On Saturday, we celebrated this boy’s twelfth birthday.

The main order of business: food. The kid can really pack it away.

Breakfast: bacon, eggs, hash browns, toast, and orange juice.
Lunch: shrimp scampi, broccoli, and cake.
Supper: pizza, veggies and dip, and rootbeer.

The cake was kind of a disaster.

Actually, the idea (from Aimee’s blog Simple Bites) was great. Brilliant, really. Individual pans of ice cream, each one a different flavor (in our case: vanilla, cookies-and-cream, coffee, chocolate dipper), frozen separately and then stacked, along with a layer of brownie.

The bottom layer of ice cream had a chocolate cookie crust (so yum), and the whole thing got iced with stabilized whipped cream (a teaspoon of gelatin sprinkled into a cup of whipping cream). For the top layer, mounded scoops of assorted ice creams (first frozen into a pan and then, once frozen solid, unmolded onto the top of the cake). Mini chocolate chips, swirls of ice cream, and sprinkles finished off the whole thing.

The problem was the brownie layer. I’d suspected a layer of frozen brownie might be hard to cut, so I emailed Aimee to find out what kind of brownies she used. I didn’t hear back from her, however, until after I’d gone ahead and made a pan of brownies — she’d used a mix, she said.

Oh. Also, oops.

Before serving, we let the cake sit at room temperature to the point of melting. But even then, the brownies were impossible to cut through. My husband tried everything: soaking the knives — a variety of them — in hot water, heating knives on the stove, using an electric knife (and nearly overheating it). The poor cake looked like it’d been through a war.

None of this fazed the birthday boy, of course. And actually, we all had fun with the cake despite the problems. Food adventures are the best.

Notes for next time, because there will be a next time — it’s a good cake:

*more cookie crumb layers
*perhaps some caramel sauce between a couple of the layers
*in place of the brownies (because rockhard chocolate, no matter how delicious, does not belong in an ice cream cake), thin layers of cake
*only a total of four layers. Five layers, plus the ice cream-scoop topping, was a bit ridiculous.

For our son’s main gift, my husband and I went out on a limb and got him something new to both him and us: an Arduino kit.

Actually, I still don’t know what it is, really. Circuit boards and LED lights and wires and connectors and stuff. But the kid is entranced.

He spends hours figuring things out, and already he’s squirreling aside cash for another kit. Something to do with a self-driving car….

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (2.6.17)object of terror, loss, timpano!, a Wednesday list, cheesy bacon toasts, itchy in my skin, chocolate mint chip cookies, seven, wheat berry salad, travel tips, the perfect classic cheesecake.


    • Jennifer Jo

      Yes, that would be a little easier, but even when we had problems cutting, the ice cream held up wonderfully—never smooshing out. It was the slab of rockhard brownie that wouldn't cut that was the disaster. Put a piece of concrete top, middle, or bottom of a cake, and it's still a piece of concrete.

    • Athanasia

      Cookie crumbs sound good. Layers of those between the ice cream layers would be easy to cut through I think and forget the brownie. Save the brownies for another day.

  • Misha

    Thank you! (And happy birthday to your boy!) I will be using this idea for my son's upcoming 15th. It looks so teenage boy friendly it's almost hilarious… oh and menopausal me friendly! : )

  • Margo

    That cake is so lovely to look at! But I would go the easy route and just do brownies and ice cream :/

    Also, that gift looks awesome. Will remember that for Ben. My parents got him a LittleBits set for Christmas – I think you make robots with it?? And it can sync to something online??

    And he LOVES it. My cousin is one of the LittleBits designers, too, so that's fun.

    • Jennifer Jo

      At his last dr's appt, they said that based on his growth chart, his estimated final height is 6'4" — but I'm betting he'll end up at 6'2".

  • Joanna

    If you put the brownie layer on the bottom, you'd be able to cut through all the ice cream before having to really press against the plate (small cutting board, perhaps?) to cut through the brownie. You could still put the cookie crust on the bottom of the brownie pan when you bake it, or between the brownies and the first layer of ice cream.

    • Jennifer Jo

      You'd think, but a fudgy brownie, frozen, is like cement… It's even hard to chew. You need power tools to cut through it.

      My husband did suggest pre-slicing and then, while icing, using toothpicks to mark the cuts. The toothpick holes could be covered over with whipped cream dots or something…

  • Becky

    I've made a frozen chocolate mousse cake – very old Bon Appetit recipe. I think it had a thin layer of sponge cake? I'll pull it up and send it to you. That might be the cake direction to head?
    It looks fantastic though.

  • Suburban Correspondent

    I'm thinking you could just chill the brownie layer, not freeze it. And, yes, my boys Arduino and Raspberry Pi, and I still do not understand what they are. The best I can figure that they are the computer-age version of the crystal radio sets my grandfather put together as a boy.

    • Jennifer Jo

      But then how do you get the brownie IN the cake?

      Raspberry Pi—is that something I should look up? For next year's birthday gift?

    • Suburban Correspondent

      Probably. And aren't you layering the cake? Can't you just place the chilled brownie layer on top of the frozen ice cream layer?

    • Jennifer Jo

      But the cake is STORED in the freezer! I suppose, if I had all the components pre-frozen and ready — and if I had enough 8-inch pans, which I don't — then I could assemble it immediately before digging in. But then the leftovers go into the freezer and what then?

      No, the only way around this, I think, is a different type of cake, or — oh hey! — maybe chopping up the brownie and stirring it INTO the vanilla ice cream. Now THERE'S an idea….!

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