How a Pro Chef Updated Our 1950s Ice Cream Cake Recipe

Chef Alexis deBoschnek takes on ice cream cakes, testing a 1950s recipe against her own sorbet semifreddo.

The 1950s provided us with some quite interesting recipes—and frozen desserts are no exception. In this episode of our Then & Now series, watch chef Alexis deBoschnek prepare a homemade rainbow snowball cake from a 1950s edition of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, then watch her create her own version of an up-to-date ice cream cake. After a taste test, she'll decide which makes the sweeter treat.

Rainbow Snowball Cake
Shirley Cheng

Then: Rainbow Snowball Cake

Starting off with the snowball cake, Alexis scoops strawberry, lime and orange sherbet onto a baking sheet. "I love ice cream cakes, but there is always an element of stress," she says, referring to the meltiness. After putting the sheet in the freezer, she moves on to the whipped cream—also the base of the cake.

Made of softened vanilla ice cream, Alexis adds a quart into a stand mixer and whips until smooth. She then layers it into a cake pan, along with the sherbet scoops.

"I've noticed in a lot of these recipes, there's a real element of surprise," she says. "Like what was going on in the 50s that they were like, 'Every food we make should be surprising'?"

After the ice cream cake goes back into the freezer, Alexis removes it from the pan with a hot spatula. She frosts with the whipped ice cream, decorating it with a retro piping design. "Imagine giving this to a child on their birthday. I'd be psyched," she says. "I would also be psyched as an adult."

Ice Cream Semifreddo
Shirley Cheng

Now: Sorbet Semifreddo

For her modern take, Alexis makes a semifreddo (the Italian word for semi-frozen). Instead of using a traditional custard or meringue element, she opts for similar ingredients in the original recipe: raspberry and mango sorbet with vanilla ice cream. She lines a cake pan with parchment paper, scoops in the ice cream, and tops it with whipped cream.

"The joy of my version is that you can kind of be a little sloppy," she says. Because she's going for a marble effect, the layers don't have to be precise—after all the ice cream is in the pan, she scoops from the bottom and mixes everything together (while still keeping the whipped cream on top). After going into the freezer, it's taste time.

The Taste Test

Comparing the wow-factor of each, Alexis decides "they're both cute." However, the vintage version takes the cake in terms of presentation.

With flavor, she finds that the snowball cake's sherbet combination is over the top, and the whipped cream's texture hardened while in the freezer. On the other hand, the semifreddo's flavors work together like a dream (an ice-cream dream, if you will).

"It's so good; it feels so classic," Alexis concludes. "Then and now—they're both pretty great."

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