In late December 2019 I started to think about ice cream cake. I tried to make it once a very long time ago. It was an epic fail. I didn’t read anything before my attempt. I simply made a chocolate cake, added some layers of ice cream and served it. The cake was impossible to eat and the ice cream was melting. Worse yet we were enjoying this on New Year’s Eve with friends. It was embarrassing! I’ve never really enjoyed commercially made ice cream cakes, but really didn’t have motivation to figure it out on my own, until now.
I decided I wanted to make ice cream cake to celebrate my in-laws’ birthday. We were celebrating then together because they have birthdates very close to each other. I found some how to pages, decided on flavors (coffee and mint chip) and went for it!
In the meantime
I might not have followed through with this plan had Genna not written. In January I lost my mom. It was not unexpected but not exactly expected either. She was sick with stage 4 cancer but her treatment had been working well. Unfortunately suddenly it just stopped working. She became very sick and we learned that her cancer had spread. January was filled with shock and sadness, but I knew the only way out was through. Genna wrote that her daughter Clara wanted to have an ice cream cake. Is this something I offer or would be willing to try? She totally understood if I wasn’t up for it. I was able to say, “Yes actually this is something already on my plan. I’d love to try it!” Clara’s birthday wasn’t until mid-February and we were celebrating Ed and Jean’s birthdays prior to this. I’d definitely make one ice cream cake before Clara’s cake.
The history of ice-cream cakes
When I started to think about making ice cream cake I also started to wonder about their origin. Who thought of forming ice cream into a cake form? How long ago did this dessert come to be? It seems to have started in England in the 1700s. This dessert was something only the wealthy could afford. They became more popular in the 19th century and available to everyone after World War I.
There is some debate about whether to include cake and ice cream in the ice cream cake or just ice-cream with some chocolate crumbles. Most commercial ice cream cakes seem to be a layer of ice cream, a layer of crumbles and another layer of ice cream. I have never been able to tell what the frosting is when I eat a commercially prepared ice cream cake, but the general consensus online is to use whipped cream when frosting.
Ice cream cake is more popular in North America and Australia but not quite as popular in Europe. I feel like this is probably because Europe has so many amazing tortes and other fabulous confections. Recipes for ice cream cakes have been found all the way back to the 1870s.
So how do I make an ice cream cake?
The two articles I used for my first cake were from the Food Network and @Kitchn. I read them both and started thinking about the process I would like to use. I really wanted to make a cake without having to freeze ice-cream in a pan. I wanted to use cake. For my first cake this was my goal so I mostly followed the technique from the Food Network guide.
We celebrated as a group with my in-laws, my father and our family. Everyone shared their thoughts about this first ice cream cake as we enjoyed.
- The cake to ice cream ratio was off. The cake needed to be thinner.
- We have to wait longer before cutting. The whipped cream fell off the outside and the ice cream was rock hard.
- Coffee and mint chip ice cream weren’t the best combination.
- It would have been nice to have a little more ice cream.
All in all we agreed that it was pretty good for a first attempt. More would come.
Making Clara’s ice cream cake
Clara wanted her cake to have some pretty decorating. She also wanted a mix of coffee, mint chip and coconut. We agreed that we’d have coconut for the frosting and incorporate the other flavors in the ice cream cake. I made one poor decision based on our first try. I thought because the whipped cream frosting fell off the cake that it was the fault of the whipped cream. Also, I wanted to have the frosting be coconut and I knew I could have coconut frosting work well with a buttercream that contained coconut cream but with whipped cream I’d have to use coconut flavoring. With these constraints I chose to use a coconut buttercream. I knew from the first try that I needed thicker layers of ice cream and thinner layers of cake. That meant I’d have to make the ice cream cake using cake pans. I didn’t want to use a springform pan though so I had an idea of lining a regular cake pan with plastic wrap. Here are my pictures from this ice cream cake adventure.
And the takeaways from this cake
Clara and her family really enjoyed the ice cream cake. Clara loved the design and the fact that the cake contained both cake and ice cream. They observed these things.
- The frosting fell off the sides when the cut it and the cookie crumbles just kind of crumbled out so they couldn’t get a good slice shot.
- The flavor mix was a little much. They drop one of the flavors next time.
- They let it sit out for about 45 minutes and they said it was really easy to slice through.
Finally … how to make an ice cream cake
After all this the coronavirus started to take hold and suddenly I found myself with more time to practice ice cream cake. I have since made two more ice cream cakes and have a process that works really well for me. I’ve added ice cream cake as an Emoticakes official item and I’m pretty thrilled that Genna was willing to let Clara’s cake be part of my learning curve.
- Bake a small cake. You will only need the cake levels, so you may wish to have a reason to bake a cake other than just for an ice cream cake.
- First select your flavors. You’ll need about two half gallon containers of ice cream for an 8″ cake. You also need 3 cups of heavy cream. You will also want about a cup of cookie crumbs.
- Prepare your ice cream. Line your pans with two layers of plastic wrap. Spread softened ice cream into each pan, filling almost up to the top of the 2 inch pan. (You’ll add to this in the next step before you freeze this again)
- Prepare your cake and ice cream mixture. I finally decided that it was best to have cake crumbs mixed with ice cream for the cake portion of this. That makes it so that the texture is perfectly married with the ice cream cake and you aren’t waiting for things to thaw at different rates or chewing through too frozen cake. To make your cake/ice cream layer mix the cake crumbs from your leveled cake with enough ice cream to bind them together well. Then spread this on top of one or both of your ice cream layers. Now chill the layers overnight.
- Time to assemble your cake. Pour 3 cups of heavy cream into your mixer bowl. Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup of confectioners sugar. Whip until medium to stiff peaks form. Lay your first ice cream layer on your platter cake crumble side up. Top with a cup of whipped cream mixed with your cookie crumbles. Place your second layer on the top (cake layer side down if you used a cake crumble layer on both).
- Frost your ice cream cake. Take the whipped and frost your ice-cream cake with an offset spatula. You may decorated it however you wish! Add some sprinkles, pipe a border. Make it yours.
Photos of the finished ice cream cakes
I took several pictures of the final two cakes I made. Both were really delicious! They have the perfect balance of cake to ice cream and the whipped cream frosting stays on perfectly. My family has never really been into ice cream cake all that much and now we are hooked. We love that we can decide what ice cream to use, we think it is great that it limits our portions a bit (we only take one slice of cake but can build mountainous bowls of ice cream and take too many sample bites) and we are all looking forward to trying out ice cream cake with chocolate whipped cream, fudge sauce and more.