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Summer cookouts may beg for blueberry pie, but summer birthdays scream for ice cream cake.

The standard ice cream shop variety usually consists of chocolate and vanilla ice cream sandwiching a layer of fudge crunch, but if you make ice cream cake at home, the flavor possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Coffee cream, peanut butter chocolate, cherry almond, banana split -- your favorite flavor combination can be achieved in ice cream cake form if you follow this simple formula:

Cake + ice cream flavor A + something spreadable (like fudge, marshmallow cream or peanut butter) + something crunchy (like crushed cookies, graham crackers or nuts) + ice cream flavor B + stabilized whipped cream = ice cream cake.

Each layer needs time to freeze before adding the next, but if you follow these basic tips, in the end you'll have a decadent cake that you won't be able to find anywhere else.


• Plan ahead. It takes about 45 minutes to bake and cool the cake layer, then two hours to freeze the first layer of ice cream and at least two hours, but preferably overnight, to freeze the final layer of ice cream. Then you'll need 15 minutes to freeze the first layer of frosting before finishing the cake. So although the process involves little active time, you'll need at least 5 hours, but if you're spreading it over two days, plan for 3 hours the first day and 20 minutes on the second.

• Caramel will harden when frozen, so it's not a good choice for the spreadable layer. Instead use caramel-flavored ice cream.

• Use the deepest pan available. The deeper the sides, the better.

• Turn your freezer down to 0 degrees if it's set higher than that. Allow at least two hours for each layer of ice cream to freeze hard enough for you to spread the next layer.

• Let ice cream soften 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature before spreading. Stir the ice cream so the texture is consistent and spreadable, but not too runny.

• Regular whipped cream will become runny when it begins to thaw, so it's best to stabilize your fresh whipped cream with gelatin before icing the cake and freezing it. Or top the cake with whipped cream just before serving.

We made Caramel Chocolate Crunch cake with chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, crushed chocolate cookies and caramel ice cream.

S'mores cake would consist of yellow cake, chocolate ice cream, marshmallow cream, crushed graham crackers and Rocky Road ice cream.

Create Your Own Ice Cream Cake

Cake batter for one 1-inch layer of cake

1 or 2 pints ice cream flavor A

1 or 2 pints ice cream flavor B

1 cup spreadable filling such as hot fudge, peanut butter or marshmallow cream

2 cups crunch filling such as crushed cookies, graham crackers or nuts

Whipped cream frosting:

1 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

1 1/2 tablespoons cold water

5 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Line a 9-inch round or 10 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing a bit to hang over the edges. Grease parchment and bake a single layer of cake using your favorite recipe or box mix. After cooling, remove cake from pan and slice off the top with a large, serrated knife to make an even, 1-inch layer of cake; set aside.

Soften 1 pint (for a 9-inch round cake) or 2 pints (for a larger, rectangular cake) of ice cream flavor A by letting it sit at room temperature about 20 minutes. Stir ice cream so texture is consistent and spreadable. If your pan is at least 4 inches deep and you want the cake to be the bottom layer, place the trimmed cake on the parchment paper back into the dish. Spread softened ice cream evenly over cake. If your pan isn't as deep, set the cake aside, line pan with parchment paper and spread ice cream in bottom of pan. Freeze 2 hours or until hardened enough to spread on the next layer.

Remove ice cream flavor B from freezer 20 to 30 minutes before first ice cream layer is finished freezing to let it soften. When first ice cream layer is ready, remove pan from freezer and quickly spread 1 cup of your chosen spreadable filling on the ice cream. (If using hot fudge, it may help to warm it in the microwave, then let it cool to room temperature first.) Sprinkle your crunchy filling evenly over that and lightly press it down into the spreadable layer. Spread softened ice cream over cake and return dish to freezer for another 2 hours or longer, preferably overnight, until hardened.

Make stabilized whipped cream frosting. Chill a large bowl and whisk from an electric mixer in the fridge or freezer. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small, microwave-safe bowl and let sit 1 minute or until absorbed. Microwave gelatin on high 30 seconds; it should finish clear. With mixer, using the chilled whisk, beat the cream until peaks just start to form. Gradually add sugar. While mixer is running, slowly pour in gelatin mixture. Add vanilla and finish beating when stiff peaks form.

Use the overhanging parchment paper to remove fully frozen cake from pan and place it on a serving platter that fits in the freezer. If you didn't use the cake layer on the bottom, place it on top. Cover top and sides of cake with a thin layer of about one-third of the whipped cream frosting; don't worry if ice cream melts into it and it doesn't look perfect. Return cake to freezer for 15 minutes, then spread on remaining whipped cream. Serve immediately or freeze until ready to serve.

Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Food on 08/06/2014

Print Headline: Building a perfect cake, ice cream combo

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