An ice cream cake is truly the best of both worlds.
Since July is National Ice Cream month, as well as the month of my birthday, I figured it was the perfect time to go on a quest for the best ice cream cakes in town.
I've had a Baskin-Robbins mint chocolate chip cake for almost every birthday of my 30-plus years. In my mind, Baskin-Robbins cakes are the classic. They've been following a simple formula for decades: Just choose from devil's food or white cake and add your favorite flavor of ice cream. With multiple sizes and a variety of decor options for kids of all ages, it's hard to go wrong with a Baskin-Robbins cake.
My oldest daughter, Hannah, is a big fan of Ben and Jerry's, so that's where we headed to order her birthday cake this year.
In classic Ben & Jerry's form, they made even ordering the cake fun.
The bubbly "scooper" we placed our order with took the time to show Hannah the different icings and decorations. She even explained how they make the chocolate spots for their signature "Great Holsteini" cake. After many ice cream taste tests, Hannah designed a decadent cake with one layer of half-baked frozen yogurt, one layer of brownies, one layer of cookies and cream ice cream and another layer of crushed chocolate chip cookies.
(Ben and Jerry's doesn't use traditional cake for their layers. Customers can choose from brownies or cookies.)
Brian Hailey, general manager of area Ben & Jerry's stores said, "Here at Ben and Jerry's we like to make everything fun and unique. The cookies and brownies make our cakes outrageous."
The Germantown Ben & Jerry's store is one of the chain's top 10 cake sellers in the country.
My next stop on my ice cream cake quest was TCBY. The frozen yogurt chain does not make special order cakes, but they do have a great looking selection of pre-made cakes in their cooler. And their selections are a bit healthier than what's available at the ice cream stores, thanks to lower fat frozen yogurt.
Last year we got Hannah's cake at Cold Stone Creamery. A little more tame than this year's Ben & Jerry's rendition, that cake was tasty cookies and cream ice cream with chocolate cake.
Cold Stone offers a selection of base ice creams and allows you to "mix-in" your favorite ingredients. After tasting their mud pie mojo concoction (coffee ice cream with peanut butter, Oreos, roasted almonds and fudge), I think I have decided to break with tradition and make that the base of my cake this year.
"We customize all our special occasion cakes," said Cameron Smith, marketing and catering director of the local franchise. "Since we make all our ice creams in the store every day, our ice cream cakes are probably the freshest in town. We also have a professional decorator on staff. Recently we designed a cake that had a baseball field on top for a customer who is a Cardinals fan."
Cold Stone's signature cakes are probably the most beautifully decorated ice cream cakes in town. Choices such as Strawberry Passion and Peanut Butter Playground are perfect for even the most elegant party.
But what if you want to try to make your own cake?
"Making cakes is not terribly hard," said Hailey, "but it is a very time-consuming process."
The decorators pack a layer of softened ice cream in the mold and add the first layer of cake. Then it needs to be re-frozen. Those steps are repeated until the cake is complete. Next, the ice cream on the cake's sides needs to be slightly melted in order to remove the cake from the mold, and then it's frozen again before it can be decorated.
But putting the cake in the ice cream makes it a little easier at home.
"I tasted a cake batter ice cream at a restaurant in Michigan a few summers ago and it was so good I told myself I had to learn how to make it," said homemaker and homemade ice cream guru Carol Seamons.
"Since cake and ice cream have so many similar ingredients, it wasn't really hard to come up with my version," she said. The ice cream that inspired her in Michigan only had the flavor of cake batter, but Seamons adds pieces of real cake to her frozen concoction.
There's plenty of room to experiment with your favorite cake batter mix and icing. Sprinkles could also be added. In their cookbook "Ben and Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book" (Workman, $9.95), Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield recommend that whenever adding bigger flavorings like cookies, candy, brownies, etc, that you add it the last few minutes of the freezing process. This ensures that the flavoring is mixed in and doesn't fall to the bottom of the ice cream maker.
And if ice cream cakes are a bit daunting to make at home, don't worry -- ice cream pies are a cinch. All that is needed is to pack softened ice cream in a pie crust, refreeze and there you are -- instant dessert.
Recipes: Cake Batter Ice Cream
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 can of chocolate icing
Prepare cake mix per directions on the box. Reserve at least one cup of the batter and refrigerate. Bake the remaining batter according to the directions on the box. When the cake has cooled, wrap up and place in the freezer.
Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend. Add vanilla and also the reserved cake batter that has been refrigerated. Freeze per ice cream machine manufacturer's directions.
While the ice cream base is freezing, coarsely chop 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the frozen cake. As the ice cream stiffens (about 2 minutes before it is done), add the cake bits, then continue freezing until the ice cream is ready.
Before the ice cream is ready, stir up the icing so that it is very soft and smooth, as if you were getting ready to ice a cake. When you transfer the ice cream to a container for the "hard freeze" in the freezer (most ice creams require this), alternate adding the ice cream and dollops of icing to the container. This will create a nice "ripple effect" in the ice cream. Makes 1 generous quart.
Note: You may have extra uncooked cake batter and also frozen cake after making one batch. Both can be frozen for one month. When you want to make another batch, simply thaw the cake batter to add it to the ice cream base. Otherwise, you can simply double the ice cream base recipe if you have a 2 quart ice cream maker and use all of the batter and baked cake bits.
Source: Carol Seamons
Paulette's Kahlua Mocha Parfait Pie
Crust: 6 tbsp. butter, salted
3/4 cup coconut flakes
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
1/3 cup pecans, grated
1 lb. Angel Food Coffee Chip ice cream, softened but not melted
Fresh whipped cream, chocolate shavings and Kahlua for garnish
For the coconut pecan crust:
Melt the butter completely in small pan over medium-low heat. Combine the coconut, flour, and pecans in a large bowl. Add the melted butter and mix well until all dry ingredients are wet. Evenly press the coconut mixture into the bottom and sides of a 10-inch metal pie pan. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven until golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool baked crust completely prior to filling. Crust may be frozen until needed.
For the filling: Pack the crust with the softened Angel Food Coffee Chip ice cream, forming a large, rounded pie. Refreeze.
To serve: Cut the pie into 8 equal parts and top with 1 heaping tbsp. of whipped cream, chocolate shavings and a 1 oz. serving of Kahlua. Serves 8.
1 9-inch chocolate wafer pie crust
1 qt. Baskin-Robbins Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream, softened but not melted
1 cup chocolate frosting
Pack the crust with the softened ice cream, forming a large, rounded pie. Freeze.
Pipe the icing onto the top of the pie in a criss-cross pattern. Refreeze. Serves 8.
Source: Jennifer Chandler
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