- Prep time 1 hour
- Makes 1 (9-inch) triple-layer cake
What says "party" more than cake? Ice cream with cake. Or, better yet, an ice cream cake. And the first rule of ice cream cakes? There are no rules. This is your chance to culminate all your dessert training (eating) into one beautiful combo cake.
Before getting started, take a moment to consider the ice cream cake’s four elements: cake, filling, topping, texture—and how you can get them to work in concert, not against each other. While you may love strawberry ice cream, caramel sauce, and chocolate sprinkles, you might not love them together. For some flavor inspo, here are a couple ideas:
Chocolate cake, spiked cherry ice cream, hot fudge, mint chip, magic shell.
Banana cake, coffee ice cream, condensed milk, crunchy salt.
Carrot cake, cardamom kulfi, cream cheese frosting, coconut shreds.
This is not the time for a fancy or fussy cake; go with one that's tried-and-true (here's our trusty chocolate, lemon, funfetti recipes). All you’ll need is one layer—line your cake round with a parchment circle and let it cool completely in the pan when it’s finished baking before assembling (if it’s still warm, the ice cream will melt into a puddle).
While the cake is cooling, work on the ice cream—and by work, I mean buy a few pints of ice cream. Homemade is great if you have it, sure, but buying means you can easily play with different flavors in one cake (think: one layer of cherry vanilla, another pistachio; rocky road up top and coffee below). Let the ice cream soften in the fridge for 10 or so minutes—it should be easily scoopable, like the texture of a thick yogurt.
The filling needn’t be just ice cream, though. For bonus points, consider other thick but spreadable liquids in the ice cream sundae family: hot fudge, caramel sauce, butterscotch, fruit-based syrups or jams. For extra credit, create distinct layers with a sprinkling of finely crushed crunchies, be it Oreo, shortbread, streusel, leftover cookies, or toasted cake crumbs.
When you’re ready to layer, transfer your cake round to a plate, wrap with a collar of acetate (or 4-inch-wide sheet of parchment) for crisp-looking edges, and begin building (freezing your progress until firm, about 20 minutes after each layer). The cake collar will help you attain unimaginable heights, but be mindful as you work to keep each layer level, evenly weighted, and without excess air pockets (lift and drop the pan a few times).
Whether you’ve gone cake, ice cream, fudge, ice cream; or cake ice cream, ice cream—be sure to level the top-most layer once more with an offset spatula. This will make your cherries-on-top extra handsome. Finish with a confident pour of magic shell or eager-to-set caramel sauce for an ice cream bar–like crunch or chew. Whipped cream rosettes around the cake’s edges are cute. So are sprinkles or chocolate shavings, and a literal cherry on top. —Coral Lee
(9-inch) baked cake round (any flavor!)
3 or 6 pints
ice cream (one or two flavors)
hot fudge or caramel sauce (optional)
magic shell, liquified (optional)
- Wrap the room-temperature cake in a 6-inch-wide acetate cake collar (or a sheet of parchment that stands over the cake by 4 inches).
- Working with one flavor at a time and using an ice cream scoop, dish 3 pints of ice cream in concentric circles atop the cake layer. Using an offset spatula, level and smooth the ice cream so it’s evenly distributed without air pockets. Freeze for about 20 minutes, until set.
- When the first layer is set, top with an even layer of a filling of choice (hot fudge, caramel, cake crumbs, or cookies). Tilt the pan to level out the filling and freeze for another 20 minutes.
- Top with the remaining 3 pints of ice cream, if using. Freeze for about 20 minutes, until set.
- Finish the cake by covering with your frosting of choice or magic shell, or leave as is. Decorate as desired with any remaining toppings, such as buttercream rosettes, sprinkles, or cake crumbs. Freeze until ready to serve; cut into wedges with a sharp knife.