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Having a summer birthday rocked when I was a kid because it always meant two things: a huge barbeque and a Carvel ice cream cake. Though I adored my grandmother's home baked cakes, nothing could compare to this once a year treat of creamy layers of chocolate and vanilla ice cream separated by that crunchy chocolate crumb crack. Part of the allure of the ice cream cake was that it was so fleeting. Set an ice cream cake out at a family party in the hot summer sun and no one is gonna be polite--everyone's fighting over the last piece, or should I say puddle.
As my birthday approached this week, I was inspired to create an easy ice cream cake that would be a hybrid of a Carvel ice cream cake and my favorite no-bake cake of all time: the infamous whipped cream refrigerator cake made with Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers. When sandwiched between whipped cream, these chocolaty cookies soften up into a terrific soft cookie texture. I was hoping that ice cream would work the same way. To re-create the crunchy chocolate cookie element that's in those beloved Carvel cakes, I tossed together a mixture of crushed chocolate wafers, sugar, and melted butter, and then pressed it into the bottom of a springform pan so that it would form the base of the ice cream cake. And I did mention that this was easy, right? The bottom crust is the hardest part of this cake. Because from there, I simply layered softened chocolate ice cream with the chocolate wafer cookies, and then I let it all harden up in the freezer for a few hours. (For the cake today I spooned in two different flavors: a chocolate rocky road and a chocolate brownie ice cream.) Just as I'd wanted, the ice cream worked its magic to moisten the chocolate wafers just enough to create easily sliceable cake slices that still kept a bit of snap for nice textural contrast in every bite.
The biggest thing that I learned when making this kind of cake is that it really really pays off to spend the extra bucks for a good quality ice cream when assembling an ice cream cake. Cheap air-filled ice creams melt on the fly in the hot sun (or even at room temperature) before I even finished slicing up the cake. So please trust me and my many plates of creme anglaise, it's worth it. And the other plus? What's better than mixing and matching your favorite ice cream flavors? It goes without saying that I always go for chocolate, but this recipe is the perfect platform to mastermind your own creation. And whether it's birthday time or not, this cake makes an elegant presentation that's appropriate for dessert time anytime.
About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore as a freelance writer for Time Out Singapore. Check out her blog: shophousecook.com . Follow Yvonne on Twitter.