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My daughter’s birthday is right in the heat of the summer. I’m not quite sure why I’ve never made an ice cream cake for her before, but this year, she asked for it. Now that I mention it, I don’t recall ever making an ice cream cake before.

And I should probably confess, I kind of Henry Forded my daughter into picking cookies n’ cream—she could pick any flavor as long as it was cookies n’ cream. I was just in the mood for it, I guess. Sometimes, in order to get creative, you just need to go with what inspires you. This was one of those times. Next ice cream cake we make, though, I’ll branch out. Maybe even let someone else pick what flavor it will be.

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Making an ice cream cake is simple enough. The key is to work quickly when you’ve got the ice cream out of the freezer, and to be patient when it’s firming up in the freezer. We wanted a slightly tall cake. I used a 7″ spring form pan, which was perfect. A half gallon of ice cream fit in nicely with just a little extra. The brownie layer should have been darker, and if I had used Dutch process cocoa powder, it would have been, so if you’re making this at home, and you have Dutch cocoa, go with that, for sure.

cookies n’ cream ice cream cake

1/2 gallon all natural vanilla ice cream
1 box of chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos (I used Sprouts Market brand)
thin brownies (recipe follows)
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

1. Place the bowl and paddle attachment to your electric stand mixer in the freezer. Spray a 7-inch (or 8-inch) spring form pan with nonstick cooking spray. Carefully line the greased pan with a large piece or two of plastic wrap. Set aside. Working quickly, remove the bowl and paddle from the freezer and place in the ice cream. Assemble the stand mixer and mix the ice cream on low speed. Gradually add enough cookies to achieve the desired amount of cookie flecks in the ice cream (I used about 7 cookies). Spread about a cup and a half of the ice cream evenly in the bottom of the prepared cake pan. Place in the freezer along with the bowl of ice cream.

2. Cut out circles of the brownies just slightly smaller than the diameter of the cake pan (I used a large cookie cutter as a rough guide.). Remove the cake pan from the oven and place one of the brownie circles on top of the first layer of ice cream. Take the ice cream out of the freezer, and spread another layer on top of the brownie circle. Place about 7 or 8 cookies in a layer on top of the ice cream, spread down another layer of ice cream, then top that with another brownie circle, and finally, another layer of ice cream, placing the ice cream and cake in the freezer for several minutes at a time, whenever the ice cream starts to get melty. When you’re finished smoothing out the last layer, smooth the excess plastic wrap up and over the ice cream. Freeze for at least 8 hours, and up to about three days.

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3. When you are ready to serve the cake, remove the cream layer from several cookies (5-8 cookies, depending on what you like) and crush up the cookies into almost a powder. Whip the heavy cream with the vanilla and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form, and fold in the cookie crumbs. Place a round piece of parchment paper, wax paper, or cardboard on a serving plate (this will keep the cake from sliding when it melts). Remove the ice cream cake from the freezer and peel back the plastic wrap. Invert the cake onto the round paper, carefully remove the cake pan. Peel off the rest of the plastic wrap. Frost the cake with the whipped cream, and decorate with more cookies and cookie crumbs. Place in the freezer for at least 20 minutes, and serve.

thin brownies (for the brownier layer)

1 stick (112g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder, plus more for pan
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
pinch of kosher salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a quarter sheet pan (a small jelly roll pan), or a 13x9inch pan. Place a sheet of parchment paper in the bottom, spread with butter, and dust with cocoa powder. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. When the mixture is creamy, and all lumps are gone, add in eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Add in vanilla. With the mixer on low, add in flour and salt. Mix until just combined.

3. Spread into prepared pan and bake until shiny on the top, 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven, and allow to cool completely.

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