My wife’s family has a long-standing tradition of celebrating all birthdays with an ice cream cake. Not just any ice cream cake, either: It must be a roll of chocolate cake surrounding pralines and cream ice cream. Always a nice treat, to be sure. Still, the saying “variety is the spice of life” was coined for a reason, and when we recently sat down for some cool cuts of cake in honour of my wife, I secretly started thinking that any of the following flavourful options would be more than adequate for observing an important milestone. (Yes, my own included.)
5. Black Forest Cake
I know some people who loathe this German gateau, but I think they must’ve suffered through too many grocery-store offerings made with goopy cherry jam and altogether too much whipped cream. They’ve also probably missed out on the hint of tart cherry — distilled liquor known as kirschwasser that’s mandatory in a true Black Forest cake. When all these ingredients come together properly — just the right balance of chocolate cake, black cherries, whipped cream and liquor — you’ve got yourself a decadent yet surprisingly light slice of dessert.
The fact that cheesecake is so versatile is, in my book, one of its prime selling points. Different regions have different “traditional” cheesecakes; New York–style is probably the most popular, but throughout the world, different countries typically employ different cheeses and cooking methods, putting their own twists on the savoury-sweet dessert. From there, cheesecakes can, of course, come in many different flavours — from strawberry to green tea — and are almost always excellent when served with fresh fruit. But for me, what really makes a great cheesecake (well, a North American cheesecake, anyway) is the graham cracker crust. The textural combination of silky-smooth cheese and crumbly, buttery biscuit is distinct among cake-based desserts.
3. Angel Food Cake
Now that strawberry season has arrived, I can’t halt my cravings for this staple of neighbourhood potlucks and church picnics everywhere. The fluffy, not-too-sweet cake is perfectly paired with fresh and juicy berries and a dollop of whipped cream. Of course, if strawberries aren’t at hand, you can also finish the sponge cake with a simple glaze — lemon, perhaps, or even maple syrup.
OK, this Italian “pick me up” isn’t a cake in the strictest sense (you don’t even need to bake it!), but it is composed of alternating layers of dough and creamy filling, which is good enough for me. Like proper Teutonic Black Forest cake, it’s also got a nice splash of alcohol — in this case, Marsala wine — which adds complexity to a flavour profile that already mixes subtly sweet mascarpone cheese, bittersweet cocoa and bold espresso. There are few greater food-related pleasures than taking a mouthful of moist tiramisu and simply letting it dissolve on your tongue.
1. Ice Cream Cake
What can I say? There’s a good reason why my in-laws indulge in celebratory ice cream cakes at least five times a year. Everyone loves summer’s sweetest dairy-based treat; it goes really well with a layer of cake made nice and chewy by freezing and then a little bit of thawing. Basically, you’re getting two desserts in one. And while I may be stuck with pralines and cream plus devil’s food cake for the foreseeable future, ice cream cake flavour combinations really are endless. What are your favourites? Mint chocolate chip with chocolate cake? Raspberry ripple with white cake? Or perhaps you have a secret recipe for something like cotton candy ice with red velvet cake!
What are your all-time favourite cakes? Share below.
Craig Moy is a writer and editor in Toronto. He enjoys exploring the city’s vast culinary landscape, and envies people who can afford to eat out every night of the week. While writing about food and restaurants isn’t Craig’s only gig, it’s certainly his tastiest.