I was raised in a family that loves tradition, especially when it comes to the Christmas holidays.

Our house was trimmed with a giant, real Douglas fir tree, colorful Christmas decorations could be found in every corner, and throughout the season my mother would play Christmas records every morning to wake us up for school. And every year, our Christmas feast would end with the highly-anticipated Christmas Ice Cream Cake.

This cake has been part of our holiday tradition since about 1984, when my younger sister, Paula (lovingly known as Pookie), first found the recipe in a popular woman’s magazine. My mother recalled that it was one of those perforated recipe cards one so often finds in holiday issues, which Paula had torn out and shown to her, begging to make it.

Luckily for all five of her children, my mother always encouraged us to bake and cook with her, never caring about the mess we might create along the way. Now, as parents ourselves, my siblings and I continue this tradition, and I simply can’t imagine missing out on the fun I have with Giovanni and his cousins in our kitchen.

When I asked Pookie what it was about this particular recipe that caught her eye, she didn’t hesitate to answer.

“The picture,” she gushed. “It was so pretty and just looked like Christmas. Plus, I’ve always loved ice cream cakes.”

She went on to talk about how much fun she’s had making it in recent years with my son Giovanni and her son, Cooper.

“This dessert translates so easily into having little people help you, and I just love that,” Pookie said.

This is a simple recipe, requiring a basic assembling of ingredients and a little patience. Pookie uses Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge Brownies for the base of her cake, which she bakes in a 9-inch round cake pan. This can be done several days or weeks in advance, and frozen until ready to assemble.

To make removal easy, I greased the pan with butter, dusted it with flour and added a liner of parchment paper. I cut my own from a larger piece, but I discovered this past weekend that you can buy the parchment paper already pre-cut, and Creative Kitchen in West Acres has a good selection.

To create the ice cream dome, she uses a medium stainless steel bowl (about 7 inches diameter) and lines it with plastic wrap before filling it first on all sides with mint chocolate chip ice cream followed by cherry nut (or any pink variety) ice cream in the center. On some occasions, she adds a layer of hot fudge between the two flavors. I tried that tactic this time and found the fudge a little tricky to work with. Besides, the cake is great without it.

The whipped cream topping is the only part of this recipe that’s made from scratch, and here we all agree that homemade is best.

Turn the ice cream out onto the brownie cake and frost entirely from top to bottom with the whipped cream. Trim the top with fresh mint leaves, shaved chocolate, festive sprinkles, toasted coconut or whatever strikes your fancy. Freeze again for several hours or up to two days before serving.

I asked Paula about her favorite memory of this tradition and hope her answer encourages you to take some time to bake or cook with the little ones in your life this holiday season.

“Oh,” she replied, “making it with Mom was always my favorite part. And having a dish that everyone looks forward to year after year is really special.”

Pookie’s Christmas Ice Cream Cake

Ingredients 1½ quart mint chocolate chip ice cream

1½ quart pink ice cream (this varies year to year – cherry, strawberry, pink peppermint, etc.)

1 package of brownie mix (Pookie uses Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge Brownie Mix)

Fresh whipped cream (see recipe)

Mint leaves for decoration, optional

Chocolate shavings for decoration, optional


This one is easy: Make brownie mix. Fill bowl with ice cream(s). Place on top of brownie. Top with whipped cream. Refreeze. Serve!

Step-by-step directions

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Make the brownie mix as instructed on box in 9-inch round pan. Allow to fully cool. Remove from pan and place on serving dish. Set aside.

For the ice cream, take a large round stainless steel mixing bowl and line with plastic wrap. Scoop out the ice cream (I usually use the green as the outer layer, but you can mix it up!

Press the mint ice cream into the bowl, patting it up against the sides and bottom so the entire bowl is covered (buy some latex gloves at the grocery store). This usually takes one full carton of ice cream.

If adding a layer of hot fudge, make sure the fudge is very cold, and add it at this time. Place bowl in freezer for about 15 minutes before adding the next layer of ice cream.

Once this is done, move on to the pink-colored ice cream. Simply scoop and pat the pink ice cream into the bowl until the entire bowl is full. Cover with plastic wrap and allow ice cream to re-freeze for several hours or overnight.

Make fresh whipped cream by whipping one pint of heavy whipping cream with 1 ½ tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla until the cream just reaches stiff peaks.

Once ready, take ice cream bowl out of freezer. Turn the mixing bowl upside down and place on top of round brownie layer. Place a warm cloth on top of mixing bowl and pat a few times to help release the ice cream. Lift off the mixing bowl and remove the plastic wrap. Now the cake is ready for the whipped cream.

Spread the whipped cream around the cake as if frosting, covering both brownie and ice cream from top to bottom. Once the entire cake is frosted, re-freeze until ready to serve. You can dress up the cake with mint leaves, sprinkles, chocolate shavings, etc.

Pookie’s Tips

  • Allow the ice cream to soften at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before forming the mold.
  • Grease the cake pan with butter and lightly dust with flour before adding the brownie mix. For easy removal, place a liner of parchment paper over the flour coating and remove once the baked brownie has cooled.

Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 10-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine@sarellos.com. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com