October is a very busy month for birthdays in our family, two of which are my son and my husband within a week of each other. Although we celebrated them both with family over the Thanksgiving weekend, I made one cake for my son for that celebration, and I made one for my husband on his actual birthday at home.
My son is really into trains right now (are you surprised??), and of course, particularly Thomas – it’s like an inborn addiction that all little boys seem to have no matter how much or how little exposure they actually have to Thomas. Anyway, I wanted to make him a cake with Thomas on it, but with all the other preparations for Thanksgiving (we were travelling as well) I just didn’t have the time to create a Thomas. However, as he was only turning two, I figured I would probably still be safe with any kind of train, so I made a simpler train out of fondant for the top of his cake. I didn’t hear any complaints, especially since he got to eat parts of the train!
For my husband’s birthday the next week I decided to do an ice cream cake. My husband isn’t into sweet things, like cake, as much. But he does like ice cream. How many of you remember when Dairy Queen had a Nerds blizzard? You know those crunchy little candies that are oh so tangy and yummy? My husband LOVES Nerds candies, and often talks about those Nerds blizzards and how you can’t get them anymore. Well, I decided to make him a Nerds ice cream cake. Pretty straightforward, I got some vanilla ice cream, some Nerds, put them together with a crust and chocolate layer, and voila, a Nerds ice cream cake. It was a pretty big hit; my daughter even put in a request for the same cake for her birthday – next June! We’ll see if she remembers 🙂
This week I asked my husband, Tom, to do a guest post, as he is a budding ice cream cake maker and just made one for our daughter’s birthday. Here he shares his method and experience so you can try one for yourself on a hot summer day. Enjoy!
We’re now in the thick of summer. It’s hot, stuffy and humid. If you’re anything like me, the last thing that you want to do is warm up the oven and bake. The problem is that celebrations are also kicked into high gear. Kids have birthday parties. There are long weekend parties. It’s a great time of year to get together. Usually this means spending time in a hot kitchen.
This weekend our family celebrated our daughter’s third birthday. What to do? With temperatures reaching 30 degrees, neither Susie nor I wanted to use the oven. Thankfully, our daughter requested an ice cream cake – a developing specialty of mine – and Susie asked that I share my experiences making these cakes with you.
The first thing that you should know about ice cream cakes is that they are EASY and (relatively) CHEAP. Aside from the ingredients all you really need is a spring form pan, a bowl, a pot, and a spoon. It gets even easier if you have an electric mixer, though this isn’t necessary. As for ingredients, here’s a list of what I used to make the 10″ cake this weekend (I’ll note some variations that I’ve done in the past as I go through the post):
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter (you could probably use less)
2 litres vanilla ice cream
2 litres chocolate ice cream
1 regular bag of chocolate chips (226g)
1/4 cup of milk
3 spoons of raspberry jam
Making an ice cream cake is basically an effort in layering. This cake has four layers. After you finish each layer, you need to put the cake back in the freezer and allow it to adequately cool. Failure to do so will result in uneven layers and, in the worst case, their mixing (basically just making a new flavour of ice cream). This happened to me this weekend because I was in a rush. Patience is an absolute necessity!
The first layer is the base. On the cake I just made, I used a graham cracker crust. To make the crust, I just melt some butter (about 1/4 cup) and mix it in with graham cracker crumbs. Although this only loosely binds the crumbs together, I’ve always found my crusts too firm once the cake is put together. Less butter is better here. Alternatively you could make a regular graham crust by baking it at 350°F for about 10-12 minutes (but that, of course, would require the oven). Once complete, put the crust in the freezer for about an hour.
The next layer is an ice cream layer. This is where the electric mixer is useful. You want the ice cream soft and malleable. If you have a mixer, just toss the ice cream in there and soften it up. If not, put it in a bowl and begin beating it with a wooden spoon. While you’re doing this, you can add ingredients to the ice cream. Don’t bother buying fancy ice creams for the cake. Just add what you want at this stage. This allows you to make a more customized cake. In the past, I have added crushed candy canes, Reese Peanut Butter Cups and Oreo cookies. Generally, for a 10″ pan, one 2-litre brick of ice cream is sufficient for each layer. Once the ice cream can be easily spread, take the crust out of the freezer and spread the ice cream over top in a smooth layer. Then place it back into the freezer for at least an hour. You want the cake to be hard for the next layer.
The next layer I add is a chocolate middle. To make the chocolate middle, I just melt a bag of chocolate chips and add about 1/4 cup of milk. Basically, you don’t want the chocolate to freeze solid. It should be soft but firm when you bite into the cake. For this cake, I also mixed some raspberry jam into the melted chocolate. This gave the chocolate a berry flavour and texture. I suspect here, you could also add peanut butter or marshmallow fluff as another type of variation. When the chocolate is a thick liquid, spread it onto the well-frozen bottom ice cream layer of the cake. It is important to have let the cake freeze solid. Then put it back in the freezer.
After an hour or more, add the second layer of ice cream following the above instructions. Once that layer is well frozen all you need to do now is dress the cake. How you do this is entirely up to you. For our cake, we just used whipped cream and gummi bears. In the past, I’ve used melted chocolate and cookie crumbs, and I’ve heard of some people even using traditional icing. In any case, what you do is really dependant on the occasion. I’m sure that you can figure this part out on your own.
There are a couple of variations to ice cream cakes that I have not yet tried. For example, many store bought cakes, have the same flavour ice cream (usually vanilla) completely surrounding the cake’s inside. The key to doing this, I imagine, is merely to leave the ice cream firmer as you build your cake. Essentially, ice cream cakes are all about layering and sculpting. Once you understand this, the sky is the limit.
I’m still learning how to make good-looking ice cream cakes. I’d love to hear your thoughts about my process. The recipe I shared with you takes about one hour of work spread over about six hours (because the cake has to freeze at each stage). In addition to it being relatively quick and easy, it’s also considerably cheaper than store bought ice cream cakes. A comparable ice cream cake retails for about $30 or more. The cake I made cost $12 for the ingredients and, though I could be wrong, I suspect my ingredients were of a higher quality.
Like so many things, you can taste the difference when it’s homemade.