Secret Family Ice Cream Cake

L wants THE ice cream cake for her birthday dinner. I’m positive that I won’t make it as well as my mom does. I’m not even sure that I know the recipe. I’m improvising a little and adding more of my favorite parts (ice cream soaked macaroons). The recipe (or, really, the technique) for the cake will remain a secret.

Mom uses Heath “bits-o-brickle”, but she maintains (and I agree) that the quality is not as good as it used to be. And, the Skor bar version of the same is hard to find. I haven’t seen it for a long time. I looked for regular Heath bars at the market and was shut out.

So, I made my own almond toffee, using this recipe by David Lebovitz. I didn’t want it quite so nut filled, and I only had slivered almonds in the pantry, so I used about 1 cup of toasted almonds. I also topped the toffee with a combination of milk & dark chocolate, and nuts, of course.


The other key ingredient is macaroons. Very easy to make. Mom always makes hers.


The ice cream cake has been prepared, is in the freezer and ready for candles.


Caramel Corn

Caramel Corn
How does it happen that my children always want to cook on play dates? One wonders….

Today, J had an impromptu date with a friend and said, “Mommy, can we cook something? How about muffins?”

I said, “Sure, we can bring them for snack for L when we pick her up, and for your friend’s sisters, too.”

Muffins became caramel corn. My arm, and my resolve, is so easily twisted. And, that is why I have a lot of cavities.

We used the recipe on David Lebovitz’s site. I made it with L when she had a friend over a couple of months ago, and it came out very well except we didn’t have enough corn syrup and substituted honey. The flavor was good, but I think my thermometer is a little off and the syrup got a little too, well, caramelized and a little burnt.

This time, I had all the right ingredients and we made it according to specifications. We used 1 cup organic brown sugar and 1/2 cup organic granulated sugar (had to combat the corn syrup somehow). Also, the kids dumped all of the candy ingredients (save the extract and baking soda) into the pot – no matter, it worked just fine. It turned out perfectly – golden, crunchy, sweet, buttery. Thick with caramel.

This caramel corn is positively addictive. I mean it will have to be put out of sight by someone else so that I have no idea where it is. Help.

Candy for Fun

My daughter, L, had a friend over to play last Friday.  They are both a little bit shy and usually look to me to get ideas for fun things to do.  We have a candy making kit, that someone gave my girls, that is supposed to be a sort of “science” experiment kit.  The girls decided on chocolate caramels because they liked the sound of it in the book of recipes that is part of the kit.  The book has some good ideas, but the recipes and the equipment are, in a word, useless.   Their recipe for chocolate caramels had an enormous amount of molasses in it – I mean, on the order of a cup of molasses.  Given I don’t make candy too often and don’t have any candy specific cookbooks, I went to the classics.  First, The Joy of Cooking didn’t have anything that caught our eyes.  Then, I went to another favorite “mom” type of cookbook, The New Settlement Cookbook.  This cookbook is truly old fashioned and homey (my “new” copy is from 1991, the original version was printed in 1901) and says on the cover “The First Classic Collection of American Ethnic Recipes”.    It is a gem.  Great, simple, easy to follow recipes.  I found Chocolate Caramels in the index.  The girls and I made a couple of substitutions, and halved the recipe.  The results were delicious, but you wouldn’t want to eat any of these if you have loose fillings!


Chocolate Caramels

Adapted from The New Settlement Cookbook, 1991

makes 36 1-inch squares

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup (we used light corn syrup)

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Butter a piece of foil and set in a small baking pan.  Fold foil to create a square 6 in. X 6 in. X 1 in. Combine all ingredients except chocolate and vanilla extract in a heavy saucepan.  Cover and boil for 5 minutes.  Uncover and boil to the firm ball stage, 247°F (next time, I’d go a little below this temperature for a slightly softer candy).  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, and then the chocolate.  Pour into the buttered foil “pan”.  Let cool completely.

Turn the cooled caramel square onto a cutting board and remove the foil.  Mark out 1-inch squares onto the big square of caramel and cut with a greased chef’s knife.  This is not that easy to do, it is pretty sticky business, and you may need to re-shape the squares a bit with your fingers.  Wrap the candy in squares of waxed paper.