best laid plans or a ding-dong trifle and d@mn chocolate ice cream

With my oldest daughter’s birthday on its way, I got in gear to bake an amazing cake. (There was that pony cake to match, if not top.) And because she loves chocolate, I also wanted to make her a batch of brilliant chocolate ice cream. But…

diner fare and the inspiration for the cake roll

diner fare and the inspiration for the cake roll

After enjoying a Swiss-roll type of cake at a local diner, we knew we’d foundΒ  the perfect treat for her big day.

A quick internet search for “homemade chocolate ding-dong” (Can hardly type this with a straight face, but that’s the snack cake I thought I was going for. My Hostess-savvy husband has since pointed out that ding-dongs are not cake rolls. Just the same, the name stuck.) brought me to Smitten Kitchen’s Heavenly Chocolate Cake Roll. I could do this.

Turns out I couldn’t. The fact that there was no flour in the cake should have concerned me, but I figured SK knew what she was doing (and I’m sure she did–her cake roll turned out quite nicely) so jumped in.

My mistake was taking the cake out of the oven too soon; it was overly moist and stuck to the dish towel. But, I was trying to follow SK’s advice to not overbake lest it become too dry for rolling. Not ready to admit defeat (I had six eggs and six ounces good chocolate already invested), I set it aside to deal with later.

so not was I was going for

so not was I was going for

Next up was the ice cream, so I turned to trusty Humphry Slocombe for their Here’s Your D@mn Chocolate recipe. Intriguing! Though I was making this for an 11-year-old, I loved the name and had been eying the recipe since buying the book. (HS claims they had no intention of making flavors as mundane and ordinary as chocolate, but when their customers wouldn’t let up about it, they developed this rich, velvety chocolate ice cream and gave it an in-your-face name. You can read Attempts in Domesticity’s post for more on their Here’s Your D@mn Strawberry Ice Cream.)

This ice cream was a tough gig. First step was melting sugar into caramel, then adding water (though I subbed in coffee), cream, and milk before tempering with egg yolks and adding shots of cocoa powder and a final blast of dark chocolate. Lots of muscle was involved when my caramel hardened and I had to cook and stir, cook and stir to melt it down again. But I don’t go down easily in the kitchen and was proud to emerge victorious. The resulting custard was dreamy and dark, and I chilled it overnight.

churning the dark chocolate custard

churning the dark chocolate custard

Humphry S had described this ice cream as being pudding-like, so I wasn’t surprised at the thick custard that greeted me the next morning. But I was surprised when it didn’t freeze while churning. After a half-hour or so, I took matters into my own hands and set the canister in an ice-water bath and beat it with a hand mixer. The dark brown chocolate gradually lightened as it filled with air and when it was light enough to overflow the canister, I transferred it to another container for freezing.

look at how much lighter it is!

a lot lighter

Back to that cake: Rolling didn’t seem an option, so I did what any self-respecting failed cake baker would do: I made a trifle. Into a lovely glass bowl went layers of crumbled moist (flourless) chocolate cake, sweetened whipped cream, sprinkles of cacao nibs, and a killer chocolate ganache. Birthday cake? Not really. But we stuck a candle in it and called it good.



The birthday trifle certainly didn’t need a rich ice cream to accompany, but I’d gone to the trouble of making that d@mn stuff, so serve it up we did. More frozen chocolate mousse than ice cream, it was light, ethereal, and almost otherworldly. If I made it again, I’d serve it solo and let folks enjoy it for the rich and creamy and deeply flavored chocolate treat that it is.

Did my daughter enjoy her birthday desserts? Sure. Though it seemed over the top, especially on a weekday evening when dinner was slotted between an afternoon playdate and evening tennis lessons. This may have been an instance when a simple cake and store-bought ice cream would have been sufficient.

over the top birthday treats!

over the top birthday treats!

But homemade trifle and creamy-rich chocolate ice cream should be celebrated and I don’t regret the time and effort that went into making either. It was a bit more of a battle than I’m used to, but a kitchen challenge is a call to action and backing down was never an option. Happy Birthday, my dear Clare. May you dodge the bullet of inheriting your mother’s crazy-obsessed food DNA.

40 thoughts on “best laid plans or a ding-dong trifle and d@mn chocolate ice cream

  1. Love it — sometimes you just have to make the best of it and it looks like you definitely did! That ice cream looks rich and delicious, yum! And you know, I read several reviews for the cookbook that say the recipes don’t work very well. I guess people felt it was kind of thrown together and not well tested for small batch cooking. But still, if it tastes good, I’d call it a success — even if you had to do some extra tinkering. Clare’s a lucky girl to have such a dedicated mom! =)

    • Now THAT is very interesting about the reviews! Makes sense that it wasn’t tested in home kitchens so much. Would explain why the Secret Breakfast had an entire 1/2 cup bourbon in it–way too much to freeze completely. Still good, though, yes.

      Thanks for the kind words–Clare may not think she’s so lucky. Have had her ask for store-bought foods “like the other moms buy.” Someday she’ll get it, right?

  2. You know, my favourite brownies from Mama Peckish were usually the ones she was most disappointed with. When you’re really good in the kitchen, even the setbacks can be indelibly delicious.

    • Mama Peckish should be applauded for starting you on a path of impeccable tastes πŸ™‚

      Though I hesitate to take credit for being “really good” in the kitchen as I think it’s more a matter of being comfortable in the kitchen and being ok with falling flat on your face (not literally, of course) if it should come to that.

      Was hoping you’d see this one as you’re the decadent ice cream guy!

  3. Lucky daughters and incredibly determined mom!! You had me at ‘ding dongs’ (for the Hostess reason, I swear), though I don’t think I could have turned this kind of challenge into anything even moderately edible (and I’m a fair cook). Bravo!!! And yum as always! Happy Birthday Clare!!

    • lol, yes determined. stubborn? πŸ˜‰ their luck in a mom who enjoys the kitchen is balanced out with the mom who neglects other duties (the tooth fairy is occasionally a day or so late because she’s a Night Owl and stays up too late blogging, for instance) in the name of “business.” All evens out, I suppose.

      Appreciate you being here πŸ™‚ Wish I could send a serving or two of trifle and ice cream your way.

  4. Good idea with the trifle. I probably would have either a) mashed it up and made cake balls, or (if I was extra frustrated) b) hand everyone a spoon and tell them to gather round the pan and start scooping out what they wanted. I think the trifle route is much more civilized. Also, the coffee in the ice cream sounds like an excellent substitution!
    And over-the-top is perfect for a child’s birthday party. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Jenny. Cake pops! Brilliant! The trifle went meant less work, though, so the best route for me. Kicker is that today we’re hosting a friend party for the younger girl’s birthday (which was back in April!! pony cake πŸ™‚ ) and so I made yet another cake today. Used a cupcake pan (a single pan with two halves which go together to form one big cupcake) and it turned out well, BUT once frosted looked like a Smurf(ette) hut. Will put it up on facebook for sure. Seems my cakes are always just going to a be a little bit off. Part of my charm? haha.

      I will definitely come to the next party you throw where everyone gets a spoon and is invited to dig in. Sounds like fun!

  5. So. Much. Chocolate. I can’t even. It all sounds fabulous! And I agree with everyone here, I’m so impressed with the way that you were able to “rescue” the cake! I would not have handled things so gracefully, I’m afraid.

    Also, the name of that chocolate ice cream cracked me the heck up. Another also, I LOVE that you subbed coffee in for the ice cream! Coffee and chocolate is one of my favourite flavour combinations (like you didn’t see that coming). I find that sometimes it’s not so much that you can taste the coffee as that it enhances the chocolate.

    One last also – Happy Birthday Clare !!!

    • thanks, amb πŸ™‚ You’re right on about the coffee being not so much about the coffee flavor, but rather being about enhancing the chocolate. Exactly.

      Crazy crazy with Clare’s bday yesterday and Anna’s kids’ party today. Made another cake for Anna’s party (referenced in above comment) and you’d like very much. Pink and sparkly. Watch for it on deLiz…

      And lol handling the kitchen issues “gracefully.” Not the word I’d use, but I’ll take it!

  6. Wow, that looks fabulous. I have to agree with all of the above comments and I admire your determination and creativity. I would never have thought of bringing a trifle to the rescue. Yum!

    Great job, Liz.

    And Happy Belated Birthday Clare.

    • Thanks, Tracy! The trifle is always a good save when baked goods fall apart. Perhaps Fannie or Bunny or Clarissa may already know that? πŸ˜‰

      I love how blog commenters such as yourself spin my personality traits into words like “determination” and “creativity.” Because “stubborn” and “childlike” have been used against me–haha.

      I see Fannie has another installment and am looking forward to reading it soon!

  7. The trifle and ice cream both look delicious! Mmm so much chocolatey goodness. It’s great how you overcame the challenges! Happy birthday to your daughter–she’s lucky to have such a food-obsessed mom! πŸ™‚

    • Thank you πŸ™‚ Will for sure have my daughter read these comments as you can all point out to her how lucky she is. lol.

      Yes, lots of chocolatey goodness. And I like to think I did indeed overcome a few challenges. heehee.

      Glad to have you here. This post was right up your “more food” alley!

    • I made Becky dribble? Am not sure if I should be flattered or a bit ashamed? haha

      Speaking of cakes (though not necessarily the fail part): How did your father’s day cake turn out?

  8. Still a good piece of work and I am sure your daughter liked it- we would have enjoyed it. Funny, we tried a bouche de noel / rolled cake and failed (one of most epic fails, actually). Seems to be a tough go…but we will be trying that ice cream and compare to Jeni’s Chocolate ice cream recipe (just for kicks).

    • Good idea to try Jeni’s, too. Might have to do that myself πŸ™‚ Let me know how it goes on your end. Funny thing: served the ice cream at my youngest’s kids’ party last night (way too many parties going on here right now, haha) alongside a (from-scratch πŸ™‚ ) white cake and it was sublime! Thinking the trifle just wasn’t its best partner. Or maybe a few more days aging in the freezer made a difference? The cake/ice cream pairing and the gummy bear vodka (from-scratch, none of this off-the-shelf flavored vodka) cocktails I poured (for myself and a neighbor, not my daughters’ friends) will be featured in my next post. Am still amazed at how nicely the choc ice cream paired with a white cake.

      Always good to see you here πŸ™‚

  9. Great save, you managed to turn the failed recipe into a delicious success. BTW, I have heard the same thing about some of the recipes in SK’s book. I don’t own the book and have never tried for myself but have heard that from others. So feel good about your baking abilities it’s likely it was the recipe.

    • ‘k, now I feel better about the trifle. Thanks πŸ™‚ I’m not the world’s best decorator or all that good at making things look “just so,” but I pride myself at understanding the science behind food and getting things right in the kitchen, so was disappointed to end up with such a mess of a cake. But way too much chocolate and muscle involved to throw it all out, hence the trifle. Good to have you here!

    • Thanks, Trace. Yes, there’s been a lot of “just going with it” around here lately. But if that takes us to trifle-ville, why the heck not?

      Am still thinking about your peanut butter recipe and rant. One of my latest projects is formatting oodles of Skippy website recipes (sorry, Jif πŸ˜‰ ) and there are so many I want to make! Will be posting some eventually. Ice cream toppings, cookies, pies, bars, cakes, French toast, etc. And natural peanut butter would make a mess out of all of them.

      ‘Ppreciate you stopping over πŸ™‚

  10. I give you so much credit, Liz. I would have taken that cake straight to the dumpster — and might have left the pan there, too. That’s how my bundt pan and I parted ways. You, though, made this fantastic trifle. How thrilled the birthday girl must have been. Way to go, Mom! And a belated happy birthday wish for Clare!

    • Thank, John. Very much appreciate your supportive and positive comments. When in the chocolately thick of it, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was worth it. Too much of a good thing and all. But that ice cream has gotten even better with age, so would make that again for sure.

      You might have given the cake crumbs to Max, though chocolate is not good for canines, yes?

      Funny what we’ll do for our kids. My youngest had her friend’s party the day after the oldest’s birthday so I made yet another doozy of a cake. It’ll turn up here soon enough, along with the cocktail I enjoyed to get myself through the party. lol. Hope your summer is going fabulously well. Storm cleanup is behind you now?

  11. Talk about “making lemonade from lemons”! Kudos to you! Isnt it annoying when a recipe doesnt turn out? The trifle was an ingenious idea and sounds delicious!

    • I like that lemon to lemonade thing–thanks πŸ™‚ It so wouldn’t work on a Whole30 plan though 😦 Guess there’s a time for both. Your comments are very much appreciated!

  12. Good golly, I just gained 5 pounds reading this. As a long-time ding dong connoisseur, I will attest that looks mighty good. A right and fitting addition to an already impressive ding dong legacy. That chocolate ice cream looks amazing too. You’re just good! You rose to the challenge well! Very well indeed. And a humorous read to boot.


    • Thanks for stopping by (like you had a choice πŸ˜‰ ) and glad especially to have you resonate with the ding dong reference. Hostess did an admirable job of creating fans for life.

      Appreciate your kind words and am tickled if you found humor here as you may have guessed by a few subtle and indirect comments that I’m a fan of your writing.

      p.s. You will burn those 5 pounds right off as the male metabolism seems to work like that.

  13. Liz, what a cute story:-) I think you handled the situation perfectly:-) Next time you could always put the cake back in the oven to dry it out on purpose then once it cools put it in a food processor and make lovely delicious crumbs to top your delicious frozen treat:-) or even put the crumbs in it..making a cookies and cream type treat:-) or you could make a crust out of the crumbs and make an ice cream pie… sounds like you are the bomb mom:-):-):-):-):-) there is nothing better than mom making birthday treats:-)

    • Thanks πŸ™‚ Glad if you enjoyed and I LOVE your brainstorms. I will be calling you next time a baking disaster strikes.

      Totally agree that homemade birthday treats are essential!

  14. Sorry I’m late! You are a good woman, Liz, to keep going through these setbacks. I wouldn’t have chosen such complicated recipes in the first place, and I surely would have scrapped it and headed to a bakery if it wasn’t working out. Birthday trifle sounds and looks A-MAZING so you can still call the whole thing a success. Now I’m sad that I don’t have a bowl of it right now.

  15. Wow! What a great chocolate-fest for your daughter’s birthday! Last month I failed 2 times in making buttermilk tea cakes (tasted good, but didn’t rise as well) and it ended up going in the garbage. Now I know to make trifle if I have extra cake or if I make a cake mistake.

    • Thanks, Sam. Yep–failed cake makes great trifle layers. Throwing food is tough for me, so I’ll go to great lengths to “save” food. Good to see you again πŸ™‚


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