Sweet Sixteen

Monday was M’s birthday. I started writing this on her birthday.

Since she and Cute W arrived home well past midnight last night after winning another soccer tournament, she opted to sleep in this morning, meaning that the trip to the DMV is looming.

Meanwhile, we’re well-prepared for the rest of the day.

First: presents. There are a ton of them, mostly because she didn’t have any one big-ticket item on her wish list, plus extended family were on-the-ball and delivered early. So we’ve got quite a pile. It occured to me that perhaps I’ve never told you that our tradition is that we put birthday presents way up on top of our china cabinet, like so:

I started doing this because I like to use and re-use gift bags, and it felt just way too tempting for kids to peek into the bags if they were down on their level. Well, then I looked back into ye olde archives of the blog, and I realized that I had told you, back when we first moved into this house, about the policy, and about M’s reaction when she realized that my purpose was to thwart prying eyes. This was when she was, umm, 8 or 9 I guess?

M said, “What?!? You always put my presents up high because you don’t trust me?!? That’s very offensive.” She was so serious that I stopped to look at her, and she relented, “But also probably a good choice.”

They have much better self-control now, I presume, but it’s a nice spot to keep them on display and yet out-of-the-way.

Most preparation focused on tonight’s birthday dessert: my very first attempt at an ice cream cake. You know that my birthday cakes tend to be projects, but now that the kids are older and less inclined toward themed kid parties, we tend to go for our old reliables, our favorite chocolate cake or chocolate mousse (both from McCall’s Cooking School).

I don’t know how I’ve gone along all this time without ever making an ice cream cake, especially since that 2010 blog post mentioned M requesting one. But I have. When she first mentioned it, there were a couple of obvious points. It would be mint chocolate chip, for sure, with a ton of cookie crumbles but no actual cake-y cake at all. Done. When I started looking into recipes, I decided that I was going to go with a springform pan instead of a 9 x 13 pan because 9 x 13 is just way too much cake for the family (once again she is refusing a friends party), and I wasn’t going to add any gooey fudge or chocolate sauce inside the cake because it would be too rich for M’s tastes. All this meant that after looking at several recipes, it was clear that making an ice cream cake is easy enough to wing it on my own.

First, though, we didn’t own a springform pan. Cute W helpfully sent me a review article about the best springform pans available. There was a clear and decisive winner. But buying that one would have required me to leave the house and go to a store or something, so I purchased the runner-up via Amazon Prime.

Since J and I were home alone for the weekend, I proposed that we could work on this ice cream cake project together, and she was beyond thrilled.  She loves to celebrate birthdays, she loves to cook and be crafty, and she is happy to consume excess dessert items.  Our first assignment together: decide on our cookie crumble strategy. I figured that our likely cookie of choice would be Newman Os, but I thought we should just test another chocolate crumble-y option. Then there was the question: plain cookies crumbs, or mixed with butters. A taste-test was devised:

And no, we didn’t consider Oreos–they just taste way too fake and chemical-y to me. J and I set up four little samples, added some ice cream to each, and froze them to test them for flavor and cake-construction properties. Newman-Os were the clear winner, and we decided to mix the bottom layer of them with butter for a sturdy base, then let the other layers be just the crumbs.

So, our cake was a package of Newman Os-and-butter base, then most of a container of Breyer’s mint chocolate chip ice cream, then half a package of Newman Os, then whipped cream, then the other half of the package of Newman Os, then another almost-full container’s worth of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Here’s J spreading some whipped cream over the cookies:

In between each layer, I wanted to leave plenty of time for proper freezing. In between each layer, J wanted to move on to the next step because it was just so much fun. Finally, we got to the point where we’d finished all of our layers, and the next step was to remove the springform part of the pan.

It was a high-drama moment. J set it on top of a bowl so that she could easily ease the circle down and away from the cake.

My plan was to make the cake more presentable by covering the whole thing with frosting. This would also serve two other important purposes: first, the frosting gets pretty hard even just in the fridge, so I thought it would help shore up all the sides and prevent a tragic collapse. Second, I would be permitted the opportunity to eat some of my very favorite chocolate frosting. Anyway, part of the plan was to prepare the frosting before “springing” the ice cream cake free, so if it looked like we were going to have any avalanche-type situations, I’d have a rich chocolatey mortar to address the issues. But then J was dying to spring the cake loose, and after trying to put her off all day, my defenses were down, so we proceeded with her step even though I hadn’t had a chance to prepare the frosting.

Luckily, it went pretty smoothly. We lost about one teaspoon of cookie crumbles and whipped cream, but the rest stayed fabulously intact. We popped it back in the (exceptionally crowded) freezer and rushed to make the frosting. It all stayed together.

We did feel a little bit like girls at the dike, because as we were frosting, the ice cream started melting, and little fissures would form in the half-spread icing, allowing mint chocolate chip to dribble out. But we worked like we worked with the brisk efficiency of Buddy‘s workers on a tight deadline, and we pulled it together.

Now the one last terrifying opportunity for disaster is that the springform pan’s base keeps sliding around on the plate. Last time I started to pull the plate out of the freezer, the whole thing almost sailed off.

I started typing that and then I thought, “No, Katie. That’s ridiculous. You don’t need to live in fear.” And I went to the kitchen and folded a napkin between the base and the plate. So now we’re golden! If we survive driving, we’ll eat like kings tonight!

 

UPDATE

Post-cake analysis: we should have put a circle of parchment paper inside the bottom of the springform pan. The bottom Newman O layer was solid and sturdy and tough to cut without damaging the new pan. I think next time I’d use a little less butter to allow for more crumbling. Also, more cookie crumb layers (maybe a full package per layer) and less ice cream. M was a particular fan of the whipped cream layer, so she thought that could have been a little thicker. But it was delicious.

Post-DMV report: We went to Clifton Park, and it was relatively pleasant. We managed to get it done in under half an hour. M and I have gone driving twice so far. It was a teensy bit terrifying the first time, much better (but still not relaxing) the second time. More on all that later.

My delay: I basically finished this post on Monday, but then I couldn’t bear to go back to it and blather about making ice cream cake in the face of hearing about family separation and kids in detention. Yesterday I made a donation, called some politicians, signed a petition, and emailed the White House, which has helped. This reminded me that I’ve meant to share my Hot Tip. I have spent quite a bit of time lately being pretty riled up about one political issue or another, and even though I really, really hate calling people, I’ve called a lot of people about one thing or another. And early on I decided that I should save all the politicians that I call in my contacts. It’s quicker and easier to call people if they’re already in your phone as opposed to having to look up a phone number, and so it makes it easier to respond when necessary. So: I recommend it. Plus I geekily labeled everyone  (I used a prefix “Pol.” for my political phone calls), so now it’s easy to quickly see everybody I’ve contacted.

I might have some repeats or skipped some of them, because I just did a quick scroll-and-screenshot. But in any case, I feel weirdly proud of my collection.

I think I deserve some ice cream cake!

 

 

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