Thursday, April 8, 2010

Let Them Eat Ice Cream Cake

Brandon doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, but his absolute favorite dessert is mint chocolate chip ice cream. The first time I made it for him I used fresh mint ala David Leibovitz. And I didn't just use mint from the supermarket, or even the Farmers' Market. I actually bought a live plant, stuck it in a pot, watered and nurtured it until there were enough leaves to harvest for the recipe.

"It takes like a plant," my loving husband opined after taking a few bites of my homemade ice cream.

The next time I made mint chocolate chip ice cream, I just skipped the steeping process and used 2 tsp. of mint extract.

Brandon loved it.

Then again, when I made this quickie version, he loved it, too, so I'm not sure how discerning he is. Me? I much prefer the altered David Lebovitz's recipe. The combination of the rich, creamy, French-style frozen custard with the cool, refreshing mint, is to die for.

I decided to up the ante and made a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake for Brandon's birthday. I made the ice cream a couple days in advance, and the only thing I did differently was store the container in the freezer door instead of in the back so the ice cream would stay soft and easier to spread over the cake.

I baked the cake the day before Brandon's birthday dinner. I used Paula Deen's Basic 1-2-3-4 Cake recipe, which was super easy and turned out great. It's my new go-to cake recipe and I can't wait to make it again. I'm already thinking of ideas for Emi's 2nd birthday ...

I decided to make a small cake using a couple of three-inch round pans, and because I have a terrible track record of sticking cakes, I went with my non-stick, spring form pans that I buttered and floured just in case. As an extra precaution, I even cut out parchment circles to line the bottom of the pans. Plus, I have this handy dandy, off-set, silicon spatula that is great for sliding between the pan and the cake.

Paula's recipe makes three 9-inch layer cakes, so I halved the ingredients and still ended up with too much cake. Once the cakes had cooled, I cut off the rounded tops using a serrated knife, then carefully cut each cake in half to create two layers. (Check out this video of Flo Baker and Julia Child to learn how to cut a layer cake evenly - the relevant part is about 12 minutes into the video.)

Instead of a cardboard cake round, I used the bottom of my spring form pan as a base for the first layer of cake. Taking an off-set spatula, I spread about a 1/2 inch layer of ice cream over the surface of the cake, then topped it with the second cake. I repeated the steps one more time, then "iced" the cake with ice cream.

I used the bottom of my second spring form pan to cover the top of the cake, then lined the sides with strips of parchment paper and covered the entire cake in plastic wrap before storing it in the back corner of my freezer. I set the freezer to the coldest temperature and let the cake harden overnight.

I kept things simple since Brandon doesn't get excited about elaborately decorated cakes, but if you want you could use fondant to cover the cake. That will give you a smooth slate to decorate with fondant cutouts or icing.

If you prefer more ice cream than cake, here's another option to try: Place a single layer of cake, approximately 1/2 to 3/4-inch high, in the spring form pan and fill the rest of the pan with ice cream. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer overnight. When you're ready to remove the pan, use a silicon spatula to separate the ice cream from the sides of the pan. Occasionally dip the spatula in hot water to keep it from sticking to the ice cream.

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