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Sep 01, 2023

By Zoe Denenberg



Total Time

2 hours (plus freezing)

Far too often summer birthdays fly under the radar, forgotten in the frenzy of beach vacations and park picnics. That’s why we created this ice cream birthday cake—to finally give all the Cancers, Leos, and Virgos their due. With two layers of confetti cake, vanilla and strawberry ice cream, whipped cream, and a showering of sprinkles, this dessert is the best way to celebrate someone’s special day. (If you think an ice cream cake should never include cake, check out this cookie-packed recipe, then read our editors’ heated debate.)

This make-ahead ice cream cake requires a bit of time (the constructed cake needs to freeze overnight) but relatively little effort. The confetti cake recipe is adapted from our Easiest Vanilla Birthday Cake. Dividing the cake batter between two pans creates thin layers, ideal for stacking with ice cream. If you only have one cake pan, just bake the cake in a single layer; once it’s cooled, use a serrated knife to slice it in half horizontally (this technique is called torting). Baking the cake ahead of time and stashing it in the freezer makes the cake easier to build—the frozen layers won’t crumble or compress under the weight of the ice cream. And about the ice cream: This recipe calls for strawberry and vanilla, but feel free to swap out these flavors for your favorite pints. Cake batter or chocolate ice cream would be more than welcome here.

A springform pan makes the unmolding process smooth as can be, but if you don’t have one, don’t fret: A regular 9"-diameter cake pan will do. (Try to use one with a 3" height—the tall sides give the layers structure in the freezer.) After unmolding the cake, you might notice that the plastic wrap has imprinted crinkles onto the sides. For the smoothest finish, use a hot offset spatula or bench scraper to smooth the sides of the cake, removing any excess ice cream in the process.

The beauty of an ice cream cake is that it can be made ahead of time and stashed in the freezer. You can make the whipped cream just before serving or put the entire cake together and freeze up to a day before; the frozen whip gives the cake an ultra-nostalgic Carvel vibe. Finish with sprinkles, of course.

All products featured on Bon Appétit are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through the retail links below, we earn an affiliate commission.

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Offset Spatula

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French Wire Whisk

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Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls, Set of 6

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12–16 servings












Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat two 9"-diameter cake pans with nonstick vegetable oil spray and line each with a parchment paper round. Whisk 1¾ cups (219 g) all-purpose flour, 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar, ½ cup rainbow sprinkles, 2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt, 1½ tsp. baking powder, and ½ tsp. baking soda in a medium bowl to combine.

Whisk 2 large eggs, ¾ cup sour cream, ⅔ cup vegetable oil, and 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract, and 2 Tbsp. water in a large bowl to combine. Add dry ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula just until no floury streaks remain (be careful not to overmix). Divide batter between prepared pans and smooth surface of each.

Bake cakes until a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 20–25 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack and let cakes cool in pans 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and let cool completely. Wrap each layer tightly in plastic and freeze at least 1 hour.

Let 2 pints strawberry ice cream and 2 pints vanilla ice cream set at room temperature 15 minutes to soften.

Meanwhile, lightly coat a 9"-diameter springform pan with nonstick spray. Line inside of pan with 2 long strips of plastic wrap, running one in each direction, pressing into edges, and leaving at least 5" overhang on all sides.

Scrape softened strawberry ice cream into a large bowl (the edges will be slightly meltier than the centers). Mash and mix ice cream with clean spatula until spreadable and homogenous. Scrape into prepared pan and smooth into an even layer with spatula or a spoon. Top with a frozen cake and press down slightly on cake to adhere (this should eliminate any gaps, but don’t press too hard or the ice cream will come out the sides). Repeat process with vanilla ice cream in a clean large bowl and remaining cake. Bring plastic wrap overhanging up and over cake to enclose and freeze at least 12 hours.

When ready to serve, remove ice cream cake from freezer and remove sides from pan. Peel back plastic wrap from top of cake and hold a platter upside down over cake; invert cake onto platter. Remove bottom of pan and peel off plastic wrap. Let cake sit at room temperature 5 minutes to soften slightly.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat ¾ cup heavy cream, 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar, a pinch of salt, and remaining ½ tsp. vanilla extract in a small bowl until soft peaks form (alternatively, whisk by hand).

Run an offset spatula or bench scraper under hot water and wipe dry. Holding perpendicular to cake and pressing lightly, run around side to smooth and peel away excess ice cream (the motion is similar to crumb-coating a cake with frosting). Rinse spatula with hot water and dry with a kitchen towel after each stroke. Move quickly at this stage—if you fuss with it too much, the cake will start to melt. Don’t worry about smoothing the top as it will be covered with whipped cream.

Mound whipped cream on top of cake and spread to the edges with a spoon or clean rubber spatula, making decorative swoops and swirls. Top with sprinkles.

Do Ahead: Cakes can be baked 1 week ahead; keep frozen. Cake (without whipped cream) can be assembled 3 days ahead; keep frozen. Assembled cake can be topped with whipped cream 1 day ahead; leave uncovered and freeze.

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nonstick vegetable oil spray1¾ cups (219 g) all-purpose flour1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar½ cup rainbow sprinkles2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt1½ tsp. baking powder½ tsp. baking soda2 large eggs¾ cup sour cream⅔ cup vegetable oil1 Tbsp. vanilla extract2 pints strawberry ice cream2 pints vanilla ice cream¾ cup heavy cream2 Tbsp. powdered sugar½ tsp. vanilla extractDo Ahead:Sign InSubscribe