A caller had an excellent idea that has been around for a while, but is worth repeating, especially to help make a summer dessert: Using a pan to more quickly and neatly create an ice cream mold for a cake layer. Here’s how to do it:
1. Start by lining the pan you will later bake your cake in with plastic wrap. The one shown in the photo is an 8-by-3-inch round cake pan, though a 2-inch-deep pan will work as well.
2. Spread your favorite flavor ice cream, slightly softened, in the pan. Level off the top as best you can and freeze.
3. When firm, lift the now-molded ice cream from the pan in its plastic wrap, rewrap it and return it to the freezer until ready to use.
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4. Clean the pan, bake your cake layers and cool. Remove from pans.
5. To get a flat surface so the ice cream sits evenly between layers, take a sharp bread knife and cut off the dome of each cake layer. Then, build your layer cake.
You can frost just the top or the whole cake, depending on how neatly your layers match up. Personally, I’d make up a batch of light and fluffy frosting or whipped cream and slather it on the whole cake.
The example shown here with a layer of strawberry ice cream in the middle is perfect, unfrosted on the sides so you can see the very thin slices of strawberries that were pressed into the ice cream layer. It’s a simple idea that makes a great presentation.
Note: You can easily mold ice cream in a bread pan to make another kind of layer cake. But, when using a 9-by-13 or larger pan, be cautious unmolding the ice cream, it’s more likely to break. My suggestion would be to cut the molded ice cream in half in the pan, then remove it. The cut you make will be hidden when you put the cake together.
On a completely different tangent, I have discovered over the years that readers adore copycat recipes from popular chain restaurants. I came across one for Cracker Barrel’s Hashbrown Casserole and am passing it along to you.
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Copycat Cracker Barrel Hashbrown Casserole
1 package (30-32 ounces) frozen shredded hashbrown potatoes, thawed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 can (10.75 ounces) cream of chicken soup
16 ounces sour cream
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 11-by-14 inch casserole or baking dish with cooking spray.
In large bowl, combine all ingredients and stir together. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Bake 45 minutes until top is golden brown. Makes 12 servings.
Editor’s note: Other variations of the recipe call for a 9-by-13 pan and reserving 1/2 cup of the cheese to add to the top of the potatoes before baking.