Last month I was determined to make an ice cream cake for a friend of mine. See, he hates most sweets, but in one conversation he told me how much he loved mint chocolate chip ice cream. Ding ding! Months later, I was prepping my first ice cream cake.
It's a task that feels Herculean, but is actually quite manageable -- if you've got the time, space, and planning squared away. If you don't, I assure you -- you'll quickly melt into a panic. For me, I just about did when that early February day, the one that should've been frigid and cold, spiked up to warm spring temperatures. Luckily, it all came together. But I wanted to make it easier on you. What follows are some basics and then a list of tips, because as much as you can find ice cream cakes on the Internet, very few deal with homemade cakes and homemade ice cream. So read on, good luck, and be sure to leave any tips or questions in the comments!
There are many ways to make an ice cream cake. You can get a special pan, make the ice cream a layer inside, or even spread it both inside and out. That's up to you. Just decide your shape, and pick a cake recipe and an ice cream recipe that go together. (If you're not sure, go for a basic like the cake above, which is chocolate with mint chocolate chip ice cream.) Then plan and execute.
Some line saran wrap in pans and freeze layers of ice cream the same dimensions as the cake layers, to then add the ice cream as a solid layer. Others like to melt the ice cream a little and spread it on. Some just fill the space left by a special pan and move on. Whatever the technique, the ice cream is added, and the cake is allowed to set.
Me, I used tiered circular pans. One size was used for the cake, and a slightly larger one was used for assembly. I covered it in saran, placed the first cake layer dead-center, and then spread on a thick layer of ice cream that also filled the space on the sides. That was set in the freezer and then the next cake layer was added and more ice cream to thickly cover the top and sides. That was also set before frosting.
Those are the basics, but there are a lot of particulars:
- Be sure to plan your size well. This is important both for preparing and storing the cake, and traveling with it. You must make sure that you have more than enough room in your freezer for the cake itself, in all its incarnations. And if you're going to travel with the cake, you have to keep it cold, so make sure the cake will fit in your transporting vessel, and that the vessel stays cold. For example, if you use a cooler, make sure your cake is small enough to fit inside.
- Also make sure that whatever you place the cake on can fit inside this vessel.
- Add gelatin to your ice cream. It helps prevent the formulation of coarse crystals, and will help your ice cream keep its shape while it melts.
- Make more ice cream than you need. You don't want to run out, so make sure you have some extra. I used 1 1/2 batches for one circular cake.
- Put your freezer at its coldest temperature. It's better to be rock solid than melting all over the place. With the freezer cranked, it'll also help the cake to set faster, and firm things up quicker.
- Plan your frosting. Each layer must be done before the ice cream melts all over the place, which means that you don't have all the time in the world for frosting. The easiest and most fitting solution: Use homemade whipped cream. This frees up concerns about what will happen to your frosting in the freezer, and allow you to prep the cake days in advance if you desire. Once frozen, the whipped cream will be as firm as the rest of the cake.
- If you use whipped cream, and want to add some flourish, fill a decorating bag and then let the cream firm up in the freezer for a little while. At the right temperature, you can pipe some basic flourishes.
- Remember that this is all relative -- take into account how warm your place is to determine how much out-of-freezer time you have. The chillier you can keep your working environment, the better.