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Designing My Own Ice Cream Cake

So I've never truly created my own recipe. While I've modified a LOT over the years, developing a creation truly from scratch was one of those things I never thought I could be capable of...until this year!

As I mentioned in my last "Kitchen" post, this past week I turned 50, and part of that was designing my very own ice cream cake. While I have plans to ultimately get myself a French patisserie dessert from my hometown, I wanted something on my special day that we couldn't get where we live today (there is literally no true bakery in our county - the only semi-bakery literally burned down last fall, and no the big box grocery store cakes are NOT bakeries, y'all, I don't care how much signage they put up), and also something that didn't completely make me feel like shit afterwards because of the massive caloric content. Sadly, the concept that if you just pour a gallon of sugar on it it'll be dessert is far too prevalent in our society, and I can't go for that (no can do).

My dream was literally ALWAYS to have an ice cream cake for my birthday. As a kid I just had whatever my mom decided to make, and going to Baskin-Robbins was not to be spoken once she (i.e., we) went on her health kick - yet making one never was conceived. Fortunately, about 17 or so years ago, a coworker paid attention and brought one into work which was SO cool and SO thoughtful, and yet no significant other ever stepped up in that way for me personally to either make or buy one. So, with the massive variety of recipes out there on the internet, particularly via Pinterest, I knew I could come up with one made at home that reflected how I eat today, one that would let me be creative in the kitchen, and one that wasn't full of processed ingredients. And for the most part, it was a rip roaring success!!!

As mentioned in the last post, the ice cream was actually made from my favorite homemade chocolate vegan banana 'ice cream', made from frozen bananas and blended with organic cocoa and a wee bit of organic almond or oat milk (goat milk works too if you're not vegan) which I think makes it taste like gelato it's so crazy good, then folded in organic chocolate chips to one layer (I used to be able to put down a pint of Haagen Dazs chocolate-chocolate chip no prob back in the day) and a couple spoonfuls of fresh-ground organic peanut butter in the other (PB&C is a longtime favorite combo, ever since I first tasted peanut butter pie as a young girl). Then I took inspiration from fillings and 'crust' ideas from a smattering of other blogs, modified the ingredients to be more sustainable, less processed and considerably healthier, and drew a picture of the final product (not exactly to the level of The Great British Baking Show, hahaha...), identified what tools I needed in the kitchen, ingredients, and what order to do it all in, including make-ahead and freezer times. What an incredible learning experience!

My biggest takeaways:

  • Amen for my springform cake pan, it was perfection in holding all the ingredients together, then popping apart when everything was frozen so I could plate it. That being said, I should have done a layer of parchment on bottom to more easily get the base off !

  • It's easier and faster than I made it out to be in my mind. Rather than freezing the bananas to make it into ice cream, I literally just blended them with a bit of almond milk so they'd be a thick milkshake-y consistency (imagine a thick smoothie, that's basically it) and therefore be poured rather than spooned in, which made it much more even (and super easy to fold in the dark chocolate chips and peanut butter - not too soft, not too hard)

  • It takes ten times longer to thaw out a frozen cake than you might think (at least to not need a knife to saw into the frozen ice cream, heh...). Y'all, take it out before you eat dinner at LEAST! This might be because of the vegan ice cream, as I know the storebought stuff melts faster, but this was a lesson for sure.

  • I still wish I'd made it even less sweet. The vegan banana ice cream is naturally sweet because of the fruit, so the oreo-esque layer AND peanut butter ganache layer AND peanut-graham base and the chocolate chips & PB inside the ice cream? It was still too rich for my more sensitive palate these days, I couldn't believe it! But hey, I just don't eat that kind of food anymore (losing 49 lbs since the spring has motivated that) so it makes sense). In the future, I'd probably just make a simple one-layer version with just the salty/sweet crunchy base, nothing folded into the ice cream, and maybe a small bit of ganache on top...and that's a big maybe.

But this was still a hella good ice cream cake, don't get me wrong! I wanted to share this process and lessons because it's easy to get intimidated and just copy someone else's recipe, but it can be SO worth it to get out there and try to design something that's purely about what you like, and speaks to who you are...and no one else. Be fearless - because hey, that's why we have compost bins!

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ~ Julia Child


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