Ina Garten's Shortcut Cake Sauce Is Just Melted Vanilla Ice Cream

When it comes to making a delicious sauce to top your baked goods, it's easy to spend a lot of time and energy worrying about having the flavor come out just right and not burning or curdling it. Plus, it's hard to find the energy or patience to whip up a sauce from scratch after you've just worn yourself out by crafting the perfect bake. But some desserts, like cottage pudding, are meant to be served with a luscious sauce spooned over top. 

Crème anglaise is a velvety smooth vanilla custard sauce you can pour. This delightful sauce takes its name from the French words for "English cream" and is, in fact, a version of traditional — and slightly thicker — English custard. The ingredients list for this classic sauce is deceptively simple, as it's made from cream or milk, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla or vanilla bean. It's delicious served over cakes, pies, crisps, fresh fruit — you name it. Basically, it's almost impossible to go wrong with this classic. However, it's not impossible to go wrong with making it. Crème anglaise is what you might call fussy. Super fussy. You have to stir it continuously while hoping your stove's lowest possible heat is low enough to avoid ending up with chunks. Then, when it's done, you have to immediately dunk it into an ice bath. But Ina Garten has a genius way to sidestep all that stress so can enjoy this luscious sauce without the headache.

Nearly instant crème anglaise

If you want to serve a cake with a silky sweet custard sauce but don't want to spend time stirring and praying your sauce doesn't turn into sweet scrambled eggs, Ina Garten has got a great tip for you. It also works anytime you want to dress up other desserts — such as apple crisp — in a snap. Instead of toiling over the stove for half an hour, just leave out some ice cream ahead of time (via Instagram). Or, simply stash a pint in your fridge for such occasions. "The secret is that vanilla ice cream is crème anglaise that's been frozen," says Garten. It's a sentiment she has echoed in her book, "Cook Like a Pro." 

We echo LifeHacker's sentiments that you need to rely on a quality ice cream for this, as you want that ingredients list to read as close to the ingredients list for scratch-made crème anglaise as your local freezer aisle allows. Using something laden with fillers and unpronounceable ingredients will result in something that truly feels like a plate of melted ice cream rather than a luxurious sauce. Mashed's top pick for the best vanilla ice cream is Graeter's Madagascar Vanilla Bean. If your supermarket doesn't have that, try McConnell's or Blue Bell Homemade (not to be confused with Blue Bunny).

Garten recently served this "sauce" (wink wink) over a decadent chocolate cake alongside fresh strawberries. Yum.