A Special Birthday Cake

Last week was my very good friend’s birthday, and we had a weekend full of fun activities to celebrate.  But no birthday is complete without a CAKE!  Since she was visiting D.C. from clear across the world in Southeast Asia, I wanted to make her stay extra special, so I put my ice cream machine back to work to make a homemade peanut butter cup and chocolate ice cream cake with chocolate ganache.  Can you say RICH??

ICE CREAM
First, I started with the ice cream because it takes the longest time to prepare.  I resorted back to the vanilla custard base I used two weekends ago for my fresh raspberry ice cream.  I’ll post the actual recipe in an upcoming blog, but basically it’s close to this recipe.  In the first stage, the cream and milk are combined in a long simmer, then the creamed eggs and sugar are tempered and added back into the hot liquid to create the custard.  For flavor, since this is basically a vanilla base with chunks of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups thrown in, I added vanilla extract.  It takes a long time to chill the mixture, so I poured it into a metal bowl and threw on some plastic wrap, making sure that it was touching the custard — no ice cream tastes good with custard crustiness mixed into it!  I started this process at about 8:30pm, to ensure my chilling time would occur overnight, but a couple hours should work just as well.

In the morning, I poured the chilled custard into the frozen ice cream tumbler for my ice cream machine, dumped in my chopped peanut butter cups, and flipped the switch.  About 30 minutes later, I had my soft serve consistency ice cream, which was perfect for spooning into the springform cake pan containing the bottom cake layer of my future decadent masterpiece – creating the final and top ic cream layer – then putting into the freezer to harden into shape.  But before I spooned it in, I melted some Reese’s Peanut Butter chips in the microwave, then used a spoon to swirl it into the ice cream.  It was interesting because the ribbons of sweet peanut butter hardened pretty quickly, which actually worked out well, like extra candy. 

CAKE
While the custard was chilling in the refrigerator, I started on the chocolate cake bottom layer.  I knew this cake was going to be big in taste, so it didn’t need it to be big in size.  I selected a 7 inch springform pan.  And just to keep it simple, I went ahead and used a basic Betty Crocker Milk Chocolate cake mix.  To be honest, half the time I find that boxed cake mix not only tastes better but it produces results that are more consistent with your expectations.  I had thought about a brownie base, until my friend told me a story of her ice cream cake with a rock hard frozen brownie bottom.    

The mix was too much for what I needed, so I also got almost a dozen cupcakes out of this baking adventure.  Bonus!  When the cake was done, “toothpick clean,” I let it cool for a few minutes on the cooling rack, then I took it out of the springform pan ring to prevent the sides from overcooking.  After the cake cooled a little further, I used a cake knife to separate the cake from the pan bottom, washed the bottom, then cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the circle shape.  Before I was ready to chill the cake, I washed the springform ring, placed the cake back on the lined bottom, then reassembled the springform pan.  I put the cake in Tupperware and placed it in the refrigerator to keep the custard company overnight.

In the morning, when the ice cream was ready, I took a strip of parchment paper and folded it in half to double its thickness.  It took three of these doubled strips to line the sides of the springform pan, just so it was easier to release the ice cream cake.  There was still a larger gap than I wanted, but I figured that when the ice cream was hard, I would (hopefully) be able to shape it into an even round, vertically.

And now…the waiting game!!!  I was crossing my fingers that what’s in my mind is going to work in reality!  After adequate time in the freezer, I pulled the springform pan out of the freezer, undid the ring, lifted it off, pulled off the parchment paper, and….it was perfect!  Well, the ice cream had seeped down around the cake ring, essentially removing the layering look, but it was pretty darn good for my first try.

I then set out to make the ganache.  Using heavy cream, semisweet chocolate chips, and a few Reese’s Peanut Butter chips for flavor, I heated up the cream to a soft boil, poured it onto the chocolate and peanut butter chips in a metal bowl, then stirred until it reached a shiny look.  I was a little impatient, and poured the ganache onto the frozen ice cream cake a little too early.  The chocolate was still too hot, and ended up melting the ice cream on the sides.  Oh well, lesson learned.  It may have looked like a hot mess, but it tasted delicious!  In hindsight, I think I should have used a richer chocolate cake mix, as the milk chocolate cake had little flavor in its frozen state.

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