Wednesday 15 December 2010

Layered Christmas Ice-Cream Cake with White Chocolate and Berries

Here's an extravagant, multi-layered ice-cream cake that looks festive, tastes dreamy and packs - at least in one of its layers - a happy Christmassy punch. It's easy to make, and I guarantee it will wow a crowd, from oldies who love traditional fruity, boozy flavours to kids who crave chocolates and sweeties. In short, I've designed this cake to please everyone.

Layered Christmas Ice-Cream Cake with White Chocolate and Berries

A few years back, someone came up with the idea of crumbling a Christmas pudding and mixing it with vanilla icecream: a good idea, all right (no one who lives in a hot climate wants to eat hot Christmas pud) but the recipe had an inherent flaw - kids didn't like it. This ice cream lets you slice off the bits you know the kids will devour, and keep the fruity, brandied layer all to yourself.

Instead of Christmas pud, I've used squashed-up mince pies.  Please trust me on this - it works - but do buy mince pies with a nice, crumbly, shortbready pastry.

The layers have something for everyone.
The casing, which consists of chocolate modelling paste,  is a bit fiddly to make, sets rock-hard in the freezer and is a tough nut to crack (and eat). It's there to look lovely, and to contain the berries, but if you don't feel up to making it, leave it out. Instead, pile whipped cream (look, it is Christmas) all over the top of the cake and stack the berries high. Liquid glucose is available from specialty baking shops.

I wanted to include popping candy in this cake (à la Heston Blumenthal) but I found that the minute the icecream softened slightly, the little granules started to explode. You could, however, mix them into the modelling paste, where they will remain stable until stuck into a small, hungry mouth. (And yes, I tested this.)

Use a very large, deep, non-stick round baking tin for this cake. If you don't have one large enough, use a cake tin (the sort you store cakes in) that you have lined with  several sheets of clingfilm.  Start the cake up to a week in advance of your feast, but keep it covered in the freezer to prevent it from absorbing freezer whiffs.

You need a very large flat platter for this cake. If you don't have one, use your glass microwave turntable, as I did (but I take no responsibility if it gets broken during the festivities!).

You can use any combination of nuts, fruits, sweeties and liqueurs for this cake. Rum-soaked raisins would be nice, as would cherries in brandy. Don't add too much alcohol to the mix, though, as it can inhibit the freezing of ice cream.

The white-chocolate collar is entirely optional.

Layered Christmas Ice Cream Cake with White Chocolate and Berries

2 x two-litre tubs of  real (dairy) vanilla ice cream

For the first layer:
4 mince pies
3 Tbsp (45 ml) brandy
100g chopped pecan nuts, or mixed nuts of your choice
½ cup (125 ml) cream, whipped until firm

For the second layer:
120 g chocolate chips, or a chopped-up bar of your favourite chocolate
2 Tbsp (30 ml) good-quality instant coffee
3 Tbsp (45 ml) cocoa powder
½ cup (125 ml) cream, whipped until firm

For the third layer:
4 Crunchies (chocolate-covered honeycomb bars)
6 ginger biscuits, crumbled
3 Tbsp honey, slightly warmed so that it's runny
½ cup (125 ml) cream, whipped until firm

For the white chocolate:
250 g white chocolate
150 g liquid glucose

For the topping:
Assorted berries, fresh or frozen, or a mixture of both

Make the first layer. Take two-thirds (about 1.3 litres) of the first tub of icecream, place in a large mixing bowl and allow to soften slightly. Crumble the mince pies and add to the ice cream along with the brandy and nuts. Mix quickly and thoroughly.  Fold in the whipped cream. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin (see above) and smooth the top with a spatula. Allow to freeze until firm.

Repeat the same process with the next two layers, using 1.3 l of ice cream at a time, and allowing each one to freeze until firm.

To remove the cake from its tin, briefly warm the sides (click here to find out how to do this easily) and invert onto a large platter. If the surface of the cake looks crinkled as a result of lining the tin with clingfilm (and if you're not making the chocolate case), smooth with a heated spatula.  Put the cake back in the freezer.

Now make the casing. Melt the white chocolate in a metal or glass bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Don't allow it to overheat, as white chocolate is tricky and tends to 'seize'. Gently heat the glucose in another pot (or in the microwave) until it is slightly runny. Remove the chocolate from the heat, tip in the glucose and beat hard, until the mixture forms a ball and comes away from the sides of the pan. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 20-30 minutes, or until it's cool enough to handle, but still pliable. Roll the modelling paste into a long sausage and place it between two sheets of baking paper. Roll out into a long strip that is a little taller than your cake, and long enough to wrap all the way round it.

You need to work quickly here, and to apply very firm pressure. If the paste becomes too stiff, fold it, still in the baking paper, in half, and place it in the microwave for a few seconds at a time to warm up.

When the strip is long enough, trim one edge with a sharp knife to make a straight line. Leave the other edge wavy.  Remove the cake from the freezer and wrap the chocolate paste around it, wavy side up. Seal the join with light pressure.  Replace in the freezer.

Just before serving, pile the berries into the centre of the cake.  Use a very hot knife (dip it in boiling water, or heat over a flame) to slice the cake.

Serves 12

Note: The idea for this chocolate casing comes from the June 2008 issue of BBC Good Food magazine.
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Nina Timm said...

Jane, Jane what the heck are you thinking on earth will I compete with this cake. It's best if my family does not see this, bye!!

PS. Suberb!!!

Adele said...

Wow! This is incredible! I agree with Nina. Thank goodness my family doesn't read food blogs
(I hope). I'll never be able to live up to expectations.

Desiree said...

Hi Jane

Just discovered your blog via African Aussie!

Wow! I'm so impressed and love your Christmas Cake (what a great idea!) and your gammon looks absolutely delectable!!!

dining tables said...

This seems so delicious! I would love to try this one! Definitely the colors are so adorable.

Linda Harding said...

Goodness gracious! That looks incredible - and so beautiful! This should win some sort of award, I reckon... for appearance, effort and all-round genius! What a winner :-)

Jane-Anne said...

Thank you, my friends!

Zoe said...

OOh, Jane, I save your recipes for special occasions!! And tomorrow is one... :) Is it best to make it the day of serving, or a day before - or does it really now matter? I'm so excited - I've been wanting to do this for a whole year!!!! :)

Zoe said...

Oh gosh, sorry! I just reread the recipe and saw the bit about a week before - will it flop if I make it the day before?

Jane-Anne said...

Hi Zoe! Thanks. You can make this on the day of your party, as long as you give it enough time to freeze solid. Let me know how it turns out.

Zoe said...

This cake is going to be written into my Christmas tradition!!! It froze beautifully, and in my scramble, misread the recipe,so only used 2 layers... but it was delightful!

Jane-Anne said...

Dear Zoe,

Thank you for the feedback! I'm delighted that it turned out well. Thanks also for putting your faith in my recipe. x