Cake and ice cream make a good couple. They balance each other out. One's churned cold, the other's baked hot. One's creamy, the other crumbles. One loves cold weather, the other resents it.
Blistering marital bliss. Ice cream insists on arctic temperatures; show it a cupboard or countertop, and it goes all drippy. Give cake a shelf in the freezer, and it turns frosty, brittle and dry.
The pair could retreat to separate homes. But a little counseling, some willingness to change can help. If cake can focus on its best features -- chocolate, sugar and eggs -- and forgo its old habits -- like butter and flour -- it can live in pliant, delicious comfort alongside ice cream.
Win-win for them. Win-win for the rest of us.
Prep: 20 minutes plus time to freeze
Bake: 13 minutes
Makes: 9 squares
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, for pan
9 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs, separated
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup ground almonds (sold as meal or flour)
2 quarts coffee chip ice cream
Whipped cream, to serve, optional
Chocolate sauce, to serve, optional
1. Prep: Butter an 8-by-8-by-2-inch baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, leaving some overhang. Butter parchment and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.
2. Whip: Whip egg whites and 2 tablespoons sugar to glossy peaks with an electric mixer.
3. Mix: In a large bowl set over simmering water, melt chocolate with coffee into a paste. Still working over simmering water, stir in yolks, vanilla, salt and remaining 6 tablespoons sugar. Remove bowl from heat. Stir in one-third of the egg whites. Fold in remaining whites, then the ground almonds.
4. Bake: Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees until just set, about 15 minutes. Cool. Grasp parchment overhang and lift out the cake.
5. Pack: Line the same pan with plastic wrap, with several inches overhang. Scoop in slightly softened ice cream, pressing firmly and smoothing the top. Set cooled cake on top, sugar-side up. Cover with overhanging plastic wrap. Freeze firm, at least 8 hours.
6. Stack: Unmold and unwrap frozen cake-and-ice-cream square. Set cake-side down on a cutting board. Dip a heavy knife into hot water, wipe dry and slice into 9 squares. Serve with whipped cream and/or chocolate sauce.
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