What better way to celebrate a summer birthday than with an ice cream cake? More specifically, a chocolate strawberry ice cream cake, featuring fresh local berries and sparkly decorations? This cake was a big hit with my birthday girl.
When my my oldest granddaughter’s seventh birthday was approaching, I asked what kind of cake she’d like me to make for her. Without hesitation Little Miss A said she wanted an ice cream cake. After a few more questions we settled on chocolate cake with strawberry ice cream.
Although this is the first ice cream cake I’ve ever made, I discovered that putting one together isn’t difficult. The most important thing is to plan ahead. I made this one over the course of two days. Basically all you need is one cake layer about an inch thick or less, ice cream, and some whipping cream for the top. Oh, and sparkly decorations, of course.
Making Chocolate Strawberry Ice Cream Cake
The birthday girl’s younger sister helped me turn this chocolate cupcake recipe into two 8-inch layer cakes. (I did make a tweak or two to the recipe, basically substituting milk for the coffee because, you know, kids don’t need coffee). I needed just one layer for the ice cream cake, and once it was cool enough I put it on a rack in the fridge to get nice and chilly while we got on with making this ice cream.
I’ve noticed that many ice cream cake recipes call for you to soften frozen ice cream so you can spread it on the cake base. I decided to make ice cream expressly for the cake. What I did was line a clean 8-inch cake tin (it has to be the same size as the cake!) with two long pieces of plastic wrap. I ensured the seams were overlapping to prevent leakage. Then I reinserted the now chilly chocolate cake layer, and carefully poured the freshly made no-churn strawberry ice cream mixture over top, almost but not quite up to the top of the cake tin. I folded the plastic over to cover it and set it flat in the freezer to solidify.
Then I froze the remaining ice cream separately. Yes, genius: leftover cake and ice cream for me!
Once the cake and ice cream were solidly frozen (allow several hours or more), I used the plastic wrap to lift the now-fused cake and ice cream out of the pan. After peeling off the plastic I set the cake on the base of a 9-inch springform pan. Then, using a small offset spatula, I spread some sweetened whipped cream evenly over the top of the cake (3/4 cups of whipping cream with 1 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tbsp powdered sugar beat to the stiff peaks stage). Then I carefully lowered the side of the unlocked springform pan over the cake and locked it onto the base. I covered it with more plastic wrap, doing my best not to touch the whipped cream, and put it back into the freezer.
A couple of hours later, I decorated the cake with a constellation of pink and white sprinkles and silver dragées in a crescent moon shape. To get the shape right, I cut a piece of waxed paper using the base of an 8-inch cake pan as a guide, then I offset the pan and marked off a crescent. I used the round minus the crescent as a template on top of the cake.
The Lessons of Imperfection
You may notice in the photos that the sides of the ice cream are quite wrinkly. Or, you might not notice this. I certainly did, and intially was disappointed to see that. Then I reminded myself of what’s really important here: making my granddaughter the cake of her dreams, and doing so with her little sister’s help. I knew that the birthday girl wouldn’t even notice the creases in the ice cream. And I was right; she was so excited and happy that I made this for her!
My mother, bless her heart, was a perfectionist, and although I’m much more laid back than she was, I do take after her in that aspect to some degree. But while I care about how certain things are done, I also know that perfection can be the enemy of pleasure, self-confidence and even creativity. And yes, I may have used tweezers to put a few of the big, showcase decorations on top as a finishing touch, but mostly I just sprinkled away, lavishing on the shiny, sparkly decorations with some abandon (okay, I did have a bit of a plan in mind).
So, you know what? My first reaction when I saw that creased ice cream wasn’t just disappointment. I actually had the thought that I’d have to make another one before sharing it here. That’s a little sad, isn’t it? Then I thought about how happy I felt making this cake, and how pretty it was going to be, and I decided to go ahead and show you what I made, just as it turned out.
Because this cake was made with something better than perfection; it was made with love.
And I hope that some day you’ll have a wonderful time making one of your own, wrinkles and all.
Other Birthday Cakes
If you’re looking for other birthday cake ideas, here are a few I’ve made over the years: Devil’s Food White-Out Cake, Strawberry Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream, and Simple Vanilla Cake with Raspberry Buttercream.