Is Ice Cream “Cake” Actually Cake?

published Jan 31, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

I think everyone can agree that ice cream birthday cake, if anything, is a bunch of delicious words and ideas stuck together. But what seems to be a point of contention is what actually constitutes an ice cream cake. Is it ice cream and cake? Or is it just ice cream you can slice? I want to know.

This exact discussion erupted recently when Tastemade posted a recipe for an ice cream birthday cake on Twitter that people had a lot of strong opinions about. “This birthday cake doesn’t actually contain any cake, and we’re not mad about it,” Tastemade says in the tweet.

In the video, part of Tastemade’s The Scran Line, pastry gourmand Nick Makrides adds three flavors to separate bowls of condensed milk, whipping cream, and food coloring to make strawberry, boysenberry, and lemon cream.

After folding in rainbow sprinkles, the boysenberry cream is added to a prepared cake tin, leveled with a few taps, and then joined by the strawberry and lemon layers. After freezing the concoction overnight and then adding a finishing touch of whipped cream and chocolate drizzle, the colorful birthday “cake” is done. There’s only one problem: Folks don’t think this counts as cake.

Some of the confusion seems to be that the creamy components look a lot like birthday cake frosting, leading some to believe it’s a giant pile of frozen frosting (it is not — oh my goodness, could you imagine?).

But more people were just confused. Where is the cake?

When I posed the question to my followers on Twitter with an unofficial poll, results were mixed but erred on the side of “cake.”

So why don’t people think the tri-colored masterpiece above isn’t a cake? I decided to consult the classics. Centuries-old dictionary and sassy Twitter personality Merriam-Webster defines the phrase “ice cream” as “a sweet flavored frozen food containing cream or butterfat and usually eggs.” It further defines the word “cake” as “a sweet baked food made from a dough or thick batter usually containing flour and sugar and often shortening, eggs, and a raising agent (such as baking powder).”

You may be surprised to learn that Merriam-Webster doesn’t consider the phrase “ice cream cake” a definable phrase. Popular opinion seems to agree with the dictionary in some regard, going so far as to posit that ice cream cake is just ice cream in the shape of a cake.

But, if you just combine the definitions — much like a Carvel dessert, which most people agree is the epitome of ice cream cakes — an ice cream cake is a baked cake that involves a frozen ice cream component.

So, while I wouldn’t really consider Tastemade’s dessert a proper ice cream cake, I am extremely curious what boysenberry ice cream tastes like now. And really, I’m sure that was the goal.

What do you think: Should ice cream “cake” be considered a cake?