Clay had a big birthday recently, and I wanted to make it special. So I threw a surprise party at our apartment (which isn't easy when you live together).
Because of deadlines at work and lots of traveling (and the fact that I couldn't really make anything ahead of time because of the surprise), I outsourced most of the party fare -- trays of D.C.'s best mini-burgers; a few easy-to-prepare appetizer platters of veggies, cheese, hummus, etc.; and frozen tater tots. (Yeah, I said it.)
But I did want to make at least one homemade item, to make the event more special. Clay's not much of a birthday cake guy, and he doesn't really care for cupcakes.
So when I saw this recipe for homemade ice cream sandwiches in the July issue of Everyday Food, I thought they'd be the perfect treat for a birthday party on a hot summer night.
I had an idea for a twist to this recipe: Since the recipe calls for any kind of ice cream as filler, I decided to buy several different kinds to make a variety of sandwiches for the party. Guests could choose from banana, mint chocolate chip, coffee, strawberry or peanut butter ice cream sandwiches. Fun!
Let's get one thing out of the way: These ice cream sandwiches take a lot of work. It's not that any one step is all that hard, but the combination of baking, cooling, slicing, spreading, assembling, freezing, cutting, wrapping and re-freezing makes for kind of a big ordeal.
(Plus, okay, I was cooking these for a party, so I did make 10X the recipe.... That didn't make things any easier.)
My biggest beef with the recipe is that you have to cut the cake in half crosswise to make the bottom and top layers for the sandwiches. In theory, cutting crosswise isn't too hard; I've done it plenty of times for layer cakes. But the cake is already so thin that slicing it across is very tricky. On the other hand, you wouldn't really want to make it any thicker, because you'd end up with sandwiches that are essentially two huge bricks of cake with a little ice cream peeking out.
The other thing that was really difficult in making these was spreading the ice cream. I just couldn't find the right temperature/consistency to make the ice cream workable. Too cold, and it wouldn't spread. Too warm, and it oozed all over the place, especially once I placed the top layer of cake on the sandwich.
Was it worth it?
Well, as I was making these, I kept thinking, "I can't wait to blog about how these are sooo not worth the time and effort, and you really ought to just go to the 7-11 and buy some tacky ol' packaged ice cream sandwiches and be done with it."
As the party swung late into the summer evening, and guests tried to seek a little refuge from our hotbox of an apartment only to venture into the muggy, heavy summer air, everyone's faces lit up when I asked if they wanted homemade ice cream sandwiches.
We closed our eyes and bit into the cold, delicious little frozen packages, and the guests all excitedly compared the different flavors before asking for seconds. Clay looked at everyone, and then at me, and he smiled.
"Yep," I thought. "This is definitely worth it."
(this photo: Everyday Food)
Prep: 20 minutes
Total: 40 minutes, plus freezing
*1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
*1/2 cup sugar
*1 large egg
*1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
*1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
*2 pints ice cream (any flavor), softened
- Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 15-by-10-inch jelly-roll pan; line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the two shorter sides.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together butter and sugar until combined; whisk in egg, vanilla, and salt until combined. Add flour and cocoa, and mix just until smooth. Spread in prepared baking pan. Bake until cake is dry to the touch and edges begin to pull away from the sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely in pan.
- Using paper overhang, lift cake onto a work surface. With a serrated knife, halve crosswise. Place one half of cake, flat side down, on a large piece of plastic wrap. Spread with ice cream, then top with remaining half of cake, flat side up. Return ice-cream sandwich to baking pan, and wrap tightly in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 2 hours.
- Unwrap sandwich; using a serrated knife, cut into 8 rectangles, wiping off blade between each cut. Serve ice-cream sandwiches immediately. (To store, wrap individually in plastic, and freeze up to 1 week.)