Today brings a lineup of basic ingredients and pastry elements that combine into a cool and refreshing ice cream cake. A blast of fresh mint ice cream is embellished with bits of chocolate and embraced with a delicious frame of chocolate cake. This dessert makes a fun centerpiece for an occasion when you want to enjoy very good dessert with very good company.
This project took a bit more effort than usual. The construction didn't go as smoothly as I'd planned due to my choice of cake as the base. I'd gone back and forth between deciding to use Flo Braker’s Devil’s Food Cake or a basic chocolate genoise. I went with the Devil’s Food because it’s very moist, tender and full of deep rich cocoa flavor. The cake does have an open crumb and is therefore a bit more difficult to form because it’s very tender. So although the final product is really delicious, it required dealing with some crumbling that I hadn't anticipated. However, it does freeze nicely without having to wait for the cake (and consequently the ice cream) to soften. If you'd like to try this but want an easier approach, my suggestion would be to handle the cake portion as little as possible by either building simple layers in a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap or just making a bottom layer of cake in the springform pan. Or bake the cake in an 8" cake pan for about 20 - 25 minutes and serve the ice cream on the side. The combination is worth producing.
The ice cream is made from fresh mint leaves, easily purchased at most markets. Using fresh mint imparts a subtle but true mint flavor with an herbal backnote. The resulting ice cream pairs nicely with the earthiness of the cocoa in the chocolate cake. What you get is a very nice fresh quality that is an unusual and remarkable dessert when compared with the store bought versions you ordinarily find mass marketed in shops. It all works out to a cool and delicious luxury.
- You can prepare this over two days. I made the ice cream base and chilled it overnight. Then on day two, I made and cooled the cake, then cut and formed the cake base in the springform pan and placed in the freezer. Next I churned the ice cream base in my ice cream maker, poured it into the cake base and froze it.
- Look for fresh mint with leaves that are sturdy, bright green and unblemished, preferably organic. I bought two large bundles and weighed the leaves once they’d been stripped from the stem. It’s hard to gauge true volume but 4 oz packed into the measuring cups very tightly and densely amounted to about 3 - 3 1/2 C.
- If your ice cream base tastes flavorful but a bit flat, add a few grains of salt until it pops. The ice cream base may be very different than you’d expect when you first taste it. But once the ice cream is frozen, it’s really delicious.
- Don't leave out the chopped chocolate in the ice cream. It lends a nice bit of wonderful chocolate texture. Chop it into fairly fine pieces so it's easy to cut the finished dessert.
- The high ratio of sugar to butter in the cake recipe requires you to cream the mixture for about 6 to 7 minutes until it is light in color and fluffy in texture.
- Use a thin sharp knife to slice the ice cream cake. Run it under very hot water, wipe it dry and slice. Repeat as you go.
- Double the recipe for the Devil’s Food Cake, bake in two 8” x 2 1/2” cake pans for about 20 - 25 minutes, add your favorite filling and frosting and you have a fabulous Devil’s Food Layer Cake.
Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Cake
Makes one 8" cake
Mint Chocolate Ice Cream
1 1/2 C milk
1 1/2 C heavy cream
1/2 C + 1 T sugar, divided
3 – 3 1/2 C (4 oz or 115 grams) mint leaves, tightly packed
4 egg yolks
2 oz chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
Devil’s Food Cake
adapted from The Simple Art of Perfect Baking by Flo Braker
Makes 1 quarter sheet cake
1 C cake flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/8 t salt
1/4 C cocoa powder
1/4 C lukewarm water
2 oz (4 T) butter @ room temperature
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C light brown sugar, packed
1 egg @ room temperature
1/4 C buttermilk @ room temperature
1 t vanilla
1/4 C water
For the ice cream, place the milk, cream, 1/2 cup sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium heat until it begins to steam, stirring to be sure the mixture is dissolving. Add the mint leaves and use a spatula to push them down into the liquid so they’re completely submerged. Remove from the heat, cover the saucepan and let the mixture steep for one hour.
Strain the mixture, pressing down on the mint leaves with a spoon to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Discard the mint and pour the liquid back into the saucepan. Heat gently until it begins to steam.
Whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Slowly pour the warm liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the liquid back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan constantly with a heat-resistant spatula, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon and leaves a clean trace.
Immediately pour the custard through a strainer into a clean container and stir to cool. Taste for salt and add a few grains at a time if necessary, to taste. When the mixture is cool, cover and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, preferably overnight.
Freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to your machine's instructions.
Fold in the chopped chocolate and pour into cake form. Freeze until firm.
For the Devil's Food Cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line a 13” x 9” x 1” quarter-sheet pan with parchment and dust lightly with flour.
Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.
Whisk cocoa and 1/4 cup lukewarm water together until thoroughly combined.
Blend together the buttermilk, vanilla and 1/4 cup water.
Cream butter and slowly add sugars. Cream mixture until light and fluffy, about 6 to 7 minutes on a stand mixer. Stop and scrape down the bowl at regular intervals.
Add egg and blend well. Scrape down the bowl.
Add cocoa mixture and combine thoroughly.
Gently add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stop mixing just before it is fully blended and finish by folding gently with a rubber spatula until there are no streaks. Be careful not to overmix. Pour into prepared pan and smooth batter evenly.
Bake @ 350 for about 13 - 15 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool completely. Run a knife around the edges to loosen and turn out the cake onto a piece of parchment. Peel off the parchment from the bottom of the cake and flip the cake back over onto some parchment so the top is facing up.
To line an 8" springform pan with cake, place an 8” parchment circle as a template on one side of the sheet cake so there is a block of cake remaining to cut out two side panels. Cut out the cake bottom along with the parchment underneath it. Clear away the scraps and the remaining block of cake. Leaving the parchment circle in place, rest the bottom of the springform pan on top of the circle of cake and using the parchment underneath the cake, flip it over so it’s in place on the pan bottom. Slip the springform pan ring around it and snap into place. With the remaining piece of cake, cut out 2 strips about an 1” wide and 8 3/4" long. Line the side of the pan with these strips, gently easing in so the cake doesn’t crack or crumble. Place in the freezer until ready to assemble with ice cream.
To serve, run a thin bladed knife gently around the rim of the springform pan. Remove the cake from the pan and onto a serving platter. Serve immediately.