I have to confess, I have never made an icebox cake. I know that they are the quintessential summer dessert, and I understand why. They are extremely easy to make and the basic steps are: assemble, freeze and eat. So why have I been so resistant? It’s the whipped cream component that is off-putting for my family. Please don’t hate me! We just don’t like whipped cream, all four of us! I think it is a textural problem. We do, however, all love ice cream. So when I saw that Sally’s challenge for June was a blueberry lemon icebox cake, I decided it was time to confront this issue once and for all. After all, is that not the point of challenging oneself?
My first thought was that I needed to figure out how to make lemon ice cream. I did a lot of searching for ideas and decided I would create a limoncello- honey ice cream recipe.
I really love the depth of flavor created by adding limoncello, lemon juice and lemon zest, and I wanted to sweeten the ice cream with a combination of honey and sugar.
This ice cream recipe is like many others in that it begins with the cooking of a custard, which must be cooled before adding to the ice cream machine. I combined heavy cream, milk and honey in a large sauce pan and brought it slowly to a simmer. While the dairy components were heating, I combined egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a medium bowl.
Once the honey had dissolved in the simmering milk, I tempered the egg mixture by slowly adding a portion of the warm liquid to the eggs and whisked continuously. The trick here is to add the hot liquid SLOWLY and to keep whisking so the eggs do not scramble. If you do this correctly you then can add the tempered eggs back into the milk mixture without getting clumps (which are effectively scrambled eggs). Don’t worry, if you do have some cooked egg you can simply strain it out at the end of the cooking process. Continue to cook the custard until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Then strain if necessary and put into a container to cool. I always put my ice cream base in a measuring cup so it is easier to pour directly into the ice cream machine. This base needs at least an hour to cool completly.
You may be thinking, “wait you forgot the limoncello”! I like to add liqueurs at the end of the cooling process. Flavors change when a mixture is hot or cold. If I add the limoncello now, the flavor will be less intense after cooling. So, I will add 1 Tablespoon/cup and check the flavor before it goes into the machine.
While the base cools, you can make the blueberry sauce, which also needs to spend some time in the refrigerator before assembling the final dessert.
Begin by combining cornstarch, lemon juice and warm water. Mix thoroughly and set aside this will be your thickening agent.
Next combine the blueberries, sugar and lemon zest. Put over medium heat and cook until the juices begin to release. Add the cornstarch slurry and continue to cook until thick. Place the sauce in a container and chill.
It’s seriously that easy! I went rock climbing for a couple hours while everything cooled off. When I returned it was time to fire up the ice cream machine.
I let this churn for 30 minutes because I wanted a soft consistency for spreading into the pan. While the machine did all the hard work, I prepared the 9 X 5 loaf pan which would be the mold. The key for getting the cake out of the pan is to line it with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic hangs over the sides as they will be the handles for lifting the frozen cake out the next day.
As I was working on this it occurred to me that the bottom would be the top, after the cake was inverted onto a serving dish. I thought it might be fun to attempt to have some sort of decoration on the top of the cake. But how to pull that off? I settled on placing a piece of parchment on the bottom of the pan.
Then I took some thinly sliced lemon rounds and halved blueberries and “glued” them to the parchment with honey. I wanted the design to stay put when I spread the ice cream over them.
This was a huge gamble! I was not convinced it would work at all.
Now it is time to assemble the dessert! I gathered all the components: limoncello-honey ice cream, blueberry sauce, graham crackers and the prepared pan.
Working with efficiency, so the ice cream doesn’t melt, begin the layering.
This was covered with foil and put into the freezer overnight.
The next day, it was time for the big reveal. Would this work with ice cream? Would the design I “glued” to the parchment paper be there? Would the limoncello ice cream be tasty?
Well, the design is (sort of) there. Perhaps if I had made the slices a little thicker? And, one of the blueberries moved, but overall I am happy with this first try! I will try this idea again! But how does is it taste? I am going in!
This is also a really pretty dessert! It is quick, even faster if you just make it with the lemon whipped cream!
Each of these individual components are quite tasty on their own. The ice cream would be great on a hot summer evening. And, the blueberry sauce would be wonderful over some vanilla ice cream, or as part of a dessert that requires a thick fruit compote. Since they are great as stand alone dishes, I have included the individual recipes as well as the formula for the icebox cake layering technique. I would encourage you to try any one of these, if you are not interested in the icebox cake itself.
Another great idea from Sally’s Baking Addiction! Give this one a try!
Limoncello-Honey Ice Cream
Limoncello liqueur adds a depth of flavor to this lemony-citrus ice cream
-1 1/2 cups milk
-1 cup heavy cream
-1/4 cup honey
-1/4 cup granulated sugar
-2 Tablespoons lemon zest
-1 Tablespoon lemon juice
-5 egg yolks
-3 Tablespoons limoncello liqueur, or to taste
- Add milk, cream and honey to a medium sauce pan and heat on low-medium until simmering. Small bubbles will appear around the edge of the pan. Heat until the honey is completely dissolved.
- In a medium bowl combine the sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and egg yolks. Whisk to incorporate. Slowly add some of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks while whisking constantly. This is tempering the egg mixture. Combine the tempered egg mixture with the warm milk by adding the egg yolks back into pot of warm milk and continue to cook an additional 8-10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture continuously until it coats the back of the spoon.
- Remove from the heat, cover and chill in the refrigerator until cool (about 1 hour).
- Once the custard base is cool, add the limoncello liqueur. Transfer to an ice cream maker and follow the manufactures instructions. Process for 30 minutes for soft serve or freeze for an additional 2 hours for a firmer consistency.
This lemony blueberry sauce is great for serving over ice cream or as a component to any baked item that requires a thickened fruit filling
-2 teaspoons cornstarch
-2 teaspoon lemon juice
-1 Tablespoon warm water
-2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
-2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
-1 teaspoon lemon zest
- Whisk the cornstarch, lemon juice, and warm water together in a small bowl until the cornstarch has dissolved. Set aside.
- Warm the blueberries and sugar together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously for 3 minutes until the blueberry juices begin to release. Add the cornstarch mixture and continue to stir for another 2-3 minutes, smashing some blueberries as you go. The mixture will start to thicken.
- Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest. Place in the refrigerator until completely cooled ~ 1 hour.
Limoncello Ice(cream)box Cake
A twist on the icebox cake that uses limoncello-honey ice cream in place of the traditional whipped cream
-Limoncello-Honey ice cream, recipe above
-Blueberry sauce, recipe above
-8-10 graham cracker, about 1 sleeve
- Prepare a 9 inch X 5 inch loaf pan by lining the entire inside with plastic wrap. Make sure there is enough plastic that will hang over the sides of the pan. This will be the “handles” that you will use to lift the frozen cake from the form.
- If desired, add a cut piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. Secure a garnish of your choosing, with honey as the “glue”. Place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to secure the garnish.
- Spread a thin layer of ice cream over the bottom of the pan (and garnish, if using) to help the graham cracker layer to adhere. Place the first layer of graham crackers in the bottom, add a layer of ice cream, then half the blueberry sauce, another layer of ice cream and then repeat: Crackers, ice cream, the other half of the blueberry sauce, ice cream. The final layer maybe the graham cracker layer or another layer of ice cream, if you have enough at that point.
- Cover with foil and place in the freezer for, at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Allow the cake to sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes then unwrap and invert onto a serving dish. Slice with a sharp knife that has been run under hot water, and quickly dried, to make clean slices. Garnish with lemon slices, lemon zest and/or blueberries.