Saturday, January 4, 2014

Birthday #52 (2013)

For my 52nd birthday I had a smaller gathering than usual because a few of my stalwarts were just plain unavailable due to travel and winter illnesses (curse you, tiny viruses!) but we still had a lot of fun. Here's the table:

2013: Return of the Tea Table!
Clockwise from top: Monchego and Red Dorset cheeses, cucumber sandwiches, crackers, home made butter pats, cranberry scones, cherry-peach pie, and ginger snaps. The pie I made with peaches and cherries that I bought over the summer and froze for just such an event. Not as good as fresh but way better than using canned fruit.

But what about this year's "show stopper"? It didn't take much thought to come up with it because the memory of my seventh birthday and my first Baskin & Robbins mint chocolate chip ice cream cake! I thought it was the coolest thing ever back then. I mean, it's cake that's also ice cream! It's ice cream that you can cut! How cool is that?!? You're never too old for ice cream cake! I knew I wanted to make single-serving sized cakes but I didn't have the right cake pans or even the slightest clue as to how I was going to form the ice cream into the right shape and size. As usual, I didn't let that stop me.

The cake recipe wasn't a problem. Good Housekeeping solved that. (I'll give the recipe in another post I'm currently working on). The ice cream itself wasn't a problem; the Williams Sonoma book I bought in 2012 had an excellent recipe. Putting the two elements together was the problem. Without the right sized cake pans, I also couldn't work out the way to form the ice cream layer. With time ticking away, I ended up making a quick stop into N.Y. Cake to pick up a muffin pan with relatively straight cylindrical sides – meaning they didn't narrow so much at the bottom. I wish I had more time to spend there, because they've got a lot of things I want! But they were closing so I had to make my choice quickly and get the heck out. I'll make another visit later and document it here.

That done, I had to figure out how I was going to make the ice cream the right size to fit with the cakes. I realized that there was no way for me to make that happen this time around because the muffin pan cups sloped inward ever so slightly, which meant the cakes would have an ever so slight conical shape and I couldn't see a way to use the same tin for the ice cream. I'm sure that given enough time I could have come up with a clever way of doing it but I didn't have that time.* I had to find a work around.

I have a new rule: before you panic, look to the cookie cutters. The largest of my circular cutters is almost the same circumference as the muffin tin. How did that help me solve my problem, you may ask? By using the same tart pan I use for ice cream sandwiches, freezing the mint chocolate chip in it and then using said cutter to chop out perfect cylinders of ice cream. It was just like I was drilling for ice cream core samples. (I swear I'll make my own version of Neapolitan ice cream using this technique.) True, that left the ice cream a little smaller than the cake but I could live with that. As a proof of concept batch, I was very happy with the way they turned out!

Two, two, two desserts in one!

I used a simple ganache technique to make chocolate to pour over the cakes, froze those while I made the ice cream, and then put them together to form a very tasty two-fer!

In detail.
The fresh mint in the ice cream complimented the sweetness of the chocolate cake and added an earthy undertone to the whole dessert. The seven-year-old in me was ecstatic and fifty-two year old in me couldn't help but celebrate with him! I repeat: You're never too old for ice cream cake!

Currently listening to: Pat Metheny Group - Vidala and Slip Away

*I have, indeed come up with a clever way of doing it because writing about this little adventure has given me a whole new perspective and a couple of new ideas on how to solve the problems. I will, of course, post the process and the results.



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