without any flipping, though, so I think it was probably worth it, even though the floor of my oven is decorated with charred chocolate cake drippings.

  • 3 Cecilia // Mar 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    what ice cream cake doesn’t get the job done? :)

    i now have the confidence to try making one of my own. what a sweet story, and what a sweet, sweet memory your daughter will have.

  • 4 Mariana // Mar 1, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    That story was absolutely lovely. :)

    Thank you for the recipe. Ice cream cake is exactly what we need here in Arizona where the summers get so hot that looking at the stove makes me want to cry.

  • 5 Sarah // Mar 1, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    I made a eggless dairyless cake for my son’s birthday party last year. The cake turned out ok but the frosting was a disaster, if you can even call it that (it was more of a glaze). Wondering if your recipe would work with rice ice cream. Ice cream is Ice cream right? My son’s second birthday is coming up shortly. Thanks for the idea. Now I don’t have to mess with a butterless frosting!

  • 6 Jen // Mar 1, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    I bet ANY attempt at making an ice-cream cake would be fantastic.

    You get ice-cream.
    You get cake.
    You moosh them together.
    You get fantastic!

    I need to make some RIGHT NOW!

  • 7 Jenny // Mar 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    I made an ice cream cake once…and it definitely wasn’t beautiful but it tasted delicious! I might have to try again

  • 8 Melissa@HomeBaked // Mar 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Now I know what to make for my ice cream-loving daughter’s July birthday! (Once I did make ice cream cupcakes: cookie in the bottom of cupcake paper, big scoop of ice cream, piped frosting on top. Winner with the kids!)

  • 9 Julia's Bookbag // Mar 1, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Girl, you are SO AWESOME!!!! I would have said, this is what ice cream stores are for! What a fab mama you are. I’ll bet all those flavors were fabulous!

    (and just so you know, I’m pinning this :)

  • 10 DeeDee V. // Mar 1, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    I love it! I happen to LOVE ice cream cake and this is such a great idea since my boys birthdays are a week apart we usually combine into one “friend” party. This way they can each choose their own ice cream flavor! brilliant!

    and funny – I initially read that as 34 chocolate chips. it seemed rather precise :)

  • 11 City Share // Mar 1, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Everyone else is writing about how this would be perfect for their child’s next birthday, but I actually am bookmarking it for my husband’s birthday. He loves ice cream and doesn’t really like cake, so this would be perfect for him with some peanut butter chunk ice cream.

  • 12 A Plum By Any Other Name // Mar 1, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    I hear you. I’ve had many a sabre tooth tiger lurking in my kitchen. Funny thing is our loved ones don’t care about perfection. They love our forest fires. It’s nice to be reminded of this. This ice cream cake of yours has melted my heart a little.

  • 13 Meister @ The Nervous Cook // Mar 1, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    What a great story, and let me tell you: Phoebe is a princess! She knows delicious when she tastes it, and she’s already smart enough to know that appearance isn’t everything. I like ‘er.

    Happy birthday to Phoebe, and happy cake success to you, Pinterest or no.

  • 14 Lisl Sukachevin // Mar 2, 2012 at 12:46 am

    We have a go-to ice cream cake we make for every birthday that is super easy and endlessly customizable. The only caveat is there’s no “cake” in it, only ice-cream:

    1 package Oreo cookies
    1 stick of butter, melted
    2 half gallons ice-cream (whatever 2 flavors you like!)
    1 bag candy (kit kats, milk ways, etc.–birthday person picks!)
    ice-cream sauce (optional, caramel, hot fudge, marshmallow)

    Finely crush the Oreo’s in the food processor. Mix with the butter and press in the bottom and up the sides of a springform pan. Soften one of the ice-creams and fill the bottom half of the pan (you won’t use the full half-gallon). Chop up whatever candy you have picked and spread over the ice-cream. Drizzle sauce on top (optional). Put in freezer to firm up. When firm, soften second ice-cream and spread over bottom layer, filling up the springform pan (you won’t use the full half-gallon). Freeze until firm.

    When ready to serve, remove from freezer and allow to sightly soften. Remove sides of pan and serve!

    Everyone loves this cake, it’s super easy, and we love that the birthday person get to pick whatever flavors they like!

  • 15 Anna // Mar 2, 2012 at 3:09 am

    Wow!! This looks amazing. I’ve spent the afternoon looking for a cake to cook for my boyfriend’s graduation next week and ice cream would be perfect! And I know what you mean about the botched execution of a fabulous idea – in my head I’m the next Nigella Lawson but in real life I can’t boil an egg.

    Happy birthday to Phoebe and happy cake-eating to the rest of the family :)

  • 16 Rebecca // Mar 2, 2012 at 8:38 am

    I cannot tell you how much it means to know that I am not alone in sometimes having my reach exceed my grasp, food-wise. :) That’s a pretty awesome cake by any kid’s standard.

  • 17 elizabeth // Mar 2, 2012 at 10:36 am

    We make our ice cream cake in a springform, which definitely helps to make it prettier. However, I have yet to make an ice cream cake with actual cake, we usually just have a layer of crushed up chocolate wafers.

  • 18 Jill // Mar 2, 2012 at 11:06 am

    This is why I love this blog. You packed a ton of humanity into a simple story about a failed cake. DALS is truly a gift to the internet. I can’t wait to get your book and I swore I would never buy another cookbook ;)

  • 19 Karen Kelly // Mar 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Your daughter will always remember that cake and so will you. It looks delicious!

  • 20 Julie // Mar 2, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Proof that kids don’t want perfection, just something done just for them. I’m sure Phoebe felt super special, and you came out the heroine. Win-win.

  • 21 Mavi // Mar 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    FYI!! You can also make this in a spring form pan, breaking up the cake into big chunks, so no worrying about making it fit a circle. And for fillings I have used, goobers, peanut M&Ms, etc., but BEST of all is chocolate covered pretzels. YUM! I adore ice cream cakes of any kind. :D “I am a newsletter subscriber. Do I win the Baked Better Bread Prize?”

  • 22 Lori@ In My Kitchen, In My Life // Mar 2, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    I turned over the cake decorating to our kids when they hit about age 4 and never looked back. Not my talent. I bake ‘em, give them a base coat of frosting and then the kids knock themselves out. Everybody’s happy and the day gets celebrated.

  • 23 eila // Mar 3, 2012 at 11:10 am

    love this post. you are one good mom!

    and, I LOVE Lori @In My Kitchen’s idea of turning the decorating over to the kiddos. can you IMAGINE the joy if you handed over the duty? definitely giving that a whirl next birthday….

  • 24 Kim // Mar 5, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    My family firmly espouses the theory that an ugly cake is a delicious cake. They don’t even trust pretty cakes at all. When a cake sticks to the pan, falls apart, etc. I just remeber that icing (or in your case ice cream) covers a whole multitude of sins. Those cakes always taste the best, anyway. Good job giving your baby what she wanted.

  • 25 Lee // Mar 15, 2012 at 1:56 am

    One of my children has a summer birthday, which for the past three years has meant putting together an icecream cake when the temperature is 100F. “The layers mushing together” is a phenomenon with which I’m all too familiar.

    That said, I do have a foolproof albeit disgusting-sounding (but delicious! no, really) recipe –maybe “formula” is a better word– involving ice cream sandwiches layered with Cool Whip into which you’ve mixed chocolate pudding mix and crushed Oreos. Adults eat this, say “Wow this is good, what’s in it?” and I say, “you don’t want to know. Have another piece.”

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