We just returned from nearly a month out West, staying with my in-laws and cooking in my mother-in-law's gorgeous new kitchen. I'd assumed that I would spend much of my time there cooking, baking, and catching up on my blog. Instead, I spent my time cooking, baking, and catching up on my very-neglected old-favorite past time: reading! Ever since I discovered food blogs, I have spent my precious little reading time on the web: reading new recipes, studying new techniques, following my friends' kitchen stories. This trip, I never even pulled out my computer, spending every non-family minute plowing through book after book. It was marvelous.
But it also meant that I never told you about my sister's super amazing celebration ice cream cake that I made a full month ago. My baby sister (I'm sure she won't mind if I tell you...) struggled in school. There was a time when we were worried she wouldn't graduate high school. So we were especially proud when she discovered her passion and decided to go back to school to become a nurse; this June all of her hard work paid off, and she graduated from nursing school with honors.
We hosted a family graduation party for her, and I wanted to make an especially special dessert. I thought of these ice cream sandwiches that I'd made last year, but we were hosting 20 people.... What could be better than an ice cream cake?!
As with the ice cream sandwiches, I started with Dorie's devil's food cake, splitting a full recipe between two half-sheet pans. After baking and cooling, I wrapped the cakes and placed them in the freezer. Then I made a batch of Jeni's vanilla ice cream and, after churning, dolloped it onto one of the layers. I wanted the traditional ice cream cake crunch, so I also made a batch of Dorie's cocoa crumbs. I sprinkled these on the layer of ice cream and pressed them in gently. Then I placed the other cake on top, and returned the whole thing to the freezer.
I debated a lot about the frosting: traditional ice cream cakes seemed to be covered in something almost like buttercream. But many of the recipes I found actually used more ice cream, or ice cream combined with cool whip. I decided to go with a simple sweetened whipped cream.
I am no good at fancy frosting and decorating, so to make the letters, I used some of Jeni's magic shell. I cut out a sheet of parchment paper and put the magic shell in a baggie, cut off the corner, and wrote letters on the parchment until I was happy with them. Then I stuck them in the freezer until they hardened and placed them on the top of the cake.
The cake was such a hit. The kids had a great time picking out which letters they wanted to eat, and everyone gobbled up every last bite. Because the cocoa crumbs made the layers a bit slippery during cutting, I thought I might leave them out next time; one bite convinced me that they were a necessary, crunchy, and delicious component. My only other complaint was that the cake was too thin; I think I would make a double recipe next time, so each cake would be a full layer tall.
Wouldn't you know it, today Deb posted a fantastic-looking ice cream cake recipe on Smitten Kitchen, and I am eager to try some of her additions: adding a layer of chocolate ice cream, as well as hot fudge. The second flavor of ice cream may mean that I could get away with only one recipe of cake (she didn't use cake at all). I'm also curious to try her homemade oreos and compare them to the cocoa crumbs.
Regardless, you can't go wrong with ice cream cake: such a fun-to-make, amazing-to-eat treat!