When was the last time you had an ice cream cake? Usually limited to birthdays or other special celebrations, most of us typically only get to enjoy ice cream cake on rare occasions. But as summer ramps up and ice cream cravings inevitably kick in, why not trade in your average cup or cone for a slice of ice cream cake?
I tried cakes from six major ice cream retailers to deliver the scoop on the best ones. Can you guess which one takes the cake?
Because each brand offers so many different types of cakes and flavors, I decided to limit myself to as classic of ice cream cake flavors as possible, which, based on my many years of ice cream cake consumption, means some variation of chocolate, vanilla, and chocolate cookies. I decided not to include cakes with actual cake in them, as not all of the brands I wanted to try offer them. Finally, although there are so many cakes from specialty ice cream shops here in New York City that I'm sure are delicious, I decided to limit my test to larger nationwide chains that are accessible to most of our readers.
I judged each cake based on the quality and flavor of the ice cream itself, the distribution and quality of the filling, the icing, and the overall visual appeal.
In order from least to most loved, here's what I thought.
6. Dairy Queen
I tried a round chocolate and vanilla ice cream cake from DQ. This was the cake that I thought most resembled a traditional birthday cake, with its piped icing and the flowers you can get on it as decorations. The ice cream wasn't my favorite — the vanilla and chocolate weren't very flavorful and the ice cream melted quickly. The cookie crunch included a pleasantly sweet layer of fudge, but it was a little harder and drier than I would have liked, and the fudge surprisingly lacked a substantial fudgy flavor.
If you're thinking about getting an ice cream cake from DQ, I'd opt for one of the Blizzard Cakes instead, in the hopes that it packs more of a punch flavor-wise. Or, you know, just get a bunch of Blizzards.
My favorite part of this cake was the chocolate ice cream, which has a rich consistency that reminded me of frozen custard. I left the bright blue icing on the plate, because neither the color nor the flavor was very appealing to me. The chocolate crunchies were tasty, but the distribution could have been improved — most of them were crowded into the center of the cake. But for an ice cream cake you can pick up from the frozen aisle of a grocery store, this is a solid choice. Until it melts. (Get it?)
The chocolate-plus-cookies-and-cream Häagen-Dazs ice cream cake I tried made me realize how important icing is to an ice cream cake. Ideally, ice cream cake icing should have the taste and texture of whipped cream, but most of them (from all the brands) get away with just resembling whipped cream in texture but only tasting like whipped oil, sugar, and faint vanilla flavoring. This Häagen-Dazs option came with thick dollops of icing on top of the cake. They looked promising, but they ended up having the texture similar to that of shaving cream, and the friends I tried the cake with left most of the icing on the plate.
However, what Häagen-Dazs lacked in icing made up for in the ice cream department. The chocolate ice cream was wonderfully rich (the cookies and cream was high in quality, but came off a bit mild when paired with the chocolate). I would like to order seven of these in all chocolate, please.
The ice cream (Chocolate Therapy) in the Ben & Jerry's cake was probably the most intense of all the ones I tried, which makes sense considering it's a triple-threat of chocolate ice cream with chocolate cookies and swirls of chocolate pudding. The ice cream it was paired with had a nice concentration of chocolate wafer cookie bits mixed in, which tied in nicely with the cookie crunch in the middle of the cake.
This cake was also unique because it only had a little bit of icing piped onto the outer edges, not a cloying layer covering the whole cake, so the experience felt more like two scoops of ice cream in cake form. (That's a good thing!) Similar to the next cake, this cake also had chocolate dribbles down the the side, which added a nice visual and textural touch.
The Oreo ice cream cake from Baskin-Robbins was one of the most memorable from this list. With a solid layer of Oreo cookie wafers wedged between layers of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, this cake offers a ton of Oreo flavor without departing from the structure of a traditional ice cream cake.
What I love most about this cake is that it's totally over the top, with even more Oreo cookies pushed into the whipped icing and chocolate drizzled on top of the cake for added decoration.
Sue me for choosing arguably the most well-known ice cream cake as my number-one chouce! But it was really Fudgie who won me over. This was my first time trying Carvel's iconic Fudgie the Whale cake, who happened to turn 40 years old earlier this month. (Fun fact: The Fudgie mold moonlights as Santa during Christmastime.)
True to his name, Fudgie had a higher proportion of chocolate to vanilla ice cream, along with a solid layer of chocolate crunch. The entire cake has a glossy coating of chocolate fudge that somehow doesn't freeze, but rather oozes all over. This fudge ties everything together and tastes way better than the traditional whipped icing.
I could have used just a little more cake crunch in the middle layer, but between the fudge layer and the fun shape, you really can't go wrong with Fudgie the Whale.
Although they all have their strengths and weaknesses, it's hard to go wrong with an ice cream cake. Whether it comes from nostalgia, novelty, or just a love of ice cream, ice cream cakes spark a special brand of joy in the people you choose to share them with.
Try making your own: How To Make an Ice Cream Cake