John’s Favorite Ice Cream Cake
This cake is quite easy to make and can be done in stages. To allow for adequate freezing time, it’s best to start a day or two in advance. For the freshest look and taste, I like to do the final assembly of the cake layers the day the cake will be served, leaving at least a couple of hours for it to sit in the freezer.

Yield: 16 servings (12 if you’re my family!)


  • 1 (15.25-ounce) package chocolate cake mix (or flavor of choice or your favorite homemade cake)
  • 1 1/2 quarts ice cream, softened
  • Cool Whip or whipped cream for icing
  • Optional: sprinkles, chopped cookies or candy bar pieces, etc.


  1. Prepare the cake according to package directions in two 9-inch round cake pans.* Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper rounds for easy removal. Cool completely. At this point the cake layers may be wrapped well and refrigerated for up to two days.
  2. Once the cake layers have been removed from the pans, line one of the clean pans with plastic wrap, leaving plenty of overhang to use as handles later. Spread the softened ice cream in the pan, packing it down and smoothing the surface. Freeze until completely firm. This step may be done several days in advance of the final assembly as well.
  3. To assemble the cake: When the ice cream is very firm, place one of the cooled cake layers face down (flat bottom facing up) on a cake plate.** Using the plastic wrap, remove the ice cream from the pan (if needed, use a dinner knife to pry it loose), peel off the plastic wrap, and center the ice cream on the first cake layer. Place the second cake over the ice cream, rounded side up this time. At this point, I take a knife and spread the ice cream to fill in any gaps and make smooth sides to the cake. Return the cake to the freezer for a few minutes to several hours to ensure the ice cream is firm before icing.
  4. Lastly, ice the cake with the whipped cream, and decorate with sprinkles, cookie, or candy pieces, if desired. Return to the freezer until ready to eat. Once the cake is completely frozen, carefully cover it to avoid drying out.
  5. If the fully assembled cake has been frozen for a few hours, allow it to sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes before slicing with a large, sharp knife. If the cake has been frozen overnight, it will likely need to sit for closer 15 minutes before cutting. The cake layer should be softened enough to cut without enormous effort.


  • *Watch baking time carefully so as not to over-bake and dry out the cake. I have found the times listed on some store-bought mixes to be several minutes too long in my oven.
  • **Make sure you have room in your freezer for the cake and the platter on which it will be served. If you are taking it somewhere, make sure your host has room!
  • Additional Tips:
  • If at any point during assembly the ice cream layer becomes too soft, simply return it to the freezer to firm up before proceeding.
  • We tend to keep this cake basic, but you could sprinkle chopped candy or cookies on ice cream before placing the second cake layer, or add them as a decoration on top of the cake after frosting. It’s also fun to match the decoration to the ice cream flavor. For example, if you’re using cookies and cream or Heath bar ice cream, you may wish to top the cake with Oreos or Heath/Skor bars. Just avoid ingredients that will freeze rock hard. If you’d like to write a message with decorating icing (a friend also told me that Magic Shell works well), it will be easier to do once the whipped cream has frozen.
  • Also, I find it’s best to use a cake recipe or mix that calls for oil instead of butter. The texture will be better once frozen. The same goes for the icing. A buttercream icing is likely to become hard and crack. Cool Whip or freshly whipped cream that has been stabilized with a little sugar tend to freeze quite well.
  • Lastly, if using a gluten-free cake mix, follow the same suggestions and simply start with a cake that you’ve have success with before.

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