Behind the Scenes: Making Gelato Cake at Vitaly

[Photographs: Joy Hui Lin]

Finding artisanal gelaterias in Italy is just a matter of walking down the street, but finding great gelato in America is an entirely different story. That's why co-owners and chefs Maurizio and Barbara Cocchi, natives of Bologna, opened Vitaly in The Lab's Costa Mesa complex in Orange County just this year. Their gelateria bar features house-made gelato and, perhaps even more exciting, an assortment of gelato cakes.

These aren't the over-frozen, spoon-bending ice cream cakes of your childhood. Gelato cakes are served at just the right temperature so that each spoonful of custardy gelato melts on your tongue immediately.

Maurizio and Barbara can make any flavor combination of custom gelato cake, but we watched them demonstrate their Custard Crema gelato recipe. This flavor is based on crema di la nonna, meaning "Grandma's custard", which is normally served warm and is a delightfully eggy custard with a light citrusy note of fresh lemon zest— a favorite comfort food flavor for Italians. Here, it's paired with a freshly made strawberry poche.

Click through the slideshow to see how the gelato cakes comes together