I never noticed how infrequently blue food occurs in nature, until I started making red-white-and-blue desserts for the Fourth of July. Red and white were easy. Raspberries, strawberries, cherries, watermelon, whipped cream, crème fraîche, vanilla ice cream, meringue . . . the list goes on. It was blue that gave me a hard time. Beyond blueberries, what is there? Last week I searched farmers markets and produce departments, briefly contemplating a pile of blue potatoes but ultimately coming home empty-handed.
Luckily for patriots with a sweet tooth, the laboratory can provide what nature hasn't. It was artificial coloring to the rescue when I put together a festive ice cream cake decorated with Red Velvet Oreo cookies dipped in bright blue Wilton candy melts.
For the base of my cake, I baked a batch of fudgy brownies right in the bottom of a springform pan. After they had cooled, I spread layers of Red Velvet Oreo ice cream and tangy cream cheese mousse on top. Then I decorated my cake with little scoops of ice cream alternating with the dipped cookies. A candle in the center and my cake was ready for its entrance.
The cake couldn't be easier to make, but it does take time. Obviously, the brownie layer must cool completely before the ice cream is added. And it helps to freeze the cake for 10 minutes or so before adding the cream cheese layer, to give the ice cream a chance to firm up. If your ice cream begins to liquefy at any time while you are working, put it, along with the cake, back in the freezer for 10 or 15 minutes before proceeding. Make sure your cake is well-frozen before adding the decorations, so it won't begin to melt while you work on it.
For easy cutting, let the cake stand at room temperature for 5 or 10 minutes. Let the cookies and ice cream on top guide you in slicing it into equal pieces. Three cheers for the red, white, and blue dye #2.
Red Velvet Oreo Ice Cream Cake
For the brownie layer:
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the cream cheese mousse:
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 gallon vanilla ice cream, softened
One 10.7-ounce package red velvet Oreos
1 cup light blue candy melts, melted
1. Make the brownie layer: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch round springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Combine the unsweetened chocolate, chocolate chips and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until chocolate is halfway melted. Whisk until smooth.
3. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Whisk together the eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl until pale, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the chocolate mixture and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until just set and a few moist crumbs stick to a toothpick inserted into the center, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
5. Make the cream cheese layer: In a medium bowl, combine the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer until it holds soft peaks.
6. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until soft. Add the whipped cream and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Cover and refrigerate.
7. Reserve 9 of the Oreos and coarsely chop the remaining 13. Spoon ice cream into a large mixing bowl, sprinkle with the chopped Oreos, and mash and fold with the back of a spoon until well-combined. Use a small ice cream scoop to scoop 9 ice cream balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze. Scrape the remaining ice cream into the pan and smooth it over the brownie layer. Freeze for 10 minutes.
8. Scrape the cheese mixture into the pan and smooth over the Oreo layer with a metal spatula. Wrap pan in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4 hours and up to 1 week.
9. Dip whole Oreos halfway in candy melts, letting excess candy drip back into bowl. Place flat on a parchment-lined baking sheet and let stand until candy is set.
9. Unwrap the cake and release from the sides of the pan. Place on a serving platter. Arrange the ice cream balls around the edge of the cake, securing each one with a dab of the candy melts (rewarm the candy melts in the microwave as necessary, but let the mixture cool so it doesn't melt the ice cream). Dab a little bit of candy melt in between each ice cream ball before standing cookies upright between balls. Lightly drape with plastic wrap and freeze until ready to serve, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days. Makes 9 servings.