Let Them Eat Ice Cream Cake

It’s April 12 today, and May 1—the date when, in the best case, my kids will go back to school and I can go back to the kitchen—seems very far away. I can’t sell anything other than t-shirts and gift cards while the quarantine is on. But meanwhile, the weather is warm, cravings for ice cream are running high, and people everywhere are having birthdays. So, I’m going to teach you how to make your own ice cream cakes in the safety and comfort of your home.

The first ice cream cake I ever made at home* was made with store-bought ice cream. That was so exciting that I made another one almost immediately. Then I got pregnant and gave it a rest for a while. But by the time my husband’s next birthday rolled around, I was ready to break out my ice cream maker and go scratch-made all the way.

*As you might have guessed from the fact that I knew how to make an ice cream cake in the first place, and from the evidence that I knew how to pipe frosting, these were not my first ice cream cakes ever. About 8 years prior to this point I was working at Ben & Jerry’s corporate headquarters and helping design cakes for the whole franchise system. But you don’t need a professional background in cake decorating to do it yourself. Just make sure it tastes delicious and no one will give a hoot about the looks, as my patchy side frosting and off-center inscriptions can attest.

You can make your ice cream cakes with store-bought or scratch-made ice cream—whatever makes you happy and fits your lifestyle. Likewise, if you want a big project to fill up a few days, you can make your own baked goods, toppings, and decorations from scratch, or, if you want a modest project that won’t take over your life, you can buy those components from the store. The only thing that I feel strongly you should make from scratch is the whipped cream frosting, but that’s not a heavy lift—you can do it with as few as three ingredients and it will only take about 5 minutes.

Here I should clarify how I define an ice cream cake: it’s a portionable, hard-frozen confection made of two layers of ice cream and two layers of a crumbled baked good (e.g., cookie, bar, or cake). It’s completely covered in frosting, inscribed with a message, and decorated with piped borders and other toppings (e.g., sprinkles, nuts, cookie dough). But you can adapt the list of components however you like. Plenty of Bartleby’s customers have custom-ordered cakes with no borders, or no message, or no extra toppings—or gone to the other end of the spectrum and requested three layers of ice cream, two different baked goods, and a buttercream portrait of their pet drawn on top.


I’m going to break down the ice-cream-cake-making process into four parts for you, each detailed in its own blog post:

  • Part 1: Building an ice cream cake

  • Part 2: Making and applying frosting

  • Part 3: Adding decorations

  • Part 4: Storage and serving

When and how often will I be posting these parts? Ah, well. Isn’t it funny how not doing anything and not going anywhere can take up your whole day? Let’s shoot for getting it all online by April 20, but let’s be kind to ourselves (i.e., me) and not freak out if it takes a bit longer.

Am I really giving away all this information for free? Yes! The world need ice cream cakes, whether I can sell them or not. But please consider buying the aforementioned t-shirts and gift cards to help raise money to bring Bartleby’s back when the quarantine is lifted—and remember that 15% of all sales will be donated to support Block Club Chicago, which continues to provide essential coverage of the coronavirus and everything else happening in Chicago. Or give to Block Club directly, if you don’t need a shirt or a gift card. Just please let me know if you do!

Look forward to caking with you!