- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Planning a Presidents Day menu might be something you have never considered, but it’s fun when there are children at home, you’ve got a long weekend with a holiday, and you’re craving a good chocolate dessert you might have given up at the new year.

This cake is a keeper, for Presidents Day and beyond. You assemble it ahead of time, then stash it in the freezer for serving whenever you like.

My friend Martha Bowden helped me to develop this recipe, which is based on a small chocolate cake mix the perfect size for assembling into this loaf-shaped layer cake. When it’s sliced, the cake reveals stripes of chocolate brown, creamy white and cherry red, just right for Presidents Day — approaching on Monday.

Save pieces of sturdy cardboard that you can cover with foil to make an impromptu platter for freezing desserts like this one. To make assembly as effortless as possible, make sure all the ingredients are cold.

Cut the ice cream when it is cold and lay the slices onto cold cake. This helps the cake hold its shape and shortens the freezing time.

Five time-shaving ideas for the freezer

Desserts aren’t the only recipe you can tuck away in the freezer and serve later:

• When making casseroles, make two. One for now, and one to place in the freezer. You can freeze casseroles in glass Pyrex pans, or if you are taking them someplace, use a disposable aluminum pan.

• Make a big batch of soup or chili and freeze what you don’t serve the first go-around.

m Twice-baked potatoes. I made a whole baking pan of these, about a dozen, served five and froze the rest. They can go straight from the freezer into a 350-degree oven, loosely covered, until heated through, about 40 minutes.

• Crab cakes or fish cakes. We fold leftover grilled salmon into mashed potatoes, add an egg and seasoning, and we’ve got fish cakes. Use your favorite recipe and place the cakes you don’t want to fry into plastic bags in the freezer. Thaw before cooking.

• French bread, good rolls, bagels. I know they’re not a meal, but they are an essential add-on when you’re making pasta or you have company coming. I freeze whole baguettes the day they are baked, and they go from the freezer to the oven to the table.

Martha’s chocolate cherry ice cream cake with hot fudge sauce

The preparation time is 15 minutes, the baking time is 35 to 37 minutes, and the assembly-freezing time is 2 hours and 20 minutes.

CAKE:

Solid vegetable shortening for greasing the pan

Flour for dusting the pan

1 small package (9 ounces) devil’s-food cake mix, or half of an 18.25-ounce mix

½ cup buttermilk or plain milk

1 egg

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract or pure almond extract

FILLING:

1 can (12 ounces) cherry filling, or 1½ cups cherry preserves

1 gallon vanilla ice cream, in rectangular block

Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish

Chocolate curls, for garnish

Hot fudge sauce, for garnish

Maraschino cherries, for garnish

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with solid vegetable shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour. Set the pan aside.

Place the cake mix, a 1/4 cup of the buttermilk, the egg, and the vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Add the remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again, if needed. The batter should look well combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula. Place the pan in the oven.

Bake the cake until it springs back when lightly pressed with your finger, 35 to 37 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.

Run a dinner knife around the edge of the cake and shake the pan to release it. Invert it over one hand and then invert again onto a rack so that the cake is right side up. Allow to cool completely, 30 minutes more.

Slice the cake lengthwise into 3 equal layers. Place a sheet of waxed paper between the layers and cover the cake with plastic wrap. Place it in the freezer for 1 hour, or until firm.

At the same time, place the can of cherry filling, a large mixing bowl and the electric mixer beaters in the refrigerator to chill.

Remove the cherry filling from the refrigerator and divide it in half. Remove the cake from the freezer. Lift off the top 2 layers and the waxed paper. Place the bottom layer on a piece of cardboard covered with aluminum foil or on a serving platter that will fit in the freezer.

Place a clean sheet of waxed paper on the counter, or work on a clean cutting board. Remove the ice cream from the freezer. Working carefully and quickly, unfold the cardboard from around the top and sides of the ice cream.

Using a sharp serrated knife, cut off a ½-inch-thick slice of ice cream. Place the ice cream slice on the cake layer. Trim off any ice cream that extends beyond the edges of the layer. Cover the cake layer completely with slices of ice cream.

Spread half of the cherry filling over the ice cream, just to the edges. Cut more slices of ice cream and arrange them in a layer over the cherry filling, just to the edges of the cake.

Gently place the middle layer of the cake on top of the ice cream and repeat the layers of ice cream, the remaining cherry filling and more ice cream. Place the unused ice cream in an airtight container back in the freezer for future use.

Gently place the top cake layer on top of the last layer of ice cream. Cover the assembled cake with plastic wrap, and immediately return it to the freezer for 1 hour.

Remove the frozen cake from the freezer. Spread a thin layer of whipped cream on the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle with the chocolate curls, if desired. Return the cake to the freezer, uncovered, for a few hours, or preferably overnight.

When you are ready to serve the cake, warm hot fudge sauce.

To serve, slice the cake crosswise and drizzle each slice with sauce. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. Makes 12 servings.

Anne Byrn is the author of the popular Doctor series cookbooks, including “The Cake Mix Doctor” and “The Dinner Doctor” and “Cupcakes From the Cake Mix Doctor” (Workman Publishing).

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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