I’d argue that the most direct route to someone’s heart (I’m really just talking about my heart) is with a thick slice of ice cream cake. Here a chocolate cookie crust gets layered with a tapestry of ice cream and a thick layer of soft fudge. It’s possibly one of the easiest cakes ever, and yet if there is a better crowd pleaser, I’ve yet to taste it. (And if you think ice cream cake is just for summer, you’re mistaken!)
Ice cream cake: not just for kids
I have a special love for ice cream cake, dating back to those beloved Baskin Robbins grasshopper pies from my childhood. To this day ice cream cakes still give me that gleeful, skipping-rope kind of feeling. I must admit that I hadn’t made an ice cream cake in, well, ever, until a few years ago when I adapted this recipe from Epicurious. I brought the cake to a dinner party, and I discovered that if you serve a group of adults an ice cream cake, you will hear giggles. Gleeful giggles! I’ve since made the cake for potlucks, parties, Christmas dinner (that’s right—I told you it wasn’t just for summer!), and even my friend’s recent baby shower (see cute baby belly below). Since you can choose nearly any ice cream flavors you want, it’s completely adaptable to the occasion and season. Some of my favorite combinations include: coffee and coconut (as per the original recipe); mocha, vanilla and chocolate; salted caramel and tres leches; and peppermint bark and chocolate. I made the peppermint bark/chocolate version last year for Christmas and it fueled the most epic dance party my family has ever seen (just saying). This fall I’m excited to try a pumpkin and vanilla bean version.
What sets this cake apart is the thick blanket of fudge on top, which stays soft and slightly gooey when frozen. I upped the amount of salt from the original recipe and cut back on the butter, resulting something I can only describe as a cross between a piece of fudge and a hot fudge sauce. In other words, it’s completely nuts.
While this cake can be mostly assembled in under an hour, it does require a few hours of chilling. It also calls for store-bought cookies and ice cream. So I’m basically breaking all of my From Scratch Fast rules. Sorry! But there comes a time when rules just have to be broken. I feel like such a rebel.
Get the recipe!
Ice Cream Cake (Anyway you Like It!)
- Cooking spray
- 8-12 ounces crisp chocolate cookies (or chocolate wafers, graham crackers or animal crackers), regular or gluten-free
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 3 pints ice cream (2-3 flavors of your choice), softened
- 6 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- ¼ plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 ounces dark chocolate , finely chopped (about a heaping ¾ cup chopped)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ tablespoon butter , cut into pieces
- Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan lightly with cooking spray.
- Place the chocolate cookies in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add the melted butter and pulse until the mixture looks damp. Scrape the crumbs into the springform pan and press them firmly over the bottom and about 1 ½ - 2-inches up the sides (a flat-bottomed measuring cup works great for this). Bake the crust until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool 5 minutes, then pop it in the freezer until it’s completely chilled. Do Ahead: The crust can be made up to 1 week in advance. Wrap the pan tightly with plastic wrap and freeze.
- Scoop the ice cream into the cooled crust, alternating flavors. Smooth out the top with an offset spatula. Place the pan back in the freezer. Freeze until solid, about 1 hour. Do Ahead: At this point the cake can be frozen for up to 1 week. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap before freezing.
- In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream, corn syrup, brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt and half the chocolate. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until the chocolate is melted and smooth and the mixture is bubbling along the edges. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla, butter and the remaining chocolate. Stir until smooth. Let cool to room temperature. Do Ahead: The fudge sauce can refrigerated for up to 1 week. Reheat before using.
- Pour the fudge sauce over the cake and spread with an offset spatula to evenly coat. Pop the cake back into the freezer for a few minutes to set. Do Ahead: The finished cake can wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 2 days.