I love being an aunt.
That used to mean being able to hold my own on topics like zombies, video game weaponry, ninjas, superheroes, the Star Wars universe, “yo mama” jokes and the latest in Nerf technology. But now there are nieces – two of them – and they require a completely different set of skills.
My older niece, Laney, is almost three, and if there were a Church of Cinderella, she’d be knocking on doors. She’s all about tutus and sprinkles and cute shoes. Ballerinas and headbands. She probably painted her nails more times this morning than I have in the last five years.
Being her aunt means singing “Ring Around the Rosie,” sipping gallons of pretend tea and taking walks outside to look for (ohmigod) bunnies.
I love it. I even let her call me “Becky” sometimes. That’s major.
So, a funny thing happened while I was playing tea party with Laney. I got obsessed with having one. A real tea party with my sister and nieces. Something pretty but not fussy. One last mighty blast of estrogen before the boys got out of school and decorated the front yard in a hail of Nerf bullets.
Once I had the idea, I created a “Tea Party w/ Nieces” board on Pinterest and started scanning all of the Interwebs for ideas and pinning them on that board. Then I ran them by my sister, who’d say either, “Awwww,” or “That’s a choking hazard.”
Eventually, I wound up with a collection of ideas that looked a lot like this:
I’m showing you the board, because even my sister says she just doesn’t get how Pinterest works. I think of it as a way to collect ideas visually. When you see something you like online, you “pin it” to one of the virtual bulletin boards you’ve created on your Pinterest page, so when you look at that board, you see all of the images you’ve chosen to pin to it, all grouped together. A custom collage.
I used my “Tea Party” board as a guide for planning the menu. Pink lemonade. Heart-shaped scones with mascarpone and strawberry preserves. Pastel meringue cookies (instead of the macarons or petit fours you see on the board). A bowl of fresh strawberries (instead of the melon skewers).
For the centerpiece, I’d been planning to make a triple layer cake, like the one on my pinboard, but then I thought about how much Neapolitan ice cream rocked my world when I was a kid, and I had my idea: a Neapolitan Ice Cream Cake.
You won’t believe how easy this was.
First, I took a deep 6-inch cake pan, lined the bottom with a chocolate cookie crumb crust and froze it for 20 minutes. Then, I added a layers of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream, freezing each layer for two hours before adding the next one. Finally, I topped it with whipped cream and a strawberry.
It looked pretty. It tasted great. And I didn’t even have to turn on the oven.
Can you imagine it with layers of chocolate, vanilla and coffee ice cream?
But the coffee will have to wait. We’re still working up to teacups.
P.S. After seeing the Häagen- Dazs® “Strawberry” pinboard, I decided to make a strawberry-themed pinboard of my own. Mine’s not as dreamy, but I’m having fun with it.
P.P.S. What flavors would be in your ultimate ice cream cake?
Neapolitan Ice Cream Cake
For a 9-inch cake, make the crust with 2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs, 4 tablespoons butter and 4 tablespoons sugar, and fill it with 2 1/2 to 3 cups of each ice cream flavor. Or, just wing it. Whatever amount of ice cream you choose will be dy-no-mite.
From Rebecca Crump (Ezra Pound Cake)
Make one 6-inch cake (3 inches deep)
- 1 1/4 cups (4 ounces) chocolate wafer crumbs (about 20 cookies)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 pint (2 cups) chocolate ice cream
- 1 pint (2 cups) vanilla ice cream
- 1 pint (2 cups) strawberry ice cream
Whipped Cream (optional):
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- To Make the Crust: In a bowl, combine the cookie crumbs, butter and sugar. Transfer to the bottom of a 6-inch springform pan or cake pan, press them down evenly. Freeze for about 20 minutes.
- To Assemble the Cake: Spoon the chocolate ice cream into a bowl, and let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or until it has softened.
- Using a spoon, mash and stir the ice cream until it’s the consistency of soft-serve. (You should be able to easily stir it and press out any air pockets, like working with spackle.)
- Drop the softened ice cream by large spoonfuls onto the frozen crust, and use the back of the spoon to smooth it out. Cover the ice cream with plastic wrap, and freeze until it firms up, about 2 hours.
- Repeat the process with the vanilla ice cream and then the strawberry ice cream.
- For the Whipped Cream: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream on medium speed until it gets foamy. Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, and increase speed to high. Beat until soft peaks form, and spread mixture on top of the cake. (If you prefer the look of a frosted cake, you can cover this entire cake in whipped cream.) Freeze until whipped cream is set.
- To Serve: Remove the sides of the springform pan. Use a thin spatula to separate the crust from the pan, and carefully move the cake to a large cutting board or plate. Let the cake stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving. To slice the cake, heat your knife under warm running water, dry it, and quickly use the heat of the knife to cut through the ice cream. Repeat the process with each slice.
Note: If you need to slightly smooth the sides of your cake, heat your spatula under warm running water, dry it, and use the warmth of the spatula to melt away imperfections.