“I’m feeling so weird. I have no interest in making a cake.”
“WHAT?” Erik’s raised eyebrows were the equivalent shouting in surprise, given his level of exhaustion after days of working on his latest grad school paper.
I don’t know if it was business school or the fact that I hadn’t been craving sugar in the weeks leading up to my birthday, but when it finally rolled around, I really did have pretty much zero interest in making a cake for myself. Of course, a cake wasn’t even at all necessary thanks to cupcakes from my sister, a pastry-laden brunch with a good friend, and an extraordinarily lavish seafood birthday dinner with Erik that ended with a spectacularly large bananas fosters cake, onto which our waiter poured a stream of fiery rum that sizzled away quietly on the table. I attribute my dream of being pregnant that night to the food baby aftermath.
But then I had the bright idea to throw myself a birthday gathering and even though they say do whatever you want on your birthday, I couldn’t reconcile myself to the idea of a cake-less party. Expectations, you know.
So the night before the gathering, I mindlessly mixed up a batch of coconut milk ice cream and baked up my favorite vegan chocolate cake recipe (splitting the cake into one portion chocolate and one portion vanilla-chocolate-chip with the vague idea of making some kind of hybrid layered cake served with ice cream). Upon releasing the chocolate chip cake from its pan, I found the chocolate chips had cemented themselves to the bottom of the pan, causing the cake to fall out in approximately 9,000 uneven chunks and crumbs. Exasperated and still uninterested in the end result, I threw all the cake in the freezer and went to bed.
The next morning, I did what I always do when I end up with cake scraps instead of layers: made a momofuku style cake. A layer of squashed chocolate cake remnants. A layer of chocolate chip cake molded with the help of extra-soft ice cream. More chocolate cake. A slick of ganache to hold toasted cake crumbs.
Ultimately, it was a hit. Tremendously moist, dewy chocolate cake, a chocolate-chip-studded cakey middle molded into place by thick ribbons of caramel-tinted ice cream and topped off with toasted morsels of cake: perfect summer food. And of course, it turns out that I didn’t even need to make it. Fretting that there wouldn’t be enough food, I decided to double up on dessert and picked up a package of doughnuts to make a DIY waffled doughnut bar in addition to the cake…and then my siblings surprised me at the party by bringing me a mini cake tasting.
So just in case anyone was worried, more than enough sugar was present on and around my birthday–including this cake, which is personally the best vegan birthday cake I’ve ever had. And now, though there is no way on earth you can argue that this cake is the least bit healthy, I’m sharing the recipe for this really awesome vegan ice cream cake. Because I think we can all agree that birthdays are for splurging.
While this is a momofuku-style cake (which is characterized by a structure of using cake scraps for the bottom layer instead of whole cake layers and studded with milk crumbs in between layers), I switched things up a little by toasting cake crumbs in lieu of the milk crumbs for the extra crunchy texture + garnish. Less work, but just as effective.
If you try making this cake, I highly recommend baking the cake layers ahead of time and freezing them overnight so there’s no residual warmth to melt the ice cream. I also recommend making the ice cream base the night before, chilling it overnight, and then churning it right before you assemble the cake so the ice cream is extra-soft and pliable.
Lastly, I promise this cake looked a lot neater and more photogenic before it was defrosted, cut, half-eaten, and re-frozen. Your finished product will not look like it’s hemorrhaging ice cream and bits of cake.
- For the cake:
- 2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ¾ cup almond milk
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
- ½ cup mini chocolate chips, tossed in flour
- For the ice cream:
- 2 cans full-fat coconut milk
- ½ cup coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot starch
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tablespoons spiced rum*
- For the ganache:
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons almond milk
For the cake:
Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans and heat oven to 315 degrees F.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the milk, vinegar, sugar, oil and vanilla and stir until combined--do not overmix.
Divide batter equally into two bowls. Stir cocoa powder into one bowl and half the chocolate chips into the other bowl. Pour each bowl of batter into a prepared cake pan. Sprinkle the rest of the chocolate chips over the vanilla cake.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back slightly when pressed. Remove and let cool completely. Remove layers from the pans and freeze, well-wrapped in plastic wrap, until ready to use.
For the ice cream:
Prepare an ice bath. Combine the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan. Remove about 1/2 cup of the milk and whisk in the cornstarch until smooth. Whisk cornstarch mixture back into the pot.
Bring mixture to a low boil, whisking constantly. Boil for 1-2 minutes, then remove heat and place in an ice bath. Whisk in the vanilla and rum. Let mixture chill fully (about 1.5 hours) or chill overnight before freezing in an ice cream maker.
To make the cake crumbs:
In a frying pan over medium heat, crumble about 3/4 cup of the chocolate chip cake into the pan and toast for 5-10 minutes until the crumbs start to turn golden. Let cool completely before use.
To make the ganache:
Place chocolate chips and milk in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave for 45 seconds. Stir until melted.
Stamp out a 6-inch circle of chocolate cake from the 9-inch layer, reserving the cake scraps. Line a 6-inch cake pan with a large sheet of plastic wrap.
Place all the scraps from the chocolate layer on the bottom of the cake pan, pressing down gently to form a flat layer. Add a scoop or two of softened ice cream, then the rest of the chocolate chip cake, breaking it up to form a second layer of cake. Add another scoop or two of ice cream on top, flattening with a spatula. Top with the 6-inch circle of chocolate cake. Spread ganache across the top and top with the toasted cake crumbs. Freeze for at least four hours before serving.
*You can use nearly any alcohol--this is just what I had on hand. The original recipe called for vodka, which is virtually flavorless..