What You Need To Know Before Making An Ice Cream Cake

Ice cream cakes can be intimidating, and first-time cake makers may be tempted to just bolt for the nearest Dairy Queen to buy one. But we're here to tell you, ice cream cakes are easy to make. Depending on your method, you might not even need to turn on an oven. You can't just rush in blindly to the task, however. The most important thing to know before making an ice cream cake is this: You need to be prepared. After all, you'll most likely work in a room-temperature environment, and your main ingredient doesn't hold up well that far above the freezing point.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to ice cream cakes. One says ice cream cakes should incorporate real cake. The other, influenced by the Dairy Queen approach, says the body of an ice cream cake should only be made of ice cream (via The Kitchn). If you're a beginner, we agree with the folks at Epicurious, who recommend the no-cake approach. The consistency of cake makes it prone to drying out when frozen. That said, Epicurious doesn't believe your ice cream should stand alone. The website suggests creating a base with something that will maintain its integrity in the freezer. Here we follow Serious Eats, which recommends crumbling Oreos with butter and a little salt in the food processor.

Ice cream cake requires preparation and efficiency

With your crumb base ready, it's time to start working with ice cream cake's namesake ingredient. Now's a good time to review our No. 1 bit of advice: Be prepared. First, make sure you've made enough space in your freezer for your completed cake, per Epicurious. You're working with ice cream, so speed is important throughout the process — but you definitely don't want to be reorganizing your freezer while a finished cake melts on your countertop.

With speed and efficiency being so paramount, line up all your tools and ingredients before you start. A scoop and an offset spatula for spreading the ice cream are essentials. To get the ice cream into spreadable condition, The Pioneer Woman says to let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Alternatively, pound or lightly mix the ice cream, per Epicurious, to soften it for spreading. The Pioneer Woman recommends an egg and cream-based custard because it's nice and firm when frozen. For a topping, Cool Whip and Magic Shell work well (via Epicurious), while Serious Eats suggests ganache.

If you've done everything right to this point, and you popped your ice cream cake into the freezer before it became a liquid mess, it would be a shame to ruin the finished product while cutting it into portions. For a clean cut, Food Network says to use a chef's knife, dip it in warm water, and dry it with a paper towel before each slice.