Cooking Class: Cool

A refreshing ice-cream version for the traditional Shavuot cake.

Fistuk_311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
If you’re looking for a Shavuot cake that’s as delicious as the traditional holiday cheesecake and more refreshing, consider an ice-cream cake.
Ice-cream cakes are not just tempting; they are convenience desserts, easy to make and ready when you need them. In fact, many are almost foolproof. Just alternate thin layers of cake with ice cream in a mold and freeze your dessert until it’s firm enough to be sliced.
Another advantage of ice-cream cakes is that they are flexible in their components.
You can use any ice cream or sorbet, although not any cake or cookie. Your favorite dense, chewy brownie can be too firm to cut when frozen, and not pleasant to eat. This is also the case with many kinds of cookies and rich chocolate cakes, as the butter and chocolate cause them to become very hard when frozen. Therefore many cookies are best chopped or crumbled for use in ice-cream cakes.
The best cakes to choose are light ones, especially wafers, sponge cakes and meringues, either white or flavored with cocoa or nuts. The luscious element in your dessert should be the ice cream. For extra flavor and contrasting texture, you can sprinkle the layers of ice cream with nuts, grated or finely chopped chocolate or liqueur-soaked dried fruit.
Jean-Michel Rousseau, author of Le Guide du Glacier (the ice-cream maker’s guide), recommends that pastry chefs assemble ice-cream cakes in stainless steel rings; at home, I find a springform pan is a good substitute. He presents dozens of desserts made of light cakes, ice cream and frozen mousses. When adding sponge cake, he often uses the classic French technique of brushing it with syrup to keep it moist. His frozen cherry cake is composed of baked almond meringue, pistachio ice cream, sponge cake brushed with cherry liqueur syrup and poached cherries. Chocolate orange cake has almond sponge cake moistened with orange liqueur syrup, layers of orange ice cream and chocolate ice cream and a garnish of grated chocolate. Coconut sponge cake is the base of a dessert he calls the Jamaican, with hazelnut milk chocolate ice cream sprinkled with rum-macerated raisins, topped with rum ice cream and grated coconut. A simpler but equally enticing ice-cream cake features a meringue base, coffee ice cream and walnuts.
Some ice-cream cakes can be made without any baking, using store-bought cakes or cookies. Matthew Klein, author of The Joy of Ice Cream, makes an easy icecream charlotte by lining the bottom and sides of a charlotte mold with ladyfingers and filling the center with fruit-studded ice cream. After unmolding the frozen dessert, he tops it with canned cherries and cherry sauce, and then decorates it with whipped cream rosettes.
Making an ice-cream pie is faster because it’s not as high as an ice-cream cake and takes less time to freeze. All you need is a cookie crumb pie shell, an icecream filling and a simple decoration.
Still, it can be festive enough for Shavuot.
Abigail Johnson Dodge, author of Desserts 4 Today: Flavorful Desserts with Just Four Ingredients, makes a triple chocolate-raspberry ice-cream pie from a chocolate cookie crumb crust with a filling of raspberries mixed into softened chocolate ice cream; when it’s frozen, she spreads chocolate fudge sauce on top and sprinkles it with raspberries. Dodge notes that you could use graham crackers, shortbread cookies or gingersnaps for the crust and that instead of the fudge sauce, you could sprinkle the pie with toasted slivered almonds or other toasted nuts.
Her recipe begins with a useful reminder: First, make room for your dessert in the freezer.
Makes 8 servings
You can make an astonishing variety of ice-cream cakes using crisp nut meringues and either one or several flavors of ice cream.
They can be made in different shapes and sizes. Try almond meringues with chocolate and vanilla ice creams; or walnut meringues with caramel or coffee ice cream. You can prepare this ice-cream cake up to 5 days ahead; if kept for longer, the meringues soften.
✔ Two 20-cm. pistachio meringues (see recipe below)
✔ 2 cups pistachio, chocolate or strawberry ice cream✔ 2 cups vanilla ice cream✔ 2 Tbsp. shelled pistachios, finely chopped (for garnish)
Carefully trim meringue circles, using the point of a sharp paring knife with sawing motion, so that one just fits into a 20-cm. springform pan and the second is about 6 mm. smaller than first all around (so there will be a small space between the edge of this meringue and side of pan).
Set larger meringue round in springform pan with sides closed. Soften pistachio ice cream briefly in refrigerator, just until spreadable. Top meringue in pan with chocolate ice cream in spoonfuls. Carefully but quickly spread smooth. Set second meringue on top, centering it so that sides do not touch pan. Freeze for 10 minutes.
Soften vanilla ice cream in refrigerator just until spreadable. Spoon enough ice cream around edge of top meringue to cover edge generously. Gently push vanilla ice cream between edge of meringue and edge of pan so it meets pistachio ice cream layer.
Spoon remaining vanilla ice cream over top of meringue. Gently smooth top.
Cover and freeze for 8 hours or overnight.
To serve, set cake on a platter. Run a thin-bladed flexible knife around edge of cake.
Release spring and remove sides of pan. Sprinkle top of cake with chopped pistachios.
Serve immediately.
Makes two 20-cm. rounds, total about 8 servings Layer these meringues with your favorite ice cream to make fabulous desserts; or make small pistachio meringues to serve as delicate cookies.
The baked meringues can be kept up to 5 days in airtight container in dry weather; or they can be frozen.
✔ 1 cup (about 110 gr.) shelled unsalted pistachios, or 225 gr. unshelled ✔ 2⁄3 cup sugar ✔ 1 Tbsp. cornstarch ✔ 4 large egg whites, room temperature ✔ 1⁄8 tsp. cream of tartar Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 150ºC.
Butter and lightly flour 2 medium-sized nonstick baking sheets, tapping each to remove excess flour. If using regular baking sheets, lightly butter corners and line sheets with foil; butter and lightly flour foil.
Using a 20-cm. springform pan rim as guide, trace a circle onto each baking sheet, drawing it around outside of springform rim. Have ready a rubber spatula for folding and a pastry bag fitted with a 1.25-cm. plain tip.
Grind nuts with 1⁄2 cup sugar in food processor until as fine as possible, scraping inward occasionally. Transfer to a medium bowl. Sift cornstarch over nut mixture.
Using a fork, stir mixture lightly until blended. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar in large bowl, beginning at medium speed and increasing to medium-high, until they form soft peaks. With mixer at high speed, gradually beat in remaining sugar and continue beating until whites are just stiff and shiny but not dry, about 15 seconds.
Sprinkle about 1⁄3 of nut mixture over whites while folding gently; continue sprinkling and folding as gently and as quickly as possible until just blended.
Immediately transfer mixture to pastry bag, using rubber spatula. Beginning at center of circle marked on baking sheet, pipe meringue in tight spiral until circle is completely covered.
Use uniform pressure so rounds have even thickness. If there are holes in spiral, pipe small dot of meringue in each hole. Pipe another spiral on second baking sheet. Pipe any remaining meringue in mounds about 2.5 cm in diameter and 2 cm high, giving them rounded tops.
Bake meringues 30 minutes. (If both baking sheets do not fit on central rack, bake them on 2 racks and switch their positions after baking them about 15 minutes.) Reduce oven temperature to 135ºC. Continue baking until meringues are light brown, dry, and just firm but not hard, about 10 to 15 minutes; to check, touch center of each meringue very lightly – your finger should not leave an impression in mixture. Meringues burn easily if overbaked, but remain sticky if underbaked. They will become firmer as they cool.
Immediately release meringues gently from baking sheets or foil, using a large metal spatula; peel off foil if necessary. If meringues are sticky on bottom, return to oven until dry, about 5 more minutes. Transfer them to rack and cool completely.
Faye Levy is the author of Fresh from France: Dessert Sensations and in Hebrew, of Sefer Ha’ugot, the book of cakes, published by R. Sirkis.