The Evolution of an Ice Cream CakeA friend's son has his golden birthday today. At least that's what people tell me your birthday is called when it is the same number as the date. To commemorate the event and celebrate him turning 18, I was asked to make his birthday cake. After some prodding he finally asked for a chocolate ice cream cake with French vanilla ice cream.
This was my first ice cream cake. Not a complicated recipe. You make a layer cake, thaw ice cream sufficiently to mold it to the same size as the cake, assembly the cake layers and ice cream layer, frost it, decorate it (if you have any talent in this area) and freeze it again to keep the ice cream intact.
It gets a little more time-consuming and challenging when you increase the size of everything. We started with a 10 in. cake which is pretty easy to handle and moved to a 12 in. cake which is less easy to handle.
I took a wonderful chocolate cake recipe I got from FoodTV years ago (when it was a network of cooking shows instead of a network of performers selling merchandise and books about their time in the kitchen). It is an impressive recipe that uses mountains of cream and butter and chocolate and makes a 16 in. two-layer chocolate cake with a rich chocolate filling and decadent chocolate ganache frosting.
I did some research to make sure I could downsize the cake to a 12 in. cake pan from a 16 in. cake pan. Most cake pans are 1 1/2 in. - 2 in. deep. I moved to a 12 in. cake pan that is 3 in. deep. I knew it would be close but figured if it looked like too much batter I'd bake off the remainder into a smaller pan for another use. As it was it was the perfect amount of batter for the 12 in. cake pan--except it would be a deeper cake layer when baked. To compensate for the thicker layer I dropped the temperature 25 degrees to keep the outside from overbaking and the inside from underbaking and possibly sinking. Most cakes (cheesecakes particularly) will benefit from a slower bake--making them more tender and evenly baked. Cheesecakes stay creamy and less dry. I believe the time doubled at the lower temperature and thicker cake batter but the cake came out of the oven looking perfect. Sides tender and pliable, center well baked and firm--no collapse when cooling.
One step down. I let the cake cool overnight and then wrapped it well but left it at room temperature. A cake layer chilled is easier to tort (or cut in half) but I took my chances. The next day I took a half-gallon of Trader Joe's French Vanilla Ice Cream (wonderful stuff) and let it thaw sufficiently to mold in the same cake pan lined with plastic wrap. The plastic wrap makes it easier to remove when it firms back up. I put that back in the freezer and left it until ready to assemble.
Once the cake layer was halved, I used some great cake lifters I found at Tuesday Morning to lift the top off and put a piece of aluminum foil between the halves to keep them from sticking and rewrapped the cake layer in aluminum foil and put it in the freezer too. The cake doesn't necessarily need to be frozen in advance but I worried a half-gallon of ice cream would crush the soft cake so I froze it to make it more solid to handle the weight. Might have been a wasted step but better safe than sorry.
This morning I made the chocolate frosting using 2 pounds of cream (32 oz), 1 pound of butter, 35 oz. of Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate (good stuff--comes in a 17 oz. bar at a fair price and is easy to divide for use). I left it to cool while I went to breakfast with a friend. I also made a batch of truffles. Truffles are ganache taken to a firmer state with a higher ratio of chocolate to cream. I left that mixture cooling as well.
5 lbs. and 9 oz. of chocolate goodness.
When I got back from breakfast, I whipped the truffle mix, scooped it up in balls with a small cookie scoop and dropped these on some waxed paper on a cookie sheet and put them in the fridge for an hour to firm up. When firm, I rolled them lightly to shape them, then rolled them in cocoa, then put them back in the fridge to firm up from being handled while I assembled the cake.
Other than my hands burning from handling a frozen cake pan, the ice cream layer came out relatively well and was easy to handle. Cake and ice cream mated. Meanwhile I whipped the chocolate frosting to firm it up a little to apply it to the cake. Ganache is a little tricky to apply to a cake. It needs to be fluid enough to spread well but solid enough to stay on the sides when you frost them. Always tricky to pick that perfect moment. The nice thing is if you wait too long you can use some heat (microwave works well) to warm it up enough to apply it. I ended up not needing all of the frosting. It will go in a container and be put in the fridge if I feel I'll use it soon or in the freezer if I can't come up with a use to keep it fresher for weeks.
Cake frosted and the house is cool enough that the ice cream thawed little during the process.
Once I got the frosting on, I went back to the now firm cocoa-covered truffles and put them around the cake top for decoration. If you are curious enough to count, yes, there are 18 truffles. :) Sixteen around and 2 to grow on in the center. I had a few truffles that shed some cocoa during placement so I took a salt shaker and put some cocoa in it and dusted the top to hide any errant cocoa powder. A few sprinkles of some sugar crystals and you have a decorated cake.
Interestingly enough if you look at the last two photos you will see the ice cream layer firming up the ganache faster than the frozen cake layers and the last photo shows that the cake layers are catching up and it is nearly firm on the sides and changing color. I didn't catch that looking at it but noticed the color change in the photos. Check out my "cake plate" in the last photo. I used a 14 in. cake board purchased at Michael's (thanks for the 40% off on those, Michael's!) and a 15 in. pizza pan purchased at Fred Meyer's (thanks for the 10% discount there, Fred!). I normally wouldn't spend the $$ for a cake plate but handling the frozen cake and keeping it frozen during the drive to the party made me decide to spend the $$ and the birthday boy can keep the pizza pan for a gift. :)
What did I learn about making ice cream cakes? Ice cream doesn't thaw as fast as you would think, freeze the cake before putting the ice cream on top to keep it from being crushed (and it will keep the ice cream chilled while you frost the cake), have a big freezer for storage unless you want to make it all 20 minutes before delivery. :)
Hope the birthday boy enjoys his cake and ice cream and his 18th birthday. Happy 18th, Michael, and many more.